A short drive from Raleigh lies another BBQ spot which you might miss if you happened to blink. The unremarkable building housing Backyard BBQ Pi plays home to fat stacks of hickory and oak wood. When cooking its whole hogs, the pit fills the restaurant with smells of what’s to come, which is amazing vinegar-based ‘cue. The Durham-based pit also boasts famous smoked chicken and a host of sides like collard greens and black-eyed peas.
Durham; 919.544.9911; http://sweetribs.com
The Pig specializes in using local, pasture-raised, antibiotic and hormone-free hogs, a difference found in every bite. Whole pigs are cooked over open fire to create everything from classic chopped pork, to house-made hot dogs, to even Vietnamese pork cheek. The pig is so good here, you can even buy its wares in the local grocery stores and butcher shops.
Chapel Hill; 919.942.1133; http://thepigrestaurant.com
Since 1930, Stamey’s has been changing the game in North Carolina. Traditionally a state home to vinegar-based sauce, this join makes Lexington-style ‘cue. The sauce is tomato-based and thick, and slapped all over the hog during the cooking process. Stamey’s uses enclosed brick pits and tons of hardwood to moderate the heat of its fires. The drippings from the 15-pound pork shoulder hit the wood coals and then sizzle back up to the meat, a process which repeats itself time and time again during the cooking.
Greensboro; 336.288.9275; http://stameys.com
Nestled on a street in bustling Asheville, Buxton Hall is a destination. It’s huge, with multiple smokers inside the restaurant venting sweet hog smells directly outside. Not only does the pit cook its pigs whole hog over wood logs, they hang oysters and ribs over the fire as well, creating a trio of smoked goodness. Come for the pig, stay for everything else on the menu.
Asheville; 828.232.7216; http://buxtonhall.com
Stuck to a mountainside in picturesque Blowing Rock is a family-owned eatery with live music almost every night. It also happens to have some of the best BBQ in western NC. It’s famous for its BBQ and pork ribs, but don’t ignore the award-winning chili on the menu. Woodlands has been around since 1977, cooking up pork and hosting local musicians for over 40 years. If you ever find yourself in North Carolina high country, you’ll want to save some time Appalachian staple.
Blowing Rock; 828.295.3651; http://woodlandsbbq.com