In respect to the culinary world, the pig just might be the greatest animal. There are a multitude of options that this farm creature provides, and most, if not all of them, provide flavors unparalleled.
Some of those flavors can be found at Old Carolina Barbecue, which recently opened in Stow.
The first location opened in Massillon but the owners quickly decided that the 26 seats weren't enough to hold back the insatiable crowds. They have since expanded to Canton, Fairlawn and Stow.
I have had the pleasure of eating at the Canton location in the past, but that always seemed like a trek when I was in the mood for some barbecue.
The aromas of the cooking permated all corners of the restaurant. I ordered The Carolina Combo (four ribs, pulled pork and two sides; $13.99). I made the pulled pork Carolina Style which includes coastal vinegar and coleslaw right on top. For my two sides I chose fresh-cut fries and the four cheese macaroni and cheese.
My girlfriend decided on The Outlaw Combo (your choice of two meats and two sides; $13.99). She chose chicken and beef brisket for the main dish and hush puppies and macaroni and cheese as the side.
Those who have ventured down south might have had the opportunity to try Cheerwine (a cherry-flavored soda not commonly found around here). It is with a happy heart (and happy tastebuds) that Cheerwine is served out of the fountain at Old Carolina.
The meal came out quickly, and I couldn't help but dig in. The pulled pork was perfectly tender, and the coastal vinegar and coleslaw added an extra kick that made it even better.
At Old Carolina, they sauce nothing. There is a "sauce bar" near the soda fountain where patrons can choose from a variety of four sauces (a classic sweet, a tangy variety, a golden barbecue sauce and a hot barbecue).
Each sauce added a different explosion of flavor to the meat, but I was partial to the vinegar and mustard based golden barbecue. The upside of the restaurant not saucing anything is that those who prefer to go light on sauce (or Texans who prefer no sauce) can leave satisifed.
The chicken was good, albeit a little hard to cut into with the plastic knives provided from the restaurant. It had a nice blackened crust on the outside which, I'm sure, is from the variety of spices used to dry rub the meat.
The brisket was perfectly tender with a perfect balance of fat and lean meat to give the meat an enormous amount of flavor.
One combo platter would probably be more than enough for two people, but the benefit of each getting a meal, was that we have plenty of leftovers.
I could eat barbecue nearly every day for the rest of my life and be satisfied. While I won't be at Old Carolina Barbecue every day, I can say I will be back over and over again.