Posted By Chris Ayers & Amy Briesch
1/29/2008 11:14:00 PM
Since 1946, R.O.’s Bar-B-Cue has been a household name in greater Gastonia, thanks to their famous spicy barbecue coleslaw. This tasty condiment not only tops R.O.’s tender pork barbecue sandwiches but is also sold by the tub as a savory dip for chips and crackers. Back in the ’40s, Robert Osy “R.O.” Black’s wife, Pearl, developed her own recipe for this mouthwatering slaw and made it with a hand grater in her kitchen. Demand for their “sauce, slaw & dip” became so high in recent times that the third-generation family owners built a production facility across the street from their original restaurant, located midtown at the edge of a quiet neighborhood.
R.O.’s specializes in three of our favorite Southern delicacies (pimento cheese, BBQ, and Cherry-Lemon Sun-Drop), so we began with a grilled sandwich with their homemade pimento cheese. Also available in local grocery stores, this semi-spicy cheese is delicious right out of the fridge, but when melted, it attains a new taste level altogether. Thinly spread on regular white sandwich bread, grilled until light brown, and wrapped in wax paper, this was a mere appetizer to our main course of BBQ.
Though they do offer it sliced, we chose minced in the BBQ plate. Boasting enough meat for two sandwiches, the pork is finely minced, almost ground, with a tinge of smoke flavor. Its inevitable dryness begs to be complemented by the spicy slaw, which helps to hold the meat together on the two buns provided. These brown-topped rolls are pressed flat on the grill, so that every bite has a wonderful crunch. A scattering of both onion rings and fries, plus a small tub of mild baked beans, rounded out this meal made for two.
R.O.’s third specialty, and one that reaches further across area counties and over the line into South Carolina, is their homemade Cherry-Lemon Sun-Drop. Tasting like a more citrus-y Mountain Dew, Sun-Drop is a delicious soda bottled in the South, and R.O.’s mixes it with another Southern favorite, Cheerwine cherry soda (while others use cherry syrup), and serves it with a squeezed lemon wedge. The iced tea is also very good and not too sweet.
R.O.’s remains one of the few places in this corner of the state that offers curb service. On our visit, we hadn’t even pulled into a parking space before a teenaged hop waved at us, asking if we wanted to order outside. We pointed to the front door, indicating that we were heading for the dining room. After eating, we picked up pint tubs of pimiento cheese and slaw (the latter does come in gallon containers) to take home.