So two things have happened in the short and rather chaotic few weeks since Mark Coates, the drawling expat from Mississippi by way of Charlotte, N.C., opened Bebe, which is named for his Southern grandmother, and inspired, he says, by a newspaper account of efforts to breathe new life into the old market.
The first is that some customers, recalling that this space was once occupied by Willie's Roast Pork, were startled that the pork wasn't wet, and served with chopped raw onions on, well, a long hoagie roll.
The pork butt that is typically brined and/or dry-rubbed before long (12 hours or more), low-temperature smoking for Southern-style barbecue - more precisely, what Coates calls "Carolina-style" barbecue - is served in various forms. The type most commonly used for a sandwich, though, is chopped or "pulled" pork, which is hand-pulled, separating the meat and dropping out the fat. But one thing that is not done is this: It is never - not at Allen & Sons, the incomparable barbecue shack near Hillsborough, N.C., or Wilber's, the pride of Goldsboro, N.C., or Clyde Cooper's in Raleigh, which has been turning out vinegary chopped pork and sizzling cornmeal hushpuppies for 83 years - never served on a long hoagie roll.
It is served on a soft, white-bread hamburger bun, seeds optional. Coates shakes one in the air: "This is what you serve barbecue on."
In a best-case scenario, the meat would be topped with a crisp, creamy coleslaw, providing contrasting texture and a little sweetness against the vinegar tang. So the second thing that is occurring at Bebe's is that - with the tireless assistance of Coates' partner Tamara Van Winkle - batches of the proper, complementary homemade slaw are being tried out.
The whole half-baked place is a work in progress. Coates, a carpenter by trade, just got around to installing the eat-at counter last week. The hot biscuit and savory cornbread recipes are still being tweaked. An alternative to the appealingly thin, lightly tomato-y, western Carolina sauce (the eastern versions eschew tomato) is being actively contemplated.
But the ribs are coming out meaty and tender, with a fine peppery crust, or "bark," as it's called. The pulled pork is moister and fuller-flavored than most in the new wave. And last week, workers from DiBruno's and Fante's could be spotted hauling out stacks of platters.
There were rumors, as well, that ice-cold bottles of Cheerwine might soon appear, a Carolina delicacy that, one presumes, is bound to touch off another round of joyful re-education.
1017 S. Ninth St.
Contact columnist Rick Nichols at 215-854-2715 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/ricknichols.