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great bbq closest to charlotte?

hi folks,

ny kcbs bbq judge here, looking for some great nc bbq. My intent is not to offend but after a bit of research, I've become pretty well convinced there's no great bbq in charlotte. Last trip I made it to lexington bbq #1 but not sure if my business meetings will allow 3 hours for a meal. Is there some place closer to charlotte that has great bbq?


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  1. Western NC bbq fans often swear by Bridges in Shelby, NC. I'm an eastern NC bbq fan, so I would tell you to drive about 3 hours east. ;)

    12 Replies
    1. re: arbyunc

      that looks great but bridges is closed on the day I'm in nc, alston bridges is open but I see it's an hour drive...basically the same as lex bbq #1.

      hickory doesn't look like it will be "great" but it looks like a great suggestion if I only have an hour or so. I've heard mixed things about bill spoons over the years, do they cook over wood?

      it seems to me my last trip also involved some unbelievable fried chicken in charlotte. Maybe the name was Prices?

      I've been to a lot of the eastern bbq joints...love them.

      1. re: vinouspleasure

        yes.. Prices chicken coop

        as far as barbeque...
        a yelp friend from there (charlotte)
        tells me these...
        Johnnys Barbeque
        McKoys Smokehouse and saloon (for lunch )
        Old Hickory house
        Outlaw bbq shack
        R&R Barbeque
        Bubbas Barbeque
        Macs speedshop

        altho not technically charlotte barbeque..we do also like to eat at sticky fingers chain (mostly because its right down the street from my pil's)but it wasnt bad the last time we were there

        1. re: vinouspleasure

          If I were you, skip Price's Chicken Coop and drive an hour north to to Statesville/Cleveland and get you some Keaton's dipped chicken. It's lovely fried chicken that is then dipped, a couple of times, in a spicy barbecue sauce that will knock your socks off (they have mild and spicy). The service can be surly, the joint is ramshackled & is in the middle of corn fields but it's damned good chicken. They also have pork bbq, but I have no idea whether it's any good - I only go for the chicken.

          McKoy's Smokehouse has good 'cue, slaw, ribs & wings. Great atmosphere to as it is a gritty biker bar. Much closer to the real thing than Mac's Speedshop. It's very close to downtown, in the Southend area. Do NOT go to Sticky Fingers.

          Happy Trails!



          1. re: lynnlato

            no sticky fingers wasnt/wouldnt be my first choice....just that its near my inlaws house...just that it wasnt horrible for a chain

            1. re: lynnlato

              keaton's looks great but there's no way I can fit it in given my work/flight schedule. The "gritty biker bar" atmosphere is not for me.

            2. re: vinouspleasure

              If you love the eastern joints, then seriously I wouldn't bother with barbecue in Charlotte. The city has lots of great food, but unfortunately good barbecue isn't part of the cuisine. I'd take advantage of a proven local spot, like Price's or the Penguin.

              1. re: arbyunc

                The Penguin is no longer owned by the folks that made it an awesome neighborhood joint. Those folks were pushed out by the bldg & name owners so they took their joint and moved it around the corner and are now called The Diamond. The Penguin is now part of a chain in development and gets no love here.


                1. re: lynnlato

                  Well, that sucks. Is the Diamond much like the old Penguin?

                  1. re: arbyunc

                    LOL! You must not live in Charlotte if this is news to you. I haven't been to the Diamond yet but then I was never a huge fan of the Penguin. I wish them well though. I believ ehte menu is very similar.

                    As for Price's, I've stated several times that I think it's seriously over-rated and it's take-out only. Charlotte's got lots of great food, but maybe not great barbeque.

                    Let us know where you ended up, and have a safe trip.

                    1. re: southernitalian

                      Correct, I don't live in Charlotte. LIved there about 20 years ago--I guess things have changed? ;)

                    2. re: arbyunc

                      The Diamond is the old Penguin minus the name and the bldg. They are now in another old, rehabbed bldg just around the corner from The Penguin and they still have the popular menu items including their fried pickles and diner-style burgers. Also the staff up and moved to The Diamond as well. The Penguin now is just a name and a shell - it's soul moved around the corner to The Diamond.

            3. I like Hickory House out near the Ikea. The barbecue is real solid. The brunswick stew is the best i've ever had. The decor is a bit of a throwback and the pit is in the corner of the dining room. It's certainly worth the ten minute drive from anywhere in the city.

              The Hickory House
              16161 Whyte Hardee Blvd, Hardeeville, SC 29927

              2 Replies
              1. re: edbott

                Don't you hate the automatic restaurant post? It's Old Hickory House, 6538 N. Tryon St. I like their 'Q and stew. Not the best, but not bad. However, expect to smell like hickory when you leave, and it will stay with you for those business meetings............. Also had decent BBQ at Bill Spoon's on South Blvd. Neither are like the chopped "outside brown" of Lexington #1 though, IMHO.

              2. Gary's Barbeque in China Grove is usually pretty good, but I've only eaten off of whole shoulders there.

                1. Adhering to the intent of your post, finding great bbq in Charlotte (or close by) , you are indeed out of luck. There is decent bbq in town (Old Hickory House) and decent close by (Bridges in Shelby) but no great bbq. As a KCBS judge, you know great, and it just isnt here.
                  Regarding fried chicken in Charlotte, I prefer The Chicken Box to Prices.
                  I hope you enjoy NC.

                  Chicken Box Cafe
                  3726 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28206

                  The Hickory House
                  16161 Whyte Hardee Blvd, Hardeeville, SC 29927

                  1. I decided to have world class fried chicken rather than good bbq and ended up at the chicken box cafe. I ordered fried chicken, hush puppies, fried okra, collard greens and sweet tea. Everything was great, the chicken was just a little saltier than I like, but it was perfectly cooked and not greasy at all. I have to admit to ordering extra hush puppies, they were great and impossible to find in ny. I thought the chicken was as good as price's, liked the sides and tea more and it was nice to have a place to sit. Nice people running the place too. To make caloric room for the meal, I didn't eat dinner the night before, breakfast in the morning or lunch. I'm back in ny but I'm so full, I doubt I'll be able to eat breakfast or lunch tomorrow.

                    thanks for all the help and suggestions. I'm sure I'll be back over the next couple of months and will avail myself of the other recommendations in this thread.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: vinouspleasure

                      Your post brought a smile to my face, and reinforced why Iove this site so much!
                      I am glad you enjoyed the Chicken Box. I think I am overdue for a visit.....

                      Chicken Box Cafe
                      3726 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28206

                      1. re: vinouspleasure

                        Nice, glad you went there. The Chicken Box is great, used to be a local's secret.

                        Chicken Box Cafe
                        3726 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28206

                      2. Oh no. I think I missed your trip here.

                        Charlotte is not a barbecue city. They do have some good soul food restaurants.

                        For barbecue close to Charlotte, head to Salisbury, NC. It's about a 20 minute drive from the Concord side of the city. You have two traditional wood burners in Salisbury - Wink's and Richard's. College Barbecue and Hendrick's are also very good with smoked powered by gas.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: CyndiA

                          M&K Barbecue and Country Cookin is Granite Quarry is very good as well. It's a wood burner and on Jim Early's NC BBQ Trail I believe. Great homemade burgers as well.

                          Country Cookin
                          1212 Ward Blvd, Wilson, NC 27893

                        2. On East 74 in Monroe about 45 minutes from Charlotte (depending on traffic) there's a Big Bob Gibson's. A small chain from Alabama. I think Big Bob made a name for himself on the bbq circuit competing. The bbq is to me, just alright as I'm an east NC bq fan but I love the bbq chicken. It's served with a white bbq sauce. It's mayo based but you don't taste the mayo much, It's very citrus-y.

                          East 74 Restaurant
                          13801 Indian Trail Fairview Rd, Indian Trail, NC 28079