Upon my return from my Eastern Virginia Barbecue Tour on behalf of the Campaign for Real Barbecue (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), I decided to take a vacation. The perfect break from my routine, I decided, would be to head to South Carolina to eat barbecue.
I’d eaten at a lot of barbecue places in and around the Low Country, so I was aiming for upcountry South Carolina. That meant a drive down I-85 which meant lunch in Raleigh with family there — my nephews Jimbo and Henry,
and Jimbo’s son, Eli
were all available. Eli, by the way, just graduated from NC State and has landed a job with a mortgage banking firm. Eli’s twin brother Jack, (the new, improved John Tanner) a newly minted Chapel Hill grad, was busy at a church as he prepares for seminary. Henry’s son, Townsend, was at the beach preparing to go off to LSU. We’re a very ecumenical family.
We met at Sam Jones’s new place in Raleigh. It’s in the Warehouse District, just a few blocks from The Pit. After eating a lot of brisket and ribs in the DC area and Eastern Virginia, I was ready for some North Carolina pork, and ordered an iconic barbecue tray: pork, slaw, and Sam Jones’s distinctive cornbread. And some collards.
Did I get any slaw? I don’t think so. Maybe they thought I wanted collards instead of slaw. Maybe I should pay attention. The local folks each ordered a pork and smoked chicken plate. (I would have ordered the same thing, but I was toying with the idea of stopping by a place in Durham for a sandwich.) Jimbo, ever concerned that I get enough to eat, gave me a long leg (the drumstick, as opposed tooth short leg, the thigh) from his chicken.
I had heard mixed reviews of the Raleigh branch, but let me tell you that the pork was wonderful, just wonderful. It was rich and smoky and flecked with those bits of finely chopped pork skin that add so much flavor and texture. I think it was better than the original Sam Jones BBQ in Pitt County, maybe as good as the grandaddy Jones family spot, the Skylight Inn. And the chicken — the chicken was terrific, tender, juicy, and full of smoke. It was miles ahead of the merely good (that is, disappointing) chicken at the Skylight Inn. And the collards were good.
Perhaps I just got lucky, or perhaps they cracked the whip at the Raleigh branch. At any rate, at least for now, I’ll declare Sam Jones to be the best barbecue place in Raleigh.
And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box. Or bookmark us and check in from time to time. If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvreor the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event). Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome. And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.