We had started out the weekend of June 20th with plans to go to a Chili con carnival in Durham, but upon hearing of Hillsborough’s Hog Day we just couldn’t resist. Hillsborough Hog Day is a yearly event in which pit bosses from local area bbq joints compete for the coveted prize best barbecue in festival. We had never been to Hillsborough, so this would not only be a chance to sample some (hopefully) great barbeque but also to go to far Western triangle town we’d never been to.
Hillsborough was a great little town with an idyllic leafy main street area that reminded me a bit of some of the pretty little towns Ohio we used to visit. The festival itself was set in the River Park off Margaret Lane in Hillsborough which is also the site of the Eno river Famer’s Market. I feel like I was so focused on inhaling barbeque that I didn’t really get a chance to really of soak up River Park, but it seemed a scenic little area. In addition to the the barbecue stands, there was a music stage where I would assume there was music, but we kinda left before anything started. The Eno River Famer’s Market was also in full swing while we were there, and there wa a pretty big contingent of tents where local arts and craft makers were at work hawking their wears.
Getting there at around 11 it still slightly on the early side as only 4 f the 5 bbq stands had made it there and were set up for business. There was barely even a line to get tickets so we grabbed enough to try a sample of each of the 4 bbq stands and quickly marched toward the delicious wafting smells of cooking pork. Here I need mention the fact that it was kind of hard to figure how you go about tasting the different pork, and then vote for the best. I had to ask a couple of people be I figured out a) where the pork was, and b) how I went about voting for my favorite barbecue.
Apparently there were supposed to be 5 competitors, but either they hadn’t set up or the fifth bbq stand was never set up. The first stand we stumbled on after we’d figured out the tasting system was the Hillsborough bbq comapny which according to the sign opens sometime in the fall. The meat just didn’t quite have that perfect balance of vineger and sweet that makes some great bbq pork. Our next taste test was with Smokey Dave’s bbq, which had the moistness I was looking for, but was just a bit too sweet and not quite as spicy as either of would have preferred. The stand also had several large trophies from bbq competitions. I didn’t quite catch the full name of the 3rd stand, but from the picture it looks like it was Pig N’ The Grill. Their pork was perfectly seasoned with a great spiciness and vinegery sauce, and it would have been the best if it wasn’t for the fact that it was too dry. Hog Heaven the final bbq we tried was moist, slightly spicy and had that perfect sweet/vineger mix that in my opinion makes a great barbeque.
After scarfing down a full Hog Heaven Barbeque sandwich we were both ready to get out of the sun and consume a bit of liquid refreshment. Natty Greenes in a partnership with the ever awesome Durham brewery Fullsteam set up a cozy beer tent where they were serving Natty Greenes beer. From what I understood, the beer tent was a new addition to the bbq fest, and what a great addition it was. Natty Greenes is a brewpub from Greensboro and Raleigh that brews several very interesting and complex brews. We both chose the Pale ale this time around as it compliment the 95 degree heat perfectly with its icy crispness.
The beer proved a perfect ending to a great day, and after a quick walk to work off a bit of the alcohol and check out the Main Street area of Hillsborough, we both decided we were satisfied and left for home. It was a great experience trying all those different barbecues and we were both happy to discovered a cool little town that we can visit especially once Hillsborough bbq opens this fall.