By Belle Crawford | Photos by Joye Ardyn Durham
Many cultural dishes associated with southern cuisine come with a dedicated group of food snobs who understand the required taste, textures and ingredients that constitute the perfect dish. Barbecue is no exception to this list of regional favorites, and those who know and love it will not settle for an inauthentic recipe.
Melanie Talbot, owner of Green River BBQ in downtown Saluda, spent many years barbecuing for relatives and friends in Saluda. One of the friends who would frequent Talbot’s dinners was Charlie Ward, long-time Saluda resident and owner of historic Thompson’s Store, the oldest grocery store in North Carolina, as well as Ward’s Grill, a locally famous gathering place for locals and tourists since the 1950s.
“Charlie encouraged me to start the restaurant in 1984 because back then there was not another restaurant in Saluda that was open for dinner,” says Talbot. “The only other restaurant in town was Ward’s Grill.”
Since opening, Green River BBQ has been ever-evolving. In the ‘90s, Talbot added a screened-in porch. Fifteen years later the porch was turned into an enclosed dining area and a drinks bar was added. Today, the bar serves 12 different beers on tap, all of them from local breweries. Two and a half years ago, Talbot added an outdoor patio where diners can be found enjoying their favorite menu items with four-legged friends by their sides.
Green River BBQ’s menu includes southern essentials like pulled pork, a sliced beef brisket plate, barbecue chicken, St. Louis-style pork ribs, grilled mesquite boneless chicken breast, hushpuppies, fresh collard greens and fried green tomatoes.
“Most Carolina barbecue restaurants use hickory or oak when smoking their meats,” says Talbot. “We smoke all our meat over mesquite from Texas. I have this shipped in every few months. You can’t find it in North Carolina.”
Added to the list of tried-and-true classics are the more unique menu items like portabella mushroom fries, fried pickles, a Wrap-A-Cue (barbecue, slaw, and barbecue beans wrapped in a cheddar-jalapeno flour tortilla), pigtail fries and a very popular street taco menu, including a fried green tomato taco, a smoked trout taco and an Asian shrimp taco.
None of the recipes on Green River BBQ’s menu will fail the food snob’s scrutiny test. “Most of the recipes I have perfected,” says Talbot, “and I have a great kitchen staff that shares my vision. Alecia and Nick Murray run things for me, with Alecia as general manager and Nick, the pit-master, overseeing the kitchen. I have a fabulous team front and back of the house! We are truly a family!”
Green River BBQ’s dining room has an authentic, rustic feel with much of the interior made from tin and wood. “I built the wall on the patio last year out of the interior tin ceiling from the barbecue pit room,” says Talbot. “The roof had to be replaced and I just couldn’t throw away the old smoke-stained tin roofing.”
Green River BBQ is located at 131 US-176 in Saluda. For more information, visit greenriverbbq.com or call 828.749.9892.