26 Essential NC Barbecue Places

UPDATE

I did take a trip to flesh out the places on there Our State list of 26 essential barbecue places that I had not visited.  You can read reviews of the places I tried.  They include Switzerland Café and General Store (ugh), the excellent Richard’s Bar-B-Q, and Morris Barbeque (great sauce).  While I was on the road, I got sidetracked by Countryside BBQ (good),  Log Cabin Barbecue (really good), a return to Sam Jones to check out their pork skins with pimiento cheese (their pork is very good), and the very good Hunter Hill Cafe.  I also had a detour to the Glenwood Grill (try it).  There’s still work to do.

Continue reading below to see the places I’d already been.

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An article in Our State lists 26 barbecue places in North Carolina that they believe essential that you try.   As regular readers know, I am no friend of “best” lists for a whole host of reasons.  At the same time, Our State has proved to be a pretty reliable source for things food-related, so this is an article to approach with interest and respect.  A list by Our State almost always will serve as a handy travel guide: it may not list the best places, but it will list good places to eat.  As a matter of fact, after looking at these 26 places, I think it gives you a good reason to travel.  Some of these places are reasons to travel, worth the trip from wherever you are, whatever else you might have to do.  A New York Times reporter took a day trip just to eat a sandwich here

skylight me

and I drove a lot farther than that to eat here

red bridges sign

Of course, unlike the New York Times reporter, I ate at a bunch of other places, too.

First, let’s clear up one thing.  Wilber’s has closed.  We have to face that fact, painful though it is.  So, as of now, there are only 25 active places on the list.  I can think of several to add (and some to replace), but that’s for another day.

The  article divides the 26 places among three regions, Western, Central, and Eastern.  That’s helpful from a travel planning perspective.  It’s a big, long state, and if you’re headed to the beach it doesn’t make sense to wade through a lot of places that are way off route.  On a culinary basis, I tend, like others, to divide North Carolina into two regions based on the two distinct styles of barbecue in the state: whole hog with pepper and vinegar sauce in the East, below the fall line, and pork shoulders with pepper, vinegar, and ketchup sauce in the higher ground.

It’s a pretty daunting article.  As much barbecue as I’ve eaten in North Carolina since starting the Blog, I’ve only eaten at nine of the 25, mostly in Eastern and Central North Carolina.  That leaves a lot of driving all over hell and gone on a full stomach in the Western North Carolina mountains, and a good bit in the central region of the state.

You can read reviews of the one place I’ve tried in the Western region, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby.  In Central North Carolina, I’ve eaten at Lexington Barbecue (aka Honey Monk’s) in Lexington, Speedy’s Barbecue in Lexington, Picnic in Durham, and Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro.  That leaves four in Western and nine in Central North Carolina for me to try.  So far, Lexington Barbecue is the best one on Our State’s Central list, but in my East-West division, Red Bridges is  probably just as good and quite possibly better.  I need a trip to eat at both on the same day to see which I like better.  Meanwhile, there are a lot of other good, some better barbecue places, especially in and around Lexington, that did not make the list of 26.

In the Eastern North Carolina division I’ve eaten at Bum’s Restaurant in Ayden, the Skylight Inn in Ayden, Grady’s BBQ outside Dudley, the late lamented Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro, B’s Barbecue in Greenville, and Parker’s Barbecue in Wilson.  That leaves only one, Morris Barbecue in Hookerton, which I haven’t visited: it’s only open on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., so that one may take some time.  These are all great places to eat.  Bum’s has the best Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue in the world, and the Skylight is number two.  Wilber’s was number three, but …..  And I love Grady’s, and the barbecued chicken at B’s, and the corn sticks and fried chicken at Parker’s.

There are a lot of worse ways to spend your time than eating your way through these 25 places.  A  lot worse.  It’s time for me to plan trip.

Meanwhile, you’ve got a lot of great barbecue places to try.

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