Pierce’s Pit Bar-B-Que
Believe it or not, it’s just an urban legend that the drink Tang was created for astronauts.
It was actually created in 1957, but didn’t “blast off” until 1965 when General Foods was able to brag that NASA astronauts used it in Gemini Space Flights— only the second human spaceflight conducted by the Federal Government.
Regardless, I’m a fan of tang.
Especially that “tang” you get from most types of Southern barbecue, which comes from the use of vinegar. And vinegar is a chief ingredient in all barbecue sauces.
Just check those bottles in your fridge. Even your super-sweet KC Masterpiece includes the stuff.
Being in southeastern Virginia, I was ready to chomp down on some good old-fashioned tangy barbecue.
While today, it’s commonly known as “North Carolina-style” barbecue, it’s really the first American barbecue, originating in the colonies of southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina.
Virginia just ended up losing out on the naming rights.
It came about “back in the day” when colonists in the area realized cows couldn’t take the high heat and humidity
So they started raising pigs.
They slow-cooked them to break down the fatty or tougher parts of the meat in outdoor pits using hickory wood—which was very plentiful.
Once cooked, the meat was served with “English ketchup,” a concoction featuring mainly vinegar and red pepper flakes.
At the time, colonists were under the impression that tomatoes were poisonous. So, no tomato-based BBQ existed.
Believe it or not, some folks in this region still claim they are.
Back to barbecue.
I’d heard an awful lot about Pierce’s and was really looking forward to trying them for a late lunch in the middle of a long day of traveling.
Located near Colonial Williamsburg, a prime tourist destination, their fame has grown over the years, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
My order was easy.
While they had ribs and chicken, I was there for the pulled pork.
I ordered the “J.C. Special” which included a pulled pork sandwich with slaw, fries, a sweet tea (which they actually had—and freshly brewed too!) and a chocolate chip cookie.
All in all, it rang up to about $8. Not bad.
Taking the sandwich back to my table, I noticed the meat was a reddish, orange color.
While that’s definitely a departure from traditional NC-style barbecue, I didn’t think anything of it.
Many barbecue joints have started “coloring” their NC-style ‘cue with Texas Pete—which is actually made in North Carolina.
But one bite revealed something totally different than what I was expecting.
There was smoke there, but in place of the drop-kicking tang I was hoping my taste buds would get, there was just sweet.
Lots of sweet. Lots and lots of sweet.
Whatever Yankee who was in charge of the tang part must have been playing astronaut that day.
It was so sweet, I could’ve eaten the cookie as my lunch and had the sandwich for dessert.
But even though it wasn’t anywhere near what I was expecting, it was still good.
It just required about a half a bottle of Texas Pete to fix.
The fries were ok, they were big crinkle cuts and needed salt.
The best part of the meal was the sweet tea. In fact, I had a couple of refills.
Based on its location—and what I’d heard—I thought Pierce’s barbecue would serve up some impressive North Carolina barbecue.
They didn’t, but it was still pretty good.
However, if you’re looking for tang, you’ll have to bring it yourself.
Rating: Would Wear the Shirt if it Were Free