LUMBERTON — Andy Price, a Lumberton accountant, can crunch numbers all day long, but what he’s really passionate about isn’t so crunchy.
“I’m an over-educated barbecue cook,” Price said. “I’ve got two degrees, but this is what I’ve always wanted to do, cook barbecue.”
Price, along with his wife Patricia and father Nelson Price, own Nelson’s Barbecue. The restaurant, located at 4880 Kahn Drive in Lumberton, serves eastern North Carolina barbecue, which features a vinegar-style sauce.
A soft opening was held Tuesday, and Price plans to hold the official grand opening on Jan. 10. The restaurant’s hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Its phone number is 910-739-3350. For information, visit www.nelsonsbarbecue.com
“We’re just getting our feet wet,” Price said. “Just trying to work out everything and get some training and get some money in.”
The opening is long-awaited, as proper permits, cash, a mandatory turn lane and retention pond delayed the opening by about four years.
“We were going fine, everything was on schedule and budget,” Price said. “ … and then we were required to put a turning lane that just kind of hit us for a loop because we had to pay a little extra engineering … That’s why it took so long, but we held in there.
“It’s all behind us. The turning lane, we are happy it’s there because it keeps everybody safe. It’s going to help us in the long run; we just weren’t anticipating it.”
The restaurant’s location is where John’s Restaurant once stood. The old building was demolished, and a new one built in 2008.
Employees wear matching grey ‘Cue Crew shirts and red paper hats as they spoon barbecue, hush puppies, corn sticks, Brunswick stew, barbecue potatoes, seasoned green beans, banana pudding and more onto plates at the direction of diners. Sides include slaw, barbecue potatoes, fries and baked beans.
The cost for a barbecue plate, which comes with one side, is $6.75. For a dinner plate, barbecue with two sides, the cost is $7.50. Both plates include hush puppies.
Along with whole hogs, pork shoulders, ribs, and grilled chicken are offered. The meat is cooked daily over hardwood charcoal with hickory added.
“That taste just can not be duplicated,” Price said.
The restaurant is filled with old-timey signs and each napkin dispenser says “It’s no sin to get sauce on your chin!” The restaurant’s signature pig adorns the restaurant and its sign outside. Booth and bar stool seating is available for 76.
Price’s vision of the restaurant came into focus as he shadowed Wilber Shirley, who owns Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro.
“Wilber’s Barbecue is like an institution in Goldsboro,” Price said. “He really got me interested in it. I’d always had a passion for barbecue. I like to say I was knighted by the king, because he is the king of barbecue.”
Nelson’s has been a plan in Price’s mind for about 10 years. Nelson is Price’s middle name and his father’s first name.
“I always wanted it to be after him because he was always behind the dream,” Price said. “ … He’s always been my force. He has a lot of risk in this as well. I couldn’t name it after anybody else but him.”
The operation has about 20 employees and offers eat-in and call-ahead orders for take out. A side door is dedicated to carry-out orders.
“Before the grand opening, we’ll really try to get the word out,” Price said. “I just want people to get used to who we are. … We are hoping we will eventually do 50 to 60 percent take-out.”
Refrigerator magnets with call-in information are left on tables for patrons, as well as menus they can take home. Price said the first day of the soft opening went well.
“Our customers were very forgiving for anything we didn’t have right, but we are constantly making improvements and we had a lot of positive feedback from people for our staff, our place and our food,” Price said.
Price has heard from Bob Garner, a television personality who reviews North Carolina barbecue both on TV and in his books. Price is hoping Garner and Shirley attend the grand opening on Jan. 10.
“There’s a lot of buzz in the barbecue world,” Price said. “ … As long as they have a good customer experience — that’s what we want. We want our customer completely satisfied.”
n Reach staff writer Amanda Munger at 910-272-6144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.