Pik-n-Pig in Carthage, NC, is known locally as the place to find excellent barbecue. It has also gained a growing reputation for being the place to fly into for great smoked pork. Not every barbecue restaurant can brag that it serves pilots and their passengers who simply walk over to it after they have landed.
Summer of Cue
My visit to Pik-n-Pig coincided with the Summer of Cue (#SummerofCue) promotion, launched on social media by the N.C. Pork Council to encourage barbecue fans to support BBQ restaurants during the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Although I visited Pik-n-Pig before I realized that the council had featured it on their blog, reading their comments later made me feel like I was visiting the restaurant again. (At the time of the post, fans had visited more than 50 N.C. barbecue restaurants.)
|The order station outside the restaurant while interior dining is closed.|
Pik-n-Pig is truly a family-run business from the pitmaster to the servers and others in the kitchen that draws on four decades of smoking experience by three generations of the Sheppard family. They are well known in the Sandhills area for serving great food in an amazing atmosphere. The restaurant is located by the runway of Gilliam-McDonnell Airfield, which is privately owned but open to the public. (If you plan to fly in, be alert to the 75-foot trees that surround the airport.) Whether it’s time for lunch or dinner, you can always count on a few private planes to circle the airport, do touch-and go’s, or land and join the crowd eating barbecue.
|My barbecue plate with two sides and a corn muffin.|
To make their pulled pork, Boston butts are slowly smoked for up to 10 hours over hickory coals. The meat is always tender and juicy, and two sauces – one spicy, one sweet – were available. My pulled pork plate came with two sides—red slaw and butter beans (brown!) with corn—and a corn muffin. The choices of sides are extensive. The red slaw is unusual for this region of the state; it’s more traditional in western areas. I always order the plate, although I’m usually tempted by the BBQ sundae—pulled pork layered in a jar with baked beans and coleslaw—which has been served at the N.C. State Fair for years.
|Normally served in a mug, the banana pudding is in a takeout container (the dishware of the pandemic).|
Although Pik-n-Pig is first and foremost a barbecue restaurant, I’m not the only person who also comes for the banana pudding. It’s the perfect complement to a barbecue meal, whether it’s a sandwich, plate, or sundae. If only every barbecue restaurant would serve banana pudding that’s so good! Maybe it’s another reason that people fly here!
|My wife's Pie Tin Nachos with pork and cheese.|
With the coronavirus pandemic still not under control in this state, the inside dining area was closed. Not a problem for Pik-n-Pig! The covered patio outside is more than adequate and is the best spot to watch planes land and take off, and extra tables are next to it on the lawn. My wife and I usually eat outside anyway on a weekend to enjoy music by a local group, such as The McKenzie Brothers.
|A photo taken in 2016 during quieter moments shows the covered patio with windsock and nearby aircraft hangers.|
Watching the windsock near the covered patio flap in the breeze is also entertaining and a reminder than the airport has no control tower, so pilots have to be vigilant not only of the wind direction but any local traffic as well. After two planes had parked while we were eating, their pilots and passengers walked over for lunch. What a way to find a place to eat!
|Smoking meat for hours over wood coals earns Pik-n-Pig a coveted sport on the N.C. Historic Barbecue Trail.|
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve eaten at Pik-n-Pig. In recognition of how Pik-n-Pig cooks using the old-fashioned pit method, it has been added to the N.C. Historic Barbecue Trail of the N.C. Barbecue Society. Visiting it is definitely worth a drive (albeit only a short one for me) or a fly-in.
|A daily menu board supplements the regular menu.|