I slid into one of the only empty booths at Bullock's Bar-B-Cue (3330 Quebec Drive, Durham, 383-3211, www.bullocksbbq.com) last week, but the 58-year-old landmark was in no way as packed as it had been the week before. Earlier this month, local politicians, chefs and regulars came in droves and rallied to re-spark business after a recent salmonella scare there. On that day, it felt good to stand in a 45-minute line that wrapped around the building. There was an energy in the air that staved off hunger. And I was reminded why there is barbecue in the first place: to feed and celebrate community.
Sam Poley, marketing chief for the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, announced the event with fellow staff members to remind people that Bullock's "is a safe place to eat, bottom line." Health department officials found no trace of salmonella after nine days of testing Bullock's kitchen. Officials investigated after a number of people became ill after eating food from Bullock's last month. The notoriety about that outbreak led to an 80 percent decrease in Bullock's business.
"The thing that sucks is that people got sick," Poley said. "The thing that sucks almost as much is that people ran away from this restaurant."
Poley was pleased with the crowd but noted that customers' continued presence is vital to keeping the restaurant afloat.
"We want to make sure that there's a turnout tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that," he said. When I visited Bullock's a few days after the event, the general feeling was still positive. Owner Tommy Bullock moved from booth to booth and shook hands with folks.
"I'm hoping our customers will continue to come back," he said. I hope so, too, and I know I will be among those who do. On both of my visits, the barbecue was hot, tangy and as good as ever.
The Triangle has more barbecue to offer this weekend. At 11 a.m. on Saturday, Masons from across the state will compete at the Fifth Annual Pig Jig BBQ Cook-Off (www.carolinapigjig.com), which is part of the Got To Be NC Festival at the State Fairgrounds (1025 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, www.ncagfest.com) Friday through Sunday. Tickets for the Pig Jig are $10 for adults, free for children under 12 and valid until the barbecue is gone. All proceeds will benefit the Masons' homes for children in Oxford.
Be sure to check out the Shriners Fish Fry from 11 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Friday, as well as the Food and Wine Expo at the Got To Be NC Festival. The expo will run all weekend—10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Sunday—and feature samples from dozens of local food manufacturers and wineries. It is a free event.
Already under way is Triangle Restaurant Week, which continues through Sunday. For $15 at lunch or $25 at dinner, enjoy a three-course prix-fixe meal at one of 65 area restaurants. For more details, visit www.trirestaurantweek.com.
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