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Best Eastern NC BBQ

I know this is a dangerous topic as everyone has their own favorite but what do you think is the best Eastern NC example of BBQ?

I'll be traveling from Los Angeles to the Triangle in a few days and spending some time in Wilmington, NC.


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  1. Skylight Inn in Ayden. Hands down the best eastern style commercially available. Bum's, also in Ayden is very good and Wilbur's in Goldsboro is excellent if it's fresh.

    1. I'm partial to Bill's Barbecue over in Wilson. It's a bit of a drive from Wilmington but less than an hour from the Triangle (Raleigh/ Durham). The service isn't fancy; it's cafeteria style but the barbecue is succulent and the hush puppies are divine. I also like Wilbur's in Goldsboro, but I don't think that their quality is as consistent as Bill's. There is also Parker's Barbecue in Wilson. It's been around for years and my parents swear that it is the best barbecue around. Happy eating!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Aimer

        Parker's in Wilson is better than Bill's to me since they started the buffet. Cooper's in Raleigh is also good.

        1. re: Aimer

          I have been to both Parkers & Bill's BBQ both in Wilson. I had family in virgina and every chance we got to stop in one of those places we would. I would even carry an ice chest just to bring the BBQ back to home. It is very home style and I am sorry to say I haven't been in many years. But hoping to get back real soon.

        2. All of the above recommendations are worth checking out. There is thread after thread on NC bbq on this board -- if you do a search you'll read more than you want. Since you specifically asked after Eastern NC BBQ, I will simply point out that you are unlikely to encounter it anywhere west of pittsboro.

          Actually, the historical border tends to follow the NE/SW line where NC changes from sand flats to the piedmont, but I don't expect someone not from here to drag out an atlas, and with the spread of roads and highways there have come to be a few exceptions as far northwest as Danville, VA.

          I am now going to speak a minor heresy: if you have never eaten NC Eastern BBQ before, you can always go to a grocery store and pick up some Murphy House BBQ, so you have a basic idea of what it is. It's kind of the McDonalds of BBQ, in that you know what you are getting and it is reasonably consistent.

          Good luck.

          8 Replies
          1. re: fussycouple

            Eastern Style BBQ doesn't exist west of I-95

            1. re: wb247

              Not true...Allen and Son serves eastern style in the Chapel Hill/Hillsborough area.

              1. re: carolinadawg

                sort of. Eastern sauce but shoulders instead of whole hogs.

                1. re: brokegradstudent

                  you can get whole hog at the pit in raleigh

              2. re: wb247

                This is NOT true....In Lexington, NC there are choices between both eastern and Lexington style...People come from all over the world to eat at Lexington BBQ....I prefer eastern and get eastern BBQ in Kernersville, NC at Prissy Polly's...not far off of I-40, about 4 hrs from Wilmington...(I used to live in Wilmington also) and the BBQ in that area does not compare to that in Lexington area and in Winston-Salem, Kernersville, etc

                1. re: CheriBthatsme

                  Where in Lexington can one get eastern style 'q?

                  1. re: NCHound

                    There was an eastern style place in Lexington a few years ago. I read about it in the N&O. Supposedly, people in town quit talking to the guy who opened it, and it only lasted a few months.

                  2. re: CheriBthatsme

                    Somehow I doubt they are cooking both whole-hog and shoulders, and keeping it all separate, in addition to other differences. I have a collection of sauces in my cabinet as well. That's not to say it isn't good, though!

              3. My favorite is Allen & Son, located in the Triangle area. (Highway 86, just north of I-40 between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill)

                1 Reply
                1. re: carolinadawg

                  Good call on Allen & Son! Excellent BBQ!

                  This would be about 30 minute drive from RDU airport going I-40 West.

                2. Unfortunately, you will probably be driving down I-40 from RDU to Wilmington. Not much in way of BBQ on I-40 except Smithfields Chicken & BBQ. Exit # 364 and 2 other exits that I dont remember the #'s. Its a chain in Eastern NC. With that said, the BBQ is good. I have heard that Jackson' Big Oak BBQ in Wilmington is OK but I have never eaten there. Maybe some of the Wilmywood hounds can chime in.

                  The real purist say that to be true BBQ must be cooked over wood vs gas. Its hard for me tell much difference.

                  I travel all over eastern NC and the most passionite followers are the ones who swear by B's in Greenville,NC. I have been by twice and the line was so long I gave up. That and Grady's in Dudley are two that I have not tried. I had it twice this week. Once at Ken's in La Grange and also at Smithfields in Warsaw. Might have to go get me some Country BBQ for lunch today in Greensboro.

                  1. Of all the ENC-style bbq I've tried, B's in Greenville is the best. I will always prefer Lexington style but I must say that B's is pretty tasty.

                    1. IMO, Allen and Sons, the one on route 86 north of Chapel Hill, is the best. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I think they are only open Thursday thru Sunday now. It's only about 25 minutes west of the airport if traffic is moving. You may also consider Stephenson's which is a couple of miles off of I-40 at exit 319, which is on the way to Wilmington.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Y Tu Mama Tambien

                        I don't think Allen & Son has ever been open on Sundays. I believe they are open Tuesday thru Saturday...not sure about Monday. They close early...8:00 PM, I think.

                        1. re: carolinadawg

                          Having eagerly driven to Allen & Son on a Monday I can confirm that it is closed on Mondays :(

                        2. re: Y Tu Mama Tambien

                          will give Stephensons a try. which direction off I-40 coming from Raleigh?

                        3. Stephenson's Barbecue in the Willow Springs / McGee's Crossroads area is only a couple of miles off I-40 and is very, very good. It is likely not the best Eastern NC barbecue, but it's the best I can think of between Raleigh & Wilmington.

                          1. a strong second on the Skylight Inn--as pure to tradition as a place could ever be--and they've been there longer than anyplace else--since the 1830's ! Very limited manu, but they do it right.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: KyMikey

                              I have been to the Skylight Inn in Ayden for the Q many years ago. I wasn't really that impressed with the Q or the restaurant. It seemed like the portions were small, too. Might have to give it another try.

                              1. re: webvanman

                                Portions are small and very limited menu, but last time I got carryout I ate it in the car cold the next day and it was STILL great, even without anything on it. A lot of these places that still cook over wood have to be grandfathered in for zoning safety reasons, so once they're gone or have to remodel, they may have to shift to gas or something else. So visit them while you can.

                            2. First post on the Chow boards, so go easy on me.

                              The best barbecue is cooked with wood (versus the electricity used by a growing number of joints), and so will the places I recommend:

                              Parker's in Wilson, NC
                              Wilber's in Goldsboro, NC
                              Moore's in New Bern, NC
                              The Skylight Inn, Ayden, NC

                              I know you didn't ask, but my favorite western joint without a doubt is Lexington Barbecue #1 in Lexington, NC. It's worth a trip, if you ever find yourself in the area.

                              P.S.: Totally forgot about B's--good call whoever said it.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: TetsujinWave

                                I agree about log burners being the best, but it is my understanding that both Parker's and Moore's have shifted to gas. There are hardly any log burners left in the eastern part of the state, which is a travesty.

                                There are a few more west or Raleigh for some reason but the art of cooking NC BBQ over wood is dying out.

                                1. re: TetsujinWave

                                  Lexington is worth a 3 hour trip IMO. It's the best BBQ I've ever had in my life.

                                2. I really like the Barbecue Hut in Fayetteville NC, very good Q and the hush pupies are great.

                                  1. A little-known spot for good ENC Q is Thig's, on Catherine Lake Road (NC 111) in Onslow County near Jacksonville. Friendly owners known far and wide for their barbecue and hospitality.

                                    1. I was at Allen and Sons this weekend and got to say, the BBQ is really good but the slaw and hush puppies are freaking amazing. By far the best cole slaw and hush puppies I've had.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Soup

                                        I couldn't agree more. The cole slaw at Allen & Son is pure peppery goodness, and when their deep fryer is at the right temp, the round hushpuppies are hard to beat. But I also think their BBQ is better than really good, probably the best I've had outside of Lexington.

                                          1. re: sweetmung

                                            Word freakin' up. I'm not a huge fan of slaw, but I love theirs, and the hush puppies? I made the mistake once of getting an order when I stopped to pick up an order of Q to take to the family up north, and I couldn't even wait til lunch time to eat 'em! They were so warm and sweet and onion-y. Yum!

                                            Also, on Grady's in Dudley...I was sad not to have liked them more than I did because they were so sweet and I love their little operation there. But the fact is that I just like Allen & Sons better!

                                          2. re: Soup

                                            Went to Allen & Sons for the first time after living in NC for five years and couldn't believe I waited that long! Great service, very good cue but as others have mentioned, FANTASTIC sides! Great cole slaw (and I'm usually not a big slaw fan), amazingly crispy hush puppies and great brunswick stew. I was way over-stuffed but still found room for the peach cobbler (but skipped the home-made ice cream). While I don't think they have the absolutely best que, they have amazingly good sides and desserts. If you're looking for the whole experience, I think Allen & Sons is a must-do when visiting the Triangle.

                                            Just my two cents...

                                          3. How is a visitor to the area supposed to get food from a mobile caterer? Do they have a cart set up regularly somewhere?

                                            In a pinch, Smithfield's is actually pretty good. It's a chain, but a local one.

                                            1. last week I had the opportunity to eat lunch at B's in Greenville, NC on Tue. and Bunn's in Windsor, NC, on Wed.
                                              I loved them both.
                                              B's was the best, the q was fresh and wonderful. The corn sticks were fresh out of the fryer and great. Really funky old building, just perfect, and you can walk around back and see the wood fired pit.
                                              Bunn's was a darn close second. I truly loved the old gas station (became Bunns bbq in 1938) and I ate at the counter in the ordering/serving area which was a blast. I loved their version of cornbread. It was thin and crunchy. You can actually get a bbq sandwich served on the cornbread, which I will do the next chance I get.
                                              You can't go wrong at either.

                                              16 Replies
                                              1. re: Tee

                                                Question: Did you see a wood pile at B's? Surely they need a big woodpile to run that wood fired pit.

                                                Ok, Ok...just kidding with you here. B's cooks with charcoal, not wood.

                                                1. re: JayL

                                                  I didn't see a wood pile so I guess you are right. I just looked in at the big pit. It is too late for me to edit my reply above so my error will be here forever.
                                                  At least there was smoke being exhausted by a fan from the pit out behind the main building, and no roof mounted metal kitchen exhaust scrubber like the gas burners use.
                                                  It was still IMHO some of the best q I have had in a while, and being an NC native and travelling all over the South I eat more than my share.

                                                  1. re: JayL

                                                    Isn't charcoal wood thats been burned? I'm not sure I understand the difference. I didn't realize any bbq restaurants used charcoal. Wouldn't that produce pretty much the same result as wood? Or at least it would be much better than gas?

                                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                                      jayl is correct as there is a difference between wood/charcoal/gas. My preference is hickory, then charcoal, and no, they are not the same. A true wood burner burns down the wood to embers and transfers it to the pit to cook, which is by far the best method.
                                                      Gas is verboten.
                                                      It would be highly hypocritical of me to say otherwise.
                                                      Foe example, I have a problem with The Rendezuous in Memphis BECAUSE they cook with charcoal.
                                                      jayl educated me by noting that indeed, I did not see a woodpile at B's, and that they cook with charcoal. However, their q is very good.
                                                      Is it traditional wood cooked q??
                                                      Go eat there and you decide.
                                                      As far as I am concerned, anytime I am within 100 miles of Greenville, I will go to B's. Charcoal be damned.

                                                      1. re: Tee

                                                        To my tastebuds, charcoal beats gas and wood beats charcoal. This is, of course, is a generalization. I've had some wood cooked barbecue that was really awful and some gas cooked stuff that was good roast pork. Good charcoal cooked barbecue can indeed be had at B's and at Charlie's Barbecue in Pelham, SC.

                                                        1. re: Hushpuppy

                                                          There is nothing wrong with charcoal. Traditional NC bbq isn't cooked with smoke or by indirect heat (as is the case with mose "stick burners"). Traditional NC bbq is cooked directly over coals (hardwood or charcoal) and most of the smoke it receives is from the fat incinerating on the coals below as it drips from the pig.

                                                          B's puts out some fine bbq...or so I've been told. I never once ate at B's even though I grew up 45 minutes from the place, and traveled to Greenville on a regular basis. Anytime we were in that area we detoured to Ayden and ate Pete's (the Skylight Inn).

                                                          1. re: JayL

                                                            JayL, you must eat at B's. We live in Raleigh and drive down at least twice a month to eat there.

                                                            And to the poster who said Bunn's in Windsor is a close second, you are correct. My wife's family is from there; we get "take home" bbq and a couple of bottles of sauce every time we go home to visit.

                                                            1. re: JayL

                                                              And here I sat thinking you must be a regular at B's ...,

                                                              1. re: Tee

                                                                Considering our drive from Raleigh, at least twice a month, I"d venture to guess we're more of regulars there than some folks who live closer and only go once a month or so.

                                                                Trust me, if we llved closer, I'd be there at least once or twice a week.

                                                                1. re: goodeatsinadive

                                                                  I actually was speaking to JayL as he seemed such the expert about B's.
                                                                  Twice a month makes you a regular in my book.

                                                                  1. re: Tee


                                                                    I seem to have irked you just a tad. If you'll simply look up to the first post I made in reply to you, you'll see that it clearly states, "just kidding with you..."

                                                                    Please don't take anything more from what I said other than being tongue in cheek.

                                                                    I'm no expert on B's...like I said, never eaten at the place. I do however know many people that LOVE B's and I do know how they cook.

                                                                    Incidentally, you mentioned that you don't like a particular Memphis place (a very famous one) because they cook with charcoal, but you like B's even though they do cook with charcoal. The reason for this is probably because the folks in Memphis tend to smoke instead of cooking the way we do in NC. Smoking (indirect heat) with charcoal will impart absolutely no flavor to the meat unless you throw some wood on there. When that wood is gone you have no more smoke. Cooking with charcoal in traditional NC manner will yield fine bbq.

                                                                    1. re: JayL

                                                                      No blood lost here JayL, but thanks.
                                                                      I lived in Memphis for several years and have eaten at just about every Memphis establishment.
                                                                      My problem with The Rendezvous (I know this is swerving off topic) using charcoal is that they cook ribs directly over charcoal, and they cook them too quickly. I have had too many tough and chewy slabs there. I believe in the low and slow method but they simply turn too many tables, and charcoal is their tradition, and many people love it . As I said, that's another topic.
                                                                      As to B's using charcoal, more power to them. If that is the reason their q is off the chart, then bring on the charcoal! Do try to darken the doorway sometime in your life, and btw, I fully agree with you about Bessingers in Charleston. I lived there too for 4 years and hated the q and the "ring".

                                                                      1. re: Tee

                                                                        Anyone that knocks B's for using charcoal doesn't know what they're talking about. It's excellent barbecue, and is one of the smokier cues in eastern NC, being smokier even than some places that cook with wood(or claim to). It is consistently more smoky than Jack Cobb's(and Bum's, if my one time eating there is indicative), and is often smokier than Pete Jones.

                                                        2. re: carolinadawg

                                                          No. BBQ over charcoal does not taste the same. If it's briquette, there is a marked difference. Natural lump charcoal or even pellets are closer to the wood kissed smoke flavor, but it's different.

                                                          I'm NC local and have a Barbecue Master blog (more grilling focused for people on home units), so I like the variations. The flavor variations are there though, so a wood burner restuarant does have a different note than a charocal.

                                                          1. re: CyndiA

                                                            Well, I doubt that I could tell the difference. I'll have to try B's sometime and see if I can.

                                                      2. re: Tee

                                                        After eating at most of these places I will take Bunn's in Windsor or all. The slaw is one of a kind sweet, musterdy and sour all at once.

                                                      3. Here's a same-day comparison from July 11, 2009 made between Grady's at lunch and Skylight Inn at dinner. Comments represent my own personal experiences, preferences, and opinions and are not meant to indicate absolute universal truths.

                                                        Summary: Grady's wins by a knockout in every possible category other than total seating capacity.

                                                        Grady's offers a wider menu choice, including chicken, a variety of sides, and desserts. Skylight gives you pork, slaw, and cornbread. Period. End of story, end of choices.

                                                        Grady's meat was chopped more coarsely, allowing more natural flavor and texture of the pig to come through. It was more pleasant to chew, with less "gloppiness" than Skylight. Both places included browned skin pieces in the overall mixture without needing a special request. Grady's skin was slightly crunchier and less fatty. Skylight included several pieces of pale strips that I'm hoping were fat rather than tripe. Either way, I felt they detracted from the taste and texture.

                                                        Grady's comes with a very light sprinkling of pepper flakes in the mix. Skylight doesn't. But Grady's charges $0.50 for sauce and Skylight has vinegar sauces on the table. The unmarked bottle of Skylight's sauce was too sweet for my tastes.

                                                        I thought Grady's slaw was perfect. Coarse-chopped cabbage and just the right blend of flavors so it wasn't too sweet or sour. Skylight's was blended or food processed into a baby food mush, it was an unappetizing dull yellow, and it was seriously oversweetened. I tried a few spoonfulls and threw away the rest.

                                                        Both restaurants serve you typical Eastern NC cornbread rather than hush puppies. I'll remove myself from this argument, as I hate all Eastern NC cornbread. Somebody needs to introduce them to the concept of light, fluffy, risen cornbread that floats on the tongue, rather than the compressed doughy teething accessories that have come to prominence in the state. Ugh. Grady's are served in little puppy-sized sticks. Skylight's is served in a slab form.

                                                        Both places have you order and pay at a counter. But Grady's has a server carry your food out to your table on platters. Skylight stacks your cardboard trays of meat and slaw above and below your slab of bread and slides them to you on a piece of paper. Balance it to your table on your own.

                                                        Service was fast at both establishments. Skylight has a 94.5 sanitation rating, Grady's has a 101.5! No complaints about cleanliness at either one.

                                                        I'd go back to Grady's. I wouldn't go back to Skylight.

                                                        Your mileage may vary.

                                                        PS: Grady's had a sign up announcing they are closed from July 12-21. Drivers beware!

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: klmonline

                                                          "Skylight included several pieces of pale strips that I'm hoping were fat rather than tripe."

                                                          Unless they've started butchering their own hogs, I highly doubt that it's tripe.

                                                          1. re: klmonline

                                                            I've never heard of Grady's before and couldn't find where they were mentioned previously on this thread.

                                                            A few questions.....Where are they located? Do they cook the whole pig? And are they a log burner?

                                                            1. re: brentk

                                                              Grady's is whole hog and cooks with wood. They're a few miles outside of Dudley, south of Goldsboro. It's supposed to be excellent, but if I'm down that way, the allure of Wilber's is too great. I actually tried to go to Grady's on a whim last Saturday after having Pete Jones for lunch, but I couldn't remember what road it was on at the time.

                                                              1. re: brentk

                                                                I found Grady's through a different thread on the South Board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/632607

                                                                The place doesn't have a website of its own, but here is a description:

                                                                If you are using MapQuest or a GPS device, enter the address by intersection rather than street number. Arrington Bridge Road and Sleepy Creek Road in Dudley. It's very convenient to... well, nothing. You have to be making a special trip to end up there.

                                                            2. While I grew up in Eastern NC, I have not eaten at Skylight, B's or even Ed Mitchell's when it was open in Wilson. I have eaten at Wilbur's though it has been some time and I had heard that their quality had taken a hit (maybe they switched their cooking methods). Though if you drive by at the right time with the windows rolled down.. the smell will make you turn around and go back. I also grew up around King's which is fair (but they do mail order business) and also the outsets of Parker's in Greenville, NC. Smithfield BBQ and Chicken has gotten better in quality. There use to be a Mitchell's in New Bern on HWY 17 South I believe... Ken's in LaGrange is supposedly good stuff as well. As many have said there isn't much if you are going from Raleigh to Wilmywood on I-40. There is Allen and Sons in Chapel Hill which I've had an liked. I've not had Dillards or Bullocks but have heard mixed things about them on other local blogs. I've had the Pit and it's not great shakes. They have great brisket and ribs in my opinion, but you can find better bbq for less money probably elsewhere. BBQ is a very personal thing with people here. Some will swear by Clyde Coopers as well which is in Raleigh.

                                                              As far as one poster pointed out about the menu comparisons between Grady's and Skylight.. Skylight for anyone that knows about it is known for only doing one simple menu (more or less) and also for chopping the skin into the pig. Also, anyone that does bbq will tell you the sauce doesn't make the Que.. the flavor of the meat makes the q.. sauce is just a condiment. That being said.. here is a link to a video about Skylight Inn


                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                Wilber's is as good as ever, and right up there with Pete Jones among top eastern style places.

                                                                1. re: Naco

                                                                  The large sandwich with slaw that Wilber's served up over the 4th of July vacation week was, bar-none, the best I've ever had there, and that after eating with Wilber for 35 years of some pretty fine sandwiches. (If yours is not up to snuff, add a bit of salt!)

                                                              2. You should given White Swann's in Dunn a chance. They have excellent Q and is right off 1-40 on to I-95 South from Wilmington. If you are in Fayetteville I would storngly suggest Pattersons BBQ on Person Street or Fullers BBQ on Eastern Blvd.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: bowserd

                                                                  Had skylight yesterday and it was particularly fabulous. Moist, slightly smoky and loaded with crunchy bits of skin. I don't think it Eastern NC barbecue gets any better. The slaw and sauce are a perfect combination of heat and sweetness. Unless you're a fan of canned vegetables, there is no reason to mess with other sides at a proper barbecue joint (which skylight doesn't serve anyway). I personally think their cornbread sucks, but some people enjoy it. Regardless, it is and should be about the meat.

                                                                  Regarding B's, if you haven't been their it is worth the trip. Charcoal or hickory coals aside, their barbecue is clean (no skin), moist, lightly smoky and delicious. They also barbecue a great chicken (dark meat reccommended) and have killer slaw. They will also serve ribs if you are lucky enough to get your hands on them.

                                                                2. More love for Bum's in Ayden! Not only amazing Q, but amazing veggies, too. I dream about their butter beans.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: kagi

                                                                    Bum's has the best collards and rutabagas I have ever had. They have great bar-b-q and banana pudding as well.

                                                                    Backyard Bar-Q in Durham is very good - on hwy 55 just off I-40. They are a wood burner as well.

                                                                    1. re: steveindurham3

                                                                      Finally got over to Bum's today.

                                                                      Barbecue: Okay. It comes too heavily sauced and has only the faintest hint of smoke to it, probably due to being over sauced.

                                                                      Collards: Good, but nothing special. The lack of homemade pepper vinegar for the collards is a big knock in my book. I really dislike Texas Pete's pepper vinegar. I will say that since Bum's uses cabbage collards, which are less musky than regular collards, it wasn't as big an issue for me as it normally would have been. But really, how hard is it to make some pepper sauce?

                                                                      Brunswick stew: Meh. Totally blown out of the water by Blackbeard's Brunswick stew.

                                                                      Fried chicken: Excellent. Juicy, crispy, and peppery. If you're here, try this.

                                                                      Cornpone: Excellent. Probably the best I've ever had. I gorged on this.

                                                                      Cornsticks: Okay, a little on the dry side. Overshadowed by the cornpone.

                                                                      Overall, I rate it as average. Pete Jones is literally down the street and has much better bbq if you're in Ayden. The best thing was the fried chicken, and good fried chicken isn't hard to find around here. Its main virtue is being open early in the week. On days when Blackbeard's is open and Bum's is open, I'd choose Blackbeard's every time.

                                                                  2. I grew up in eastern NC and often think back to eating pig cooked in a freshly dug pit under my grandfather's tobacco barn shelter. Pigs raised by him in a muddy barnyard in a manner today called organic free range with heirloom hogs. The meat on these pigs was superb.

                                                                    Things change. The taste of pork really started changing when the folks at the Pork Council went PC which ushered in the era of "The Other White Meat". This campaign led to leaner hogs designed to mollify the "food police" and has had an undeniable impact on pork BBQ.

                                                                    The BBQ I get these days reflects a series of changes that have occurred over several years. The new pork and new (gas) cooking methods have change the business and not necessarily for the better.

                                                                    It is not just the fact that many establishments changed to gas cookers. This was done mainly for economic reasons but also allows for tighter temperature control which is more forgiving and necessary given the fact that true wood pit-masters are a dying breed. Gas cooked meat is more consistent but this consistency doesn't translate into better taste. Let's face though. Not too many young people want to get up at 3:30 AM, 5-7 days a week to make a living wood cooking hogs.

                                                                    To go back to traditional methods will not only require a new force of trained wood cooking experts it will also require a step back to traditional hog farming, higher production costs, consumer acceptance of "fatter" hogs (this does not mean greasier meat). Fat is flavor and when cooked properly will self baste and moisten the meat. This change would also drive up restaurant costs. The big question for me; Would enough customers recognize the difference and accept paying higher prices for the experience? Most readers here would I'm almost certain. But would enough of the rest demand the same to encourage someone to invest in such a venture. Such a venture would likely require the restaurateur to become vertically integrated. In other words to be responsible for the pig throughout the supply chain, from the farm all the way to the table.

                                                                    The bottom line for me is the biggest change in BBQ is not gas cooking alone. The biggest changes stem from the current commercial hog breeding operations which are simply producing leaner, less flavorsome meat to start with.

                                                                    Someone take me back to the real stuff please.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Bluemold

                                                                      Similar evolution of beef. The food police called for leaner and leaner beef over the years until you could only find USDA "Select" (translate: inedible) in the stores. Then the stores started to see their sales decline because no one wanted that shoe leather, so they started slowly bringing back USDA Choice grade (although some of it barely makes the grade). It will take several generations of breeding to bring back the good stuff, if they can do it at all. Another problem, as you mentioned, is that younger folks don't know what they missed and think the leaner meats is all there is. Pity.

                                                                      Good Stuff
                                                                      1209 Westover Hills Blvd, Richmond, VA 23225

                                                                    2. All in one day-all within six hours.
                                                                      Never had Eastern-style before this day last October.
                                                                      Dined alone-mostly take-out.
                                                                      What I ate-how I rate 'em
                                                                      First stop-Parker's (Wilson) Very little smoke.Easily my least favorite.Won't return
                                                                      Second- B's (Greenville) Excellent chicken and sandwich.Definitely will return.
                                                                      Third- Bum's (Ayden) Excellent pork.Real good fried chicken & sides.Will return.
                                                                      Fourth- Skylight (Ayden) Very good sandwich.I'd go back to Bum's before Skylight.
                                                                      Fifth- Grady's (Dudley) Excellent sandwich.Can't wait to return.Very nice folks.
                                                                      Sixth- Wilber's (Greensboro) OK sandwich.Of course by this time I'm pretty porked
                                                                      out.Not that impressed.

                                                                      Finished my BBQ tour with a stop at Sweatman's in Holly Hill,SC for a real good sandwich and some fine ribs.SC mustard-style.Although the 'Q at B's,Bum's and Grady's were very good-even excellent,I'd have to say that Eastern NC-style 'Q is not my fave.In a silly and,ultimately, moot rating of US BBQ that I've tried,I'd rate 'em this way:
                                                                      1)Texas 'Q.Brisket and sauasage,sure.But also the best pork ribs I've had were from Cooper's in Llano.Consistently good food at every stop.
                                                                      2)Memphis.Ribs,sandwiches and don't forget that smoked bird from Cozy Corner.
                                                                      3)Lexington-style NC
                                                                      4)Mississippi.Mostly like Memphis-style.Not dry ribs.
                                                                      5)Kansas City.Only been to Bryant's and Gates.Need a further search.
                                                                      6)Eastern-style NC
                                                                      Haven't tried Kentucky yet.Places like Ridgeland in TN,Archibald's in Northport,AL and Dreamland in Tuscaloosa are all good but don't fall into a style really.
                                                                      Just one man's opinion.
                                                                      So much 'Q.So little time.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: rockbound

                                                                        Impressive taste tests, all in six hours!

                                                                        1. re: rockbound

                                                                          Nice list...as an fyi to anyone reading it, Wilber's is in Goldsboro, not Greensboro.

                                                                        2. I think Wilber's near Goldsboro is one of the best places for true eastern NC BBQ. They cook whole pigs with wood. But, if you really want the best in Eastern Style BBQ, it's got to be PigMasters - a catering outfit. I attended an event they catered for Garrison Keilor and the prairie home companion and it knocked my socks off!

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Qquest

                                                                            Not to dispute your opinion, but I find it hard to believe that 2 lawyers from Greensboro are producing the best eastern style BBQ in NC. Better than Skylight, B's, Blackbeards, etc?

                                                                            1. re: Cdawg123

                                                                              I know that this is a year late, but I'm so glad someone mentioned Blackbeard's. I live in Durham and think nothing beats Allen & Sons, but Blackbeard's comes close. We're heading to Topsail tomorrow, and I'm thinking we'll need to stop in Goldboro for Wilber's. It's been on my list for ages, but never seemed to have the time to go.

                                                                              1. re: ksherk

                                                                                Wilber's is very good...not as good as A&S or Skylight, but worth a visit.

                                                                                In regard to Blackbeard's, I think the credit for bringing it to this site belongs to Naco.

                                                                          2. I have to add a belated vote for SteveInDurham's shoutout for Backyard BBQ on Route 55 in Durham ...

                                                                            Am HUGE fan of Eastern NC BBQ but had not been down there for a long time (used to come visit late SIL in Greenville and/or travel to the RDU area for work). New job brought me back to Cary for a few days and BBQ was tops on my agenda.

                                                                            Backyard BBQ was recommended (I wasn't looking for anyplace I could eat in, just to pick up some takeout). I'd been sitting out in the 95 degrees and sun from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and could barely walk but staggered onto the line out the door there. When it was my turn to order and I asked for pulled pork, the guy had to break the news to me that they were out, but they had pulled turkey BBQ. Never heard of it but said what the heck (oh, and a rack of ribs please?).

                                                                            Seriously, maybe the best thing I have EVER eaten. Tender, juicy, didn't even need sauce. Slightly spicy. I will kill for that recipe. And the ribs were great too. I would go back there in a heartbeat (and am pleased to know that my job will probably entail more trips to Cary in the coming months. Hello, my friends at Backyard BBQ!!!)

                                                                            Also, wondering if any of you Greenville-area folks know when Buddy's in Grifton closed? That was always my go-to place when I visited my SIL (they lived in Stokes and we'd go there on our way to Kinston Indians games).

                                                                            Finally. ... If you're still reading LOL ... am coming down to Emerald Isle with my family for a week and if anyone can recommend a great Eastern BBQ place within, say, a half-hour's drive from there I would be much obliged. I guess New Bern fits the bill? Swansboro? Beaufort? Morehead City? Anything. Must. Have. More. BBQ.

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: PamelaMaeSnap

                                                                              Not any good 'q in the EI area that I'm aware of. How are you getting there? If you're driving down from Raleigh, you'll go right by Wilbur's in Goldsboro, which has excellent eastern style 'q.

                                                                              1. re: PamelaMaeSnap

                                                                                Moore's in New Bern is great. One of my top 5.

                                                                                I had a BBQ sandwich at Big Oak Drive-In the other day (about 10-15 min from Emerald Isle), it was pretty good, but not spectacular.

                                                                                What direction are you coming from, tons of great places along the way if you are headed to EI from the west. Wilbur's and Ken's are my favorite.

                                                                                1. re: SittingOnAMtnTop

                                                                                  Thank you SO much for the tip on Moore's, definitely planning to venture into New Bern's one afternoon/evening. Unfortunately, re: the trip there (and back), will be limited to whatever goodies I pack into a cooler and can eat at rest stops ... a car filled with three people and two dogs, driving to/from the DC area, and both times driving primarily at night due to hubby's work schedule (LEAVING house at about 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, doubt we'd find anything open even if we could leave the dogs for a few minutes ... they're just getting to know each other, though, so planning/hoping to find a pleasant rest stop somewhere before it gets dark with a bench to eat, stretch and walk the pups.

                                                                                  Any other recs for ANYPLACE good within half hour of EI would be awesome. I'm the BBQ fan. We're all foodies. And winies. Anywhere on the Crystal Coast, Morehead City, Beaufort (not the Grocery simply because we had one of the most awful dinners of our life there -- not foodwise, just experientially, nothing to do with the place except bad associations LOL) or Swansboro? WON'T bring the dogs to dinner (unless it's pet friendly).

                                                                                  Thanks all ... hope I can start giving back to Chowhound for all it's helped us over the years!

                                                                                  1. re: PamelaMaeSnap

                                                                                    Do a search and you'll find lots of suggestions for Beaufort and Morehead City. I like Aqua and Blue Moon Bistro. El's and Big Oak have great shrimp burgers.

                                                                                    1. re: PamelaMaeSnap

                                                                                      I had a great meal at Stillwater the last time I was in Beaufort. My husband had the shrimp & grits and I had the airline chicken, we both really liked our entrees as well as the fried green tomato appetizer. We sat at one of the tables overlooking the water, overall it was a really nice meal.

                                                                                2. You can't beatt a White Swan BBQ Sandwich with slaw.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: RandyLong

                                                                                    Does White Swan cook with electricity or gas?

                                                                                  2. I was in Greenville a few weeks ago and had the pleasure of having lunch at B's. I thought their bbq and chicken were fantastic. I brought cue, chicken and slaw home for dinner too.

                                                                                    Last Friday I had lunch at Allen & Son (Hwy 86 north of Chapel Hill location). I had not been there for a long time and had read all sorts of raves on this board. I thought their cue was very good, but not nearly as good as B's.

                                                                                    1. Sorry all, but Traditional Carolina Q is hickory smoked. That helps impart the flavor that is so tantalizing!
                                                                                      I have found that hickory along with some fruit tree branches, apple and peach preferred, makes the best and sweetest meat!

                                                                                      1 Reply