Capitol Q

My friend Joe York, filmmaker extraordinaire, has put together a fantastic film on one of North Carolina’s barbecue gems, the Skylight Inn in Ayden. The Skylight is a special place, a purist’s nirvana, where the crunchy skin is cut into the meat, and there are only three foods on the menu — barbecue, slaw, and cornbread. Yeah, they have soda and Moon Pies, but those aren’t made there. And the barbecue at the Skylight is seasoned very lightly, allowing you to savor the full flavor of the Q.

Watch the film, which was put together for the Southern Foodways Alliance with support from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. The film debuted in New York, of all places, at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party.

Edit: I meant to re-post this great photo of James Henry Howell, the Skylight’s pitmaster:

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5 Responses to Capitol Q

  1. MB says:

    The Skylight is definitely worth the drive.

  2. Varmint says:

    This is what I wrote about the Skylight Inn five years ago:

    The Skylight Inn has been recognized by everyone and anyone. Mr. Jones has been a fierce advocate for traditional barbecue: his motto is, “If it’s not cooked with wood, it’s not bar-b-q.” When some magazine named the Skylight Inn as the best barbecue joint in the country, Mr. Jones went a bit hog-wild (sorry) and had someone add a faux-rotunda to the top of his restaurant in an attempt to mimic the US Capitol. The restaurant thereby became even more of an icon.

    You won’t find collards at the Skylight. The only vegetable served is cabbage in the overly sweet slaw. You won’t find chicken or stew or even sweet tea at the Skylight. This place is about barbecue. I ordered a barbecue tray, which consists of a stack, with a dish of pork on the bottom, a piece of ultra-dense cornbread in the middle, and a tray of slaw on the top. With a fountain drink (they have both a Coke and a Pepsi fountain!), that cost me a grand total of $3.50.

    Tasting the barbecue reminded me why Pete Jones has received all the accolades he has. His barbecue is quite close to the way I make it — each bite crunches from the small bits of skin (or “pork brittle” as Malawry calls it) he cuts into the meat. This results in perhaps the best flavor and textural combination possible. You’re reminded of the work that goes into this dish from the constant “clunk, clunk, clunka, clunk” from the two cleavers wielded by the man behind the counter, chopping the barbecue. Sauce is almost non-existent with this barbecue, as you really don’t want to do anything to diminish the pork. It’s incredibly rich, and you can’t eat a lot of this stuff, but damn, it’s awesome.

    If I had to choose a barbecue to eat every day, I’d choose Bum’s (in Ayden) or Wilber’s in Goldsboro. If I had to choose a barbecue as my final meal, I’d take the Skylight’s — that’s the memory I’d want to take to my grave. I may end up in hell, but I would certainly have had a bit of heaven prior to my descent.

  3. Scot says:

    Best barbecue I ever ate – I prefer it Wilber’s, haven’t been to Bum’s (yet; how did Ayden get so lucky? Can they move it closer to RTP? :P). Actually kind of a scenic drive through eastern NC – totally worth an afternoon. You’re right about not being able to eat a lot – that’s the only downside, it’s over so fast!

  4. Nelson Head says:

    What a great film about the best in Southern barbecue.
    Nelson Head
    Dixie Bones

  5. burgeoningfoodie says:

    I enjoyed this film, but my only critique is that there is no focus on Mr. Howell. He does get some words in, but there was no mention as to how long he’s been there or how he is a part of the success at all which I think is a shame.

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