America's Best Barbecue

by Jane and Michael Stern

AYDEN, NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina has a lot of barbecue variants (and mini-wars) of its own: heavy sauce in the west, hardly any sauce at all in the east. Creamy slaw versus spicy slaw versus mustard slaw. Hush puppies or corn sticks? But the daddy of all Tar Heel pits, the Skylight Inn, has been unaffected by time or 'cue trends. Treasured by connoisseurs, it's located east of I-95, not far from Greenville, and features whole-hog barbecue. Unlike pyrotechnical kick-ass Q's, Skylight's mating of smoke and pork is a subtle nuptial, elegantly abetted by the addition of a little vinegar and hot sauce—nothing more—as it's chopped on a maple cutting board. Beyond the exquisite flavor, the variety of textures from eating the entire pig is striking. Along with soft shreds from the interior are chewy strips from the outside, and surprisingly crunchy nuggets of skin. The cooked skin conveys terabytes of lusciousness, its firmness adding edible drama that is lacking in barbecue made only from upscale hams or shoulders. There are two and only two ways to have it at the Skylight: on a bun or in a cardboard tray. Other than corn bread and coleslaw, there's nothing else on the menu.

Skylight Inn
Tel: 252 746 4113

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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