Neal Holden Barbecue
582 US Highway 1
Youngsville, NC 27596
This is one of those places that I've ridden by for years and years and never stopped at. Recently, it became a quest. Information on the Web said they were open Friday nights for dinner and I tried to make it there once and found them closed. They don't have an answering machine so I pretty much had to guess at when they might be open. Gave it a shot last weekend, but got someone on the phone saying they were open until 2 and I was about 50 miles away and it was about 1:45 already.
Was heading out to grab some tags in a couple other games early, but wasn't prepared for the pretty decent drop in temps here and had to bail out. Remembered this place and set out for lunch.
It's an old cinder block building on a gravel parking lot about 5 or 10 miles north of Wake Forest, NC. The sign indicates they've been there since 1964, so they're closing in on 50 years pretty quickly.
Menu was pretty generic - not necessarily a bad thing. Table service and pay at the counter.
All tables seem to come preloaded with a pitcher of sweet tea - which to my way of thinking, isn't necessarily a good thing. Maybe 40 years ago, but who the hell knows what the last guy dropped in there. Pass on the tea. Ordered water. Which was brought from a pitcher from another table...
Food was alright - slightly smoky barbecue, sweetish utility slaw, completely cooked (finally) frozen fries and nothing to write home about hush puppies.
This was a small barbecue dinner for $6.49. The portion of barbecue certainly qualified as "small". The bottle of (I guess) homemade sauce on the table was plugged shut, so I unscrewed the cap and poured it on too heavily by accident. Turns out, it didn't make much difference as it was about the most tasteless sauce I've ever run across. Drained the bottle labeled Texas Pete on the table - it had a good .5 ounces in it - and it basically colored the barbecue red without bothering to add any taste. Again -
Two dining rooms in the front of the place, one with the register, a couple of booths and a couple tables and another room with a handful of tables. Place was about 1/3 full and I was there at 12:30. I'm guessing they do an okay lunch business during the week and was surprised that there wasn't a breakfast menu since they open at 7:30 daily. Maybe there's a separate menu that wasn't out when I got there.
Food sanitation rating was 93, for whatever that's worth.
Honestly, when I left there, I was just a little unimpressed/disappointed, but the more I thought about it on the way home and once I started writing, I realized it was probably the most disappointing place I've been to. Not awful by any means, but far from what I'd expect from a place that's been open for almost 50 years. If it was side by side with a Smithfield's Bar-B-Q (chain McBarbecue place around here) and I was suffering from a serious pork deficiency, I'd go choose it. Otherwise, doubtful I'll be back.
Bottom line: skip it