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Allen and Sons or Bullocks?

If you have time for only one restaurant which one would you choose and why. We are visiting next week for the first time and have virtually every meal planned and have heard nothing but praise about Allen and then recently we have gotten some positive feedback about Bullocks.

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  1. Allen and Sons, as long as you're referring to the one on old-86 north of Chapel Hill. Better BBQ and a more traditional atmosphere.

    1. Allen and Sons (on old 86). Slightly out of the way, making the barbecue ever so awesome when the plate arrives. More intimate and less of a "institution." A+ barbecue when it's firing on all cylinders. Great Brunswick stew. Just make sure they don't nuke your dessert.

      That said, Bullocks deserves support and love, too.

      1. Definitely Allen and Son (as noted by mpjmph, the one on Hwy 86 b'tween Chapel Hill and Hillsborough). Outstanding 'q, far superior to Bullocks.

        3 Replies
        1. re: CharlotteChowhound

          Just to make sure our visitor is perfectly clear, Allen & Sons is on NC 86. There is another road called "old 86" but it isn't a state route. If you follow "old 86" trying to find Allen & Sons you won't. Follow NC 86 north out of Chapel Hill and go about 5 miles. It will be on your left.


          1. re: d.v

            Oops... That was a brain fart on my part, thanks for catching it :)

            1. re: mpjmph

              ha! I just copied what mpjmph put! (for the location!). Thanks as well.

        2. Bullock's has some good dishes, though I don't go there for the Q.

          1. If you like "smokey" tasting bbq, then you want Allen & Sons. If you are like me, and do not like overly smoked food of any kind, then you might want to try Bullocks. Bullocks has better "other stuff" without question.

            9 Replies
            1. re: fussycouple

              If there's no smoke, its just roasted pork, not bbq. And I hope no one goes to A&S to order "other stuff", whatever that might be.

              1. re: CharlotteChowhound

                Does anyone really like Allen and Sons fries?

                1. re: LBD

                  This one guy named Jake Randalhouser did, back in 1985.

                2. re: CharlotteChowhound

                  I didn't say "no smoke", I said theirs was "overly smoked". I've been cooking whole hogs for over 40 years, and I learned from my father and my grandfather. We always cooked our hogs over the embers from a wood fire which only consists of dried hickory or white oak. Shoveling embers from the burn barrel to under the pig was one of my first jobs. The reason you do this is to minimize the "smoke" flavor of the pig, which was one of the consistent objectives of the old time pit masters. The sign of a well cooked hog was one in which you primarily taste the meat, not the smoke.

                  Since 1975, I see more and more people who think that "smoke" = "bbq" which just ain't necessarily so. I realize that this is probably an irreducible conflict -- partly because of the nationalization of food tastes along with everything else. Smoke figures more heavily in a number of other styles, but smoke on Eastern North Carolina Pork Barbecue is not an historical imperative.

                  1. re: fussycouple

                    A&S bbq is not so smokey that you can't taste the meat. And Bullock's 'q is just plain bad, imo.

                    1. re: CharlotteChowhound

                      I don't go to Bullock's for BBQ either. Their "other stuff" - meaning their sides - are very good.

                    2. re: fussycouple

                      Wow, one of the things I've always liked about A&S's bbq is that the smokey flavor is not pervasive or overpowering. It provides a nice undertone to the meat, but you taste the pork flavor and the beautiful spices and the carmelization all over the underlying smoke.

                      I've had a lot of BAD overly smoked BBQ in my days. I think The Pit in Raleigh is too smokey. You can't touch BBQ out here in California without it tasting like you're downing a bag of charcoal. What I'd give to have the subtlety of Allen&Son again...

                      1. re: fussycouple

                        Eastern NC barbecue should have a milder smoke flavor to it than some other styles, but saying that smoke is not imperative is taking it too far. It's traditionally cooked over wood embers, as you note. Ergo, smoke flavor.

                  2. I'm a Piedmont N.C. native, have lived here all my 60 years. I would drive 100 miles for the fried chicken and the Brunswick stew at Bullocks. Their Q isn't as bad as some would have you believe; I usually get at least a side of it. Their turnip greens are to die for, as is the homemade chocolate pie. They have a big menu with a lot of variety, almost all homestyle Southern stuff. I've never had anything there I didn't like, though once I did get chicken breasts that I thought were too small. Bullocks is a superb family-style feed.
                    But if it's BBQ you want, I'll take Allen & Sons. Again, my opinion of their Q isn't as extreme as some here. It's smoky, but not too much so, and IMHO it's an excellent and addictive flavor. The chief flaw of A&S BBQ, to me, is that I find it overly greasy. But that doesn't keep me from enjoying the flavor. (Don't try taking away a container of their BBQ sauce. It's tasty, but within a couple of hours a thick layer of orange glop will form on top of the sauce.) There's one other flaw at A&S: the slaw is a mayonnaise type, not a vinegar type, which is the traditional style. Mayo on BBQ makes no sense whatsoever. I don't get why they go such an inexplicable route with the slaw. As someone mentioned above, their fries are lackluster. So come to think of it, the only thing really good about A&S is the barbecue. And it's fantastic. I recommend getting sandwiches without slaw or taking a pound home, and finding vinegar slaw somewhere else.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: sverner

                      Almost all eastern style slaw has mayo in it.

                      1. re: Naco

                        If there is enough mayo in the slaw to notice it is there, there is too much. This is true for a) hot dogs, and b) bbq.

                        If I go somewhere and there is mayonnaise in the bbq slaw, I know that on some level they don't know what they're doing. Of course, as the years go by and the old places fade and the new places have come in, more and more use mayo in the slaw. I don't know if this is because of the influx of non-native population since 1975 (in 1975 in the triangle, 75% of the population had never lived in NC before 5 years previous -- it has only gotten worse since), or the nationalization of food and taste, or because the young folk don't have any respect for tradition.

                        So no, real eastern style slaw does not have mayo in it, not if we're talking bbq or hot dog slaw.

                        1. re: fussycouple

                          The changing demographics of te Triangle have had no effect on the authenticity of eastern-style bbq in NC, and you're just flat out wrong. Eastern-style bbq slaw has, and always has had, mayonnaise in it.

                          1. re: CharlotteChowhound

                            +1. I love BBQ but hate mayonnaise. I've been to a lot of BBQ places in Eastern-NC, including most of the big name historic places, and have never come across slaw that was mayonnaise-free enough for me to like it.

                          2. re: fussycouple

                            When you say "bbq slaw", it makes me think that you're talking about Lexington style slaw. It's just "slaw" in the east, no distinction made between the bbq variety and any other, because there isn't a difference. I can't even think of a decent hot dog place that has slaw- "all the way" is mustard, chili, and onions at places like Bill's and Warren's.

                            And despite your focus on 1975 as some sort of Year Zero, most of the bbq places I eat at regularly have been around since before then. B's started around that time IIRC, and Pete Jones has been around since the 40s or 50s. Neither has a vinegar based slaw. B's definitely has mayo in theirs, and I think Pete Jones uses some sort of salad dressing. Cobb's in Farmville has a slaw that seems mustard-based. It's also worth pointing out that places like Farmville and Ayden are hardly hotspots for out of state migration.