Wednesday, June 13

B's Barbecue: The Early Bird Gets the 'Cue

B's Barbecue, Greenville, NC
(Click the link above to read the SFA's oral history with Judy Drach of B's, part of the Southern BBQ Trail) 

Judy Drach has watched her hometown of Greenville, North Carolina, grow up around her. Roads have widened, hospitals have expanded, the number of students at East Carolina University has increased, and many of the buildings she remembers from her childhood have been torn down and the lots re-developed.

But at B's Barbecue, which she runs with her two sisters, Tammy and Donna, not much has changed in the forty-odd years since it opened. They still cook whole-hog barbecue. That barbecue still sells out every day. The sauce that founder William "Bill" McLawhorn (Judy's father) perfected is still a closely guarded family secret. And B's has never had a telephone.

Arthur House takes the day's first pig off the pit behind B's. Photo by Alan Pike, 2009. 
"We've been really blessed by it, and never would have thought—never in a million years," that the restaurant would be so successful, Judy told the SFA in a 2009 oral history. "You know, my dad started to open it, and my mom was like, oh Lord, here we go again. She thought it was just an idea that would fall by the wayside. But it's really done well by us—all of us."

"We have a lot of people that come in and they've heard rumors that we're going to close, that the highway is going to mow right over us, that kind of thing. They say, 'Do you need me to call somebody? Do you need me to go stand on the courthouse steps?' And you know, I really think they would." 

Judy credits that dedication in part to B's atmosphere. "It's not many places you can go where you can just go and sit next to a man in a three-piece suit that you've never met before or sit next to a family or a farmer or a college student and get to meet them and eat with them. So it's like when they come in here, they are family. They just mingle together, and it means a lot to us."

If you go: B's is located at 751 B's Barbecue Road in Greenville, NC. It is closed on Sundays. If you're coming from out of town, plan on an early lunch, or even a late (but heavy) breakfast—on a busy day, the barbecue can be gone by noon. Many B's devotees swear by the chicken, arguing that it's just as good as the chopped pork.

-Susie Penman