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Jan 20, 2010 06:19 PM

Not-to-be-missed BBQ in and around Raleigh

I'm headed to Raleigh for a couple of days and am really just looking for good - no, make that great - barbecue. (I had enough "fine cuisine" during a recent trip to NYC.)

I'm willing to drive a bit (30 minutes or so. I'll be staying near the airport.

Please provide suggestions or point me to the appropriate thread.


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  1. My favorite is a place in Durham called Hog Heaven. (Just FYI they aren't open Sunday.)

    Next would be the BBQ Lodge on Capital Blvd in Raleigh.

    Both are pretty much dives, absolutely nothing fancy. If you do make it to Hog Heaven be sure to try the chicken and dumplings - fantabulous.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BustedFlush

      Thanks, BustedFlush - dives are my favorites!

    2. The best bbq in the Raleigh area, imo, is Allen and Son, on Hwy. 86 between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. Its just a couple of miles off I-40, about 20 minutes or so from the airport.

      13 Replies
      1. re: carolinadawg

        1. Allen & Son in on Hwy. 86
        2. The Pit in Raleigh. BBQ served on a white table clothes with adult beverages. Not a dive, but don't hold that against them.

        These are my two favorites. IMO, unless they cook over wood, it's not real 'Q.

        You can also check out for a map of other spots. I'm not sure what their criteria are, tho.

        1. re: Tom from Raleigh

          I also vote for Allen & Son and The Pit - and against BBQ Lodge. I thought it was nasty and couldn't finish it. :-(

          1. re: JoanInNC

            Thanks for all of the replies. It looks like we actually have consensus, something that doesn't happen all that often on these boards!

            Last question: I usually go for ribs, but my limited understanding of NC BBQ leads me to believe that this might be the wrong choice. Any suggestions of what to order at both Allen & Son and The Pit are appreciated!

            1. re: Jeffo405

              Anything but the ribs at A&S. Get a plate with chopped pork, brunswick stew and slaw and you'll be happy.

              1. re: Jeffo405

                Sorry, no consensus. Allen & Sons does not represent my notion of the pinnacle (or any semblance thereof) of NC Eastern BBQ restaurants, neither for their actual BBQ or the other food you can get there. I think you'd be much better off reading a few of the vast BBQ threads, then taking the time to drive to Ayden or something.

                The Pit is fine, but as a restaurant in no ways resembles the classic Eastern NC BBQ restaurant: it's large and fancy and after several episodes with issues with getting hushpuppies and biscuits I quit going except to help other folks try the place out. OtoH you can't fault Mr. Mitchell and his dedication to his specialty grown pastured pigs -- the pig is good there, including ribs.

                Minor digression: When I was a child, there were never ribs served with a BBQ'ed pig, because the cookers ate them all mid-day after we turned the pig skin side down.

                1. re: fussycouple

                  Nobody ever said A&S represents the pinnacle of eastern NC bbq. And the OP made it clear he (she?) is looking for bbq within 30 minutes of RDU. One would have to drive pretty fast to get to Ayden from RDU in 30 minutes.

                  1. re: fussycouple

                    Ummmm, so who said A&S and The Pit represent Eastern NC BBQ? :-) I don't like whole hog style (no "veins in my teeth," please), and these two places allow me to avoid the Eastern stuff. Just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

                    1. re: fussycouple

                      Agree with you 100% on The Pit. I have both food and non-food issues here. To be fair, The Pit is trying to take BBQ to another price point compared to a typical BBQ joint and it might work in a high-end price point area like Raleigh or a larger city. I suppose it is a fair choice for an unsuspecting out-of-towner, not familiar with the traditional BBQ scene. However, there are other/better choices in Raleigh (Clyde Coopers) and in nearby Chapel Hill (Allen & Sons). These two places offer quality food served in the typical NC BBQ fashion.

                    2. re: Jeffo405

                      I like Allen & Son's Q. I have not heard good things about their ribs. The fries are awful.

                      1. re: LBD

                        Agreed - avoid the fries. You'll be able to eat more of the REALLY good stuff.

                      2. re: Jeffo405


                        I hope you have a great time in the Triangle. Here's my advice on ordering:
                        At Allen & Son, I would order the Q plate with Brunswick stew and whatever other side suited my mood.
                        At The Pit, I would order a double combo with the eastern-style Q and the dry rub ribs, along with a tasty beer from one of the many craft breweries they support. Or a triple combo...
                        BTW, I'd make a reservation for The Pit, just to be safe.

                        1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                          Thanks, Tom! I went to The Pit last night. I had selected it because I knew I would be arriving later than the other places would be open. I wish I had had your advice about what to order! I got their chopped plate - which was good, but I still prefer ribs! Your combo suggestion would have provided that.

                          I plan on going to Allen & Son tonight (the one on Millhouse, right?). I'll go with your suggestion, but I'm missing ribs! What other sides do you recommend at A&S?

                          Also, any good lunch places within 10 minutes or so of RDU? I'm staying near the airport and want something good and local!


                          1. re: Jeffo405

                            If you're still missing ribs after having A&S's chopped pork with brunswick stew and slaw (the "combo plate"), then there's no hope for you!

                2. My favorite is Holy Smokes off 401 between Raleigh and Garner.
                  Also like Olde Time BBQ on Hillsbourgh Street
                  Clyde Cooper BBQ

                  I did not enjoy my first trip to the Pit more because of the upscaleness of the place but plan to go back this weekend to give it another shot.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: countgrog

                    I think Back Yard BBQ Pit has the best Eastern-style barbecue in the Triangle. The original location is in Durham on NC 55 near the intersection with NC 54. They have a second location on Guess Road in Durham.

                    1. re: countgrog

                      Do these three places cook over wood?

                      1. re: JoanInNC

                        I must be the only person in the world who can't tell that much difference from BBQ cooked over wood or cooked over gas.

                        Not quite BBQ, but a common and yummy side, is Brunswick Stew. I swear I think that some of the best in town is at Smithfield's.

                        1. re: Suzy Q

                          We like Smithfield's brunswick stew, too! But not their barbecue.

                          1. re: JoanInNC

                            Nope, the BBQ is nothing too special. The fried chicken's not bad, though, if you get it while it's fresh.

                    2. First, just for a bit of NC BBQ 101 - we don't do ribs here. It's not our thing. Ribs are done in many other southern states, but in NC it's all about the chopped pork (either whole hog eastern-style NC or pork shoulder western-style). Ordering ribs in any NC bbq restaurant, even the top ones, would be like ordering Steak Diane in a Chinese restaurant.

                      so now that that's out of the way, the best BBQ in the Triangle area is Allen & Son. I lived in the Triangle for 3.5 years and ate BBQ every week, literally. I tried all the places. Allen & Son is by far the best, in my opinion. Added bonus that Keith Allen starts the process at 2 a.m. every morning and chops his own hickory logs. That's devotion, and a loyalty to a time-honored technique that most places just to muster anymore. His style straddles east and west styles - it's not as vinegary as eastern, but not as "dark" as western. He uses pork shoulders, like western.

                      Second place is The Pit, but that's more traditional eastern-style. To get the best eastern style, you have to drive 115 miles from Raleigh. Not worth it when you can get Allen & Son.

                      I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently moved there. Allen & Son is good enough that when I return to NC for a vacation (and I will), it will be in my top three meals across any genre to revisit.

                      Out-of-towner tip: don't go to the "Allen&Son" south of Chapel Hill on highway 15-501. They aren't associated with the original owner and use gas. Go to the one just north of Chapel Hill on state highway 86, a couple of miles north of I-40's exit 266.

                      oh, and as for Durham's Hog Heaven? I give it a 2 out of 5. I couldn't even taste the smoky flavor (not that I like a lot of smokey flavor, but the best NC bbq places deftly incorporate its essence while not letting it overpower the meat). Does Hog Heaven even use wood?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mikeh

                        mikeh - thanks for the tip. Others have recommended Allen & Son, so that's where I will head. BTW, I grew up in the Bay Area (Martinez). Back then, Emil Villa's Hickory Pit was what passed for "barbecue." At the time, I didn't think it was half bad. I've been away for a long time now. I imagine there are many better (or at least more authentic) places!

                      2. The Barbecue Joint in Chapel Hill is seldom mentioned, which is a shame.

                        While I like the BBQ better at Allen & Sons, the Joint has the most amazing sides. On a recent visit you could order 3 sides for $8 iirc. The fried squash was the best I've ever had - crisp, no speck of grease, and full of flavor. Brussel sprouts with bacon and garlic were great, but you better love garlic if you order them! We had differing opinions on the baked beans. I thought they were decent, my SO thought they were great. Plates are served with nice homemade pickles too.

                        We went for the 'que, but we'll go back to try the duck, the venison and the eggplant muffaletta! The crab cake sandwich looked fantastic too.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: meatn3

                          See. again with the Barbecue Joint and sides. Not to be dismissive, but the poster wanted to know aobut the barbecue. The BBQ Joint folks always talk about the sides. But, people want to judge barbecue by the barbecue.

                          1. re: jsb23nc

                            I know a few people who think The BBQ Joint has the best barbecue around. I stated that I differ in that subjective opinion.Their BBQ is much better than BBQ Lodge, not as good as Allen & Sons. I wrote about the sides because that is an aspect of the experience that The BBQ Joint surpasses every other BBQ place in the area.

                            Not real sure where the "again" is coming from. On this board you have to look hard to find a mention of this place - another reason I felt it should be thrown into the mix. The poster now has more information and a fuller picture of area offerings.

                            1. re: jsb23nc

                              I think that is just how some people base the overall experience. If the Q is mediocre but the sides are great than it's like a compliment to the Q and can make it a much better experience than some place where the Q is great but the sides (which are usually more filling and plentiful than the Q itself) are horrible. Not my opinion but just trying to shed some additional light on why people include sides.

                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                also, where so many times (especially in NC as opposed to GA and SC for some reason), Southern places tend to cook veggies straight out of cans instead of using a fresh product, it's refreshing when a place like BBQ Joint has a wide array of Southern sides and cooks them from scratch. Only a few casual places in the Triangle take the time to do that.

                                1. re: mikeh

                                  I don't think of the BBQ Joint as a BBq restaurant, rather I think of it as a local place with a good menu that serves Q Their Brussells Sprouts with Bacon is rock solid