Willllll-berrrrrs! Willll-berrrrs! That’s my cry whenever we drive to the beach from Durham, North Carolina, or anytime we get close to Goldsboro, home of Wilber’s Barbecue. (I try to sound like Mr. Ed talking to his pal Wilbur, but I do a poor imitation. At any rate, it annoys Wessel. Mission accomplished.)
When I moved back to eastern North Carolina after years in Florida and then Boston, I was happily reunited with barbecue made the right way — slow cooked over wood and seasoned with vinegar, not, I repeat not, with tomato-based sauce.
We all have our favorite BBQ joints, and Wilber’s is mine. I was thrilled to bring Wessel here. Somehow Wilber’s had stuck in my brain, although I moved from North Carolina at the tender age of 16, when I didn’t care what I ate as long as it had pasta and spaghetti sauce in it.
We most recently stopped at Wilber’s on Memorial Day, on our way back from the beach. It was just us and about 80,000 other customers doing the same thing. We got ‘cue to go, along with coleslaw, sweet tea, and hush puppies. Classic Wilber’s. The restaurant is totally old-fashioned, with as many locals as visitors. There’s always a brisk takeout business, but the table service here is great too — friendly and oh so country. Yanks might need a translator.
Wilber’s also has great Brunswick stew, fried chicken, and other Southern specialities (pronounced spesh-ee-AL-i-ties).
We love sending our friends there, too, like the Dutchies, at left, visiting from the Netherlands last summer. They loved it, maybe even a little too much.
The word has been out on Wilber’s for a while now. As owner Wilber Shirley said in an interview with John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed of the awesome book “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue,” “we’ve been written up in right many magazines over the years.” (That’s an understatement.) All deserved, too!
I do have to say that after spending this past weekend at Fickle Creek Farm in Efland, North Carolina, which raises its hogs sustainably and environmentally, I am feeling a tad guilty about hawking a place that I’m guessing doesn’t really think right much about that stuff.
But there you go. My blinders are firmly in place, and I’m here to say: Willllll-berrrrrs! Willll-berrrrs!