BY VENI FIELDS
PUNGO — Bill Dixon swore it would never happen, but – lucky for locals – pigs grew wings in Pungo.
One of them threw on a woodsy hunting camouflage cap and a pair of dark glasses, tied a little bandana around its neck and landed as a logo at Pungo Square Shopping Center on Princess Anne Road. You can see it on the signage for Pungo Boys BBQ.
“It took two years to get to this point” wrangling permits and dealing with a pandemic lockdown and restrictions, Dixon said outside the storefront that opened in January, “but we finally got it open.”
One of four owners with deep roots in the Pungo community and local business, Dixon said the idea for the restaurant started when the former occupant of the storefront, 412Q BBQ, closed.
Dixon and long-time friend, Doug Humphrey, were standing in the shopping center parking lot in 2019 when some folks were looking for the place.
“I always wanted to have a restaurant,” Humphrey said, since he started as a young teen in the kitchen at Blue Pete’s on Muddy Creek Road and worked there for more than a decade on and off. Dixon has a catering and restaurant background. “And we all love to cook,” Humphrey said.
Dixon had told his lifelong buddies that he’d get involved with another restaurant the day pigs flew, co-owner Allan Brock said. But standing in the parking lot that day two years ago, the first feather sprouted.
“We decided to have a conversation,” Dixon said. “That was it.”
Sit-downs commenced between Dixon, Brock and Humphrey, who brought it to Jeff Dudley, who was happy, he said, to round out the group.
“It’s really exciting,” Dudley said. “Every day, we’re learning and growing, and interacting with the people is really fun.”
Dixon brought almost all the recipes, Brock said. Some of them can be viewed on Dixon’s YouTube channel, “Pungo Prairie,” which is featured on the Pungo Boys BBQ website and social media pages, which also highlight Dixon’s work in the restaurant’s kitchen and “pit,” a building they crafted themselves and contains a commercial cooker, smoker and grills out back. It’s where much of the magic happens.
Out there and into the kitchen in the storefront, brisket and pork butts are patted and jiggled and cooed over like the most beloved of precious treasures, slathered in spices and jewel-toned sauces, smoked and steamed and checked for perfect temperature, and only then sliced or pulled and stacked on breads and rolls or into aluminum tins.
Meatballs used for a take on the po’boy sandwich get pretty much the same treatment, as do the occasional turkey legs, smoked chicken salad and “Five Amigos Baked Beans,” which include just that – five different kinds of beans: black beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, great northern lima beans and even butter beans.
“That’s like a special surprise,” Brock said, chuckling. “You’re like, ‘Did I just get a butter bean in there?’”
Sides include a tweak of gourmet with “Dougie’s Delicious Mac & Cheese” infused with andouille sausage, “Ragged Island Red-Skinned” potato salad and two cole slaws — creamy or “9 Day,” which contains green and red cabbage, carrots, red, yellow and orange sweet bell peppers and sweet onions in a vinegar dressing.
Everything is made fresh in-house. Meat products are all procured within a 200-mile radius, and beef and pork sausages and kielbasa are specially made by Shopwise Meat Market on Seaboard Road.
“We wanted to keep local,” Brock said. “We wanted to keep the traditions we have down here.”
Customers have responded. In the last month, the restaurant, open four days a week from lunchtime “until we sell out” has sold out regularly and early, and lines trail out the door.
They were surprised by that, Brock said, and they quickly made adjustments to the 14-to-16-hour cooking process for meats to accommodate the demand.
“We’re happy,” Humphrey said. “Tired, but happy.”
Call-in orders are welcome, take-out is typical, and the cozy, country-themed interior offers several tables spaced wide apart for safety guidelines.
While crisp, woody smoke curls around the sign with the little pig that flew and taunts passersby with the savory temptation of southern treats inside, the partners chat easily with customers who are already becoming regulars.
And you’ll find Dixon, the inspiration for the logo, cooing like a proud papa over the tender products they slice and serve, oven gloves on, in trademark straw hat, sunglasses and bandana tied around his neck.
Pungo Boys BBQ, 1776 Princess Anne Road, opens at 11 a.m., Thursdays through Saturdays, and at noon, Sundays. Service ends when the food runs out. Call (757) 301-8661 for information or find them online at pungoboysbbq.com or on Facebook via @pungoboysbbq.
© 2021 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC