Smithfield's Chicken'N BAR-B-Q

The Smithfield name is quite familiar with North Carolinians. This regional chain sprouted from a popular Smithfield, NC BBQ joint opened in 1964. The business has grown into a company with more than thirty franchises. Throughout Central and Eastern North Carolina, Smithfield's has built a reputation on simple, country cooking and a commitment to providing exceptional service.

During my travels across the state, I've passed numerous Smithfield's Chicken'N BAR-B-Q restaurants.  It wasn't until this week, however, that I made my first pit stop at Smithfield's for some "Q". Returning home from a long weekend in Atlantic Beach, Katie and I had intended to stop at a roadside BBQ joint west of Goldsboro (Adam's). Much to our dismay, we found that our targeted joint wasn't open on the day we happened to be passing through. With our hearts set on BBQ, we decided to stop at the next BBQ joint we encountered.

Smithfield's Chicken'N BAR-B-Q (Garner, NC) was close to the highway and calling our names. We pulled in around noon to place "to go" orders. The restaurant is equal parts classic diner and fast food chain. We were immediately greeted by a smiling attendant upon entering. We order at the counter with the simple menus spelled out on the overhead sign. I was pretty impressed by the conditions of the restaurant and the attitudes of the employees. It was quite evident that Smithfield's makes service and atmosphere a priority. I hoped that those standards held true for the food as well.

I ordered a chicken and Bar-B-Q combo (dark meat). The plate included two pieces of fried chicken,  chopped BBQ, baked beans, potato salad and hush puppies. I also requested a side of Smithfield's tangy signature BBQ sauce.

I'll start with the pork. This is a BBQ blog after all...In the tradition of Eastern North Carolina, Smithfield's Bar-B-Q is finely chopped, tossed in vinegar and seasoned with salt and pepper. It's was tender and moist, but fairly bland. Since the pork isn't smoked, it relies totally on the sauce and seasoning for flavor. Thankfully, Smithfield's sweet and tangy BBQ sauce was at hand. It provided the flavor boost I was looking for. It was good enough that I was tempted to purchase a bottle to take home.

While the pork only moderately calmed my BBQ craving, Smithfield's fried chicken made up for it. My leg and thigh were really good. The chicken was hot out of the fryer and as moist and tender as any fried chicken I've had in a long time. The skin had just the right amount of crunch. It was well seasoned (maybe slightly over salted) and not too greasy. It definitely exceeded my expectations. I'd rank it a notch (or two) above the leading fried chicken chains.

Smithfield's may not warrant a return visit for BBQ, but at least I've got a new option for fried chicken. If I found myself hungry and near a Smithfield's, I'd happily stop for some crispy poultry. I'd probably get another side of that sauce as well. It made a pretty good dip for the chicken.

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