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Iconic Farmville barbecue restaurant closing

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Rudy Cobb, the owner of Jack Cobb BBQ & Son, stands behind the counter of the restaurant. The 76-year-old is retiring, and hopes to be able to sell his business before it closes its doors on Aug. 18.


The Farmville Enterprise

Thursday, July 19, 2018

FARMVILLE — An iconic restaurant in Farmville is closing its doors. Jack Cobb BBQ and Son will serve up its last plate of barbecue on Aug. 18.

Owner Rudy Cobb, 76, is retiring. He has been cooking barbecue for 63 years.

“It is taking a toll on my body,” Cobb said Friday at his restaurant. “I have enjoyed working with the town of Farmville and appreciate all of the business over the years. It is hard to say goodbye.”

The beginning

Cobb’s father, Jack, started the family business in the 1960s. A tobacco contractor, Jack started cooking barbecue and selling it from his home. He later began making deliveries to local factories. Business flourished, and Jack opened a restaurant on Walnut Street that operated on Saturdays.

Demand continued to grow.

In 1971, Jack Cobb BBQ and Son opened its doors at 3883 S. Main St. and never left. Jack recruited his son to join the business.

At the time, Cobb, a Class of 1959 H.B. Sugg High School graduate, N.C. A&T University alumni and veteran, was working at Collins & Aikman.

“Dad asked me to join him. I was an only child, so I said, OK,” Cobb said.

Cobb’s mother, Ruby, had died when he was 16 years old. He and his father became best friends.

“It was just the two of us,” Cobb said, adding he would watch his father cook barbecue and saw his father’s passion.

Jack Cobb always has been a carryout business, Cobb said, adding that its was the first African-American business in Farmville to have white customers.

Emmitt Smith and Lonnie Pierce, two white businessmen, would order barbecue for themselves and their friends, he said. The orders soon became too large for Jack to be able to make deliveries to customers who all wanted their lunch at the same time.

“Dad told them to come by and pick it up. We would have 10 to 30 white people lined up outside to get our barbecue,” Cobb said.

Tricks of the trade

Cobb inherited his father’s passion for cooking and learned all the restaurant’s secret recipes.  

He also learned to cook barbecue with wood.

“Cooking with wood gives it a different taste,” Cobb said. “It makes a big difference.

“We cook it slow, so it is tender. We try to make it taste the same every time,” Cobb said, adding the recipe has not changed since his father first created it in the ’60s. 

Cobb BBQ’s secret sauce also has not changed. Remaining mum on their recipe, Cobb said, “It is not real hot. It is mild.”

The restaurant also is known for its hushpuppies.

“They are the best in the world,” Cobb said.

First created by his mother and later refined by his stepmother, Lillian, the hushpuppy recipe has also gone untouched since the early ’70s. Lillian taught the restaurant’s 47-year employee Ann Blue how to make them.

“Ann is the only one who knows how to do it,” Cobb said. “I have the recipe written down, but I don’t cook them. Ann does. I know everything else.”

Blue’s sister, Janice “Brenda” Blue, has worked at the restaurant for 25 years. Brenda’s daughter, Cassandra, works there too.

Jack Cobb BBQ and Son also features collards and coleslaw — which Cobb said are like no one else’s — and serves chicken and turkey barbecue.

“Turkey barbecue is hard to come by,” he said.

The restaurant’s signature barbecue has traveled across the country. Orders have been shipped to California, Florida and beyond.

The late U.S. Congressman Walter B. Jones Sr. even delivered Cobb’s barbecue to U.S. President Gerald Ford.

The restaurant has been highlighted in Bob Garner’s Book of BBQ, Our State magazine, Farmville magazine and various newspapers. It also has been featured on local news channels and in PBS specials. It is listed as a destination spot on the state’s Barbecue Trail and is part of Pitt County’s Brew & ‘Cue passpork challenge.

The future

Looking forward to retirement, Cobb said, “I don’t plan to do no work.”

He said he will keep himself busy with home missions at his church, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.

“I will wait on elders,” he said.

Once retired he will also hang up his title of master pit cook.

“I only know how to cook barbecue on a big pit,” he said.

Cobb hopes someone will purchase his business and keep the name. He is willing to teach the next owner the tricks of the trade and share his family recipes with them.

Those interested in purchasing the business may call Cobb at 753-5128 or 717-0263.

In the meantime, Jack Cobb BBQ and Son will continue to operate from 10 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 18.