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Bridges Barbecue Lodge NC
Bridges barbecue Lodge located in Shelby, NC just south of Charlotte before you get to SC state line is a haven for barbecue lovers. It is both historically and culinary significant to the North Carolina barbecue heritage. Bridges barbecue Lodge is listed among 24 of the best barbecue restaurants NC has to offer on the NC barbecue Societies Historical barbecue Trail, which stretches from Western NC to the East.
Owned and operated by the family second and third generations of Bridges the business was started in 1946 as Dedmons barbecue by Red and Lyttle Bridges. Infamous pit Master Warner Stamey (who taught many of todays most successful pit masters in central NC) taught Red Bridges how to cook pork shoulder in hickory fired pits. In 1948 Bridges barbecue was opened in downtown Shelby and in 1953 the present location was opened.
The barbecue Lodge is in what looks to be an old motor lodge office and restaurant complex. It is one of the cleanest que houses I've ever been in. The nostalgic look of the place is one of the things that make this one of my favorites. There's an old luncheonette counter with tables and booths. There is years of wood neatly stacked around the back of the restaurant.
In my opinion the pork is outstanding. To quote a young fellow, about eight, who sat at the next table during one of our visits "I like Pig". No rubs or seasonings are put on the shoulders they let the smoke speak for it's self. I like simple and if done right it never needs sauce. Bridges is some of the tenderest smoked pork I've had. Here's a secret rarely mentioned but if you ask for 'chopped with brown' you'll get some of that good bark mixed in and a little fat too. MMMM, that's where the flavor comes from. You can order sliced, chopped or minced. I prefer chopped but have not tried the others YET.
They do have a sauce they serve and sell. It is the NC vinegar base with a little more of tomatoes like Western NC is known for. This gives is a slightly thicker consistency. The sauce has some sweet, some tang from the vinegar and little heat (from black pepper not any exotics). Like most good que houses that actually know how to cook their pig and the customer is in charge of what sauce they put on their pork. This is so good and moist you really do not need the sauce at all. If I get pig with a bunch of sauce mixed in it is a red flag that they do not know how to cook pork, probably dried it out and needed the sauce to add moisture to the final product. This is not the case here I can assure you! Honestly some of the most succulent I have ever had.
Other items that we judge barbecue restaurants by are hush puppies (delicious with a little sweetness to them), iced tea (sweet and un the sweet is a little too sweet for my taste but a mix of un and sweet gives the right combo for my taste buds) and slaw. Now I'm not a slaw eater and some people never eat que without it. I know it's traditional but if I wanted a salad I'd order one. Anyway Bridges serves red slaw which has their sauce as a base instead of mayonnaise. Between the two I'd take the red over white any day.
House specialties include a barbecue salad and make sure you get some pimento cheese to go, especially if you ain't from the South.
Run by daughter Debbie and her kids they use hickory mixed with oak as hickory has become harder to get constantly over the years. Slow cooked over wood coals, no gas here. As any q-purist knows gas will impart a taste to the meat. The pits crank up at 10pm the night before service. The local fire department is used to getting calls at night from passer byers thinking the restaurant is on fire.
They are open Weds. Through Sunday 11am to 8pm but if you wait till late you might miss out. Cooking fresh every day limits the amount you can serve. They still cook pig by the original recipe from an almost 65 year tradition and that will not change. They serve some of the best I've ever had.
Oh and try to avoid Sunday right after church cause you'll have to wait. Nothing worse than trying to enjoy a meal while a bunch of hungry folks that have been at preachin' for the last couple of hours stare at ya.
You can find them on the web at Bridges Barbecue Lodge and the NCBBQ trail info can be found at the NC BBQ Society's web page Do yourself a favor and get by Bridges barbecue Lodge in Shelby, NC and taste what you should be judging all the rest against.