Come for the barbecue in Goldsboro, stay for the sights
Posted September 19, 2021 6:00 a.m. EDT
Updated September 19, 2021 4:17 p.m. EDT
Goldsboro, N.C. — It's a never-ending debate in North Carolina: Is eastern or western barbecue better?
Eastern-style N.C. barbecue is known for its vinegar base and peppery bite. The style uses the entire pig, while western-style barbecue only features the pork shoulder.
According to the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, eastern N.C. barbecue sauce hasn't changed much since the early to mid-1800s -- using vinegar, peppers and lard or butter. Meanwhile, western style N.C. barbecue has ketchup, vinegar and varying spices.
The debate over which barbecue style is better dates back to World War II, according to the museum, when the distinct difference between the two styles became obvious.
For lovers of the eastern style, Goldsboro is a must-stop.
"Barbecue is just the translation of our farm culture here,” said Ashlin Glatthar, the director of travel and tourism for Goldsboro-Wayne County. “It's this mixture of open-fire cooking methods mixed with our farming heritage. Barbecue, that's definitely where we hang our hat.”
Goldsboro boasts two locations on the North Carolina Barbecue Society's Historic Barbecue Trail: Wilber's Barbecue and Grady's Barbecue. According to NCBS, in order to be a part of the trail, restaurants must still cook in the "old fashioned pit cooked method."
Opened in 1962, Wilber's Barbecue, located at 4172 U.S. Highway 70, cooks up whole hog over oak embers. The legendary barbecue spot has served high-profile names including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Meanwhile, Grady's Barbecue is located at 3096 Arrington Bridge Road in Dudley. The NCBS describes Grady's Barbecue as "rich, nutty, brown hand chopped pork with a smoky, woodsy taste that only comes from slow smoking over wood on open pits."
"You're just driving through farmlands ... you come across the cinder block structure and the line out the door and you see the smoke rising in [Grady's] pit behind them and you go in and it's just a window," described Glatthar. "There's this tiny little notebook at their ordering window, and it has people sign where they're coming from ... it's a really special place, but I think that what makes it special here is, you just stumble on it."
Wilbers and Grady's aren't the only restaurants serving up legendary barbecue. Goldsboro is home to several other barbecue restaurants.
There's Adam's Roadside BBQ, located at 3451 U.S. Highway 70 in Goldsboro, which prides itself on experimenting with classic barbecue dishes. Visitors can try 'The Ginny' -- a sandwich topped with sliced, smoked turkey breast, applewood-smoked bacon, provolone cheese and the restaurant's signature sweet sauce. People who want to stick to the classic barbecue dishes can feast on the 'Old School BBQ Sandwich.'
Visitors can also fully immerse themselves in the barbecue scene of Goldsboro through the Brews & 'Cue Trail. Trail visitors are able to dine on Goldsboro’s tastiest options while sipping on craft beer at the numerous breweries in Goldsboro including The Flying Shamrock Irish Pub, Tobacco and Hops, Well Travelled Beer and R & R brewing.
While any trip to Goldsboro should include at least on barbecue meal, there are plenty of other sites to see. In 2015, town leaders wrapped up a transformation of the downtown area.
"We have this wide range of diverse assets, as well as, just this really strong sense of community where when people come here, they just feel pretty taken back by the friendliness, and I don't think that's something that you can build or manufacture in a destination -- it's just something that homegrown here that we're really proud of," said Glatthar.
If you need to walk off a fully bell of barbecue, there's the Downtown Critter Crawl -- twenty colorful animals that line Center Street from Paramount to Elm streets. The town offers a downloadable map of the animals to find and check off to win a prize at the Downtown Goldsboro office on John Street.
Just a short walk from downtown is the Wayne County Museum on 116 N. William St. The museum is filled with artifacts from the county's history, including children's toys, sketches of area hospitals and artifacts from the Civil War, World War I and II and the Vietnam War.
The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It's free to visitors, too!
If you're into spookier history, sign up for a downtown ghost tour. The tours are led by a paranormal investigator, and dates are expected to be announced soon.
What better way to end the day than with something sweet? Before leaving Goldsboro, grab dessert at Mickey's Pastry Shop at 2407 Graves Drive. According to its website, the pastry shop was opened in downtown Goldsboro in January of 1946 before moving to its current location. Pastries at the shop are made from scratch daily.
Local favorites, according to the website, are old-fashioned doughnuts and cream puffs, but there's also cinnamon buns, bear claws, eclairs and nearly a dozen brownie flavors