Stormin Norman’s Barbecue

Just Off 1-95 in Kenly, N.C.

By: - Feb 12, 2024

Life on the road has its rhythms and rituals.

Stopping for night means dragging in the bags then packing up the next morning. Generally, the first order of business is setting up the laptop. Getting on line can be both simple and complicated. Allegedly motels accommodate couples but in fact are set for solo. There are limited chairs and outlets.

Often, even in better name chains, the furnishing are not fit for a yard sale. It takes some improvising for the two of us to stream from our laptop. Only the occasional bathroom has a safe shower. With my mobility issues that’s a palpable challenge.

The mid-range motels offer breakfast. There are chafing dishes with some version of eggs and sausage, yogurt. In the South add-ons include biscuits and gravy. Generally there is cereal and occasionally oat meal. Fruit consists of bananas and small oranges. A regular gimmick is make-your-own waffles which, this time, I tried just once. Overall, I can scrounge adequate breakfast but there’s generally not much for Astrid who is gluten free.

With breakfast, as well as packing up, we’re back on the road between 10 and 11 AM. The intent is to drive until dark which at this time of year is all too early. Our first night we waited too long and in desperation drove off road to a pricey country inn that caters to weddings. Add to that bad weather as we were trying to outrun a storm with temp in the 20’s and snow all the way to Georgia. On our second day we battled the elements.

Keeping an eye on the dashboard GPS I’m the pilot and Astrid, following on a smart phone, navigates.

It takes a couple of days to get synched with the rules of the road. The best approach is to stick with the trucks, who do this for a living, and play defense from yahoos in cars. These bozos will turn tricks weaving in and out. They assume others will play pawns to their moves.

After a few days, fed up with being stuck in the middle of the pack/caravan, my Formula One, Max Verstappen mode kicks in.

It takes intense focus and nerves of steel. With the speed limit at 70 MPH that means flooring it to 85 to get free of the  clog. Once in the lead you calculate where and when to get back in line. It varies how long it takes to drop down to legal cruise speed before darting out again. Occasionally, you find yourself trading off positions with a like-minded driver. You may pass and be passed several times. A safe bet is to drop in line and stay coupled to a truck. They know the limit and just how far to push it.

Around 4:30 PM the light changes as the angle of the sun sends long shadows across the road. Discussion turns to where and when to stop. Astrid check out what’s ahead, with approximate time and distance to the best options. There are populated destinations with a range of motel and restaurant options. If you pass one there may not be another for at least an hour or so.

That occurred when we ended up in a nowheresville, Kemly, North Carolina. Deeming it to soon to stop I had pressed on. While small and rural the settlement had what proved to be an old and shabby Quality Inn. We had to borrow a second chair from the lobby and breakfast proved to be minimal. That’s when I opted to make a waffle which proved to be a soggy mess.

The lady at the front desk was friendly and helpful. We inquired about restaurants and learned that there were several with the usual options of fast food, burgers and pizza.

”What about the barbecue joint” I asked spotting it across the street. “I’ve lived here for eight years and never tried it,” she replied somewhat dampening my interest.

It was dark when we navigated across the street to Stormin Norman’s Barbecue.

There was a long queue of mostly pickups winding around the joint for takeout. So much so, that we wondered if they had table service.

It was Friday night and the joint was jumpin'. We got seated and looked for a server. In the large space there was only one darting about from table to table.

We ambled over to peruse a large and diverse menu, with super friendly prices, scrawled on a wall. There were also patriotic statements and Jesus stuff. It was a shot across the bow to keep my Damned Yankee mouth shut.

The websight conveys a mission statement. “Our Hope and Prayer is that you will see Jesus living through us as we serve you. That is the Mission statement for this business. We do not do it for the money here we do it for Jesus. God Bless you and may your Travels be safe and always remember God is with you in the Good times and most importantly in the BAD times, you just have to call on him. Our family is living proof.

“In Christian Love
Rickey and Becky Richardson”

We learned that, cafeteria style, you order and pay at the register. Later that waitress brings it to the table in foam, takeout container, with a packet of plastic utensils. It proved to be one of our cheapest dinners, with tax, at under $25 for friggin' both us. We ain't got nothin' like that back home in the Berkshires.

Fish Fry is featured on Friday. Praise the Lord. Fried chicken was an enticing option but we both went for barbecue with three ribs. Sides were collards and slaw for me. The hush puppies were tough and inedible.

The young lady at the register was a cute as a button Southern Belle. I asked for hot sauce. It seems they have two, North Carolina vinegar based, and a sweet sauce. We got small containers of both.

We settled in to sample a very local style of traditional, regional barbecue.

Sorry to say, I have mixed responses. The locals may crave it but vinegar sauce, to me, is a big mistake. The sweet sauce, on the other hand, was quite nice.

The ribs were ultra tender and fatty but seemed more parboiled than slow smoked. The barbecue, (pulled pork) was dry and lacked flavor though the sauce helped.

However, one thing’s for sure. We enjoyed authentic North Carolina style country barbecue.

Y’all come back yah heah.