by David Cecelski
I was standing in the parking lot at Morris Barbeque in Hookerton this morning when I got to talking to the owner’s mother. She was a charming woman and she told me that her father-in-law, Willie “Pop” Morris, started this wonderful little ‘cue joint back in 1956. He had been cooking in his tobacco shed over corn cobs, charcoal, and oak wood and selling the barbecue from a mule and cart since the Hoover Administration.
According to his daughter-in-law and grandson—the grandson joined us in the parking lot—Pop Morris also had a monkey named Joe. The little fellow apparently came to GreeneCounty with a circus and made himself at home. He lived in a tree house across the street from the restaurant and he smoked cigarettes and took up riding one of the big sows.
Naturally, Joe was a big attraction—you didn’t see a lot of cigarette-smoking, pig-riding monkeys in Greene County in those days—but Pop Morris hardly needed gimmicks to lure customers. Cooked over hardwood all night and gently doused with the region’s classic red pepper and vinegar sauce, the barbecue became a local tradition. Now slow-cooked over gas in an old chicken coop, the ‘cue is still delicious. The hushpuppies are absolutely addictive, too, and the creamy, homemade slaw is perfect.
The current owners are Pop Morris’s grandson William and his great-granddaughter Ashley. Like Pop, they only open on Saturdays. When I got there a little after 8 o’clock in the morning, locals were already driving up to get their pound for the week. I’ve heard the rib plates sometimes give out by nine. They also sell plates of “skins” and “bones,” which make for first-class gnawing and sucking.
Ashley Morris turns out wonderful desserts too. She makes lemon meringue pies, butter pecan pound cakes, and all sorts of 3-layer cakes. She has slices of something different every Saturday at the restaurant, but you can also call her and order whole cakes or pies.
Morris Barbeque is a friendly, community kind of place. When you’re there, you want to linger and soak up the atmosphere. You want to share food and fellowship, listen to stories and maybe even tell one or two yourself, which, to me anyway, has always been what good barbecue is all about.
Morris Barbeque is located at 891 Morris Barbeque Road, Hookerton, and is open from 8 AM to 2 PM on Saturdays only. To order desserts, you can reach Ashley Morris at (252) 560-6895 (cell) or (252) 747-2254 on Saturdays. They’ve also just put up a nice web site—www.morrisbarbeque.com.