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Monday, May 21, 2012

Greenville (NC) Eats: B's Barbecue

It's kind of ridiculous, when I think about it, that in the two years I have been in Greenville, North Carolina, I have never been to the city's iconic eatery, B's Barbecue. I mean, it's so iconic that it even has it's own road. How does a foodie like myself justify that? It was completely inexcusable that I never even tried to make a dent at the long lines that always surround B's when food is hot and ready. It was an atrocity that needed to be rectified asap, and that's what I finally did this past week. And yes, it was worth it in every way possible.

Food aside, B's itself is kind of an experience all it's own. Smoke from the pit constantly permeates the air with barbecue goodness. The building is historic in many ways, once a grocery that was converted into it's now glorious location. And remember what I said about this place being iconic? Because of that, you can always expect long lines. They only cook one hog a day, and when the food's out, that's it. Come early or don't come at all. 

Despite B's notoriously long lines that I've heard about, my companions and I amazingly got there at the perfect time, with only a few people at the counter waiting for their orders. I decided to split a giant combination plate with my friend. When I say giant by the way, I mean giant. The order easily weighed upwards of three pounds in my hand, and even after splitting with my friend we had more than enough leftovers to share with a third.
The order came with East Carolina staples: crispy corn sticks, a light green slaw, boiled potatoes, classic Eastern Carolina barbecue, and a whole half of a chicken. The chicken was a behemoth, and maybe even better than the barbecue with its lovely char and smoky taste. A light brushing of their vinegar sauce really set it over the top. The barbecue was pretty clean in comparison to others that I've had,  with all the fat and gristle somewhat cleaned out. Cooked over charcoal, you definitely pick up that flavor in the meat. The sauce over it was good and had a bit of an extra peppery bite to it that I liked. 

Overall though, I still may take Pete Jone's wood-fired 'cue just down the street in Ayden. B's chicken and sides, however, are clear winners in the fight. The potatoes had an outstanding meatiness from being cooked with some of the barbecue and chicken drippings no doubt. The corn sticks were crunchy and flavorful, and maybe some of the best I've had in East Carolina. The slaw is on par with every other I've had, perhaps a little less sweet, which was a bonus.

I was pretty satisfied by my meal at B's. For my barbecue cravings, I may still prefer the extra ten to fifteen minute drive to Ayden for some Pete Jones, but the chicken and sides at B's are something that I'd be willing to come back for any time of the week. Definitely worth a trip for the experience alone.

B's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Greenville (NC) Eats: Pop's Old Fashion Burger

Cheap, fast local mom and pop burgers are something that I've always loved for many reasons. The fact that there's something defiantly regional about them that makes it a fun item to get wherever you travel in the US. Butter burgers at Culvers in Des Moines, Iowa where I grew up and pimento burgers in South Carolina are a few things that come into mind. For most of the Carolina's, however, they like to carry on the classic barbecue tradition on theirs, loaded up with slaw, chili, mustard and onions, which is exactly what Pop's is all about.

There are other things going on on their menu these days, but for me Pop's is strictly a burger joint, and what they do best. For starters, they get automatic bonus points for using local naturally grown beef from just down the street in Ayden, NC. And the difference is totally there. The burger is juicy, flavorful and nicely grilled every time. The chili and slaw is not the best I've ever had, but holds up fine. The meat's really the star here, and the juices dripping from it usually satisfies my burger cravings every time. The biggest gripe though? The bun. Not toasted and kind of boring, it's a bit of disappointment in an otherwise good burger.

If you like, you can also pick up funnel cake - I think the only place in town - but otherwise there's not much else I could recommend at Pop's outside of the special. The fried pickles are a bit on the oily side, and the apple pie is not so exciting; a water-downed version of the McDonalds pie in some ways. It all really doesn't matter though; Pop's is the kind of burger joint that's kind of ideal for your random burger cravings, and that they do fairly well, for a fair price to boot.

They currently don't have an urbanspoon, but you can find out more about them here or head over to their spot on the corner of Evan's and 10th in the strip mall behind Krispy Kreme.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

On the Prowl: Strawberries on 903 in Greenville, NC

Though strawberry season is quickly coming to an end, locals in the Greenville, NC area should, you haven't already, make it out to Strawberries on 903 for berries and fun. Usually around early April to mid-to-late May, strawberry season may be one of the best times of the year in East Carolina, with plenty of fresh, delicious strawberries growing around much of this side of the state. Strawberries on 903 may be the most accessible for locals in Greenville, and also the most family friendly with all the attractions on the side. 

If you haven't gone picking before, it's pretty simple: pick up a box at the front, and dig right in. Prices are relatively reasonable, I usually walk away with half a box - easily a couple of quarts - for less then four dollars. And the strawberries are AMAZING. Coming straight from the farm really ensures you get the very best, and with some careful searching you should always be able to find some really terrific, ripe berries to chow on. Strawberries on 903 is also a certified farmer's market stand, featuring some nice produce on the side as well, sometimes for pretty great prices too. Asparagus, squash, tomatoes and potatoes were all around on my last visit, along with farm-raised eggs and some organic meat if you inquire about it.

Not only can you get some extraordinary strawberries, but you can also easily spend a good morning here enjoying both delicious, velvety homemade ice cream and the animal farm, featuring everything from chickens to goats, pigs, bunnies, and even a pair of peacocks. Definitely family friendly and a lot of fun, make sure you check out Strawberries on 903 before the season's over. If you can make it this year, they still have other exciting fruits to look out for this summer, including blueberries and peaches in July and August, so definitely keep an eye out here.

Where:  If you drive out towards Kingston on Memorial Drive, just outside of town you should be able to spot some signs to lead you there.
4064 NC 903 South
Winterville, NC 28590

Monday thru Friday: 8am to 6pm
Saturday: 8am to 4pm
Sunday: 1pm to 5pm

To find out more, you can check out their website here:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Greenville (NC) Eats: Plum Tree Bistro

I tend to avoid upscale eating both because I'm a poor grad student and because, well mostly because I'm a poor grad student. It was graduation weekend though, and being the forgetful person I am, I failed to reserve seats at Starlight Cafe and Chef and the Farmer in Kinston for my family. Fortunately Plum Tree Bistro was only doing walk-ins, and is a relatively unknown restaurant tucked in a strip next to Japan Inn, so finding a table was easy enough. And fortunately, they aren't too bad for what they do. In fact, they were quite good in many ways to my surprise.

Being an American bistro, Plum Tree followed the book to a tee and started off with hot, crusty bread and a light salad. The bread was warm, crispy and actually really satisfying. The house salad was simple: lettuce and mixed greens, sliced red onion, minced carrot (which I like and don't mind seeing more of), cherry tomato, and some sliced cucumber. A no frills salad, exactly what you expect it to be.

For my entree, I decided to order the duck breast, which came with a blueberry port wine sauce. Though a bit on the expensive side for what it was, this was still easily some of the best duck I've had in awhile. Cooked perfectly medium, it was tender and succulent, and the sauce was finely balanced with sweet and sour notes that accentuated the best aspects of the duck nicely. The smashed red potatoes were also nice and buttery, and the steamed vegetables, which I would normally cast aside, actually helped tie everything together nicely, adding some freshness to the rich duck and potatoes and forming a very composed entree. I would order this again if I had the opportunity.

My family ordered around the menu, taking in some of the special seafood orders. This swordfish, topped with tarragon butter looked attractive, but had a bit of a frozen taste that wasn't too appealing. The red snapper with a lemon caper sauce was a huge improvement though, and came with a nice sear that really crisped up the fish. The lemon and capers really cut through the snapper nicely and was a hit at the table. The rice pilaf that came with both dishes was kind of forgettable however, something you will want to consider subbing out if you are in the mood for seafood. We also had a ribeye steak, which despite being ordered well-done came out not only well rested but quite tender. Anyone looking for a nice medium, medium-rare ribeye will likely really enjoy their steak.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with my meal at Plum Tree Bistro. There were a few hang-ups, particularly the relatively high price - upper $20s - of some of these dishes. You are definitely also paying for ambiance here, and not just fine dining. If you are looking for an upscale place for special occasions and/or meetings though, I think you'll be hard-pressed to find many other options in town that rival PTB and their bistro fare. While you won't find any exotic dishes like you may at Starlight or Chef in the Farmer, you will find some really solid, no-fear classics to satisfy your carnivore needs.

Plum Tree Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Charleston Eats: EVO Pizza


Life's taken me to the Holy City quite often in the past year, so I decided to start taking the opportunity to talk about some of my favorite eats that I've encountered there, particularly those outside of historic downtown Charleston which has been well-covered by locals and visitors alike. 

EVO Pizza, located in Park Circle on the outskirts of North Charleston, may be one of the best bites outside of downtown, and for great prices as well. I've been many times, not only for their great pizza, but consistently rotating menu of seasonal soups and sandwiches, something that would be quite ordinary sounding elsewhere, but at EVO a real pleasure and something I look forward to every visit. This last stop may have been the best, with their local strawberry gazpacho, featuring pureed strawberries (which have been amazing this season), cucumbers and herbs along with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a pile of blue cheese on top.


I would not have thought of the blue cheese in something like this, but the aromatic crumble was pretty dynamite with the super smooth gazpacho. A little tart, and entirely as refreshing as it sounds, this was well-worth the trip alone.

For the entree, I decided to go with one of their signature pizzas, the pistachio pesto. Topped with three cheeses and a smooth, nutty pesto, this was a pizza to die for. The crust at EVO is just spot on. Crusty, crispy, and chewy, but just the right amount of chewiness so it's not a workout. Great. The pesto had a really great nutty quality that didn't make me miss meat at all. I added crushed red pepper and parm, but really this didn't need a thing. Just delicious.

If you're not in the mood for pizza, their panini's are pretty outstanding. Their foccacia tastes housemade and is a beautiful buttery bomb perfect for their cheesy creations. The use of super fresh ingredients at EVO helps them stand a notch above the competition. It's a limited menu, but you'll likely always find something you are in the mood for here. Completely worth a visit, and if you a local, a perfect venue to hideaway from incoming tourists invading downtown this summer.

EVO Pizza on Urbanspoon