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

j
Jeffo405 Jan 20, 2010 06:19 PM

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.

Thanks!

  1. j
    Jeffo405 Jan 30, 2010 12:11 PM

    A quick recap of my experiences. Went to The Pit for dinner #1. Good (and truly wonderful service), but nothing to write home about. Went to Allen & Son for dinner #2, and discovered it closes REALLY early (at least it did on the Wednesday I went there). Got there a little after 7:00 and it was dark, the parking lot empty.

    I called Ole Time BBQ, but they close at 8 and I knew I wouldn't make it there much earlier than 7:50, so that was out. So I checked OpenTable on my iPhone and decided to try Jibarra. Not BBQ, but it sounded interesting. It was - really worth a trip if you haven't been.

    I also had lunch at Smokey's Shack in Morrisville. I've heard that they're a little unconventional and decided to try their ribs - which I found quite tasty - dry run, obviously cooked the right way, and the sauce was nice.

    I hope to be back to give Allen & Son a try - much earlier in the day!!!

    Thanks to everyone who provided suggestions and guidance. Please let me know if your travels take you to the Pacific Northwest.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jeffo405
      l
      livvyliv10 Jan 30, 2010 06:20 PM

      If you ever go back to the Pit, you have to get the ribs! I've had their chopped pork, and it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't wonderful either. I also love their banana pudding -- a fancier take on the traditional, but delicious. My husband and I are rib people so the Pit is worth the trip just for those.

      1. re: Jeffo405
        b
        bbqme Jan 30, 2010 07:52 PM

        I highly recommend the desserts at Allen and Son too. The cobblers and pies are really good and made on premises.

      2. w
        Westy Jan 29, 2010 09:51 AM

        Not as popular, and really not NC style, but Smoky's in Morrisville is very good.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Westy
          meatn3 Jan 29, 2010 03:24 PM

          I've only been there once, but it was really tasty! Their hours are a little limited IIRC, mainly lunch I think.

          1. re: Westy
            b
            bbqme Jan 30, 2010 07:49 PM

            Hear hear! My rec is to go to Allen &Son for NC style que and Smokey's Shack for ribs (smoked wings are yummy too). For brisket, go to Q Shack-- the original one in Durham.

          2. meatn3 Jan 24, 2010 08:53 PM

            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
              j
              jsb23nc Jan 26, 2010 08:40 PM

              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
                meatn3 Jan 27, 2010 04:17 AM

                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
                  b
                  burgeoningfoodie Jan 27, 2010 05:03 AM

                  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
                    m
                    mikeh Jan 29, 2010 09:44 AM

                    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
                      t
                      Tom from Raleigh Jan 29, 2010 08:09 PM

                      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

              2. m
                mikeh Jan 22, 2010 03:44 PM

                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
                  j
                  Jeffo405 Jan 22, 2010 05:00 PM

                  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. c
                  countgrog Jan 22, 2010 06:03 AM

                  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
                    h
                    HopDevil Jan 22, 2010 08:28 AM

                    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
                      j
                      JoanInNC Jan 23, 2010 09:46 AM

                      Do these three places cook over wood?

                      1. re: JoanInNC
                        Suzy Q Jan 23, 2010 05:47 PM

                        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
                          j
                          JoanInNC Jan 24, 2010 08:04 AM

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

                          1. re: JoanInNC
                            Suzy Q Jan 24, 2010 12:43 PM

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

                    2. carolinadawg Jan 21, 2010 02:25 AM

                      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
                        t
                        Tom from Raleigh Jan 21, 2010 05:42 AM

                        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 ncbbqsociety.com for a map of other spots. I'm not sure what their criteria are, tho.

                        1. re: Tom from Raleigh
                          j
                          JoanInNC Jan 21, 2010 04:42 PM

                          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
                            j
                            Jeffo405 Jan 21, 2010 10:20 PM

                            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
                              carolinadawg Jan 22, 2010 01:49 AM

                              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
                                f
                                fussycouple Jan 22, 2010 03:12 AM

                                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
                                  carolinadawg Jan 22, 2010 03:47 AM

                                  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
                                    j
                                    JoanInNC Jan 23, 2010 09:44 AM

                                    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
                                      Bluemold Jan 26, 2010 06:03 PM

                                      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
                                      l
                                      LBD Jan 22, 2010 12:42 PM

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

                                      1. re: LBD
                                        j
                                        JoanInNC Jan 23, 2010 09:46 AM

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

                                      2. re: Jeffo405
                                        t
                                        Tom from Raleigh Jan 27, 2010 06:42 AM

                                        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
                                          j
                                          Jeffo405 Jan 27, 2010 07:01 AM

                                          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!

                                          Thanks!

                                          1. re: Jeffo405
                                            m
                                            mikeh Jan 29, 2010 09:49 AM

                                            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. b
                                  BustedFlush Jan 20, 2010 08:05 PM

                                  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
                                    j
                                    Jeffo405 Jan 20, 2010 08:10 PM

                                    Thanks, BustedFlush - dives are my favorites!

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