Regional and global barbecue styles that satisfy all fans

bbq pulled pork sandwich

Some culinary historians call barbecue America’s first cuisine. From pit-roasted whole hogs to roadside smokehouse brisket, it celebrates the time-honored techniques and traditions of regions from central Texas to Memphis to the Carolinas. While authenticity certainly is the backbone of barbecue, global influences also are taking root on noncommercial foodservice menus.

Take Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., where Executive Chef Craig Mombert regularly runs pulled pork made from butts or shoulders cooked low and slow overnight in a combi oven. “Given our location in North Carolina, barbecue is big on campus,” says Mombert.

In addition to his state’s classic sauces— a mustard-based sauce adopted from northwest North Carolina and a vinegar-based sauce representative of the eastern part of the state—he serves two international riffs based on Korean and Mexican flavors. Sides include two types of slaw—a classic recipe and one with edamame and tofu to complement the Asian ’cue.

Not surprisingly, the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s Spartan Dining Services has an impressive barbecue menu too. Its offerings run the gamut from classic preparations such as locally sourced pork butt and chicken thighs with both a vinegar-based sauce and a mustard-based sauce to Mexican-barbecue fusion brisket tacos. There’s even sauteed barbecue tofu for vegetarian and vegan diners.

Responding to its student body’s love of smoked meats, UNCG offers a blowout Thursday night barbecue dinner. “Students look forward to this every week,” says Chartwells Resident District Manager Sarah Lynch. Spartan Dining serves more than 1,000 students for these barbecue dinners, and goes through 200 pounds of pulled pork and 160 pounds of barbecued chicken thighs each Thursday. “It is one of the biggest nights that we have in the dining halls,” she says. “Feedback is outstanding to the point where we are starting to think about expanding to more than just one barbecue night per week.”

An upcoming UNCG BBQ dining event will feature America’s “BBQ Belt,” which encompasses four distinct barbecue regions—North Carolina, Texas, Memphis and Kansas City.  Lynch says the event will be orchestrated with blues music, checkered picnic tablecloths and state flags from respective regions at each station. “Barbecue is comfort food,” says Lynch. “Since many of our students are from somewhere in the state, it is very comforting to have a cuisine that they grew up enjoying.”

Dascomb Residence Hall at Oberlin College features barbecue twice a week at dinner, serving about 400 students during those meal periods. The rotating menu features something for everyone, including offbeat treats such as smoked tofu and smoked tomato salsa. “What is authentic to some students in the South is not the same for other students [on our campus],” says Michele Gross, director of business operations and dining services. “We try to offer a variety of barbecue to appeal to a variety of students from a variety of backgrounds.” 

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