Loading...
BYH, watching this administration is like watching a mob movie....

Garner: Six generations of barbecue

Bob Garner

Bob Garner

Loading…

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pitt County is home to world-class eastern North Carolina barbecue.

But there probably aren’t many who realize that different branches of the same family have cooked and sold barbecue in the Ayden area alone for more than 150 years. In fact, two of the best barbecue joints in North Carolina can be found within the Ayden city limits.

Not only that — a third, newer place a few miles up the road in Greenville is serving old-timey, wood-cooked barbecue from that very same family heritage.

What are the odds of that sort of connection and continuity?

The owners of The Skylight Inn, Bum’s Restaurant and Sam Jones BBQ all trace their beginnings to common ancestor Skilten Dennis, who began selling barbecue to camp meeting groups around Ayden from the back of a covered wagon sometime in the mid-1800s.

The connection between Skilten Dennis and the present-day Bum’s Restaurant is fairly direct. Patriarch Dennis’ son and grandson carried on his same enterprise, with grandson Bill eventually selling barbecue at an early Ayden curb market. Bill’s wife slaughtered, dressed and pit-cooked pigs at home on their farm, sending the cooked barbecue to town by wagon.

In 1941, John Bill Dennis — the fourth successive generation of Dennis pit masters — built a trailer on the site of the present Bum’s restaurant in Ayden, replacing it with a permanent structure, the J.B. Dennis Café, in 1948.

A cousin, Latham “Bum” Dennis eventually bought the cafe and renamed it Bum’s Restaurant in the 1960s.

And the Skylight Inn? Well, Walter B. “Pete” Jones, another Skilton Dennis descendant, opened the place in another part of Ayden in the late 1940s. Pete didn’t have the same continuous barbecue legacy as the other Dennis family branch, but did have a childhood dream of running his own barbecue restaurant.

And so it was that Pete’s place and what would later become Bum’s Restaurant began vying for barbecue acclaim — not only in the same town and county, but across eastern North Carolina and beyond.

What the two restaurants share, and have always shared, is an insistence on pit-cooking whole hogs directly over wood coals: mostly oak, with maybe a little hickory mixed in.

Meat juices drip directly onto the hot coals and produce aromatic bursts of steam, creating unparalleled flavor. Extra coals are shoveled under a roasting hog near the end of the cooking cycle in order to raise the overall cooking temperature and “crisp up” the pig’s skin. Chopped and mixed into the barbecue, the crackling skin is a huge part of the secret at both The Skylight Inn and Bum’s Restaurant.

The Skylight Inn unapologetically offers a straightforward, limited menu: barbecue sandwiches and trays, coleslaw, baked cornbread and beverages. No sides, no desserts.

By contrast, Bum’s Restaurant — now largely under the management of son Larry Dennis — serves a memorable selection of down-home favorites along with the barbecue. In addition to what may be the world’s best collard greens, the menu includes such delights as Brunswick stew, rutabagas, cabbage, fried and barbecued chicken, seafood, chicken and pastry and incredible banana pudding.

Sam Jones, Pete’s grandson, grew up working at The Skylight Inn, which he still helps run. Now, he also has his own place, Sam Jones BBQ in Greenville, where he serves the same whole-hog, wood-cooked barbecue that made The Skylight famous. There are also tasty new side dishes and other barbecue meat choices that have never been on the menu at the original restaurant.

There is probably no other place in the entire country with a specific barbecue history as strong as the one surrounding these three restaurants…all within a few miles of one another.

Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at bgarner2662@gmail.com.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Look

October 16, 2019

I don’t know about you, but my life passed “busy” 15 exits ago. It seems that there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. My life can get so hectic that I don’t always eat healthy. I tend to eat a lot of fast food or choose lunch and dinner options that…

Chrislyn and Mike Wedderien.jpg

October 16, 2019

Q: I saw the news that it’s ok to eat red and processed meat. What and who do I believe? J and B H. Formerly of Greenville

A: Yes, a surprising study was released the week of Sept. 30 saying that eating less red meat may not make your healthier. It found fault with previous nutrition studies…

Kolasa, Kathy

October 09, 2019

Pitt Partners for Health is celebrating a quarter century of helping community residents live healthier lives.

Established in 1995, PPH is Pitt County’s community health coalition. The group is led by a steering committee whose members represent Vidant Medical Center, the Pitt County Health…

sign

October 09, 2019

Around the globe parents are buckling their children into car seats with the very best intentions. Unfortunately, some are missing the mark, placing their most precious cargo in danger.

Following the fine points of car seat safety can reduce the risk of a child’s death in a car crash by as…

IMG-0231.jpg

October 09, 2019

Every day we have to figure out what we want to eat. Our taste buds, the weather and even our emotions help us determine what we choose to feed not only our bellies, but our souls. We often choose foods and tastes that bring back memories. I talk about this often: food and memory go hand-in-hand.…

20190927_162729.jpg

October 09, 2019

Dear readers: I heard from many of you last week in response to the headlines that “there was no need to cut down on red and processed meat.” We just were able to get copies of the original studies — five systematic reviews — and several medical students, colleagues and I…

Kolasa, Kathy

October 02, 2019

Downtown Greenville has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last five years and there is no sign it’s stopping anytime soon. You can find shiny, new high-rise student housing, fun clubs, bars, restaurants and everything in-between, all within a mile of ECU’s campus. The Bodega…

20190927_134638.jpg

October 02, 2019

Q: I recently developed gout. An old friend of mine dug a piece of well-worn paper from his wallet. It was a list of foods someone told him to avoid a long time ago. He said it pretty much works for him. Is this an old wives’ tale or are there scientific recommendations on how to…

Kolasa, Kathy

September 29, 2019

The Service League of Greenville recently awarded a new scholarship it created with the East Carolina University Medical and Health Sciences Foundation and held the first in series of book signings at the fundraising gift shops it operates at Vidant Medical Center.

The league endowed the…

Joey Jones

September 25, 2019

Heart attacks can happen anywhere, anytime.

What’s more, heart disease remains the No. 1 killer, and when it comes to heart attacks, fast action and rapid treatment can save the life of heart attack patients.

“We know the faster we can re-establish the blood flow to blocked arteries for…

eastcare.jpg
66 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 7
        Next Page»   Last Page»