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North Carolina BBQ TOUR

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Qball Jan 18, 2012 12:48 PM

Hello,
I'm planning a NC BBQ tour this fall and have a question for all the locals. I have about 15 places on my list (in no particular order).

1. The Pit - Raleigh
2. Backyard BBQ Pit - Durham
3. Allen & Son - Chapel Hill
4. Stamey's - Greensboro
5. Lexington #1 - Lexington
6. Cooks - Lexington
7. BBQ Center - Lexington
8. Little Richards - Winston Salem
9. Wilber's - Goldsboro
10. Grady's - Dudley
11. B's - Greenville
12. Jack Cobb - Farmville
13. Skylight Inn - Ayden
14. Bum's BBQ - Ayden
15. ROs BBQ - Gastonia

Anyways! Am I missing anything glaring?? Not sure how many more places my wife will let me add, but I may be able to remove a few...

Also, what's the best way to eat NC BBQ? Chopped, coarse chopped, sliced? I've been reading about outside brown. Is that something I should be asking for? Thanks folks!!

Also, looking for some good pimento cheese and shrimp and grits. We'll be staying all accross NC and then a week at the outer banks. Looking for local foods...

THANKS!!

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    arbyunc RE: Qball Jan 18, 2012 01:23 PM

    Sounds like a noble endeavor, for sure. I'm an eastern NC-style guy, so I would say you can delete about half of your list from the start. :) But alas, I'm stuck living here in the Piedmont, so I sometimes have to suffer through a plate of the Lexington-style stuff since I can't get the real thing here. I do have one suggestion--go to Little Richards in Clemmons, not the Winston-Salem location. Different owners, and most agree Clemmons is better.

    About the "outside brown", that's a Lexington-style thing. Since eastern-style uses the whole hog, it's not an issue there since it's all mixed in together. But in most Lexington-style joints you can ask for it and you'll get more crispy outside pieces.

    Chopped, coarse-chopped, and sliced is purely a preference thing. Traditional eastern-NC is chopped, but lots of places offer the other options as well. There is a difference in the eating experience, and while I prefer chopped myself, the others can be very tasty as well.

    Safe travels!

    2 Replies
    1. re: arbyunc
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      ChaseX2 RE: arbyunc Aug 18, 2012 11:20 AM

      Hey Arbyunc,
      Seems like you know your Q! Was wondering if you had any recommendations for places in Western Carolina from the SC border all the way up to WV. Mostly going to be travelling on a foodie vacation through Brevard, Hendersonville, Boone, Asheville. Thanks for any spots that you like!!!

      1. re: ChaseX2
        carolinadawg RE: ChaseX2 Aug 18, 2012 01:32 PM

        12 Bones is Asheville.

    2. Sue in Mt P RE: Qball Jan 18, 2012 01:24 PM

      Qball! How fun. Lucky you. I would add Bridges in Shelby, but that is just my opinion.

      Do not ask on this board what is best. You will start a fight, lol! But, yes, ask for outside brown.

      I don't know where you can find homemade minna cheese. (Start practicing the correct pronunciation.) But Palmetto Cheese with Soul is delicious if you can find it.

      Shrimp and grits is more traditional in the SC lowcountry, but I read on this board you can find it it at Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/827228

      Have a great time. I'm jealous.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sue in Mt P
        Terrie H. RE: Sue in Mt P Jan 18, 2012 01:30 PM

        Palmetto Cheese can be found at Harris Teeters. And it is good.

        1. re: Sue in Mt P
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          Nocturnalbill RE: Sue in Mt P Jan 27, 2012 06:57 AM

          +1 on Bridges, I'm a BBQ Lodge Bridges fan, so the one on the highway for me, but there are just as many fans of the downtown Bridges on here. Either are worthwhile endeavors.

        2. n
          notaslavetofashion2 RE: Qball Jan 18, 2012 01:43 PM

          If you go to Lexington to get some 'q, some of the best pimento cheese in NC can be found at Conrad & Hinkle, a small grocery store in downtown Lexington.

          http://www.conrad-hinkle.com/homemade...

          1. Bluemold RE: Qball Jan 18, 2012 01:57 PM

            Add Blackbeard's in Conetoe,NC. Check ahead for hours.

            1. m
              mpjmph RE: Qball Jan 18, 2012 03:12 PM

              I'm jealous! For years I've planned a dream vacation to travel the state camping and eating BBQ twice a day (with the occasional seafood meal to break things up). I figured one week in the East in the spring, then one in the West in the fall. Some day...

              1. Hushpuppy RE: Qball Jan 18, 2012 09:14 PM

                All are worthy destinations with the exception of RO's and maybe The Pit. I'm not really impressed with it - there are better Eastern-style spots. Consider Bum's in Ayden. Go for the coarse chopped with outside brown in the Lexington-style places. It probably won't be available in whole hog joints. Have fun then consult your cardiologist.

                1. l
                  LBD RE: Qball Jan 18, 2012 09:57 PM

                  Damn, that's a LOT of BBQ over a week or so, me personally I'd get tired of it. Maybe stop in Durham for a nice dinner, Magnolia Grill is really good.

                  1. l
                    Leadmine RE: Qball Jan 19, 2012 05:54 AM

                    Here's a travel tip if you're looking to save time:

                    You could plan to hit B's, Bum's, Skylight, Jack Cobb and possibly Wilbur's in a single day. If so, save Wilbur's for dinner since I think they're open the longest and never seem to run out of cue.

                    Hit B's first, and get there before noon if possible. It's not unheard of that they run out of food before 12:30. Also, you'll avoid the longer lines if you get there earlier. And I recommend their chicken too. Tried the half-bird recently and it was excellent. The Skylight and Bum's is about 20 minutes down Hwy 11 from there. You could then hit Cobb and then Wilbur's for dinner. That's a ton of cue in 1 day, but they're all different and if you're a fanatic like me you won't get tired of it. If you end up traveling down Hwy 11 to Ayden after B's, you could either choose to wave at Parker's as you drive by or actually stop there, however be warned the pork quality is low, but I'd recommend the gizzards.

                    Safe travels and good luck!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Leadmine
                      Bob W RE: Leadmine Dec 4, 2012 07:52 AM

                      After all that Q, I'd go for some of Parker's amazing fried chicken!

                    2. romansperson RE: Qball Jan 19, 2012 07:35 AM

                      I'd add The Pig in Chapel Hill (http://www.thepigrestaurant.com/) and Bib's in Winston-Salem (http://www.bibsdowntown.com/)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: romansperson
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                        arbyunc RE: romansperson Jan 19, 2012 08:23 AM

                        No offense, but I wouldn't recommend Bib's for this trip--it's not an "NC barbecue" place. I do love their food--they have excellent ribs and other smoked meats (brisket, turkey, chicken, even sausages). But they're not NC style--a sure sign is that they call their barbecue "pulled pork" on the menu. ;)

                        I think the OP's intention was to sample NC-style barbecue, which is a very different thing.

                        1. re: arbyunc
                          romansperson RE: arbyunc Jan 20, 2012 06:33 AM

                          That's actually why I recommended it - good smoked meat, but something just a little different than what will be found at the other places. As was said upthread, I would think the same ol' same ol' for a week could get a little tedious, especially for Mrs. Qball if she's not that into it. The Pig has some good alternatives, too, along with the traditional Q.

                      2. c
                        ciaob RE: Qball Jan 19, 2012 08:56 AM

                        I drove for many miles to try Grady's back last spring. Extremely disappointed...recommend SKIPPING this one.

                        Bill

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: ciaob
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                          arbyunc RE: ciaob Jan 19, 2012 10:24 AM

                          ciaob, I'm curious about your post. Grady's is routinely praised as being among the very best in the state. What was the problem?

                          1. re: arbyunc
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                            ciaob RE: arbyunc Jan 19, 2012 12:26 PM

                            BBQ was fat, and no hint of flavor. Obviously not cooked with wood. Recall no sauce available on the table. Sides were below average. The whole meal was just not worth the effort. I had the choice of the Skylight Inn or Grady's that day...sure wish I had gone north instead of south.

                            1. re: ciaob
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                              arbyunc RE: ciaob Jan 19, 2012 01:28 PM

                              That's odd--Grady's does cook with wood, unless they've changed very recently. And I wouldn't know about sauce on the table. For me, properly cooked barbecue doesn't need any table sauce.

                              1. re: arbyunc
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                                ciaob RE: arbyunc Jan 20, 2012 02:18 AM

                                I looked for evidence of wood...smoke...etc. None seen on the property or smelled.

                                Come to think of it, there was sauce available...extra charge which was rather surprising. And I drove past Wilbur's going to Grady's! Live and learn..

                                1. re: ciaob
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                                  arbyunc RE: ciaob Jan 20, 2012 05:24 AM

                                  Interesting. I certainly hope they haven't abandoned wood in favor of (gasp!) gas.

                        2. Naco RE: Qball Jan 19, 2012 11:12 AM

                          I'd add Blackbeard's and remove Bum's. Bum's reputation really rests on its sides, and the ones at Blackbeard's are just as good, and they have great barbecue. I'm not a fan of Bum's barbecue.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Naco
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                            Leadmine RE: Naco Jan 19, 2012 11:56 AM

                            The last time I was at B's, an Ayden native in front of me said the exact opposite. Only she was telling me that it was the Skylight that had a quality drop-off and that she preferred Bum's. She wasn't a fan of the skin that Pete Jones chops up in the 'cue. I thought it was funny she was from Ayden and eating at B's but she said it was because of the chicken.

                            Hate that I can't get out to Conetoe to try Blackbeard's. I've heard it's great from several folks.

                            1. re: Leadmine
                              ToothTooth RE: Leadmine Jan 20, 2012 07:01 AM

                              This interactive map of the NC bbq trail might be helpful for your trip:

                              http://www.ncbbqsociety.com/bbqmap/tr...

                              1. re: ToothTooth
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                                Westy RE: ToothTooth Jan 20, 2012 07:28 AM

                                Bullock's./ Not to be missed.

                                I am big fan of Smokey's in morrisville, but not sure it is what people think of when they think NC 'que.

                                1. re: Westy
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                                  notaslavetofashion2 RE: Westy Jan 20, 2012 08:06 AM

                                  I respectfully, but completely, disagree, Bullock's bbq is definately to be missed. It can't hold a candle to Allen and Son, Skylight, Blackbeard's, Lexington, etc. By any objective measure, its simply not good.

                                  1. re: Westy
                                    meatn3 RE: Westy Jan 26, 2012 05:22 PM

                                    I really like Smokey's too - it isn't NC style, but it is tasty!

                                2. re: Leadmine
                                  Naco RE: Leadmine Jan 21, 2012 07:09 AM

                                  Well, if you don't like skin, Pete Jones certainly isn't for you. Bum's certainly has a following; I just don't see the appeal. It's not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but with Pete Jones literally right down the road, Bum's holds no appeal.

                              2. q
                                Qball RE: Qball Jan 20, 2012 08:14 AM

                                You all rock. I appreciate all the suggestions.

                                Any word on if Ed Mitchell is opening a new place? I heard maybe he was...

                                Something else... Sandwiches versus trays. It seems trivial but is there any reason one should be ordered over another? I probably shouldn't get both because 15 joints in 5-6 days is enough already.... Was only curious if some places do sandwichers better or vice versa.

                                ..Sounds like I need to add Blackbeards. Been hearing too much good about there... Not sure I'll be west enough for Bridges. May have to keep Grady's on the list to settle the debate ;)

                                Ha, Mrs. Qball is used to my food obsession by know... We used to do food tours internationally (best gyro's in Greece, etc...) but know we have junior Qball and have to stick closer to home. Buffalo Wings, NYC Pizza/Pastrami, Maine lobster rolls last year and now NC BBQ. As long as she gets a week at the beach to work it off, everybody wins!

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: Qball
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                                  Leadmine RE: Qball Jan 20, 2012 08:33 AM

                                  I recommend either trays (plates) or by the pound (or half-lb) over sandwiches. Sandwiches can affect how you perceive the texture of the meat, which is different at every joint. The bread may also hide some of the complex features of the individual sauces, especially if there's slaw on it.

                                  1. re: Qball
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                                    ciaob RE: Qball Jan 20, 2012 09:21 AM

                                    Do keep Grady's on the list. I would like another opinion since my one time visit may have hit them on a bad day.

                                    1. re: Qball
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                                      goodeatsinadive RE: Qball Jan 20, 2012 09:26 AM

                                      Skip the Pit in Raleigh and stop at a new place, Hillsborough BBQ. Great eastern style bbq and awesome sides. Doesn't look like your typical bbq joint, but the food is worth a visit. While not quite as good as A&S, it's somewhere you'll likely go back to.

                                      1. re: Qball
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                                        foodieinraleigh RE: Qball Jan 20, 2012 04:54 PM

                                        I would agree that The Pit should be taken off list. Since Big Ed has left, we think the quality has gone down. Has he opened a new place? I haven't seen anything. Sure do miss his que.

                                        That said, we were pleasantly surprised last weekend when we visited, Route 1 Capital BBQ in North Raleigh / Wake Forest (10012 Capital Blvd). Wow... we were blown away with the NC "classic" BBQ and the Beef Brisket. The pork was not technically NC eastern style BBQ, but it had a lot of bark and was very tasty. This is now our favorite BBQ in the Raleigh area. We have always like the brisket at the Q Shack, but this reminded me of the brisket at City Market in Luling Texas. Vernon Griffin is a great pit master. Worth checking out.

                                        Our favorite in the Triangle continues to be The Pig in Chapel Hill on Weaver Dairy Road. If you get tired of the BBQ, The Pig always have great tamales....

                                        1. re: foodieinraleigh
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                                          rockycat RE: foodieinraleigh Jan 20, 2012 06:48 PM

                                          I drive by the Route 1 BBQ at least twice a week and I have yet to see more than 1 car parked outside. Were there any other customers when you were there?
                                          But since you're in the area anyway, why not drive up Capital to Holden's in Youngsville (open for b'fast and lunch only). Easily the best 'cue in that part of the county. AND they have field peas as a regular side and really nice chicken and dumplings as a lunch special on Thursdays.

                                          1. re: rockycat
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                                            foodieinraleigh RE: rockycat Jan 21, 2012 08:35 AM

                                            It was around 1:30PM on Sat when we were at Route 1. There were 4-5 tables of diners when we arrived and 2 large parties came while we were eating. It is a small, relatively intimate, cheerful and clean dining room. So couldn't miss hearing the praise coming from the other tables, so we were not alone in our compliments. It is a weird parking lot so may be hard to judge number of cars at a quick glance.

                                            Holden's is good - other options though if going to drive.

                                            1. re: foodieinraleigh
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                                              rockycat RE: foodieinraleigh Jan 21, 2012 11:29 AM

                                              We went there today at about 1 PM and the entire time we were there, there were only 2 other tables. Be that as it may, we felt differently about the food than you did. I tried everything the 3 of us ordered and, in general, feel very "meh" about all of it.

                                              The brisket was okay, hard to tell what the meat tasted like under the thick sauce. The pulled pork was dressed with a vinegar sauce. There was a strong smoky smell to it and it came with "outside black." (That's not a typo.) The Brunswick stew was fairly decent, just very tomato-y. The pinto beans were hard and had no seasoning at all. A healthy shake of salt helped quite a bit. The cornbread was Northern-style (sweet) and dry/dense. The bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit was very greasy. The biscuit was made without salt and the eggs were brown. I believe the griddle needed a good scraping.

                                              The prices for plates were on the high side for this type of food but, to be fair, the servings were very generous. On the other hand, the food wasn't good enough to make me want to eat that much.

                                              The food here isn't bad necessarily, and if someone suggested this place for a meal I wouldn't run screaming in the other direction. If it were just me alone, though, I'd drive up to Holden's or even Smithfield (a little past 98 further up on Capital).

                                          2. re: foodieinraleigh
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                                            Guilty Gourmand RE: foodieinraleigh Jan 20, 2012 07:11 PM

                                            Re The Pit, I haven't been in the last couple of weeks but I've been a number of times since Ed left and did not notice a drop in quality. In fact, one time I went for lunch early on a rainy day before they got very busy and both bbq and sides were outstanding--easily as good as any time I've ever been even back to the earliest days. Not as great as the best I've had from Allen & Son but I'd say The Pit is still worth inclusion.

                                        2. s
                                          supernc RE: Qball Jan 20, 2012 05:19 PM

                                          Add this one in Aberdeen, down by Southern Pines. You can actually camp there also.

                                          http://www.pik-n-pig.com/

                                          They cook on wood, cook only Boston Butts and the food is incredible.

                                          http://www.pik-n-pig.com/

                                          Craig

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: supernc
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                                            ciaob RE: supernc Jan 21, 2012 01:12 PM

                                            Its is just south of Carthage at the air strip. Fly-in, park plane and go eat. This is the REAL deal...try it if you get close. Drive if u ain't close..worth it!

                                            1. re: supernc
                                              q
                                              Qball RE: supernc Jan 31, 2012 07:39 AM

                                              Would love to add this one but it seems to be a little too far south for my route...

                                            2. picklelicious RE: Qball Jan 21, 2012 10:53 AM

                                              At BBQ Center in Lexington, get the coarse outside brown chopped plate, IT IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST. Generally speaking order the outside brown when the restaurants offer it, gives a better texture and you get the outside flavorful crust mixed in. You probably will only find this option with the lexington style Q restaurants.

                                              And, whatever it is that RO's serves, i would never refer to it as quality Q, and would not go out of my way to try it.

                                              Cook's, that's a deep cut there, not exactly in lexington, but lexington would be the closest town to it...used to do a good bbq chicken years ago also. Be sure and check their hours, seems like they weren't open every day once upon a time.

                                              Bib's is not exactly NC style Q, but offers some really good Q, I'd definitely add it to the list...its in downtown Winston.

                                              A place called Keaton's between Mocksville and Statesville a few miles off the interstate is a very nice visit as well. Known for the BBQ chicken...true dive of a Q shack...but you got to love it.

                                              Hills in Winston Salem is a good spot too.

                                              At the Pit, go with the spare ribs, I'm not generally a rib, or spare rib guy, but man do they do a great spare rib. The flavor, the bark...honestly i think its the best pork rib I've ever eaten in my life, and I don't use that term very often.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: picklelicious
                                                meatn3 RE: picklelicious Jan 26, 2012 05:21 PM

                                                Re Keatons-

                                                Call to check their hours first! The vary seasonally and then seem to vary from that.

                                                I have been trying to visit them for over 4 years and have yet to be able to time it right...

                                              2. Tee RE: Qball Jan 26, 2012 02:38 PM

                                                I really like Bunn's in Windsor, if it hasnt been suggested.
                                                I live in Gastonia and would not go to ROs if it were free, but I LOVE their dip (slaw). I buy the dip at the grocery.
                                                Seriously, ROs has no place on your NC BBQ TOUR list, IMHO. However, it is in NC and it serves something that was maybe once pig.....

                                                1. r
                                                  rockbound RE: Qball Jan 26, 2012 06:08 PM

                                                  Here's two days of hard core touring I did in the past three years:Early October a loop from N-South off I-95.1) Parker's in Wilson. Saw no wood pile.Didn't care for the 'Q. 2) B's in Greenville.Excellent 'Q and chicken. 3) Bum's in Ayden. Real good bbq and f. chicken. 4) Skylight Inn in Ayden. Excellent s'wich. 5) Grady's in Dudley. Maybe my fave bbq of the day. 6) Wilbers in Goldsboro. Very good but I was pretty porked out by this time. Although that didn't stop me from going to Sweatman's in Holly Hill, SC for some very fine SC "Q. Intense bbq day. On a day last spring I got to hit some fine joints more to the West: 1) Fuzzy's in Madison for breakfast and a small taste of their bbq. Really,really good. 2) Stamey's in Greensboro. Not the one by the Colisseum. OK not great. 3) Cook's S of Lexington. Excellent s'wich. 4) Back Country in Linwood. Real fine 'q and hushpuppies..Then down to Shelby to sample both Bridges stops. Both excellent. Been to Jim's, Barbecue Center and Lexington #1 on other occasions. Lexington #1 my fave. BBQ center also v. good. Of the ones from your list that I've tried I'd say most definitely Lexington #1,BBQ Center and Cook's in Lexington, Wilber's and Grady's. And for sure B's, Bum's and Skylight Inn are all top flight. Sounds like a great marathon. Report back please.

                                                  1. r
                                                    rockbound RE: Qball Jan 26, 2012 06:19 PM

                                                    Maybe I should add that I hit Parker's about 9:30. Got to B's around 11AM to avoid the inevitable crowd.After finishing with Wiber's, I think I got back to I-95 going S about 3-3:30 or so.Ate at Parker's (skip it) Ate at B's in my car. Take-out from Bum's but ate in my car in their parking lot. Weird, I know. Take-out at Skylight, Ate in at Grady's. Take-out at Wilber's. Last year, after breakfast at Fuzzy's, all stops were take-out. Enjoy

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: rockbound
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                                                      Qball RE: rockbound Jan 31, 2012 07:38 AM

                                                      That's some impressive touring Rockbound. I'll definitly report back on my trip. Thanks to all of your input I have tweaked my agenda a tad. Removing RO's and adding Bridges and Blackbeard. Might not make the Pit now either. Ed Mitchell should be coming to NYC for BBQ festival so I can hit his cue there anyways.

                                                      1. Stamey's - Greensboro
                                                      2. Allen & Son - Chapel Hill
                                                      3. Lexington #1 - Lexington
                                                      4. Cooks - Lexington
                                                      5. BBQ Center - Lexington
                                                      6. Red Bridges - Shelby
                                                      7. Wilber's - Goldsboro
                                                      8. Grady's - Dudley
                                                      9. B's - Greenville
                                                      10. Jack Cobb - Farmville
                                                      11. Skylight Inn - Ayden
                                                      12. Bum's BBQ - Ayden
                                                      13. Blackbeard's - Tarboro

                                                      1. re: Qball
                                                        Sue in Mt P RE: Qball Jan 31, 2012 07:59 AM

                                                        That sounds like a blast. Can't wait to hear about it.

                                                        1. re: Qball
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                                                          mikeh RE: Qball Jan 31, 2012 12:50 PM

                                                          Wow - this list is a dream. Will look forward to your report.

                                                          1. re: mikeh
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                                                            Guilty Gourmand RE: mikeh Jan 31, 2012 01:38 PM

                                                            Fantastic list. I'm looking forward to it almost as much as Qball's cardiologist.

                                                      2. r
                                                        rockbound RE: Qball Feb 3, 2012 02:40 PM

                                                        Qball- Looks like a great list. I might just add that if you're going all the way to Shelby, you might as well hit Alston Bridges on E. Grover St. as well. It's only 5 min. into town from Bridge's BBQ Lodge and well worth it for a comparison. Alston is a Stamey protege and he's been here since 1956. Just sayin'. Have a great trip!

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: rockbound
                                                          Sue in Mt P RE: rockbound Feb 3, 2012 05:02 PM

                                                          I have to concur. I love them both.

                                                          I forgot to mention how much I love Stamey's (don't beat me up, others who don't). Aside from the fact that my 91 y/o Daddy takes me there every time I come home, I have a different sentimental reason for the love. Back in the 80s, when my mama was resettling the Montegnards, Stamey's hired them as pitmen. People who lived in a jungle know how to cook on a fire.

                                                          1. re: Sue in Mt P
                                                            q
                                                            Qball RE: Sue in Mt P Feb 9, 2012 10:09 AM

                                                            Thanks for the tip. I'll add Alston Bridges as well. This list did drop from 15 to 13, so I have some room... ;)

                                                          2. re: rockbound
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                                                            mikeh RE: rockbound Feb 9, 2012 02:37 PM

                                                            Doesn't Alston Bridges not cook over wood anymore (unlike Bridges' Barbecue Lodge?). If so, this would be an aberration from the rest of the tour.

                                                            1. re: mikeh
                                                              Hushpuppy RE: mikeh Feb 9, 2012 07:18 PM

                                                              They start the shoulders in the oven and then finish them off on the pit. Not what they used to be, but still pretty tasty.

                                                          3. v
                                                            VanessaMae RE: Qball Feb 10, 2012 02:00 PM

                                                            Born/raised in Salisbury, 8 mi from Lexington, so Western NC BBQ is my choice. But lived in Raleigh for a while and won't knock Eastern Style. Live in Baltimore (yuck) now and when I visit down home I never miss a trip to Gary's BBQ in China Grove. Best I've ever had. I even buy a shoulder there an bring it back north. You will want to too!

                                                            18 Replies
                                                            1. re: VanessaMae
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                                                              mikeh RE: VanessaMae Feb 10, 2012 02:23 PM

                                                              Now I am POSITIVE that Gary's in China Grove does not smoke their pork. It's tender and juicy roasted pork, for sure, but the flavor is so one-dimensional compared to actual BBQ.

                                                              1. re: VanessaMae
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                                                                BBQandGolf RE: VanessaMae Feb 11, 2012 09:42 AM

                                                                Couldn't agree more. Gary's is tops. Don't know if they "smoke" or not but it doesn't matter. I think MikeH's brain is one-dimensional. Anyway some great places in Salisbury. Wink's BBQ is outstanding and their hush puppies the best I've ever eaten. College BBQ and Richards BBQ both super. And Hendrix BBQ, besides great BBQ, order a box of skins! They fry them up for you and are simply mouthwatering. Heartattack city but you only live once! Too many places not enough time!!!

                                                                1. re: BBQandGolf
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                                                                  brentk RE: BBQandGolf Feb 11, 2012 11:03 AM

                                                                  I'll defend mikeh on this one. If it isn't cooked over wood, it is roasted pork. I haven't been to Gary's in a number of years but I wasn't thrilled with it on the couple of occasions I was there. Perhaps I was influenced by the kitschy atmosphere, as well.

                                                                  1. re: brentk
                                                                    picklelicious RE: brentk Feb 11, 2012 04:03 PM

                                                                    Gary's Q is not worth a special visit on this tour. But, using wood and smoking are two different things when it comes to Q. NC q is direct heat, some use wood to cook it with, and if that's what you want to call smoked, then so be it. If that's the case, I'm smoking a steak when I use hard wood coal I guess. I'm a Q purist, and I love the places that use wood, but let's be honest, there's a ton of places that use wood...whether going indirect or direct heat...that turn out an inferior product to some places that dont use wood. IMHO, we need to put flavor and quality above all else.

                                                                    If I recall back in the day Gary's did actually do a decent smoked chicken, and while their pork q isn't over the top special, it is a fun little shack to visit.

                                                                    1. re: picklelicious
                                                                      Naco RE: picklelicious Feb 12, 2012 12:48 PM

                                                                      "NC q is direct heat, some use wood to cook it with, and if that's what you want to call smoked, then so be it."

                                                                      Cooking over direct heat will tend to produce more smoke than using indirect heat, so yes, I would call something cooked over direct heat "smoked".

                                                                      1. re: Naco
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                                                                        Qball RE: Naco Nov 29, 2012 07:46 AM

                                                                        Finally getting to my trip report from September. I usually rank my places on the quality/taste of food (obviously) and atmosphere (I prefer the hole in the wall or places with character). I pretty much just got a chopped platter and the usual sides. My wife was ready to kill me after day 5…

                                                                        Stamey’s – Good to average LX style BBQ. Great sauce and very moist. Nice atmosphere and very friendly staff. Not much to report. I would eat here frequently if I lived close by but nothing earth shattering. 3.5/5

                                                                        Allen & Son – LX/ENC Hybrid. Probably one of the places I was most excited to visit, which is maybe why it didn’t live up to my high expectations. The pork was really good (nice smoke flavor), as was the warmed sauce however I found lots of inedible bits inside. When I asked for outside brown, I was told that I would get what comes. Thought that was weird being one of their first customers for the day. The actual place is cool but the staff wasn’t too accommodating. Flavorful pork but not my favorite. Guess I expected more... 3.5/5

                                                                        Lexington BBQ – My favorite LX style by far. Pork was perfectly moist, perfectly chopped, lots of outside brown, great sauce. Slaw was ok. The place just had an overall good feel to it. Seemed like a lot of locals were around which was a good sign. Would definitely make a special trip for their BBQ! 5/5

                                                                        BBQ Center – Very good LX style, lots of outside brown, good sauce. Got it coarsely chopped. The brown was very good but overall the pork could have been a little moister and more tender. It seemed a tad tough to chew. Very busy atmosphere but a cool local joint nonetheless. 4/5

                                                                        Cook’s BBQ – Very remote cool little country place. Very friendly staff. Very nice atmosphere but very average dry LX style pork. It was even cold. Very disappointing. Sides were good. 2.5/5

                                                                        Red Bridge’s BBQ – Far drive but definitely worth it. My second favorite LX style BBQ. Great atmosphere. Amazingly tender pork with lots of outside brown. Didn’t care for the sauce, thought it was too tomato-y but the pork didn’t need it anyways. Was outside snooping around taking pictures and one of the pitmasters saw me. He took me inside and showed me how the BBQ process. Really good people, good experience, good BBQ. 4.5/5

                                                                        Grady’s – Can’t beat the atmosphere. Really cool hole in the wall. Very moist ENC style BBQ with really good sauce and really good sides. I wanted to like this place more but inedible gristle chunks got the better of me. The local atmosphere almost made up for the gristle but not fully. Would have been one of my favorite joints with less gristle. 4/5

                                                                        Wilber’s - Probably my second favorite ENC style BBQ. Atmosphere was your typical busy diner but they know what they are doing with their pork. Very tender, moist and good vinegary sauce. Only thing that would have made it better is if my toddler didn’t have a massive melt-down while we were eating. We had to roll out quickly but I can’t blame that on Wilber… 4.5/5

                                                                        Skylight Inn – My type of place. Cool local atmosphere, you get to see some guy chopping whole hog chunks right there in front of you. This ENC style BBQ was chopped very well, zero inedible chunks and good sauce… but the pork was exceptionally dry. I had to sauce the hell out of it. Kind of disappointing I thought... 3.5/5

                                                                        B’s BBQ - I wanted to experience authentic NC BBQ on this trip. I’m a traditionalist… Hickory wood coals, whole hog, Eastern Style, Lex style, etc. so seeing the bags of charcoal at B’s was kind of disappointing. One bite later and I can tell you that I could care less what they used. This was the best BBQ I had the entire trip and the only place that I visited twice. Their ENC style BBQ was perfectly cooked, nice smoky flavor, perfectly chopped, perfectly sauced (very vinegary which I prefer). One of the lady’s at the counter even remembered me and my son from the previous day. Don’t sleep on the chicken either. Get the dark meat not the white. The dark is much moister. Go early before the place gets too packed. By far my favorite NC BBQ hole in the wall. 5/5

                                                                        Bum’s BBQ – Cool small town feel. Good moist, smoky flavor, nice vinegary sauce but it had those inedible chunks in it again that I cannot stand. Bum’s was definitely about the sides. Got the collards and rutabaga. Never had rutabaga before but could eat those quite frequently. My wife was just happy to have a vegetable since this was our last stop. 3.5/5 (4/5 if you factor in the sides)

                                                                        1. re: Qball
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                                                                          arbyunc RE: Qball Nov 29, 2012 01:22 PM

                                                                          Wow, nice report Qball. I appreciate you taking the time to document your trip and offer your opinions. I'm jealous that I didn't get to tag along with you!

                                                                          I also wanted to address Naco's Feb. 12 comment above (for some reason I didn't see it earlier when this thread was active). Naco is absolutely right--cooking over direct heat, even using charcoal instead of wood coals, will most certainly produce smoke flavor. Much of the smoke comes from the meat juices dripping onto the hot coals. I know this is true from having attended many pig pickin's (a few at which I was doing the cooking myself), where just a few coals are placed directly under the meat, concentrated under the thicker hams. The result is a very nice smoky flavor indeed.

                                                                          1. re: Qball
                                                                            picklelicious RE: Qball Dec 3, 2012 12:39 PM

                                                                            I agree on Allen and Sons, heard about it forever, finally visited their 3 times recently, kept giving them the benefit of the doubt, and it just never lived up to my expectations or what i consider to be a "real quality product". One of the 3 visits, the first, i'd say it was almost bad. Chunks of inedible pieces that by all means should have been culled from the process, and the product literally had a burnt flavor to it, not smokey, burnt. Not that i let sides have any bearing on rating of the Q, but i wouldn't have served those fries they put on my table, just complete grease fries. With my love for Q, and it's reputation and convenience to the interstate, i'll probably try it again, but to date, been very disappointed with Allen & Sons.

                                                                            1. re: picklelicious
                                                                              carolinadawg RE: picklelicious Dec 3, 2012 06:02 PM

                                                                              Which Allen and Son location have you visited?

                                                                              1. re: carolinadawg
                                                                                JayL RE: carolinadawg Dec 3, 2012 08:42 PM

                                                                                Most people don't realize there are two...and only one is the "real" A&S.

                                                                                1. re: JayL
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                                                                                  Qball RE: JayL Dec 4, 2012 07:20 AM

                                                                                  I went to 6203 Millhouse Road in Chapel Hill. Which one is the "real" one?

                                                                                  Again, I thought the BBQ was good. I would go there again if I lived nearby. It was flavorful, tender and I enjoyed the bottle of sauce they gave me. I just don't enjoy lots of inedible clumps of things in my BBQ. When I compared A&S to other places I visited, it just didn't stack up. Like I said, maybe I expected too much based off of everyone's strong opinions on it. I thought B's BBQ (ENC) and Lexington (Monk's) were far superior.

                                                                                  1. re: Qball
                                                                                    carolinadawg RE: Qball Dec 4, 2012 08:16 AM

                                                                                    Thats the good one! I'm just surprised at the negative reviews, as my visits have never been less than stellar.

                                                                                    1. re: Qball
                                                                                      JayL RE: Qball Dec 4, 2012 08:50 AM

                                                                                      I'm with you on A&S being good, but the others you mention being better. B's is more my style.

                                                                                      1. re: JayL
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                                                                                        Guilty Gourmand RE: JayL Dec 4, 2012 09:24 AM

                                                                                        By far the best bbq I've ever had was at Allen & Son (the good one). Unfortunately, I've been there several other times (wouldn't say I've been there a lot) and had bbq that is simply good / fine and nowhere near the sublime product I had on one of my visits. I don't think I've ever had inedible clumps from there but definitely times when it has been nothing special. The possibility of that perfect cue is enough to keep me going back when convenient and I do very much appreciate the tradition and hard work that goes into the cue but I think it's important to remember that there can be wide ranges in quality / consistency from visit to visit even in the best shops. Not sure if that is due to the pig or maybe some variations in the cooking technique, look of the draw as to the cue you're served, etc. but it does happen. I'd say the second best cue I've had was from Wilbers and I have had one sandwich from there on another visit that really was pretty much inedible.

                                                                                        1. re: Guilty Gourmand
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                                                                                          Qball RE: Guilty Gourmand Dec 4, 2012 09:35 AM

                                                                                          I agree Guilty Gourmand. A sampling size of only one is not nearly enough to base any real verdict. It could have just been a bad day. Maybe they used a lazy pig ;)

                                                                                          I can say that I've been to B's twice and both times, they knocked it out of the park.

                                                                                  2. re: carolinadawg
                                                                                    picklelicious RE: carolinadawg Dec 6, 2012 03:28 PM

                                                                                    6203 Millhouse Rd. Honestly, I'm not here to slam the place. I know that too many knowledgeable Q fans praise this place too much for the place to be of the quality I have found it to be on my initial visit. Hopefully I will catch the on a premier day one of these times. Only one of the three times was it what i would refer to as bad, but i had just heard so much praise about them, that it disappointed me, and after reading what Qball wrote, i thought i would mention i knew how he/she felt regarding being disappointed with this restaurant.

                                                                                2. re: Qball
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                                                                                  Leadmine RE: Qball Dec 13, 2012 07:30 AM

                                                                                  Great reviews!

                                                                                  Glad to see you tried B's chicken. It's delicious!

                                                                                  1. re: Leadmine
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                                                                                    Qball RE: Leadmine Dec 17, 2012 01:13 PM

                                                                                    The first day I got the white meat chicken. Wasn't impressed at all. Actually wondered what all the fuss was about. Second time, I got the dark meat and it was incredible. Just much more tender and juicy.

                                                                                    I'm fine with the occasional piece of gristle when eating BBQ but there was just too much of it at Allen and Son. Everyone has different tolerance levels I suppose. There's a reason hot dogs are so popular.

                                                                      2. Naco RE: Qball Dec 10, 2012 11:14 AM

                                                                        The occasional bit of gristle is part of the bargain, at least with eastern style. I was at Wilber's on Saturday and typically they have a very clean chop, but I had a huge piece of hard gristle on my plate. I spit it out on a napkin and kept truckin'.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Naco
                                                                          JayL RE: Naco Dec 10, 2012 08:54 PM

                                                                          It's funny...unless it happens to be bone I usually just keep chewing and let it go down the hatch! LOL

                                                                          1. re: JayL
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                                                                            veganhater RE: JayL Dec 12, 2012 07:18 PM

                                                                            I agree. A good friend is turned off of skylight due to an eyeball in an order of barbecue. I thought it authenticated the whole experience.

                                                                            1. re: veganhater
                                                                              JayL RE: veganhater Dec 13, 2012 01:28 PM

                                                                              I wasn't aware that their pigs still had the heads attached. Heads on bbq pigs is usually something you see at a select few home cooked pig pickings. I can't name you a commercial operation who uses head-on hogs.

                                                                              Strange to say the least.

                                                                              1. re: JayL
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                                                                                arbyunc RE: JayL Dec 13, 2012 02:00 PM

                                                                                ^ Agreed, I've never seen nor heard of an eyeball in barbecue. Maybe it was a mountain oyster! ;)

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