Kinston is approximately 150 miles from the Outer Banks; Ayden is a 130-mile drive. These two Eastern North Carolina towns are well known for their classic bar-b-que joints serving wood-smoked pulled pork with the region’s unique vinegar-based sauce. But there’s no longer any good reason to drive that far for the famous down-home taste of slowly smoked and spiced pig.
If you’re on the Outer Banks beaches, it’s just a bridge away, and if you’re on Roanoke Island, it’s practically in your back yard. If you’ve smelled the delightful aroma of Carolina cue cooking on Roanoke Island, it was probably from Carolina-Bar-B-Que Company in Manteo. The restaurant serves up authentic Eastern North Carolina pulled pork, and a whole lot more, from its smokehouse and kitchen on this island where the first European child was born in the “new world” more than 400 years ago.
Carolina-Bar-B-Que Co. owner, pitmaster and head woodsplitter Mike Weaver opened the rustic restaurant just last year but the food shows his 30 years of cooking experience. A Southampton County, Va. native, Weaver has long been a fan and student of Eastern Carolina pork. His vinegar-based sauce is spot on. Western Carolina tomato-based sauce is also on the tables for those who have yet to develop a taste for the tangy Eastern stuff.
Weaver sets up the pit and racks the meats each evening, leaving it to cook overnight and suck up the smoke from hickory, wild cherry and pecan wood. The next day he and his team remove the cooked meat from the smokehouse and bring it inside to be chopped into a variety of sandwiches and plates. Plates typically include fresh-made hushpuppies and a variety of traditional side dishes.
Depending on the day, Weaver may smoke 100-200 pounds of meat. The result is succulent, smoky pork with bits of crispy skin in the chopped mix. For a real Eastern NC taste, try a smoked pork sandwich with a slaw topping: the pork, smoke, vinegar sauce and sweet Cole slaw complement each other perfectly.
If someone in your party is not a fan of whole-hog bar-b-que or hasn’t tried it, this is where they should come. The menu offers a wide selection of other NC favorites: fried clam strips, flounder and shrimp; smoked chicken; Brunswick stew; pecan pie; and banana pudding. Texas-style sliced beef brisket, hamburgers and kosher hot dogs are also on the menu.
Diners can sit at outside picnic benches where they might catch a whiff from the detached smokehouse, or they can sit in a flag-festooned, screened-in dining room. Weaver welcomes takeout orders of all sizes from a simple plate or two, to bulk orders that can feed several families.
Weaver says the business keeps him busy year-round what with all the wood splitting, meat-chopping, carry-out, eat-in prep and the many tasks of running a busy restaurant, that one wonders where he finds the energy. The source of his energy and his inspiration, he says, comes from his deep Christian beliefs.
“I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into but I truly enjoy what I’m doing and everything is working out, Weaver says of his decision to open a restaurant. “I’ve got passion and belief in what I’m doing. It’s very personal for me.”
Weaver’s faith inspires him to plan for a growing business. He’s already ambitiously planning to expand the deck seating, expand the menu, and build a separate retail store and greenhouse on the property to compliment the freshly smoked meat side of his young enterprise.