Hecky Powell—founder of Hecky's Barbecue—crafts his acclaimed signature barbecue sauce from a Creole family recipe before using it to marinate a surfeit of ribs, chicken, and seafood. Southern flavors abound in side dishes of jambalaya and dessert plates of sweet-potato pound cake, served in the casual dining spot or at parties with catering options. Hecky's ships the homemade barbecue sauce, dry rubs, and spices from its online store, posting recipes so that home cooks can simmer award-winning chili on their own stoves or volcano-mounted cauldrons.
Unlike many barbecue aficionados, pit master Jared Leonard focuses on creating the perfect dry rub rather than devoting all his efforts to sauces. A product of years of research and pleasant taste testing, his secret dry rub includes a blend of 14 seasonings designed to sit with the meat for 24 hours prior to being slowly smoked to perfection. The blend works its magic on all of Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse's meats, which include pulled pork, sliced brisket, and smoked ribs. The housemade sauces—smoky and sweet, citrus chipotle, and smoked jalapeño pepper—complement the dry-rubbed flavor and are served on the side so that patrons can use half for their meat and half to gel their mustaches. Patrons may also supplement their meals with made-from-scratch side dishes including truffle mac 'n' cheese and custard-filled corn bread.
Fresh hickory wood burns daily to give this locally owned meatery's barbecue classics their signature smoky flavor. Ring dinner's bell with a first course of the soup of the day or a caesar salad topped with oven-baked croutons. Entrees make their entrée as platters of pulled chicken, North Carolina pulled pork, Texas brisket, or a combination of all three, or as half-slabs of baby-back, St. Louis, or Chicago-style ribs. Any burger or sandwich is also available for three-course eaters. Dinner finishers are rewarded with a fresh dessert that, like the slowest county-fair Ferris wheel ever, changes daily. Reservations are required, so call ahead or show up early to lick your table.
PitchFork's whiskey devotees pride themselves on a sweeping selection of grain mash beverages and a menu of rustic bar fare served in a Western-inspired setting. A pantheon of more than 100 different whiskeys stoically stands over the bar to silently challenge all passersby to test their fiery contents, including 4 Roses ($5), Old Weller ($7), and the voluminously bearded 12-year Pappy Van Winkle ($10) (prices based on shots and cocktails). The pulled-pork sandwich ($8.50) loads piles of smoked meat onto a toasted bun to create a cleaner, more efficient porcine consumption medium than tangy slabs of baby back ribs ($12 half; $19 full). Patrons can coax out reclusive appetites with a platter of buffalo-, barbecue-, or citrus-sauced wings ($8–$20) before designing their own mac 'n' cheese, accessorized with a variety of ingredients including prosciutto, asparagus, or mother-of-pearl brooches ($7+).
It takes at least a day to prepare every meal at Smokin' Woody's. After it's sourced from a local, family-owned business, each piece of meat gets rubbed with a signature spice mix. Then it's left to sit in the kitchen overnight, where it absorbs all those the flavors and spreads gossip about who has the best marbling. Next, the meat is smoked in-house over crackling hickory logs, seared on a grill, and served with spoonfuls of sauce. This process may sound simple, but each slab of meat also has its own designated cooking time and prep techniques. The popular pulled pork, for example, is smoked for 12 hours before it's pulled by hand and paired with classic sides, such as baked beans and coleslaw.
The menu also spotlights expertly charred burgers, spicy pork sausages, and slabs of ribs. Those who want to sample multiple meats can order a combo meal or family dinner, bookended by a bowl of homemade smoked chicken noodle soup and a homemade dessert, such as apple pie or homemade coconut custard pie.
Centro's artful chefs specialize in flavorful twists on traditional pub fare, slinging out grub within the open, wood-accented bar-eatery until the wee hours of the morning. The menu serves up more juicy dishes than a salon's gossip board, featuring palate-pleasers such as the nemo, where tilapia cuts marinated in Kentucky whiskey team up with a slathering of white-bean purée and roasted peppers ($12). Traditional bites, such as the base hit's half-pound of beefy burgerdom ($9), compete for stomach real estate with eclectic eats such as the islander, which stuffs grilled portabella mushrooms with jumbo lump crab and a drizzling of lemon-zest marmalade ($16). The centro fries keep stomachs from singing ballads of longing late at night with fresh-cut sweet potatoes sprinkled with a trio of applewood smoked bacon, jalapenos, and chives ($7).