GOLDSBORO – In fifty years of business, there are several things that have been constants at Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro.
One of the most important features for those who eat here is that the barbecue is always cooked over wood; oak, to be precise.
"The process of cooking is different with wood than it is versus gas and electricity," said Wilber Shirley, the owner of Wilber's Barbecue.
There are easier ways to cook barbecue, but those who are wood purists say it’s just not the same.
"Most of them cook with gas and it's a different flavor. I think wood will really bring the flavor out in the meat," said Leamon Parks, a cook at Wilber's Barbecue.
The hogs go on the pit on the evening before they are served. Wood is burned and the embers are shoveled underneath.
"It takes about eight to nine hours, depending on how much the man sleeps that's cooking 'em," said Shirley.
Another constant is the way the pork is prepared after it is cooked. That would be eastern North Carolina style with vinegar and spices.
"There's an old saying that you don't put vinegar on beef and you don't put ketchup on pork, so that's kind of the theory that I've gone with,” said Shirley. “It's thinner than the thick, tomato-based sauce, but it's primarily what the eastern North Carolinians like, so you stick with what they like."
Leamon Parks is the man charged with cooking and seasoning the barbecue.
"I don't know. I, I, it's just instinct to know how much to put up there I reckon,” Parks said.
By this time, you might have guessed another constant at Wilber’s: It’s the man who gives the restaurant its name, Wilber Shirley.
"Wilber's Barbecue was started in 1962. A friend of mine and I bought it and he stayed in six months and he got out after six months and I've been here ever since,” said Shirley.
A lot happens in fifty years and while not much has changed about Wilber’s, the attitude about barbecue certainly has.
The long-time southern staple has never been more popular.
"It's kind of a mystery to me. You know there's been a real change of the attitude about barbecue,” said Shirley.
With the public having such an appetite for barbecue right now, there are more and more places serving it.
Wilber’s hasn’t changed much in fifty years, so a bit more competition is not going to cause a ruckus here. The barbecue is the barbecue and Wilber is perfectly content with how it’s prepared and how it’s served.
"Once you try it, you'll like it, unless there's something wrong with you," Shirley said.