SHELBY, N.C. -- Their barbecue restaurant on East Dixon Boulevard in Shelby has been a staple in the North Carolina barbecue community since 1946.
Opened by Red and Lyttle Bridges, "Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge" does it "Shelby-style" with pork shoulders pit-smoked over hickory and oak for nine hours every night.
"The wood makes the difference," third-generation owner Chase Webb explains.
It is listed on the North Carolina Barbecue Society Historic Trail and it's been featured in more books and magazines than they can count. Perhaps the greatest honor they have are their regulars: there are many customers who come in 3, 4, and 5 days a week.
"A lot of places don't do pit-cooked anymore," Natalie Ramsey, Chase's sister, says.
That was the argument barbecue purists made when First Lady Michelle Obama praised Charlotte's "great barbecue" in an e-mail announcing that Charlotte would host the Democratic National Convention in 2012. Though there are many restaurants in the Queen City that serve barbecue, the "experts" say the best is outside the city. Even the Charlotte Observer chimed in, explaining to Mrs. Obama why she'd mispoken.
The Bridges crowd won't trash Charlotte barbecue joints, but Ramsey says when she lived in Charlotte, she'd bring pounds of pulled pork to their loyal Charlotte customers. When the local paper called last week and asked her if she'd like the Obamas to visit Red Bridges, she thought, "why not?" and sent off an invitation to the White House.
"We sent her a letter with a copy of our CD, and a picture of our postcard," Ramsey said. "I just think that would be…you know, that’s an honor, of course, for the president to come in your restaurant!"
They haven't heard from the White House... at least, not yet.