Wilber’s Barbecue – the iconic Eastern North Carolina barbecue destination in Goldsboro, NC which opened in 1962 – will re-open late Spring 2020. Thanks to Goldsboro natives and barbecue fans, Wilber Shirley’s old-fashioned approach to cooking whole hog over oak wood embers in open pits will be resurrected, after closing for one year.
“This place, this food, and this style of cooking is part of who we are as a community, a region, and a culture, and it will continue to be,” explained Willis Underwood, a Goldsboro resident and lifelong regular at Wilber’s.
Underwood spearheaded a group of Goldsboro natives, residents, and Wilber’s enthusiasts to form Goldpit Partners in order to restore, refurbish, and return Wilber’s Barbecue to its glory days.
“This was an opportunity to come together and save this legendary institution that lives large in all of our memories. But we also needed to infuse new capital and energy into it so we can preserve and continue the very best Eastern North Carolina barbecue tradition, and make sure this time-tested formula thrives into the future.”
“For many people, the name Wilber’s and Eastern North Carolina barbecue are synonymous. Some people even refer to Eastern North Carolina barbecue as Wilber’s Barbecue,” offered Jim Early in The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy. Wilberdean Shirley, long recognized as barbecue royalty, kept the flame burning on the Eastern North Carolina barbecue tradition that was passed down to him through the lineage of Adam Scott, the “Barbecue King” – and known founder of this style of whole hog barbecue.
Although retired, Wilber Shirley will be a welcome presence and serve as advisor and mentor as Wilber’s builds upon its many decades of success. “I’m proud to know that Wilber’s will not disappear, and that Willis Underwood and my son-in-law, Dennis Monk, will be here to help guide it into the future. It grew beyond my wildest dreams and is part of our culture. Our method of cooking whole hogs over hardwood coals overnight is not easy or cheap, but it is the right way, and something we as a community take a lot of pride in,” said Shirley.
For decades, Wilber’s Barbecue has been a destination for fans from around the country. As early as 1984, The New York Times’ lauded editor and critic Craig Claiborne made a pilgrimage to Wilber’s and stated, “The entire bill of fare from sandwiches to coleslaw was praiseworthy.” Wilber’s barbecue sandwich has been featured on national magazine covers like Garden & Gun, Southern Living named it among the “South’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints,” and American presidents have long considered it a priority pit-stop.
When Wilber’s re-opens, fans will recognize the barbecue joint they have known and loved for generations – from the old fashioned ‘cue to the knotty pine paneling and red checkered tablecloths, familiar servers and tried-and-true pitmaster crew. Wilber’s menu will be condensed and centered around the pit and the meats that come from it, with its barbecue sandwich as the star, served alongside Wilber’s classics, scratch sides and desserts.