For the Love of ‘Cue

Barbecue chicken and pulled pork are served in heaping portions, along with hush puppies and corn nuggets, at The Bar-B-Que House. Diners can douse their meats in four distinct sauces: house, Lexington, SC Mustard, and Eastern. Photo by Bethany Turner

Barbecue chicken and pulled pork are served in heaping portions, along with hush puppies and corn nuggets, at The Bar-B-Que House. Diners can douse their meats in four distinct sauces: house, Lexington, SC Mustard, and Eastern. Photo by Bethany Turner

For many barbecue pitmasters, the list of ingredients to their prized rubs and sauces is sacred—a secret to be withheld from all but the basting brush. From backyard grillers to the stars of Destination America’s TV sensation “BBQ Pitmasters,” every cook puts their ‘cue on a pedestal, never revealing their perfect combination of time, temperature, and taste.

When prompted for the secret behind the savory meats of Oak Island’s The Bar-B-Que House, manager Taunya Allen gives a surprising answer: “There is none.”

With confidence she spouts out the very recipe for their pulled pork. “We put nothing on it—no salt, no seasonings, no rubs, no sauce, nothing,” she urges. “We cook it in a gas-powered rotisserie smoker. You just load it and, 12 hours later, you take it out. That’s how you can take the different sauces and make it taste however you want it to be.”

The first thing folks will notice as they enter the foyer—the walls lined with pictures of loyal guests and flyers for upcoming events—is the pure scent of hickory-smoked meats.

The second sense tantalized is sight. Large bottles of sauce labeled with The Bar-B-Que House logo appease all sides of the Carolina barbecue battle. The house sauce is rich, sweet and bold. Lexington is a tomato-based sauce with vinegar and spices. The golden South Carolina mustard is tangy, while Eastern offers a blend of vinegar, red peppers and spices. Perhaps the spices used in the sauces are the secrets kept by The Bar-B-Que House, but it seems they have nothing to hide.

“We cooked today’s pork last night,” Allen reveals. “The chicken and ribs were cooked this morning. They’ll put butts in again tonight about 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. They cook for 12 hours, and tomorrow morning we’ll come in at 7 a.m., set the kitchen up for breakfast, go take the butts off and put them in the warmer, and then decide how much chicken and ribs we’re going to cook and put those in. Chicken cooks like two-and-a-half hours; ribs cook four.”

Allen says the only meat that receives any special treatment is the ribs, which are rubbed with brown sugar only.

“In the summertime we cook twice, morning and afternoon. We’ll put 30 or 40 pieces of chicken and maybe 15, 16 racks of ribs each time we cook—and we’ll still run out,” she muses. “Off-season we may cook once, and it may be eight to 12 racks of ribs. I think he cooks like 20 pieces of white chicken and 15 or 16 dark chicken.”

Any chicken not devoured day-of is used for Brunswick stew, pot pies or chicken salad. The two latter meals are on special on Mondays. “On Thursdays we do a soup special, and it’s either chili or a chicken, wild rice and mushroom soup, and it has the smoked chicken in it.”

The restaurant opened in 2005, after three partners spent two years building The Bar-B-Que House themselves. Clyde Neil of Mount Airy, NC, bought his partners out and ran it for a year before the current owner, Scott Rudolph, purchased it from him.

The staff of The Bar-B-Que House, led by manager Taunya Allen (center). Photo by Bethany Turner

The staff of The Bar-B-Que House, led by manager Taunya Allen (center). Photo by Bethany Turner

Rudolph, who lives in High Point, runs a fine, modern American restaurant and bar called Liberty Oak in Greensboro. The savvy restaurateur owns two other Bar-B-Que Houses: one in North Myrtle Beach, SC, and one in Surfside, SC. He also runs a busy catering company in Greensboro called Rudy’s, the headquarters of which serves as a café during lunchtime.

“Scott very seldom is here,” Allen says. “He may get in bed at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. and start the day at 4 a.m. Luckily he trusts us and we do a good job.”

It was Rudolph’s idea to tack breakfast onto The Bar-B-Que House’s menu, too. “We started breakfast about two years ago,” Allen informs. “In the summertime, we’re at capacity. We can’t get anything else out of here—the place is packed from 10:30 a.m. until we close. So we were trying to find a way to bring in extra revenue, and the kitchen, we can’t really do a whole lot more with it, so we decided if we added breakfast that would give us a couple more hours that we could use.”

Though Allen assures several regulars of The Bar-B-Que House now prefer their breakfast to any other restaurant’s, she says breakfast is the hardest meal to get into as a newbie on the scene. “Once customers have established their place to go, their paper’s there, their coffee’s ready, the staff knows they’re going to be there those days, and it’s ready when they get there. So it took a while even with word of mouth to let people know we were here.”

Barbecue biscuits are one unique item on the House’s breakfast menu. “Our biscuits are four-inch square buttermilk biscuits—they’re huge,” Allen depicts. “We don’t do pancakes or waffles, but we have French toast made with Texas toast—it’s really good. We have pork tenderloin which you don’t get many places and it’s really killer. You can pretty much get anything fixed the way you want it. We have two regulars that, when they come in, we always make sure we have liver mush because that’s what they like.”

While Allen holds down the fort at the Oak Island location, Rudolph will be the man behind the smoker for all whole-hog orders. “The smoker is down in South Carolina. It takes about a week and a half to set that up,” she tells. “They will take the van that’s sitting out front and pull the smoker up to wherever you want it and he’ll cook that whole pig right where you are, then they’ll fry the rest of the fixin’s for you, too.”

The fixin’s come in the form of the usual hush puppies, fried okra and collards, or the unique corn nuggets (creamy corn fried in a pocket of dough) and fried corn on the cob. Like the barbecue sauce, folks even have a choice between traditional white slaw and barbecue red slaw.

Guests also can enjoy chicken wings at The Bar-B-Que House, which like all the other meats are smoked over hickory logs before being fried. Only 50¢ on Sundays, wings are tossed in the house barbecue sauce or traditional wing sauce, which comes in mild or hot. The mild uses only Texas Pete, honey and butter. “Our hot sauce is quite warm,” Allen asserts. “It’s Texas Pete, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, jalapeños, and jalapeño juice.”

Allen moved to Oak Island 32 years ago from West Virginia. She was a stay-at-home mom for her two children while watching other people’s kids as well for 26 years. She remains close to the children she babysat—now keeping their kids or baking birthday cakes—but she joined her own daughter at The Bar-B-Que House eight years ago. Starting as a cook, she moved to the front of the house within a year, and worked her way up to become manager. After almost a decade, what she enjoys most about her job is the people.

“Our customers are cool,” she quips. “We have a great group of locals—if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t stay in business. That’s the bread and butter that keeps us all winter. But even our regular vacationers, this is their first stop. They’ll be in my parking lot before they’ve gone to the rental house and emptied out their car. You know their names. You know where they come from. You know their families. They may be here 10 times in a week that they’re here—they like our food. The customers are really cool.”

The Bar-B-Que House is located at 5002 E. Oak Island Dr. For more info, call (910) 201-1001.

One Response to For the Love of ‘Cue

  1. Davette says:

    Taunya & the staff are always pleasant. The food is awesome & I have a lot of food allergies but I can eat their barbeque. It’s great to sit down & eat food with lots of flavor bursting through & not have to worry about msg or honey. Thanks ya’ll…job well done.

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