These 8 Hole In The Wall BBQ Restaurants In North Carolina Will Make Your Tastebuds Go Crazy
It’s that time of year again when we stir the pot, smoke the wood, and talk about the best BBQ restaurants in North Carolina. For the Tar Heel state, barbecue is something like a legacy, it’s a tradition not to be messed with. But so many years of Hickory Smoked perfection lend to a new kind of legendary with newcomers and longtime establishments going head to head. Just like like a classic college basketball rivalry, two sides disassociate the state…but bring everyone together with serious flavor. If you’re looking for the best BBQ in the state, look no further than these eight establishments.
1. Best Eastern Style : B's BBQ, Greenville
B's is like an old friend, always there to great you with some realness and always reliable. When it comes to quintessential, whole hog, Eastern style 'Q,' B's has been chopped the same way since it opened in 1978. It's not a meal but an experience, the former country store turned smokehouse has always been family-operated and the style...a perfect mix of four-decade perfection, vinegar and pepper.
2. Best Lexington Style : The Honeymonk
How did the Honeymonk get its name? Born in the namesake of Lexington BBQ, it's reiterated in the traditional namesake, but Honeymonk comes from the original owner, Wayne Monk.
Established in 1962, the tradition has stayed the same with wood cooking pork shoulder over hickory or oak coals then slathered in the quintessential "red" Lexington sauce that uses ketchup, pepper, (sometimes vinegar depending on recipe) and various spices to bring out the flavor of the meat.
3. The Underdog : Buxton Hall BBQ
North Carolina BBQ is rooter in tradition and recipes passed down through generations, but that doesn't mean it's not immune to modern takes featuring local craft beer and an airy industrial-style space. There's still whole hogs roasting at Buxton Hall BBQ, you can watch them turn beneath the wood not far from the dining area. But Buxton Hall has been able to maintain the old and the new, each bringing in their own balance to make this a must-try place. If you're thinking of venturing away from BBQ, their buttermilk fried chicken sandwich is life changing.
4. Skylight Inn, Ayden
You can watch your pork get chopped while taking in all the juicy sights and smells at Skylight Inn. At the age of 17, Walter B. Jones (aka Pete) opened Skylight Inn in 1947. The locals called it Pete Jones' BBQ...and today, some still do. After ownership fell into the lap of his grandson Sam, who'd already spent many AC-less summers in the kitchen, changes were made but not in the way that changes the tradition.
Even after Sam was taught to manage the books and cook the whole hog, the recipe was to remain the one thing solidified after Pete's death. The vinegar-based sauce has hints of black pepper and is served as a dressing instead of a sauce to bring out the flavor of the pork. What really makes it is the hog skin, a love or hate aspect that has won over BBQ connoisseurs from North Carolina and across the U.S. The BBQ is served with coleslaw and cornbread.
5. JDs Smokehouse, Morganton
There's no way to accurately describe just how good JDs Smokehouse is. The sides, from corn on the cob, loaded potato casserole and jalapeño cheese grits are decadent. Not only is the BBQ melt-in-your-mouth good, but the brisket is also a showstopper with tender meat falling off the bone. Normally I'm opposed to BBQ restaurants that feature more than one style sauce on the table, but JD's reeled me in with their phenomenal, homemade sides and really, the sauce is pretty optional. This 'weekend establishment' is open for lunch and dinner Thursday-Sunday.
6. Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge, Shelby
Anyone in Shelby will tell you to visit Red Bridges and get a pork plate with red slaw and hush puppies. The family-run business has perfected the art of pit-cooked Q for the past 70 years as well as the vinegar and ketchup sauce.
7. Grady's BBQ, Dudley
You'll know you're at Grady's when you see the quintessential wood pile out back and the smell floats through the country roads and air. For a great eastern style Q that defines hole in the wall, owner Stephen Grady roasts whole hogs and chickens in his pit room overnight, his wife hand makes all sides from scratch. The sauce is straight up vinegar and peppper, but pairs best with a coarsely chopped sandwich.
8. Allen & Son BBQ, Chapel Hill
When it comes to eastern v. Lexington, at some point the two just have to meet in the middle. That's exactly how it is at Allen & Son. The vinegar and red pepper-based sauce is light enough for those who don't like Lexington style, but not too overpowering for those who turn away from vinegar-based. Owner Keith Allen keeps one thing Lexington-style though, cooking pork shoulders and not whole hog. The pork is cooked over hickory coals in closed brick pits. You'll also find a bit of eastern style withe coleslaw that is mayo-based.
These places sum up quintessential North Carolina Q, now the real debates begin, where’s your favorite place to grab BBQ and do you prefer eastern or Lexington style?
Thinking about how far we’ve come, and how some establishments never change,
here’s our original list from 2015.
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