Allen & Son
5650 U.S. 15-501, Pittsboro, stubbsandsonbbq.com
In December 2018, the original Allen & Son, the Chapel Hill landmark, abruptly closed. But its Pittsboro cousin—independently owned and operated through a licensing agreement with the folks behind Sanford’s Stubbs & Son—lives on, serving barbecue that is in no way reimagined or fused or fancy, but rather simple and good: ’cue, fixins, sweet tea.
525 Broad Street, Fuquay-Varina, aviatorbrew.com/smokehouse
What began as a passion for backyard smoking grew into a dedicated smokehouse to complement Aviator’s taproom across the street. Look for smoked pork, St. Louis-style ribs, and the popular smoked wings, which are served with sauces crafted with house beers and local ingredients. If you’ve got a thing for heat, try the MocoLoco, made with ghost chili peppers, then put out the fire with a Hogwild IPA.
Backyard BBQ Pit
5122 N.C. Highway 55, Durham, sweetribs.com
This Durham favorite traffics in slow-smoked meats of all kinds, but it’s particularly known for the pit-cooked, hickory-smoked pork shoulder. Get it on a sandwich with two classic Southern sides, such as mac ‘n’ cheese and collards or creamy potato salad and green beans. A combo like this will only set you back $3.50.
3330 Quebec Drive, Durham, bullocks-bbq.com
Rally the troops and order family-style for all-you-can-eat barbecue pork, fried chicken, and Brunswick stew, with coleslaw, string beans, and fries, at this family-owned and -operated institution that’s been serving Durham since 1952. Tommy Bullock passed away on Christmas Eve 2018, but his legacy lives on.
Clyde Cooper’s BBQ
327 South Wilmington Street, Raleigh, clydecoopersbbq.com
Clyde’s ranks among the state’s oldest BBQ establishments, having sold vinegar-drenched ’cue, ribs, and fried chicken since 1938. On the side, score the locally famous Brunswick stew, as well as hush puppies, fried okra, and Cheerwine baked beans, then get a gallon of sweet tea to wash it all down.
Hog Heaven Bar-B-Q
2419 Guess Road, Durham, hogheavenbarbecue.com
It’s easy to miss this hole-in-the-wall. Don’t. Hog Heaven serves up Eastern N.C.-style, hand-chopped ’cue, and the line forms early at lunchtime—dinner, too. Opt for the Bar-B-Q Plate with pulled pork, fried okra, candied yams, and hush puppies, and save room for the house-made banana pudding.
Johnson Family Barbecue
5021 Wake Forest Highway, Durham, johnsonfamilybbq.com
A small joint attached to a gas station way out east of town, Johnson makes ’cue that is blissfully smoky and fatty, fried chicken that people rave about (get there before 7:30 p.m.), and key-lime pie so good it might make you burst into tears. There’s also stellar service and Cheerwine in the cooler. Long story short: Don’t let the drive keep you away.
Ole Time Barbecue
6309 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, oletimebarbecue.com
When you walk in, you’ll be called “hon” and feel like you stepped into a truck-stop diner untouched by the outside world since the seventies. They’ll ply you with hush puppies, and you’ll order the Hand Chopped BBQ Pork Plate—sides: fried okra and mac ’n’ cheese, of course—because what else would you get? You’ll drink sweet tea and a lot of it. And you’ll wonder why you don’t come here more often.
1647 Cole Mill Road, Durham, picnicdurham.com
Picnic specializes in whole-hog barbecue, cooked low and slow over wood and hand-shredded, then sauced with co-owner Wyatt Dickson’s Pig Whistle, an Eastern-meets-Western North Carolina sauce. Order it on a sandwich with a side of slaw or on a plate with two sides (go for the mac ‘n’ cheese and bacon-braised collards). Round out the experience with a signature cocktail.
The Pit Authentic Barbecue
328 West Davie Street, Raleigh; 321 West Geer Street, Durham; thepit-raleigh.com, thepit-durham.com
A few years ago, an INDY writer described The Pit as having the “unerring commercial instinct of the Cheesecake Factory and the systemized efficiency of a McDonald’s.” This is accurate—The Pit is an actual restaurant that has a valet service out front, not a shack in the middle of nowhere. But damned if it doesn’t do whole-hog barbecue right. (As that same writer put it, “The Pit’s ’cue is what it should be: smoky, juicy, tangy, tender without being mushy or mealy.”) And damned if The Pit doesn’t do justice to mac ’n’ cheese, too.
2018 Best of the Triangle Readers’ Picks, Best Barbecue:
The Original Q-Shack, Durham County
Allen & Son (Chapel Hill, closed), Orange and Chatham Counties
The Pit Authentic Barbecue, Wake County