In honor of our annual ‘Cue Awards we’re going deep into barbecue culture with The Smokin’ Hot List. This new series, in partnership with the Southern Foodways Alliance, will share the story of a pitmaster each week. Check back every Monday for your weekly dose of ‘cue.
Pitmasters of the Week: Gerri and Stephen Grady
Where: Grady’s Barbecue, 3096 Arrington Bridge Road, Dudley, NC (919/735-7243)
“You’ve got to have some faith in yourself, especially when it comes to your own taste.” — Gerri Grady
Sixty miles southeast of Raleigh, in the tiny crossroads of Dudley, North Carolina, Stephen and Gerri Grady smoke some of the state’s—maybe even the region’s—best barbecue. They’ve been at it for 27 years, and during that time they’ve eschewed shortcuts in favor of the good stuff: whole hogs smoked over wood, chopped by hand, and kissed with a vinegar-based sauce. Fresh collards, cabbage, and other sides prepared from scratch. Killer sweet potato pies. And tea brewed on the stove, then sweetened with real sugar and iced.
If you can find Grady’s—and it’s really not that hard; just head south from Goldsboro on the Old Mount Olive Highway (if you pass the region’s pickle capital, you’ve gone too far), and keep your eyes peeled for the low-slung white building at the three-way stop—then you’ll be welcome there. The inside seats some 20 patrons, but if the Formica booths and the handful of small tables are full, get your plate or sandwich to go and eat it behind the wheel of your car in the gravel parking lot.
What To Know When You Go: Grady’s is closed on Mondays. No matter what, it can’t hurt to call before you go to make sure they’re open and haven’t run out of ‘cue yet. Even if you came for the pork barbecue, it’s worth ordering a piece of chicken as well—either fried or barbecued. (Attendees at the Southern Foodways Alliance’s 2012 Eastern North Carolina field trip raved about Grady’s fried chicken as much as they did about the barbecue.) Patrons debate the superiority of the collards versus the cabbage, but both are excellent in season. Everyone agrees that you should save room for a piece of Stephen Grady’s sweet potato pie, which Gerri cuts into dauntingly generous slices.
Here, a taste of Grady’s Barbecue in Gerri and Stephen’s own words.
For the full oral history of Grady’s Barbecue, conducted by Rien Fertel, click here.