Usually when I go on food pilgrimages, it is outside of North Carolina (cf. Katz' Deli). But for the last year or so I have been waiting to travel to Ayden, NC to sample the barbeque at the Skylight Inn. Self-titled as the barbeque capitol of the world (hence the gaudy replica of Capitol building on the roof), Skylight was filled on a Saturday with barbeque eaters lined up out past the door and into the parking lot. The only other food you can get at the Skylight besides barbeque and their hardtack cornpone is barbeque chicken and it's only served Thursdays and Fridays.
I was ready to be disappointed after reading David Ross' review of The Pit wherein he gives a sideways diss to Skylight, but I have to say that I found Skylight's barbeque to be an almost perfect expression of Eastern NC barbeque, almost like barbeque as ideal type. The meat is rubbed only with salt before smoking and then gets a simple additional helping of salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, and Texas Pete once chopped.
And the flavor, not to put too fine a point on it, is in the chopping. Laid upon a bowed cutting board and chopped using two cleavers, the barbeque retains a startling amount of flavor and juiciness in the five minutes it takes to go from board to sandwich or platter. All the flavors come through equally pronounced without muddling each other -- the smoke, the meat, the salt, and the spice. Though I love Allen and Son, the barbeque at Skylight just tastes fresher since it has not been marinating in a steam table for hours. My food pilgrimage companion JCD was equally smitten and was looking forward to bringing friends the hour and forty-five minutes east towards Greenville to make a return trip.