It was a windy, rainy Saturday night in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and my younger child was about to try his very first rib. I showed him how to hold the rib at the ends before biting into the meatier side and watched as his eyes widened in pleasure and delight.
I think some people may forget that the Outer Banks are in North Carolina. What I mean is that they think more of the beach and the seafood than the indigenous specialty of the state, which happens to be smoked meat. Happily for carnivores like us, there is great barbeque to be found without too much trouble. We discovered some at High Cotton BBQ.
A step above the shacks that you’ll find along the roadside in many North Carolina towns, High Cotton has a pleasant dining room with red-checked the cloths. Despite these slightly fancier accoutrements, the menu is satisfyingly basic. Whether you want ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, or smoked or fried chicken you’re in luck. In fact, if you’re like my husband and can’t choose, there are combination plates. He went for the three meat combo choosing the pork, beef, and smoked chicken, all of which he doused with High Cotton’s own Chick n’ Rib sauce, a thick and smoky concoction.
I’m a pulled pork gal myself and ordered the sandwich plate with my coleslaw right on the sandwich, preferring to top the entire thing with the Pig Pickin’ Sauce, bottles of which were also sitting on the table. This is the traditional North Carolina barbeque sauce, dominated by vinegar.
(And if you must have more vegetables, there is a salad on the menu. A “Barbeque Salad” that lest you stray too far from the meat you can have topped with pork, chicken, or brisket.)
As we were eating, one of the owners Will Thorp wandered over to refill our drinks and see how we were enjoying our food. Eyeing Teddy’s remaining baked beans he asked “Do you like marshmallow?” Teddy nodded eagerly. “How about chocolate then?” Another nod. “Well then, you’d better eat up because if you do you’re going to get something you really like.” My youngest needed no more encouragement and before we knew it (and somewhat to Matt’s chagrin since he had been eying them) those beans were all gone. It was then that we discovered that children at High Cotton are served Moon Pies as the follow-up to their meals.
While the kids munched their desserts, I decided that despite the fact I was very full I wanted to get in on the fun. I’m so glad I did, because the chess pie at High Cotton is not to be missed. We ordered a slide of chocolate pecan and a slice of coconut and they were both paragons of homemade pie-ness, in particular the coconut which wasn’t too sweet (there’s a hint of vinegar used in these as well) and had absolutely perfect texture.
Will is very friendly and easy to talk to (he also generously plied us with complimentary pie as well as bottles of RC Cola and both varieties yummy sauce to take home). At one point, he took the boys over to the other side of the dining room where he showed them some of the plants that are the restaurant’s namesake.
It fascinated them to see what cotton actually looks like and they each left with a pocket full of soft, slightly gray fluff. I was also pleased to discover that Will is a fellow family traveler; in fact, he spent a month in France with his wife and four-year-old daughter last winter.
It was cozy and pleasant in the dining room, with the wind howling outside and families enjoying sweet tea and plates piled high with food. My only regret is that I left without sampling the Brunswick stew, another traditional dish full of smoked chicken, pork, and potatoes. That and the fried chicken (to say nothing of that pie) are all great reasons for us to return.
High Cotton BBQ is open from spring through late fall and is very conveniently located in Kitty Hawk right across the Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge from the mainland, so no matter where you are going in the Outer Banks, you could easily make stop here part of your trip. They offer takeout in addition to dining room service (you can also buy some of those moon pies and that yummy sauce to take with you). And since the prices are low, the service is quick and friendly, and the food is divine, I highly recommend that you do so.
I offer this deliciousness for Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick.
To learn more about our trip, see my other posts about the Outer Banks.