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I had my biases against Parker’s and mainly added it to my itinerary because it was on the way and it was open on Sunday. Not a small feat to find yourself good barbecue on Sunday in North Carolina. Wilbur’s is open but they were a few miles east of where I was heading.
Parker’s has a long deep history in the community of Wilson. For a long long time it was considered hands down, the best whole hog barbecue in the region. Demand and quality assurance was so high that they even raised their own hogs at one point. Wilson itself was a hotbed of whole hog cooking. My teacher Ed Mitchell actually originally had his establishment in Wilson.
My meal at Parkers was in a word – Excellent. Let’s be perfectly clear – there is no better plate in the world than one that has both whole hog barbecue and fried chicken settled in it. I have cooked with some of the best chefs in New York City at the priciest institutions we have to offer, and there’s not a single plate put out with fancy meats and complex sauces that will offer more pleasure than the simple plate of BBQ and fried chicken. So I had this at Parkers. The pork was nicely seasoned and the chicken was everything country fried chicken should be – thin crunchy crust and deeply salty seasoning.
Parker’s is also one of the new places still offering corn sticks. You’ll recall my post on corn sticks and the various genus of hush puppies. I think corn sticks would be much more accepted if there was something to dip them in. They’re rock hard and even for those with solid enamels, it’s a effort to bite through them.
As my custom I asked if it would be ok if I saw their pits where they cooked the hogs. My very white waiter told me that he needed to check in with his boss first. Out comes his boss and there I was standing in front of an Asian man. Now this wouldn’t be as out of place until he opened in mouth and out poured as natural of an American South accent as you’ll find. I’m not sure why this would seem so out of ordinary to me. After all, I too am of Asian descent and speak English with a New York accent. The imagery of BBQ and the American South needs updating for all of us.
Parker’s operations is massive. There’s enough fryers there to deep fry every single animal on Noah’s ark. The pits in the back cooked whole hogs on a daily basis. As you can see from the photo above, they go through a lot of hog.
Parker’s could easily be a destination establishment if it returned to wood cooking its hogs. For now, they have switched over to electric powered cookers with a little box for wood chips. Their decision to leave cooking with wood took them off the North Carolina BBQ Society’s Trail Page. You can actually read a cached copy of their time on the Trail HERE.
That being said, I had a good time at Parker’s and the food was excellent. The service wonderful. If they were here in NYC, I’d probably eat there every week. The fried chicken is oh so good.
Click the link above for food porn. Here are some shots.