There are a couple of qualifiers that need to be made clear before you read any further into this review. The first being that this site is built off a love of barbecue that was spawned in The Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s where we all started eating and discussing delicious meats and sides. Everyone here at Beer and Pig has a soft spot for just about everything OBX. We also have high expectations when it comes to visiting the barrier island and grubbing on swine and beef. Take that for what it’s worth.
The second precursor to this review is that we don’t announce ourselves. We don’t mention the site, or that a review is in progress or anything of the sort. The experience must be genuine. Having said that, you must believe we WANT to like every place we visit. We try to give every benefit of the doubt as we are fans of barbecue and its culture. We are not jaded basement-dwelling internet gollums. If that’s what you are looking for, swing a dead cat. You’ll hit a dozen sites telling you everything and anything sucks about the topic they are devoted to. That ain’t us. However, we aren’t going to lie to protect a business out of sheer nobility. That doesn’t help anyone.
Now that you know all of that, we can continue. Sooeys BBQ is a very successful barbecue chain along the Outer Banks of North Carolina with three locations serving chow along the island. Their description from their official website is as follows:
Sooey’s is the home of authentic Eastern NC Barbeque, locally owned and operated. We have been carefully perfecting our Special Family Recipe for over 50 Years!
We chose to visit the Nags Head location, across the street from Jockey’s Ridge. Upon approach, the Sooeys seems like a cool place to get some BBQ. They had outdoor seating and cornhole sets available in front of the restaurant. There was also a crows nest with additional seating over the front entrance. The problem is that in the hot summer months, those seats aren’t really an option as it was way to warm to enjoy a plate of hot, smoking meats in 90 degree weather. That limits the options to the cramped indoor dining room where space was not ample. This comes into play after the jump.
The cash register was broken the day we ate at Sooeys, but that wasn’t a big deal because the air conditioner was broken as well. It looked to be a little window rattler so I don’t know why a new one wasn’t purchased immediately. It was late June and it had to have been 100 degrees in there. I didn’t mind that as much as I minded the dozens of gigantic flies that were buzzing around the joint. At one point it felt like I had been locked in the Pterodactyl Cage from Jurassic Park 3. If ONLY Dr. Alan Grant could have been there to save me from those six legged, buzzing plague bearers.
The real shame in all this is that the food at Sooey’s was pretty damn good. I opted for the 2 meat platter which included Carolina pulled porkand smoked brisket. The pork was tender and succulent while the beef was smokey and flavorful. As far as sides went, I indulged in mac & cheese along with cornbread AND hushpuppies. The cornbread was moist and didn’t break apart after your initial bite. The mac and cheese was thick and delicious. Had I known the setup, I would have chosen carryout over subjecting myself to dining inside the restraraunt. That way I might have avoided our server sitting down at our table to add our check up….for 20 minutes. It took so long I didn’t DARE ask the woman to split the checks. Such a request might have resulted in our permanent capture by this inept BBQ establishment.
I don’t want to bury this place, but I’ll tell you what my main gripe is. This was North Carolina. One of the preeminent barbecue destinations on the planet. There are too many other quality options for potential customers at the Outer Banks ALONE for Sooey’s to conduct itself in this manner. Pigman’s, Currituck BBQ Company and High Cotton just to name a few. The Outer Banks lives off of moneys provided by tourists like me that visit in the summer. You have a limited window to capitalize on those dollars when you run a business. With that known, you understand there is just no excuse for the condition of that store. It doesn’t matter if your food is gold on a plate if your customers have to swelter for 30 minutes waiting for their check all the while doing their best King Kong impression by swatting at the bi-plane sized flies.
Sooey’s was a real disappointment. I had wanted to eat there for years and wanted to be a pleasurable experience. It was not, but it served as a good rule of thumb for the future. A BBQ joint isn’t just about the food, it’s about the total package. Hopefully this place takes heed of that fact and tightens their game up. Until then I’ll be happy to spend my hard earned dollars elsewhere.
-Mr. Slow and Low