White Swan is an experience we didn’t see coming. We linked up with them at the State Fair and finally had a chance to try out a true original. Barbeque is a serious word in Johnston County North Carolina and you will get a true authentic experience at White Swan. Barbeque is much more than a type of food; it is a lot of history, character, and a vibe that’s hard to put a word on it. The delicious smells in the air as you approach were just the start of a real education. The parking lot was very busy off of a great spot on highway 301 in Smithfield. There’s many buildings in the vicinity associated with the restaurant including their offices, amazingly spotless kitchens, a 1950s era motel, and even some recently rebuilt cabins that can be rented for extended stay rentals. To say there’s history with the restaurant is an incredible understatement. Lynwood runs things at White Swan and he made sure to bring us up to speed on all of the history both on the record and off. Lynwood has been involved with the restaurant since the 1970s and has an accountant’s background. He took us through many of the buildings including the one built in 1930. The backroom was a cool piece of history and was the setting of a one time Johnston County law enforcement raid. Lynwood’s office was a great backdrop for a conversation where we learned that the office was converted from what was once one half of a two car garage built specifically to house the last two 1976 full sized Cadillacs ever made. These cars were a must have of the previous owner of White Swan. When we walked around the outside we could see how the building had been converted. The kitchen was incredible and had squeaky clean vats to make barbeque commercially. Some other historical tid bits are that Ava Gardner stayed in the motel at one point and there is a working 1941 Maytag washing machine that Lynwood couldn’t resist starting up and telling all of his customers about.
White Swan is a very family oriented business with Lynwood’s daughter and grandson heavily involved with operations. Lynwood’s daughter, Lisa told us about the menu and some of what makes them special. The food was very good. We especially enjoyed the ribs in vinegar sauce, their rich brunswick stew, and the best boiled potatoes we have had to date. The hush puppies were right out of the fryer and delicious with melted butter. Everything was sourced locally except for the green beans. They offer a full thanksgiving menu for pick up only, which is great to know about. They generate thousands of pounds of barbeque a week in their commercial kitchen. They’ve won so many awards over the years and recently took home first place at the Metro cook off in Washington D.C. When asked which ones were they most proud of, Lisa told us that any award from Johnston County meant the most to them. They are rightfully very proud of their eastern NC history.
White Swan is a true one of a kind authentic eastern North Carolina barbeque experience. There’s no telling what history you’re going to uncover when you walk through the door. You’re guaranteed great food, southern hospitality, and a whole lot of character packed into their one of a kind North Carolina original restaurant.