The history of BBQ in the South is an old one, and it runs just as deep as the line in the sand between Eastern Style and Western Style lovers. In my book, there’s people who know Eastern Style BBQ is the true way to consume BBQ… and there’s people who are wrong. Sorry. Not sorry. In Johnston County, NC, White Swan has been a well-known establishment for over 87 years. It’s local, family-owned food at its best. White Swan has been owned by Linwood Parker and his family since the late 80’s. Linwood is the self-appointed Barnyard Chef, specializing in cooking anything you’d find in a barnyard. If you ever stop in at one of the many White Swan locations in Johnston County – and even one in Atlantic Beach – you’ll agree he earns the title. Below you can enjoy one of the many short-form videos he posts to the White Swan Facebook page. Fantastic!
Any Southerner knows that good BBQ, real good BBQ, is found at the in-between places, off interstates and highways. It’s found in ramshackle looking restaurants, sometimes attached to gas stations. It’s cooked daily with love, low and slow, by people who appreciate the art. Good BBQ comes with ice tea in paper cups, more sides then you can eat, and people who call you things like darlin’ and ask you how you’ve been. When you leave White Swan, and other places like it, you should smell faintly of smoked meat and you should feel full from more than just the BBQ.
But if you don’t trust your heart to tell you when you’ve found good food, then trust all the lists White Swan’s ended up on – like Patrick’s BBQ Trail and 100 Best BBQ Restaurants in America. Or trust the judges at the 2017 MetroCooking DC BBQ Bash who awarded White Swan the Best BBQ Pork Award at the show. Say it with me now, Eastern Style is the best.
When I spoke to Linwood’s daughter and White Swan’s COO, Lisa Parker, about the DC show win, she said it was great to hear people who had never tried White Swan say how much they enjoyed it, “We had other chefs stopping by to try our BBQ, telling us how great it was.” Validation. Not that White Swan needs validation, they have 4 restaurants, a booming catering business, a special location to host motorcoach groups, and a soon-to-launch national shipping program that will deliver their BBQ to you like a Southern-version of Hello Fresh… Hello, it’s delicious BBQ! That’s way better. I would, of course, prefer that you visit Johnston County for the full experience. But, it’s nice to know that if you can’t, a little bit of Johnston County will come to you.
How does this BBQ miracle happen, you ask? Thank Lisa Parker and Goldbely. Lisa had the idea to use home delivery as a way to grow the company. She said she wants to leave a legacy for her son and two nieces, “I’ve got maybe 20 or 30 more years before I step away from the company and I spoke with Dad [Linwood] about growing the company before I do that; the direction I want to go in. We don’t want to have to run anymore locations, though we are open to franchising. But, I thought, what if we could get our BBQ into customers hands all over the world without having to open more stores? Working with Goldbely is the first step in that direction. We’re gonna start shipping in the U.S. but I’ve got goals to take it international at some point.”
Goldbely is a company that works to find locally sourced gourmet foods from around the country and delivers it to your doorstep. White Swan’s partnership with them launches officially in the next few weeks. So, be thinking about how many pints you need in the meantime. FYI, BBQ freezes well. Until you find your way to Johnston County’s doorstep, let White Swan BBQ ship straight to your’s.
Speaking of visiting though, there is a White Swan BBQ on Highway 70 in Wilson Mills and on Brightleaf Blvd just a few miles from I-95 in Smithfield. So, whether you’re traveling North or South, East or West, you can get BBQ along the way, plus coleslaw and hush puppies and green beans and potatoes and brunswick stew. As an added bonus, free with any purchase, they’ll probably make you feel like family for the 30 minutes it takes you to inhale all of that food. That’s just how we do it here in JoCo.