by David Cecelski
Yesterday I visited the Pik-n-Pig, a pretty special barbecue joint in Carthage. Run by three generations of the Sheppard family, the restaurant serves hickory-smoked ‘cue and all kinds of other good things, but it’s a special delight because it’s at the Gilliam-McConnell Air Field, the private airstrip that serves that part of Moore County.
The runway for the little two- and four-seat planes can’t be more than 150 yards from the restaurant – I’ve never seen anything like it before. While you eat, the planes taxi on a path that passes even closer to your window, maybe 50 feet or so.
When I was there, on my way to give a lecture in Southern Pines, a crowd of little children stood, enraptured, by the runway and watched several vintage airplanes landing and taking off. While their parents waited inside for a table, the kids waved at the pilots in their cockpits. They ecstatically jumped up and down when the pilots waved back.
I met probably half a dozen pilots that had flown to Gilliam-McConnell just to eat at the Pik-n-Pig. Mrs. Sheppard, the matriarch of the family that runs the restaurant, told me that pilots make special flights to the Pik-n-Pig nearly every day, when the weather is good. I thought that was great.
I can see why they go to the trouble: The barbecue is good at the Pik-n-Pig. It’s not exactly the eastern NC recipe with which I grew up, but it’s of an intriguing style I often see in the state’s southern piedmont.
At the Pik-N-Pig, the Sheppards cook their pork over hickory coals in a big, rotating cast iron cooker that’s in a wire shed next to the restaurant. They season the meat with a special “butt rub” of spices, “pull” it off the bone, chop it loose (not as fine as in eastern NC), and serve the ‘cue with either a spicy or a sweet tomato and vinegar sauce on the side. It was fall-apart tender and reminded me of good roast pork loin.
The other staples on the Sheppards’ menu are pork chops, smoked chicken, and, on Saturday nights, ribs. (Call first and reserve ribs if you’re coming, Mrs. Sheppard told me. She said they often run out.) In
addition, they have Sunday specials like chicken and dumplings, the occasional brisket dinner, some good vegetable side dishes (I had a baked sweet potato), and homemade banana pudding and cakes.
In the summer, the Sheppards feed people on picnic tables outside, next to the runway, as well as inside, and sometimes bluegrass and country bands play out there, too.
And if you’re asking yourself, like I did, what could be better than
a combination airfield and ‘cue joint that has live music and lots of nice
folks? All I can say is: well, they also have a golf driving range.
For hours, directions, photos, and other info, check out the
restaurant’s website at www.pik-n-pig.com.