Address: 2514 U.S. Hwy 301, Wilson, NC 27893
My friend Chris has an annual summer family gathering in North Carolina and on the drive down there, one of his traditions is to always stop at Parker’s Barbecue for a meal when they first open up in the morning. He’s been going to this restaurant since he was 4, so there’s definitely a lot of history between him and this restaurant. Chris mentioned to me a few times that if we had a free day on the weekend, we ought to take the trek down there to grab some barbecue and head back. This past weekend presented the best opportunity where our schedules lined up, so we went for it on Saturday.
The 3-1/2 hour drive down to Wilson is pretty straightforward: once you hop onto I-95 from northern Virginia, it was pretty much a straight shot down south. We left early enough to arrive at the restaurant right around 9:45 a.m. in an attempt to avoid the crowds. We were successful on that front; we were their first patrons of the day. Barbecue for breakfast? I can check that off my list now.
From the look on the outside, Parker’s gives off the impression of a “no-frills barbecue joint.” It’s a very plain looking building on the outside, with the inside having wood paneling up on the walls and accordian-style room dividers. I’m not sure how much of that has stayed the same over the years (the menu says the restaurant opened in 1946), but I’d make a guess to say that the menu probably hasn’t changed much since either.
Chris and I were both hungry and thirsty from the drive, so we started off with a pitcher of sweet tea (which was great because the sugar in there put my energy level right back up), followed shortly after with our food. The remarkable thing about the food was that it got served no more than a minute after we placed our orders. Granted, we were the only people ordering food there at the time, but I’ve never had food come out that fast, not even at a fast food restaurant!
This was my first experience with authentic Carolina-style barbecue, where spices and vinegar are predominantly used during the smoking of meats and no barbecue sauce additives are needed. I went with the barbecue pork dinner plate, which came with pulled pork, boiled potatoes, Brunswick stew, and corn sticks. Chris and I also got some hush puppies to split.
I have to say: that pulled pork was quite phenomenal, and certainly lived up to how much Chris had raved about it. The pork was shredded to just the right consistency and kept very moist, while the flavor profiles ranged from tangy (from the vinegar) to spicy (from the red pepper flakes) to smoky. The boiled potatoes and Brunswick stew were no joke, either. The potatoes were soft and absorbed a lot of the tomato flavor from when they were cooked down. The Brunswick stew had the whole sweet and savory flavors going on; from what I could tell, there were baked beans, lima beans, string beans, corn, and shredded pork mixed with some ketchup. I could have eaten a whole bowl of that Brunswick stew and still been a happy camper; it was just that good. The two things that I thought were probably okay at best were the corn sticks and hush puppies. Although both were flavorful (I think the hush puppies had a slight sweetness to them), they were just a little too dry for me.
Is 3-1/2 hours a lot to drive just to grab some barbecue? Some would say so. But this was a special circumstance since Chris will be moving to the UK in a few months and the opportunity to take this roadtrip was dwindling. I think that it was worth the trip to get my first impression of authentic Carolina-style barbecue. Parker’s was able to line up a winning formula: the food was delicious, the service was quick, and the price couldn’t have been better.
Let’s now take a look at the Parker’s Barbecue Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Barbecue Pork Dinner **
A heaping pile of Carolina-style pulled pork, served with boiled potatoes, Brunswick stew, and corn sticks.
And finally, here are my rankings for Parker’s Barbecue:
Food: 5 / 5
It’s a small barbecue selection between pulled pork, chicken, and some seafood, but I can attest that Parker’s does the pulled pork and fried chicken very well. Even the sides were delicious enough to chow down on by themselves.
Atmosphere: 4.5 / 5
It’s a long established restaurant with plenty of tradition behind its walls. The fact that it has retained the older decor throughout the years gives the restaurant a sense of character.
Service: 4.75 / 5
Our waiter was very welcoming and greeted us not long after we sat down, taking our drink and food orders. The food came out from the kitchen lightning quick, and our waiter checked up on us throughout the meal to make sure we had everything we needed.
Price: 5 / 5
I ended up getting my plate of food for less than $7, which was a fantastic price given the amount of food that came with it. Including the full pitcher of sweet tea, it was right under $10. I left feeling very satisfied.