Best of Memphis in Wilmington

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Smoke was billowing from the small shed that sat near the south end of Washington Avenue. I strongly considered calling the fire department. Then I caught the sweet smell of barbecue and thought to myself, “Oh, my. Someone has something cooking and it smells mighty good.”

Just a few days earlier I had noticed that the small block-building at the end of our street had a new tenant. The small, neatly printed sign attached to the little concrete-block building announced that Beaugard’s Southern Bar-B-Que had moved into town.

After a few more days I stopped in for my first taste. I was greeted by a small, wiry black man named Troy. His most striking feature was his smile. That smile lit up his entire face.

His eyes were crinkled from a lifetime of spreading joy. As he welcomed me into his little restaurant, hospitality flowed from him.

His wife, Bobbie, was busy stirring up something in a large metal bowl. I later found out it was called “sandwich slaw.” It’s not cole slaw. Cole slaw is chopped up cabbage, mixed with vinegar, spices and a little mayonnaise. Cole slaw is good to have at a picnic, but it’s not made for sandwiches.

Bobbie was whipping up a special slaw that was perfectly blended and mixed to sit atop a homemade, Memphis-style, pork barbecue sandwich.

That all happened nearly 20 years ago. Long before coming to Wilmington, Troy Beaugard perfected his skills of preparing barbecue at a little place called the Dixie Pig in Arkansas. Early in his career, Troy learned that the most important ingredient in any of the food he prepared was TLC (tender loving care).

To this day, Beaugard’s Southern Bar-B-Que serves up all-things-barbecued with an extra-large dose of TLC and a great big natural smile. Today, that extra-big smile belongs to Troy’s son, Marty.

As Troy was working to get the restaurant up and running, Marty was finishing his career in the U.S. Air Force. Frequently, Marty and his wife Diane came to Wilmington to give his mom and dad some extra help. In doing so, Marty learned the craft of barbecuing from the master — his dad.

Luckily for this community, Marty was bitten by the barbecue bug. After 22 ½ years in the Air Force, Marty retired with the rank of senior master sergeant. He brought his entire family to Wilmington where they have been welcomed with open arms.

Since then, Troy and Bobbie have retired to Georgia and Marty and Diane are running the restaurant.

As their reputation grew, they outgrew their original little block building. Marty moved the restaurant to a nice new place on the south side of town. Other than that, he admits to changing very little.

For the most part, Beaugard’s Memphis style barbecue is the same excellent flavor and consistency that Troy gave us when he first opened his restaurant in June 2000.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there are three distinct styles of barbecue. One style is from Kansas City and one originated in the Carolinas. Troy grew up in Arkansas with the Memphis style of barbecue.

That’s what he brought us. Some folks get hooked on one particular style of barbecue; others just love them all.

Kansas City barbecue can be made of beef, pork or lamb. It’s slow-cooked over wood and served with a thick tomato-based sauce. The thick, spiced tomato sauce is an integral part of barbecue in the Kansas City area.

Carolina barbecue usually starts with a dry rub of spices. The meat is later mopped with a vinegar-based sauce. It’s slow cooked over oak or hickory hardwoods. The meat of the North Carolina barbecue is usually from the entire hog. The meat is then pulled, shredded or chopped and all the cuts of the pig are mixed together. The spicy sauce is usually thin and based on vinegar.

However, in South Carolina, they use a sauce called “Carolina Gold.” That particular sauce gets its unique color from adding mustard and brown sugar to the mixture.

The Beaugard family specializes in the Memphis style of barbecue. Every Memphis style-barbecue starts with hand-selected meat and dry ingredients that are vigorously rubbed into the meat. Their “rub” is a homemade mixture of spices, salts, peppers and a few secret Beaugard ingredients. These are briskly massaged into the meat.

Later in the process, a special homemade sauce is mopped onto the meat as it cooks. Everything is homemade by the Beaugards.

One of the advantages of Memphis style is that it can be used with ribs, brisket or chicken. The pork is also great for making “pig salad.”

My favorite is the pork sandwich. The meat is barbecued, chopped and placed on a fresh bun. Sauce is then added (hot, medium or mild). It’s finished off with a nice helping of sandwich slaw from Bobbie’s own recipe.

Many years ago, I walked into Beaugard’s for my lunchtime sandwich. Troy smiled and asked, “How are you doin’ today?”

I answered, “Troy, life is good. God loves me. I’m not exactly sure why, but I know He does.”

Troy’s smile got even bigger. He said, “You know, every morning, I get out of bed and immediately drop to my knees. I pray. I praise God and then start doing push-ups. The good Lord always gives me the strength to keep on going. I love it!”

Not only have all the family recipes been passed from father to son, but that special Beaugard spirit and Troy’s joy of living and giving back to the community have also been inherited by Marty.

I think I just love all things “Beaugard” — including their barbecue.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist