Friday, October 30, 2009

Hursey's Barbecue (2/10) - 1834 S Church St., Burlington, NC 27215

Hursey's was a late addition to my North Carolina barbecue tour; a recommendation that came to me from a high school friend who has lived in the state since his days as a strapping undergrad at Davidson.  The smell of hickory guided me towards the restaurant as I guided my car through the streets of the bustling town of Burlington.  The triple smokestack on the front of the restaurant confirmed that I had reached my destination.

Hursey's is supposedly one of the only Eastern NC barbecue restaurants in the western side of the state (or west of Raleigh).  The waitress was very friendly, and offered to provide a wide variety of foods for me to sample over lunch.  To be perfectly frank, the only items that looked remotely appetizing on the plate was the chicken (which wasn't even barbecued) and the fries.  Between mushy barbecued pork, white finely chopped coleslaw, and Brunswick stew with 18 variety of beans in it, and my previous experience at Lexington #1 and Smiley's, I was not optimistic in the least.

Then I glanced over at the ribs.  The sauce was gelatinous to both sight and touch.  While I was hoping for a powerful and delicious flavored glaze, I was disappointed by its taste as well.  The meat from the ribs were overly tender and lacked flavor from a long hickory induced smoke.

I asked the waitress if she minded if I took a tour of the pits and she happily obliged.  Hursey's operates two large pits which are fed with the hickory wood that is preliminarily burned in the middle chamber.  Hursey's has mastered the process which it abides to on a daily basis:
1. Place meat on grates.
2. Scatter hot coals beneath the pork sporadically throughout the course of the day to maintain optimal heat level.
3. Extinguish hot coals at the end of the night before heading home for the evening.
4. Allow pork to cool overnight in the pit prior to the following day's service.

I believe Hursey's process of burning wood down into hot coals prior to scattering the hot embers beneath the pork deprives the meat from fully absorbing a strong smoke flavor.  Albeit each person is entitled to their own subjective opinion, I prefer adding wood chunks/logs in their respective raw (uncooked) state to the indirect fire during the smoke.  Hursey's method produced a boring and bland product.  I was saddened by this experience since I had high expectations for this visit.  Despite consecutive negative barbecue experiences on this trip, I decided to carry on and try one more North Carolina barbecue establishment that I had seen on Smokestack Lightning on PBS.

Hursey's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon


  1. My friend, you are sadly lacking in barbeque taste. Hursey's is the absolute best barbeque in the United States! Every time I'm in Burlington I have to stop there. It's simply divine!

  2. Unfortunately, 3rd Degree Berns review is absolutely correct. The tantalizing smoke that one smells in the parking lot does not translate into the BBQ. Such a shame! Dry, dry, dry barbecue.


Ratings and Reviews

In order to provide a consistent grading standard across each restaurant/region, I order a barbecue pork sandwich (and other meats/sides if a restaurant/region specializes in another specialty). In addition to comparing the quality of food, I will also take into consideration other intangibles (ambiance, atmosphere, service, authenticity, etc.) in my ratings as I deem appropriate.

Basically, a 10/10 represents an incredible meal, while a 6/10 score indicates a decent dining experience but a substantial number of dishes fell short of great. Lower scores indicate unpleasant experiences which I would most likely not even recommend to my worst enemy (Jonas Singer).

I reserve the right to continuously edit/update previous posts and to change rating scores as I see fit.