Any BBQ purist will tell you North Carolina has its own variety of smoked meats. It’s not just one flavor – the taste varies as you travel across the Tar Heel State. As a native son of NC, I’ve tried the best of the best, and each variety of BBQ holds its own allure. To help guide you through the land of whole hog cooking, I’ve slapped together a list of ten notable eateries you’ll want to visit the next time you find yourself in Carolina. Grab a friend, the portions are as impressive as the pits.
-Kevin Daniel at http://thekevindaniel.com
Sam Jones BBQ
Strictly sticking to the wood-fired method that’s become a North Carolina staple, Sam Jones puts out some of the best BBQ in the state. Using locally raised hogs and endless amounts of oak and hickory, the team at Sam Jones learned their craft from the famed Skylight Inn. The two owners are related (grandfather and grandson), and making incredible chopped BBQ seems to be in their blood.
Winterville; 252.689.7946; http://samjonesbbq.com
Greenville is one of the larger towns in Eastern North Carolina, but its mainstay BBQ spot is anything but. Just slightly more than a hole in the wall, B’s BBQ has been around for decades, and continues to sell out of hog on the daily. With no phone or website, your best bet is to roll up early, wait in line, and throw your order to the incredibly friendly staff.
Since 1947 Skylight Inn has been cooking whole hogs in Ayden, NC. There’s not much going on in the sleepy southern town, but that hasn’t stopped Skylight from grabbing national attention for its chopped pork. The Inn hasn’t forgotten where it came from, still staffed by a host of friendly people with a passion for whole-cooked hog.
Ayden; 252.746.4113; http://skylightinnbbq.com
Gerri and Steve Grady are the husband and wife team behind the pork at Grady’s BBQ. Located in Dudley, just a short drive from Raleigh, the hog joint still seems off the beaten bath, which always means better-tasting food. Using split logs and long hours, the whole hog is cooked to perfection and paired with Gerri’s famous butterbeans. Steve has been using hickory and oak logs to cook his hogs since 1986 and shows no sign of slowing down.
Hailing from the state’s capitol, The Pit is one of the newer kids on the block, despite operating out of a 1930s meatpacking warehouse. Featured on the likes of “The Today Show” and Bon Appetit, The Pit cooks its hogs whole using traditional eastern North Carolina methods, meaning low temperatures for long hours, and a vinegar-based sauce. The Pit kicks it up a notch by pairing your favorite pork with its offering of beers and wines. There’s also real tasty chicken, ribs, and brisket on the menu, so take your time while ordering.
Raleigh, 919.890.4500; http://thepit-raleigh.com