In 2016, the INDY took a trip with pitmaster Wyatt Dickson to buy two 2,500-pound smokers in advance of the opening of his barbecue restaurant Picnic.

It was an outing full of colorful snafus (“turkey legs!” Dickson exclaimed at one point when a setback with a trailer hitch presented itself) as Dickson journeyed to Elm City to purchase the behemoth wood cookers that his whole-hog enterprise required. 

Transportation hiccups aside, things turned out pretty well: Dickson opened Picnic in February of that year, alongside partners Ben Adams and Ryan Butler. And while there’s no dearth of barbecue joints in the area, Picnic was welcomed with open arms. 

Southern Living designated it “next-generation ‘cue,” and Garden & Gun praised Dickson’s role as the “N.C. barbecue revival organizer.” More important, perhaps, “barbecue sociologist” John Shelton Reed awarded Picnic the enviable “true ‘cue” status. 

Now, Dickson is turning his sights toward Raleigh, with plans to open a second barbecue restaurant in the fall of 2020. The new venture, eponymously titled Wyatt’s Whole Hog Barbecue, will be located in Raleigh’s Gateway Plaza. It’s his first solo project, and while Raleigh’s relationship with barbecue has often been defined by its role as a demarcation zone between Eastern and Western-style barbecue, Dickson has a mind to experiment beyond that. 

For starters: Wyatt’s Whole Hog Barbecue will include variations on a theme, with ribs, brisket, and chicken offerings alongside traditional Eastern-style North Carolina barbecue.

“I feel like I have a lot more freedom and ability to be creative. I don’t have to adhere to any specific style,” Dickson said over the phone, adding, “I want to be first and foremost, a good steward of North Carolina barbecue.” 

Wyatt Dickson came of age in Fayetteville, N.C., where his father worked as a judge and his mother was a North Carolina State Senator. His first encounters with barbecue, he says, were at Democratic party fundraisers and pig pickins’. He followed the family trade, at first, and went to law school, although he soon found the siren call of ‘cue hard to resist. 

In a way, an outpost in Raleigh harkens back to those formative first experiences of hearing politics debated while meats smoked. There’s an indelible relationship between barbecue and politics. 

“I think that there should be barbecue in our state capitol that is representative of the best barbecue that North Carolina has to offer,” he says. “I want folks to come to North Carolina and eat barbecue that stands up to the best of what Texas, or Memphis, or any other barbecue region has to offer.”

Wyatt’s will source heritage breed pigs from Green Button Farm, which is run by Picnic partner Ryan Butler (Ben Adams is set to retire from his role at Picnic, while Butler and Dickson will continue work as partners and pitmasters at Picnic). Neighboring Raleigh bakeshop Union Special, meanwhile, will source buns to Wyatt’s. The restaurant will also feature a full-service bar with frozen alcoholic beverages and local beers, as well as a take-out counter. 

As for the wood smokers that Dickson will need to keep Wyatt’s smoking, he says that he plans to take another odyssey to Elm City to outfit the new joint. This time, though, his trailer will have a heavier load: he expects to take as many as six smokers home with him.

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