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Seeking "must visit" NC barbecue joints

Hi All,

I run a website on North Carolina barbecue and want your advice: What are the barbecue joints in NC that I absolutely must visit? I'm not talking about the pretty good places but the really outstanding, died-and-gone-to-heaven (or hell) ones. I'm looking forward to seeing this list, so thanks in advance!

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  1. For eastern NC, the NC BBQ Society trail has all of the great ones, save Blackbeard's on Alt 64 in Conetoe and Bum's in Ayden. If I had to rank them, I'd say:

    1. Pete Jones/Skylight Inn, Ayden
    2. Blackbeard's, Conetoe
    3. Grady's, Dudley
    4. B's, Greenville
    5. Jack Cobb's, Farmville
    6. Wilber's, Goldsboro
    7. Bum's, Ayden

    I live in Greenville, and the first two are the ones I eat at the most.

    1. Lexington Barbecue and Skylight Inn, fer sure. B's and Wlber's , probably.

      Skylight Inn
      4618 S Lee St, Ayden, NC

      Lexington Barbecue
      100 Smokehouse Lane, Lexington, NC 27295

      1. Surely add Allen & Sons BBQ.
        6203 Millhouse Rd
        Chapel Hill, NC 27516-8101
        (919) 942-7576

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bluemold

          Seconded- both Allen and Sons and Wilber's. Would add Clyde Cooper's in Raleigh as well.

        2. Just curious--you run an NC barbecue restaurants web site, but you don't know which ones are best?

          4 Replies
          1. re: arbyunc

            My thoughts exactly! I'd add The Pit in Raleigh to this list, because it represents a different take on q.

            1. re: arbyunc

              His website is pretty darn good. He's already been to many of the top ones, including some hidden gems only on "in the know" people's radars. I'm surprised he started this thread as open-ended as he did.

              1. re: mikeh

                Seconded. I read it pretty regularly.

                1. re: Naco

                  Oh, yeah. I read and respect the reviews at BBQ Jew as well.

                  In that case here are my tips:

                  Big Al's BBQ: this is a bbq truck often parked in Rolesville serving various items including chopped 'que. I had an excellent brisket plate there a while back that made me want to return for the 'que.

                  I ate at The Pig in Chapel Hill again last night. The chopped 'que was very good. The sauce was spot on. The meat had a nice mix of outside brown. Everything else we had was great as well. The best ribs I've had in ages. Well worth a trip.

            2. Is your co-hort going to join you or are these solo ventures? Not that it would matter much. B's from what I hear is almost like trying to score a high end table at a fancy place in NY. If you don't time it right, you'll miss it. I am from the Kinston area and there use to be some decent bbq there. That area has Ken's Grill, Wilbur's, King's (which is an institution but thats about it), a place called Chap's use to be good but I couldn't tell you about that anymore. Have you seen Bob Garner's series on Q? It is a little outdated but some spots still stand the test of time.

              1. Thanks everyone. I know of many good BBQ joints but am always curious to hear of new ones or ones I consider mediocre that others swear by, in case I need to reconsider. That's my story and I'm sticking to it...

                2 Replies
                1. re: Porky LeSwine

                  12 Bones and Luellas in Asheville....

                  1. re: Porky LeSwine

                    Some people who make their own will swear that the restaurants can't hold a candle to their secret sauces or rubs.

                  2. I am more of an eastern style fan but you all have that pretty well covered so I would add Snook's and The Red Pig. I confess that it is much easier to find wood cooked in the West.

                    Red Pig Cafe
                    1480 Concord Pkwy N, Concord, NC 28025

                    1. I did not mean The Red Pig in Concord but the one with a Mocksville address. The computer added Concord without asking me.

                      3 Replies
                        1. re: ncdirtlaw

                          Its been a while since I had Snook's 'q, but I don't remember being overly impressed. Do they cook with wood?

                        2. Has anyone mentioned Holden's in Youngsville? And is anyone aware of whether or not they're still open? I know their hours can be erratic but every time I've driven by there in the last half year or so they've been closed.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: rockycat

                            Holden's is ok, but get the sliced unless you like skin in your 'que.

                            1. re: jiminea

                              jiminea, I thought the question would be who does not like skin in their que

                          2. What about Bridge's BBQ Lodge in Shelby, NC.

                            Bridges Barbecue Lodge @ 2000 E. Dixon Blvd., Shelby, NC. 704 - 482 - 8567.

                            Bridges Barbecue Lodge
                            2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28152

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Littleman

                              I prefer Alston Bridges Barbeque. 620 E Grover St., Shelby, NC.

                            2. I enjoy Whispering Pines in Albemarle.

                              1. I concur with B's, Allen & Sons, and Wilbers.

                                1. My favorite BBQ place is Speedy's in Lexington.

                                  1. Thanks for all the ideas everyone. I'll use your ideas to update my list of future joints to visit, which you can view at http://bbqjew.com/thejoints/

                                      1. try Clarks in Kernersville. Chopped is excellent. Lexington Style. Wood only.

                                        1. Clyde Cooper's in Durham. 12 Bones in Asheville.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: bigmackdaddy

                                            The only Clyde Cooper's I'm aware of is in Raleigh.

                                            1. re: Bluemold

                                              Yup! You're right. I stayed in Durham for three days and forgot I drove to Raleigh for lunch.

                                            2. re: bigmackdaddy

                                              12 Bones has the best sides by far. Smoked potato salad, sweet vinegar cole slaw. I could live on their sides alone. They have weird hours, however. Open until 4pm weekdays, closed all weekend. Don't go between noon and 1:30 --- you will wait a long time and find no parking.

                                              1. re: Lotuspetal

                                                The Arden location, on Sweeten Creek Road, is open Mon-Sat, 11-4, with takeout orders available until 6:00

                                                1. re: jla1960

                                                  I'd toss in a vote for 12 Bones, too!

                                                2. re: Lotuspetal

                                                  I really disagree on 12 Bones' sides. I give them a lot of props for trying to be original, and it's nice to have a local BBQ joint with enough options to keep my vegetarian wife happy (because otherwise I dine alone at BBQ places!) but I've never had a side there that blew me away. I find the smoked salads overpoweringly smoky and just kind of weird (and I like many unusual flavors) and the coleslaw is one of the worst I've had in a restaurant. I grew up eating a lot of my mom's excellent slaw and make it frequently myself so maybe I'm setting the bar too high, but after trying it a couple of times the slaw is firmly at the top of my 'sides not to order at 12 Bones' list. The last time I sampled it there was a faint bleach flavor, which I hope isn't part of the recipe... Mac and cheese is also awful at 12 Bones, both times I had it it was watery and tasted like a poorly-prepared box mix, pretty inexcusable in a geographic region awash in good mac n cheese recipes. Corn pudding is usually good (sometimes very) if they're not sold out of it, grits are usually decent or better, collards and beans and cornbread are solid and rarely disappoint outright. Cucumber salad is instantly forgettable and I hate the crimes many local restaurants commit on sweet potatoes so I usually skip anything involving them. The slaw really irritates me, though, it's so easy to make and when done well it's one of the best sides to good BBQ.

                                                  I could probably forget all this if the meat was as awesome as everyone says, but it's just not. I've tried most of the meat menu options (haven't done hogzilla or whatever it's called) and while I've never disliked anything I find the quality and preparation a bit mediocre at times. Ribs were the most disappointing for the cost but that's not unique to 12 Bones. This place is good and almost always a solid deal in a generally overpriced restaurant town, but I rarely bother anymore unless I'm already driving by and there's no line. Just my meager $0.02, FWIW. :-)

                                                  Haven't tried Luella's yet, maybe I'll go next time I have a meal out sans wife. Someone told me there's a really good BBQ place out west of Murphy, has anyone heard of this place?

                                                  1. re: gnathaniel

                                                    Wow--maybe they're inconsistent. I haven't become enough of a regular to know for sure, but i've had good mac and cheese there. I think that may be one of those dishes where your reaction TOTALLY depends on what you grew up with, too. Like coleslaw. Are you used to vinegar slaw, or did you grow up in a creamy slaw household? Just curious--being from a German/slavic household, I'm always a little grossed out by creamy slaw, an aversion that my husband finds unfathomable. ;)

                                                    1. re: dingey

                                                      Hi Dingey, My mom's slaw dressing is primarily lemon juice with salt, sugar, black pepper, and a little bit of mayo, but it's definitely not a 'creamy' dressing, the mayo is a minor component for flavor and the lemon juice dominates. It's a family recipe (German and Russian Jews), but I don't know exactly which branch it comes from except that my mom's mother made the same slaw.

                                                      My personal slaw dressing is primarily vinegar or citrus-based, with or without small amounts of mayo or oil. I often add ingredients like grated ginger, hot chiles or chile pastes (gochujang works great for this), or fish sauce if it's for meat-eaters. Since I have some vegan family members my most common version these days is cider vinegar or lime juice, olive or sesame oil, salt, sugar, black pepper, and whatever zany stuff I feel like throwing in at the time. I like it pretty heavy on the acid, less so on the salty, and just a touch of sweet for balance.

                                                      The few times I tried the slaw at 12 Bones it was exceedingly sweet with little detectable vinegar flavor. The onions in it didn't do much for me either since I get nasty digestive reactions from (some) raw onions, but overuse of raw onions isn't limited to 12 Bones so it's not really a knock on them specifically. At best I thought the slaw was cloying and boring, and at worst it tasted of bleach (which I'm sure was unintentional, but pretty sloppy all the same not to taste it before serving it to dozens of people).

                                                      I'd say inconsistent is very accurate to describe my experiences at 12 Bones. I used to be more of a fan but the more I ate there the more the minor negatives piled up, and rather than working to improve they've just seemed to coast on in mediocrity. I've had many enjoyable meals there but I would never call it a 'must visit' barbecue joint. I'm glad others still love it, though! :-D

                                                      1. re: gnathaniel

                                                        Bunn's in Windsor NC, great slaw unlike any I have had elsewhere in the state.