Last Friday, I took the opportunity to visit Smokey’s BBQ Shack in Morrisville. Smokey’s is about 5 minutes off of I-40 between Chapel Hill/Durham and Raleigh.
As I drove up, I noticed a good sign: a gravel parking lot. It always seems that the best barbecue places have gravel parking lots. Furthermore, the building looks exactly like the name of the place implies: a shack. If a restaurant can survive with no parking lot and a run-down exterior, it must mean the food is really good. As I walked up the steps to the front door, the line inside was so long that I had to wait outside for several minutes. Another good sign. Once inside, I noticed immediately the character of the place. There are basically two rooms in Smokey’s. The first looks to be an old porch that was enclosed several years ago, and the second is part of the original building. Making my way through the line in the first room, which is seating, to the second, where to counter for ordering is, one can’t help but read a few of the signs that cover the walls. There are a few ads for hunting clubs, but most are irreverent and somewhat humorous. I could here Kenny Chesney singing “Never wanted nothing more” in the background, and I hoped that would be a good omen.
When I finally made my way to the counter, a gentleman, who I assume was “Smokey”, took my order: the double play, ribs and chopped pork with Brunswick stew and cole slaw. Smokey chatted briefly with me, and, considering the line was still out the door, I took this as a compliment. Smokey is a die-hard Tennessee Volunteers fan. Now, being a Georgia Bulldog fan myself, this was somewhat concerning, but I decided that I could forgive him if the ‘cue was good. Anyway, it is always good to meet a fellow college football fan in this basketball-crazed region.
One I picked up my sweet tea and my order, I looked around for a seat. Not finding one, I did spot a sign that read “picnic area out back.” I wasn’t sure if this was some joke, along the lines of all the other signs, to pick at unsuspecting visitors, but I tried it anyway. I made my way past the kitchen, through a screen door, past a washing area, and old pit, and into a small field out back. Sure enough, picnic tables lined the sides of the field nearest the trees, and most were full. I took a spot at an empty table and dug in to my plate.
The ribs and the barbecue were dry rubbed, cooked without sauce. The ribs had a very nice flavor, and, while somewhat fatty, were excellent. The pork also had a nice flavor, but it was a little dry. I tried both of the sauces, which tasted very similar. Both were vinegar based, but slightly thicker than most in the area. The only difference that I could tell between the two was that one was hotter than the other. Both were too sweet for my tastes. I ended up mixing some of the slaw with the pork. I really enjoyed the meal, and I would recommend it to anyone in the area. If I had to rank it, I would place it somewhere between Allen & Son, which is my top so far, and the Pit, which was only okay. Definitely worth a try.