Friday, September 21, 2012

Column: Shorelines

Couple serving up Carolina-style barbecue at SML

If you've driven through the intersection of Burnt Chimney and Brooks Mill roads recently, you may have noticed plumes of white smoke and gotten a whiff of barbecue cooking in the parking lot of what once was Dick's Food Center. That's a telltale sign that To God Be the Glory BBQ is open for business.

Jackie and Dennis Norwood from Rocky Mount, N.C., opened their mobile barbecue wagon four months ago and have seen a steady stream of traffic since.

Way south of here - in that other Rocky Mount - there's a barbecue joint on just about every street corner.

"There's so much barbecue around in North Carolina," said Dennis. "Especially in Rocky Mount; there's barbecue everywhere."

When Janet, the Norwood's daughter, married and moved to Roanoke, she told her parents that there weren't any good North Carolina-style barbecue places around these parts. Dennis and Jackie decided to check it out for themselves.

Dennis and Jackie had been cooking for their church family at Thorn Chapel Missionary Baptist back home and got rave reviews. They'd also cooked it for the parents who brought their kids to Jackie's home day-care business. When Dennis was laid off from his job at a factory that made elevator cables, options were limited and barbecue seemed to be their financial salvation.

"That's basically why we're here," said Jackie.

First, they bought a mobile hot dog stand. A friend attached a trailer to the unit that holds the smoker.

Janet found her parents space in Roanoke on Peters Creek Road where they sold barbecue for about a year. Then Dennis and Jackie moved for a time to Salem and also worked in Rocky Mount (Va.) before settling at the lake location.

So far, so good.

"It's up and down like everything," said Jackie, when asked how business was going. "Friday and Saturday, it picks up a little."

They've been participating in many of the region's festivals, including Olde Salem Days and the lake's Brews & BBQ Festival. Coming up, they'll be at next weekend's Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival and at the Martinsville Speedway in October.

If word-of-mouth is any indication, Dennis and Jackie are in good graces with their customers. Earlier this year in a blog post on Roanoke.com, a reader posted: "Dennis and Jackie Norwood of Rocky Mount, N.C. made fantastic barbecue, which they sold from a trailer on West Main Street in Salem from Thursday to Sundays last summer (To God Be the Glory -- NC BBQ). Mr. Norwood smoked pork shoulders on a smoker attached to the trailer, and Mrs. Norwood put meals together and worked the window. Roanoke/Salem has seen barbecue joints come and go, but none had barbecue that could match Mr. Norwood's."

As passers-by stop in front of their mobile food wagon, the Norwoods greet them warmly and offer a sample taste.

The vinegar-based barbecue sauce has a twang with a spicy kick, which complements the smokiness of the meat. Dennis cooks pork shoulder and chicken on his smoker while Jackie preps the sides - baked beans, coleslaw and cornbread sticks - and runs the window.

"It's Grandpa's recipe," said Dennis when asked if he would divulge what's in his barbecue sauce.

"Like they say, 'ancient Chinese secret,'" said Jackie with a wink and a smile.

The couple is planning to stay at their current location even as summer comes to a close.

"This is going to be our first winter here, and we'll basically see how it is," said Jackie.

"Maybe we can get some of the locals and the contractors in," added Dennis.

When daylight saving time ends, the barbecue business will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Currently, the hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays.