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R.O.’s Bar-B-Cue

1318 Gaston Avenue, Gastonia, NC - (704) 866-8143
Posted By Michael Stern on 12/26/2013 5:48:00 AM
Barbecue slaw, which adds sauce to the familiar chopped-cabbage salad, is a big deal in this part of North Carolina, but nowhere is it more important than at R.O.'s. Billed on the menu as a "sauce, slaw & dip," the soupy emulsion is so significant a presence in the kitchen's repertoire that many customers come for a slaw sandwich – a broad, well-toasted bun filled with a thick layer of the stuff and no meat whatsoever. R.O. sauce is a shade darker than coral pink, reminiscent of 1000 Islands dressing (but only vaguely), pickly sweet with enough cayenne pepper zest to rouse taste buds to full attention. Is there a hint of pimiento cheese in it?

R.O.'s slaw is bought by customers not only to accompany barbecue or to eat solo, but also as an ingredient in meat loaf and a sauce for cocktail shrimp, as a hamburger condiment and a dip for chips or crudités. The recipe dates back to 1946 when Robert Osy Black opened his barbecue restaurant and made his wife Pearl's specialty condiment part of the menu.

If you are coming to R.O.'s, I would not recommend ordering a slaw sandwich. Not that it's bad, but it would be wrong not to have the slaw in concert with R.O.'s barbecued pork, which some of the best anywhere. Cooked the old fashioned way with hickory smoke, the pale meat is creamy and rich and so moist that no sauce is necessary; but oh, what a great companions these two elements are. The pork is available sliced or chopped; the latter is more fun, although the slices are tenderness incarnate.

Ice tea and soda are sold in 16, 24, and 32 ounce tumblers, but if you really want to go local, have the R.O.'s specialty, Cherry-Lemon Sun Drop. It's something like a cross between Mountain Dew and Hawaiian Punch.

Aside from good food and drink, R.O.'s is memorable because it is such a grand, well-weathered place. It is casual in the extreme – what Yankees would call "eat in the rough": order at the counter and fetch your own tray when your number is called. But the dining room to which you take the tray (after stocking up on napkins at a service bar) is quite civilized. Décor includes potted plants, wallpaper of which a Victorian grandmother would approve, complete with fancy border all around the top, and a hushed, reverent room tone that is the mark of so many great barbecue parlors.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Sauce, Slaw & Dip
Grilled Pimento Cheese
BBQ Sandwich
Cherry-Lemon Sun-Drop
Barbecue Plate
Slaw Sandwich
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

One of the great BBQ sandwiches of the Carolinas: minced pork and slaw on a beautifully toasted bun.
"One of the great BBQ sandwiches of the Carolinas: minced pork and slaw on a beautifully toasted bun."
Michael Stern





Velvet-soft sliced pork pairs magnificently with R.O.'s slaw.
"Velvet-soft sliced pork pairs magnificently with R.O.'s slaw."
Michael Stern


Cherry Lemon Sun Drop was introduced by Procter & Gamble in 1985, but R.O.'s makes its own, using plenty of Cheerwine.
"Cherry Lemon Sun Drop was introduced by Procter & Gamble in 1985, but R.O.'s makes its own, using plenty of Cheerwine."
Michael Stern


This chunky, spicy slaw serves as the savory adhesive that keeps a minced barbecue sandwich together.
"This chunky, spicy slaw serves as the savory adhesive that keeps a minced barbecue sandwich together."
Chris & Amy Ayers


The Slaw Sandwich, also known as a Slaw Burger, contains no meat -- just a good layer of R.O.'s unique sauce. The well-toasted bun is in no way artisan, but its crisp edge and fleecy crumb are essential elements.
"The Slaw Sandwich, also known as a Slaw Burger, contains no meat -- just a good layer of R.O.'s unique sauce. The well-toasted bun is in no way artisan, but its crisp edge and fleecy crumb are essential elements."
Michael Stern


Unless you plan to avail yourself of car hop service, you place your order at this counter.
"Unless you plan to avail yourself of car hop service, you place your order at this counter."
Michael Stern


Pull up to R.O.’s, and a carhop will immediately approach to take your order.
"Pull up to R.O.’s, and a carhop will immediately approach to take your order."
Chris & Amy Ayers


Here’s enough minced pork for two sandwiches, plus fries, rings, hushpuppies, baked beans, buns, and R.O.’s celebrated slaw.
"Here’s enough minced pork for two sandwiches, plus fries, rings, hushpuppies, baked beans, buns, and R.O.’s celebrated slaw."
Chris & Amy Ayers


On the left is R.O.’s standard iced tea, but on the right is the famous Cherry-Lemon Sun-Drop, in all its lip-smacking glory.
"On the left is R.O.’s standard iced tea, but on the right is the famous Cherry-Lemon Sun-Drop, in all its lip-smacking glory."
Chris & Amy Ayers


This is a mere 16 ounce cup. 24 and 32 ouncers also are available.
"This is a mere 16 ounce cup. 24 and 32 ouncers also are available."
Michael Stern


R.O.'s dining room: such a comfy place to eat.
"R.O.'s dining room: such a comfy place to eat."
Michael Stern


'Twas the day before Christmas, 2013, and R.O.'s car hops were dressed for the occasion.
"'Twas the day before Christmas, 2013, and R.O.'s car hops were dressed for the occasion."
Michael Stern


R.O. and Pearl Black opened their restaurant in 1946. It is now run by a third generation of the same family.
"R.O. and Pearl Black opened their restaurant in 1946. It is now run by a third generation of the same family."
Michael Stern


Plain and good pimento cheese sandwich
"Plain and good pimento cheese sandwich"
Michael Stern



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