A recent trip out east to the beach made for a perfect opportunity to hit another spot on the NC BBQ Trail. Wilbur’s Barbecue in Goldsboro is pretty well known throughout the state and they have no shortage of memorabilia in the restaurant to prove it. The building has the feel of an old kind of house with a large dining area to accommodate quite a few people. There’s also a carry-out counter just as you walk in. We arrived around 11am, just as they opened for lunch.
Before heading in to eat, we walked out back to check out the pit. There was a roaring fire going putting out some nice heat (The heat felt kind of nice since it was a bit chilly that day). This was pretty cool to see because I hadn’t really seen a pit in action before. It was pretty cool to think that this modest, old-time process was cooking up some of the best barbecue in the state.
Like I noted earlier, the interior is adorned with history of the place. From politician visits, NCSU mementos, to a commemoration of the legendary Bob Garner’s visit, Wilbur’s certainly appears vested in North Carolina barbecue culture.
We were immediately seated and greeted by the nicest waitress. The service was outstanding. We were quickly presented with fresh hushpuppies and our own pitcher of water. The tables boasted many of the NC bbq essentials: Wilbur’s house vinegar sauce, Texas Pete, and of course, napkins. The menu had a good amount of choices including pork bbq, bbq/fried chicken, seafood and sides.
I went with the bbq chicken and pork combo plate along with slaw and sliced tomatoes. The chicken was covered in a sauce like no other bbq chicken I’ve ever seen. It was a soupy, light-brown sauce, atypical of an average tomato-based bbq chicken sauce. I thought it didn’t have much flavor, it was very mild and a bit buttery. I cannot complain about the quality of the chicken though, it was some of the most tender chicken I’ve had. The sauce wasn’t my favorite, but overall it was good chicken. The pork on the other hand, was typical of other eastern NC bbq trail wood fired pits. It was very tender with various cuts of pork and bark mixed it. No complaints here. Adding a bit of Wilbur’s house sauce only kicked-up the tangy, spicy flavor. Overall, the pork was very good, but I wouldn’t say it was mind-blowing.
The slaw was a bit different than I’m used to as well. It was heavy on the dressing, it was almost like a soupy paste. The cabbage was fresh and crispy, but I feel like I got the bottom of the barrel or something because it was loaded with dressing. It was still tasty, just a bit more soupy than I like. Wow, I almost forgot to mention the hushpuppies! They were served hot, fresh and complimentary. Nothing special here, just your generic hushpuppies, but you can’t go wrong with free fried cornmeal batter.
I also got a chance to try the fried chicken livers and the seafood plate. I don’t think I’d ever had livers before, but they were fried crispy and tasted quite nice. I probably wouldn’t order them again because there are so many other things on the menu that I’d prefer, but they were certainly rich and tasty. The fish was served in huge portions and was freshly fried. It was so big a portion that my mom couldn’t finish it all and had to share it with my dad and I.. and I’m glad she did. The seafood plate was the special of the day served in generous portions at a great price. I love fried fish and it was hot, crispy and delicious.
Wilbur’s is quite well known throughout the state and for good reason. It has the history and the good food to go along with it. The service was outstanding, the menu was varied and reasonably priced, and the atmosphere was friendly. While I loved the pork and fish, the bbq chicken was a bit different for me, but I like the unique take on it. The slaw and hushpuppies were satisfactory, but nothing special. Definitely a solid choice for some good eastern NC bbq.
Restaurant: Wilbur’s Barbecue
Location: 4172 US-70, Goldsboro, NC 27534
Overall Rating: 4/5