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Raleigh-Durham to Lexington BBQ Adventure

I am flying from Boston to Raleigh-Durham on Friday with my 16-year-old son for a weekend BBQ exploration. Looking for advice on the best places for 'q, breakfast spots and any other culinary highlights we should try to squeeze in (a little fried chicken would be good, 'cause you can't find anything better than Popeye's in Boston, and even that isn't widely available).
Our loose itinerary is as follows: Arrive in R-D early Friday and head out for lunch, maybe a drive east? Head back to R-D and find a great dinner spot. We're spending the night in Durham -- where to have breakfast? On Saturday, I'm thinking about driving out to Lexington to sample that style of BBQ, so looking for a lunch spot on the way and THE place to have dinner. And where should we stay that night so we can find a great breakfast nearby on Sunday morning? Lexington? Winston-Salem? or ???? We'll drift back to the Triangle on Sunday. I know that finding great BBQ on Sunday will be a bit of a challenge, but we're willing to drive to find it. Thanks for the help. I've been dreaming of this pig-out trip for years!

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  1. The best BBQ in NC, IMHO, is Allen and Son, located on Highway 86 just off I-40 between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill, very close to Durham.

    Virtually all the Lexington places are great...Lexington BBQ (aka Honey Monk's) is a must visit.

    On a previous post, chazzer posted this great link:


    Lots of good information on that site, including a map and restaurant reviews.

    1. Hmm.....BBQ on a Sunday. There is a challenge. Try Danny's - either location.

      If I had more of a heads up, I'd take notes on my travels. one church or anotehr ALWAYS hasa BBQ lunch on Sunbday. When that is good, it is very, very, very good.

      1. Check out Rub's in Morrisville when you arrive. It's less than a 10 minute drive from the airport. (http://www.rubssmokehouse.com/


        I'd try to check out Biscuitville for breakfast one morning. It's a chain and you should be able to come across one that's convenient somewhere in your travels - there's a few that are right off of I85. Get a chicken biscuit. I had never heard of it (I'm from NY), but it's delicious. You can also try a gravy biscuit, which you don't see much up north either.

        7 Replies
        1. re: scarrie

          I don't know that I'd recommend Biscuitville, but I would suggest Big Ed's in City Market (Raleigh) for breakfast, but not on Sunday. That's a real gut-busting Southern breakfast, cheezy decor notwithstanding. The only problem there, is that after Big Ed's breakfast I can barely comtemplate eating dinner, let alone lunch. But then again you've got a 16-year-old boy with you. Shouldn't pose any problem for him.

          You can also check the Life section of the Friday News & Observer to see if any churches are having BBQ. The quality will vary quite a bit but, having lived in the Boston burbs for a few years, I can tell you the experience will be a bit different from what you may be used to.

          1. re: rockycat

            If you are on the run and want a drive thhrough breakfast do try either Bojangles or Biscuitville. For a tast of the south try either the country ham biscuit or the steak biscuit. I think the biscuits @ Bojangles are better. You might even try some of their sweet tea though I know it is early.

            For cue I would try to pick up one chopped plate in Lexington then do chopped or sliced sandwichs at all the other wood burners in town. google bbq fest or lexington and you should be able to find the restaurants.

            If you make it to winston try Mr. BBQ or Lil Richards. Hushpuppies are better at Mr. BBQ and stop at a local grocery and get some Moravian cookies

            1. re: quazi

              I'm not a huge fan of the ham biscuit, but I still gotta try the steak one :)
              Oh yeah, a suggestion on the chicken biscuit - my husband always asks for hot sauce to go on it. I don't know if that's standard (or maybe it's very "Yankee" of us) but it is a tasty addition. They usually come dry, without any condiments. I like them both ways.

              1. re: scarrie

                Bojangles isn't a bad choice for fried chicken, either. :-)

                1. re: scarrie

                  Hot sauce on fried chicken (even a biscuit) is not "yankee" at all IMHO. Heck, why do you think Texas Pete is made in NC? :-)

                  1. re: Trheel4vr

                    Could not agree more. everyone here (Raleigh) has a bottle of Texas Pete in their cube. Another Southern thing: add jelly to a ham biscuit - cuts the saltiness.

                    1. re: Westy

                      many people add jelly to sausage biscuits as well. If you order at bojangles they will always ask you if you want any jelly with the ham or sausage biscuit. If you try the seak try it with cheese. Try your ham biscuit plain or all the way (ham egg and cheese)

          2. This is part of the fun in asking this board about BBQ recomendations. There are many great BBQ places in the state and everyone has there fav. Allen and Son on Highway 86 is very good but IMHO not the best in the state, top ten maybe.

            Look at the BBQ trail http://www.ncbbqsociety.com/trail_map... for info on the diffrent places. Lexington BBQ is one of the best and worth a vist, A&M in Mabene is also goood and worth a vist, but only have the BBQ, and yes go to Allen & Son. Hurseys is also on the trail but is not one of my favs.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chazzer

              Definitely focus on the NC BBQ trail. Unless you've hit everything on that list, there's probably not much point in branching out to jernts *not* on that list. Likewise, avoid Rub's & Danny's, as neither are true NC BBQ joints, and if you're going to fly all the way down here, you don't want to waste your time with places that spend more time on their beef than their pork. (I eat at both fairly regularly, but I'm not flying from Boston for NC BBQ, ya dig?)

              Ditto what Chazzer said about Hursey's; not worth a stop, IMHO. Over towards W-S, I'm strongly in the Little Richard's (Country Club Road) camp.

              Breakfast-wise, if you don't mind something that isn't as aggressively Southern as NC BBQ, Mary's Of Course in Winston-Salem is my fave.

              I think Biscuitville *is* worth a stop, especially if you're trying to make time on the road. It's a chain, but it's a *local* chain (headquarters in Graham, NC), and they have a sign on the door that says "Pacemakers welcome: no microwaves in use here." Plus they have a "hot syrup" dispenser next to the iced tea. Like Scarrie, I'm partial to the chicken biscuit.

              If it isn't too late to change your tickets, I think you'll get a bigger bang for your buck if you fly into Rocky Mount . . . the golden region for NC BBQ is a strip around Rocky Mount/Wilson/Goldsboro. Or if you still fly into RDU, I'd head east immediately & maybe spend the night down there, so you can hit as many places as possible.

              The only really first-class BBQ in the Triangle probably is Allen & Son, and you can hit it for early lunch on Saturday as you're hauling ass on I-40 towards the Triad.

              If you're interested in eating things *other* than BBQ this weekend, then the Triangle has a lot more to offer, and you can find a million suggestions by searching this board for Raleigh or Durham or Chapel Hill.

            2. Better check whether Allen and Sons is open. They went on a two week vacation or so around Aug 1.

              1 Reply
              1. re: walras

                On Friday - I would go to Greenville/Ayden -go to B's for chicken and barbeuce (heard the chicken is great - going Saturday) and then to Ayden to go to Bum's (pit cooked barbecue and great vegetables adn the Skylight Inn for barbeuce , slaw and cornbread). Went to Bum's and Skylight Inn about 2 weeks ago and it was great. Get the banana pudding, collards, cabbage and rutabegas at Bum's.

              2. You are the best judge of what you can manage but some advice would be to pace yourself, don't overdo it and go very very easy on the breakfasts to make the most of your visit. However enthusiastic you may be an overdose will make it much harder to appreciate what area spots have to offer. I would plan to hit a few each day (maybe three if you exercise major restraint). As mentioned above, Allen & Sons on 86 is a good choice. Lex #1 also. Jimmy's in Lex is also open Sunday and is quite good. Further east B's is a nice change of pace (and Skylight Inn may be worth a stop). My absolute favorite: Wilbur's in Goldsboro for Eastern NC style. Don't miss this one! (On a totally different note, Magnolia Grill in Durham was everything it's stacked up to be. Great upscale Southern menu.) Check out the Durham Bulls if there's game. Relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere.

                1. Howdy Katzzz,
                  Did an Ayden-to-Asheville and back eating trip in late April and got a pretty good cross-section kind of sense of North Carolina BBQ (assorted Southern and Soul Foods, as well). As far as BBQ goes, I'm thus far in my life an irrepressible Texas BBQ purist, but I really second the rec's for both Allen and Son near Durham and Lexington BBQ. I thought everything we had at both of these places was outstanding. Other spots you REALLY don't want to miss are Joyce and Family Restaraunt in Fuquay Varina, NC for superlatively good fried and baked chicken and mouth-watering sweet yams and vinegary greens. If you love BBQ and Fried Chicken then Keaton's in central NC is worth going out of your way to hit, it's near Thomasville, if I recall properly. Look them up on Roadfood.com. If your looking for great, reasonably priced seafood in Durham, then check out FIshmongers. There are two terrific Southern breakfast spots that we tried. For an excellent, more traditional Southern breakfast check out Big Ed's in downtown Raleigh. For a terrific Southern breakfast with a more contemporary style, go to Tupelo Honey all the way out West in Asheville. Both were SO good and not too expensive, either. What a great state to do some good eating. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway if you get a chance!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: IHateKiddo

                    Tupelo Honey is not in West Asheville.Its downtown. FWIW.

                    1. re: Spreadhead

                      I meant that Asheville is in the West of North Carolina, not that Tupelo Honey is in the West of Asheville. Poorly worded, perhaps, sorry!

                    2. re: IHateKiddo

                      Keaton's is listed as Cleveland, NC, but it's out in the country and not close anything specific. It's in the corner of Rowan County and between Winton-Salem and Salisbury, NC.

                      Off I-40 take the 64 Cool Springs exit. There's another 64 exit that doesn't say Cool Springs, and you'll get lost if you take that. The correct one has an underpass rather than an overpass. There's also a lone gas station and campground right after you get off the Interstate.

                      Turn and drive past the gas station and camp ground road and on beyond the Parker Farmer (sign in yard) until you see a white sign that says Keaton's. That's a left turn to Cool Springs Road off 64. You'll see fields and trees - that basically it.

                      I'd say you're only 4 miles or so off I-40.

                      Chicken is definately the thing to order. It's bar-b-fried. Hard to explain. Kind of a cross between fried and barbecue. Moist. Soft. No crunch. Barbecue flavor throughout.

                      Call ahead. Hours are limited. They may go home if business is slow.

                      Mind your manners (-: You get a full pitcher of tea, but you are expected to put that back on the tray at the main room exit when you leave. Do not take pictures without permission as posted on the wall. They close early, so they do not get the good old boys coming in tanked up and making a scene. Think of it like your Momma's house, and you will be just fine and eat really darn good.

                    3. Forget BBQ on Sunday. That is the day to concentrate on fried chicken.

                      Head out to Snow Camp and hit Ye Olde Country Kitchen:


                      1. Thanks for all the great advice!! Obviously there's WAY too many places to check out in a three-day weekend, but we'll try to hit as many of the top spots as we can without collapsing into a food-induced stupor. I appreciate the non-food tip to check out a Bulls ballgame, too. They're playing at home on Friday and we just might go!
                        One more question: Is Mama Dip's a must?
                        And I promise to report back on our travels next week and y'all can take my Boston yankee impressions for what their worth.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: katzzz

                          Heck, after posting my reply I searched to board for Mama Dip's and I found the answer to my question: sounds like it's been ruined by its own celebrity.

                          1. re: katzzz

                            Any Yankee who spells y'all correctly is ok in my book!! I'm afraid Dips isn't worth the effort, but definitely do a Bulls game...great fun! Its too bad the PawSox aren't in town.

                            1. re: carolinadawg

                              Mama Dip's - avoid it at all costs. However, if you're in the Chapel Hill area and need to walk off a little of all the BBQ you're eating, I'd recommend checking out Southern Season. It's foodie heaven! There *is* an excellent restaurant there called Weathervane, but it sounds like you're going to have no shortage of places for meals.


                              1. re: Suzy Q

                                One option in Chapel Hill would be to try Time Out Chicken for a big Chicken Biscuit. I do not prefer their style of biscuit but if your coming from Boston is is much more memorable than Biscuitville or Bojangles (i like both).

                                1. re: Jesco

                                  I think Time Out can only truly be appreciated at around 2:30 AM after a night of boozing. Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen down the street would be a better bet.