Every once in a while at Robin's you will get a sandwich of chopped pork that is close to perfect, and indeed they call it the "Carolina Chopped Pork Sandwich." Unfortunately, those sandwiches are few and far between. (Their consistency has improved a lot in the last three years, however it's still not enough to guarantee great barbecue.) Zeke's Smokehouse serves chopped pork where greatness is the rule rather than the exception, but then, in a move that frustrates and confounds me every time, they serve the pork on a dense, distracting bun that always tastes a day or two past being fresh.
The best pork I have consistently had in L.A. County in the last year is from Perdue's. (Bludso's and Big Mista's were every bit Perdue's equal - the latter even surpassing it - but I have only had them each one time.) However, their sauce, while not bad, is nothing special, and they use too much of it. Carolina-style barbecue sauce usually means one of three things:
1) South Carolina mustard sauce, which is usually some variation of mustard and vinegar. Zeke's has a very good version of this, although I prefer the Big Bob Gibson's mustard sauce for sale at Barbeques Galore.
2) Eastern North Carolina sauce, which is basically just vinegar and a few spices. Sometimes, like at Baby Blues, it is only cider vinegar and chili flakes. This is my favorite kind of sauce for good pork.
3) Western North Carolina sauce, which, while still not being particularly thick, usually has ketchup and a few more ingredients in it, like brown sugar or Worcestershire sauce.
So I got an idea: order a pulled pork sandwich at Perdue's and request it with no sauce, so I could add my own. Saturday I mixed up a small container of three things: cider vinegar, chili flakes, and a couple slugs of hot sauce.
"What are you doing?" Elizabeth asked me.
"I'm making my own barbecue sauce to take to Perdue's with me," I replied, naively thinking this would make perfect sense to anyone.
"Oh my God, you are a dork."
It was noon on Saturday and I was worried there might be a lot of people at Perdue's and the always-constant wait would be even longer than usual. There was no one there. We would be there about 45 minutes and not a single other person would enter the restaurant. Of course, it still took twenty minutes to get our two sandwiches. But they sat mine down in front of me, with slaw on the sandwich and no sauce, and I had no complaints.
I took a photo of it without sauce, then lifted the bun, doused it with a healthy amount of sauce, and took a bite. It was spectacular. A tender and juicy piece of smoked pork is already sweet enough; it doesn't need a sugary sauce to complement it. A slightly tart, slightly spicy vinegar sauce is perfect, especially when there is a cooling slaw on the sandwich.
I'm not saying I'm going to do this every time I go to Perdue's, but I'm glad I tried it once. I think my next project should be a trip to Zeke's with a couple slices of white bread (and perhaps this sauce) to alter one of their sandwiches. That could be an even better sandwich than this.