Ole Time Barbecue, a kitschy temple of Eastern-style pork barbecue
Ole Time Barbecue is a quirky, family-run roadside eatery about 15 minutes from downtown Raleigh, N.C. It has 10 booths and tables, some counter seats and an open diner-style kitchen. From the road, you can’t miss its bright yellow roof.
The kitschy interior decor includes over 300 pigs of different materials and sizes adorning every wall and surface. The windowsills beside tables overlooking the parking lot hold more pigs, plus no-frills rolls of brown paper towels along with hot sauces and condiments.
The term “barbecue” embraces a variety of “low and slow” cooking styles around the world. Even within the U.S., techniques and recipes vary by region. North Carolina has two distinct styles: Eastern and Lexington. Eastern style, made with vinegar and peppers, uses the whole hog. Lexington (also called Piedmont style) uses only pork shoulder and has a vinegary sauce made red with the addition of ketchup.
Kathy and Jerry Hart opened Old Time in 1993, using recipes handed down through the generations from Jerry’s grandpa, Quillie Gray. Here, Eastern-style pork is cooked in an electric cooker for at least eight hours, and the menu offers sandwiches, plates and combination dinners featuring pork and chicken.
The generously portioned hand-chopped BBQ Pork Plate includes two sides and a basket of warm hush puppies for $7.99. Eastern-style barbecue is somewhat of an acquired taste; it’s drier than most other styles, almost begging for the addition of hot sauce. Sides are exceptional: Tender collard greens are cooked to perfection. Sweet-potato fries and fried apple sticks are decadently delicious (although it wouldn’t be prudent to make a steady diet of them). The hush puppies (also fried) are made of a cornmeal and onion batter so tasty and addictive that I purchased a package to make at home.
When we thought we couldn’t take one more bite, Kathy brought a small bowl of Brunswick stew (a savory Southern-style tomato-based stew) from the kitchen for us to taste. Then we had her homemade banana pudding, one of several desserts prepared daily, made with vanilla wafers and served in a foam cup.
IF YOU GO
Ole Time Barbecue
6309 Hillsborough St., Raleigh. Open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 919-859-2544