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A&M Grill or Allen and Son?

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I am heading out to the Chapel Hill area soon, and have basically narrowed it down to A&M Grill in Mebane or Allen and Son in Chapel Hill. So 'hounds, where does your vote lie?

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  1. My vote is for Allen and Son, but in fairness I've never been to A&M Grill. For me, there's no reason to go anywhere other than Allen and Son.

    1. Another vote for Allen & Son but I would note that BBQ freezes well, so you might want to get some to go from each place to do an at home comparison. I don't care for A&M's sauce so my recommendation is to ask them to put the sauce on the side.

      1. Allen and Son. Whenever I go, it's either really good or amazing.

        The one time I went to A&M, I got surly service and boring barbecue.

        1. I may be one of the few that doesn't think that Allen & Sons is all that and a plate of hushpuppies. Mind you, I think they do a damn fine Q, but I do not buy into the mythology that theirs is the only barbecue in the world worthy of the name.
          The only thing worth ordering at A&M is the barbecue. The rest of their food is not particularly good. The last time I was there was in November and I didn't feel that the Q was as good as it had been in the past. That may have been an off day or it may be their quality has dropped off. When they're good, they're very good.
          The styles of the two places are different. If you have the time try both and decide for yourself which you like. Don't let the Q Cops convince you there is only one barbecue you're allowed to like.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rockycat

            For the record, I like lots of different kind of bbq...A&S, Lexington #1, Jot 'em Down in Athens, GA, Sprayberry's in Newnan, GA, etc, etc. However, as you say, A&S is damn fine, and may be my favorite.

            I really think you're engaging in a bit of odd hyperbole when you say things like "I do not buy into the mythology that theirs is the only barbecue in the world worthy of the name" and "Don't let the Q Cops convince you there is only one barbecue you're allowed to like." I don't recall anyone ever saying either of those things on Chowhound. I know I haven't. You seem to have a bee in your bonnet about something, but I have no idea what it is.

            1. re: fussycouple

              I haven't been to Allen and Son, but the Pit's barbecue is one of the more smoky iterations out there. Very good, but definitely a heavier smoke flavor than you'll get virtually anywhere in eastern NC. Weak sides, too.

          2. I'm a huge fan of both places. I'd say we eat at the two with about the same frequency. They're two different styles of cue. Neither is purely Lexington or Eastern but A&M is more Lexington and A&S is more Eastern. On a good day (or in a good part of the pig), each can be sublime. Catch it at a bad time, each can be meh.

            If I were in your shoes, I'd be sorely tempted to have a half meal at each (I-40 makes it so there are maybe 5 turns to go from one to the other) and decide for myself which is better.

            1. I personally don't like A&M Grill despite really wanting to. I find their pink slaw to be absolutely disgusting when paired with the BBQ and the particular sauce they use with the pork. It creates a very odd aftertaste in the mouth. I think they'd get higher marks in my book if they just went with the tried-and-true traditional finely minced slaw and taste like you find at the Lexington, NC joints.

              1. My grandfather had the ultimate barbecue restaurant in the state many years ago -- Rollins Barbecue in Wilmington -- so all barbecue gets measured against that standard in my book. Allen & Son ranks at the bottom of the heap -- I've been several times and the Q is tough, the bread stale, the slaw candy-sweet, and the service surly. A&M usually has very good barbecue, moist, hickory smoked, tender, and perfectly flavored with the vinegar sauce + a little optional red sauce on top. I would recommend them if you are choosing between the two.

                1 Reply
                1. re: dianafoot

                  You are aware that there are 2 Allen & Son restaurants, with no ownership or management connection? One south of Chapel Hill near Pittsboro, and one near Hillsborough. Given that my many vistas to the Hillsborough location have all been nothing like what you describe, I have to wonder if your visits were to the Pittsboro location.

                2. I prefer A&M. Allen & Son is good with great desserts. However, it's expensive for barbecue and soft drinks don't get free refills. Every time I go back, I like it less and less. A&M is always a bargain and I prefer the sides.

                  1. I'm not quite yet a que expert but I do enjoy A&S quite a bit. I sort of agree that their que may not be the best but it's very good and everything else they serve makes it worth the trip. From the crunchy hushpuppies, light and crisp slaw to the brunswick stew, yummy! I wouldn't bother with the french fries or beans though. And their desserts are to die for, I've done the peach cobbler and banana pudding, great stuff. The service has always been good for me and the interior is country-cute.

                    Not to say that A&M Grill couldn't be awesome too but A&S is definitely worth the trip. Plus it's only about 5 miles north of downtown CH. And not too far from A&S is the Kitchen too, great French bistro.

                    1. Another vote for Allen & Son. I like their extra smokiness, that's what makes it barbeque and not...roast pork. While I understand the point about less smoke allows one to enjoy the pork flavor more, this directly contradicts the notion that industrialized pork production has greatly reduced the flavor of pork. The only place I know of in the area using pastured whole hogs is The Pit but from his appearance on Man Vs. Food it looks like Ed Mitchell cooks with charcoal and wood chips/pellets, not pure hardwood embers. I've tried his pork and wasn't that impressed. I liked his ribs a lot better, although they are fall-of-the-bone tender. I like mine to have a little bit of chew. I will agree that there is less consistency when cooking with hardwood compared to gas or charcoal but well worth the trade-off in flavor IMO.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bbqme

                        Traditionally, the wood is burned down to embers anyway, so the difference in flavor between commercial charcoal and logs-burned-down-to-embers is fairly minimal. I will say that I know for a fact that B's Barbecue here in Greenville uses charcoal, and The Pit's barbecue was better and had a more complex smokiness to it. Eastern NC barbecue should have a relatively light smoke flavor, compared to other styles.

                        I really liked The Pit's barbecue, even if everything else was subpar. One odd thing that I noticed there, and it probably sets you up for failure if you're not from North Carolina, is that there are both "pulled pork" and "chopped barbecue" options. The "pulled pork" is apparently just big, tender strings of shoulder meat. "Chopped barbecue" is the authentic dish- mixed whole hog. Since it seems as though most people, even barbecue nerds, from outside of NC refer to our barbecue as "pulled pork", I suspect that a lot of people who visit The Pit are not getting real, authentic eastern NC barbecue. I really wish they didn't cave on this whole "pulled pork" thing.

                        Also, both of the Pit's sauces are weird and not traditional. Luckily, the barbecue on my visit came out perfectly seasoned and not needing anything else.