An Eastern North Carolina Barbecue Birth


Here I was, surrounded by icons of North Carolina barbecue: Wilber Shirley of Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro.  Chip and Charles Stamey of Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro.  Samuel Jones of the Skylight Inn in Ayden.  And Ed Mitchell of Raleigh’s The Pit.  We were assembled there to celebrate the release of the fantastic book on North Carolina barbecue, Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, written by John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed, and William McKinney.  Mr. Mitchell was getting ready to pull a pig off his cooker in the kitchen, and folks were just having a grand time.  I truly felt that I was not worthy to be around so many barbecue dignitaries, but they weren’t the ones drawing my attention.  No, Andy Price was the person I really wanted to get to know, and that’s because this young accountant is about to open a small, Eastern-style barbecue restaurant in Lumberton.

This is a huge deal.  Eastern style barbecue restaurants are a dying breed, and I’ve gotten tired of hearing news of another joint’s demise.  Making barbecue, particularly whole hog, wood-cooked barbecue, is very difficult work, and there are only a handful of places that do it the right way.  I cannot really remember the last time a new, traditional Eastern barbecue establishment opened in a small town — it might be when Ed Mitchell opened his place in Wilson years ago.  Mitchell’s ambitions for Wilson were greater than the demand, and his restaurant was far too big for the town, ultimately resulting in its closing.

Andy Price, and his lovely wife, Patricia, are opening Nelson’s Barbecue, a 75-seat restaurant just off of I-95 (between exits 20 and 22) in Lumberton.   They bought an old restaurant, demolished it, and are now coming close to finishing the place, with an opening expected in February.  Nelson’s will have their 5’X6′ elevated steel pits behind the restaurant, abd the kitchen will be open to the dining area similar to the Skylight Inn.  They’ll be cooking whole hogs, supplemented with some shoulders, over oak.  Nelson’s will be open Tuesday through Saturday, taking off Sunday and Monday so Andy and Patricia can spend time with their two young children.

Oh, and why is it called Nelson’s?  Andy Price’s middle name is Nelson, and he and his wife liked the sound of “Nelson’s” more than “Price’s.”

Wilber Shirley and Andy Price

Teacher and Pupil: Wilber Shirley and Andy Price

But will the barbecue be good?  I think it will be great.  Price has barbecue in his blood.  He’s been doing pig pickins for a number of years, and he wanted to open is own barbecue restaurant so badly that he spent a lot of time at Wilbers, my favorite barbecue place in the state.  He studied how Wilber’s operates, how they cook their hogs, how they serve their barbecue.  If Nelson’s is anywhere close to being as good as Wilber’s — and being a lot smaller, they should have good quality control — then I’ll be finding reasons to head to South of the Border.

Nelson’s will also serve barbecue chicken in a style similar to B’s Barbecue in Greenville (and frankly, I like B’s chicken more than their barbecue!).  They’re going to try serving ribs, but they’re not sure how well they’ll sell.  Interestingly, they’re going to offer both hush puppies and corn sticks, as Mike likes the former and Patricia is a corn stick fan.  Other sides will include slaw, beans, but alas, no Brunswick stew.

The locals are excited, as the only other game in town is Fuller’s Barbecue, which is fine, but not great.  Price told me that he and his father, another CPA, have run the numbers several times, and they think they can truly make a go of it, even during these tough economic times.  Hell, when the world around you is overly crazy, spinning out of control, you can look to a fine plate of barbecue for comfort, reminding you of the simple things in life.  And I’m looking forward to getting one of those first plates of warm comfort from Nelson’s in a few months.

Nelson’s Barbecue
4880 Kahn Drive
Lumberton, NC 28358
Off I-95 between exits 20 and 22 (not active yet)


15 Responses to An Eastern North Carolina Barbecue Birth

  1. Lynn says:

    Well now there might be a real reason to visit my hometown. It seems like they have a great location. Lumberton does a huge tourist business from the travelers going from NY to Florida. Dean let me know when you are headed down to try the goods and I will go with you.

  2. amanda says:

    Tasty. Getting hungry just thinkin’ about this. Time for dinner.

  3. burgeoningfoodie says:

    Well thats good to hear can’t have too many good Eastern NC BBQ places. Though coming from the area of Skylight Inn, Kings, Wilbur’s and B’s BBQ. I can honestly say that a couple (and not necessarily the ones above) of the once great places have gone down hill in quality. That won’t stop the faithful from coming though.

  4. SouthernComfort says:

    Boy, it would be great to have a real BBQ restaurant in the southern part of the state. Sounds like this guy knows what he is doing. It’s hard to find real BBQ done the right way, with wood and not gas. I’ll definitely take a trip down there if it’s as good as it sounds. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll open before February.

    I like B’s chicken better too!

  5. MB says:

    I’ve never wanted to badly to visit Lumberton.

  6. Maura says:

    I find it incredible that any great barbecue restaurant would fail in NC, or that it’s hard to find one. I’m not a huge fan NC barbecue (I prefer red to white), but North Carolinians are fanatics about it. And I say that in the best way possible, seriously. People should be passionate about their regional food.

    Anyway, good luck to Nelson’s.

  7. Betty(Molly) says:

    You know you have our support, look fwd to the Grand Opening…..
    hope you will offer Child/Senior meal……
    Offer still stands, if needed, will serve as hostess FREE long as Ollie agrees.
    Available to help in anyway,
    Good Luck ….

  8. Weiz & Sam Baker says:

    We can’t wait to devour this delicious bbcue. No doubt, Nelson’s will be the best! Let us know when you open and we’ll be there! We are so proud of you and your accomplishments!!!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I can’t wait!!!

  10. Mary Catherine Worthington says:

    This is great news! Lumberton really needs a REAL barbecue restaurant!

  11. Marcella says:

    I got hungry just reading about this. I can hardly wait!!

  12. George says:

    A new place to stop! Good luck to you Andy. I was raised on such “real” barbeque. Now that I’m in Florida trying to single handedly effect the taste buds down here with the Eastern North Carolina style…just introduced “Carolina Sunshine”in the last two months. People are catching on to what real Q is!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Nearly three years later! Andy says he has finally got the wherewithal to go ahead, and plans to start serving before Christmas, with a proper Grand Opening sometime in January.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Scheduled to open Tuesday, December 27th. Closed on New Year’s Eve and Day, with a formal Grand Opening on January 10.

  15. BobbyHuntjr says:

    NESLSON`S is an awesome place to work and the BBQ is the best i have ever tasted,the ribs are also great and not to mention the home made banna puddin it will have you cravren for more .If you havent made it there yet you dont know what your missin it is so awesoooooooome 🙂 Finally there is some real BBQ in ROBESON COUNTY AND ITS HERE TO STAY HOORAY.

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