10 Must-Visit Carolina Barbecue Joints

February 12, 2015 | By | Comments (97)
Skylight Inn

Skylight Inn, Ayden, NC (Photo: Denny Culbert)

Southern Living contributing Barbecue Editor Robert Moss travels the South in search of the most mouthwatering ’cue. From vinegar- to mustard-based sauces, here are some that best represent this regional favorite.

1.) Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge: Shelby, NC
Sauce Style: Vinegar & ketchup
Order the sliced pork tray with red slaw and hush puppies, or get a chopped pork sandwich with plenty of “outside brown” (the smoky outer bits of the shoulder) on a warm toasted bun. Wash it all down with a glass of sweet tea.

2.) Lexington Barbecue:
 Lexington, NC
Sauce Style: Vinegar & ketchup
Since 1962, Wayne Monk has been a master of the town’s signature style, cooking pork shoulders directly over glowing oak coals inside enclosed brick pits. The meat is chopped and dressed in the classic Piedmont vinegar-and-ketchup sauce.

3.) Barbecue Center: Lexington, NC
Sauce Style: Vinegar & ketchup
At the Barbecue Center, pit-cooked pork shoulder is chopped, coarse chopped, or sliced—and you can order it on a sandwich, on a tray with red slaw and hush puppies or rolls, or on a plate with fries. The famous banana split is a multi-scoop concoction—a nod to the restaurant’s start as an ice-cream parlor.

4.) Stamey’s: Greensboro, NC
Sauce Style: Vinegar & ketchup
Chip Stamey carries on his grandfather Warner’s tradition, cooking pork shoulders over all-hickory coals. You won’t find ribs, chicken, or Brunswick stew here—just chopped or sliced pork plates and sandwiches, fries and baked beans, and Stamey’s famous peach cobbler.

5.) Allen & Son Barbeque: 
Chapel Hill, NC
Sauce Style: Vinegar & red pepper
Allen & Son bridges the Eastern and Piedmont styles of North Carolina barbecue. Owner Keith Allen cooks pork shoulders Lexington style over hickory coals in closed brick pits and serves it with a basket of hush puppies. But the white mayo-based slaw and spicy, tomato-free vinegar sauce are more Eastern in style.

6.) Skylight Inn: Ayden, NC
Sauce Style: Vinegar & pepper
The self-proclaimed “barbecue capital of the world” is run by the Jones family, whose minimalist method hasn’t changed since 1947: Whole hogs cook all night in open brick pits fired with shovelfuls of oak coals. The finished meat is seasoned with salt, cider vinegar, and Texas Pete hot sauce as it’s chopped, and the skin is added for a little crunch. The only accompaniments are white slaw and a square of cornbread.

7.) Grady’s Barbecue: Dudley, NC
Sauce Style: Vinegar & pepper
A huge pile of split oak and hickory logs sits under a tin-roofed shed behind Stephen Grady’s pit room, where he cooks whole hogs and chickens overnight on open brick pits. His wife, Geri, makes all the sides from scratch, including cabbage, collards, and black-eyed peas. A tender, smoky chopped pork sandwich with coleslaw is the way to go.

8.) Scott’s Bar-B-Que: Hemingway, SC
Sauce Style: Vinegar & pepper
At his family’s country store, Rodney Scott cooks barbecue the old-time, labor-intensive Pee Dee way. He reduces white oak and pecan to embers in a giant burn barrel and uses them to fire open cinder block pits, where whole hogs roast slowly, skin-side-up, for 12 hours before they’re flipped and mopped with a pepper-laced vinegar sauce. Pulled into long shreds, the tender, smoky pork is so spicy it will leave your lips tingling.

9.) Hite’s Bar-B-Q: West Columbia, SC
Sauce Style: Mustard-based
More meat market, Hite’s in West Columbia is a weekend-only takeout spot. Hite and his on David burn two cords of oak and hickory wood in the pit room behind the main building, and you can taste the wood in every smoky bite of their chopped pork and ribs.

10.) Jackie Hite’s: Leesville, SC
Sauce Style: Mustard-based
Jackie Hite’s is an ideal place to sample Midlands-style hash and rice: pork and onions simmered slowly in a giant iron pot, the meat pulled by hand into long strands, then simmered with plenty of mustard till it dissolves into a gravy-like concoction. The buffet features barbecue pulled from whole hogs cooked over hickory embers on cinder block pits. It’s served with the Midlands’ signature tangy yellow mustard sauce.


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    June 17, 2017 at 11:50 am
  2. Don R

    No mention of Carolina BBQ? This list cannot be taken seriously. Best hash, best BBQ, best Chicken. People drive from All over the state to eat here.

    June 1, 2016 at 11:19 am
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    August 3, 2015 at 5:17 pm
  4. lotharheilandb6

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    July 21, 2015 at 1:17 am
  5. 1337.lu

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    June 30, 2015 at 9:23 am
  6. Kelley Pearson

    12 Bones in Asheville, NC is our favorite.

    March 16, 2015 at 4:25 pm
  7. Marla Sligh

    Jackie Hite still cooks his Bar-b-que the old fashioned way. Love the coleslaw best ever!! Whole hog on friday.

    March 13, 2015 at 10:18 am
  8. Garry

    WOW!! South Carolinians need to step up. Jackie Hite’s is good. However, Shealy’s BBQ is by far the cream of the crop for Carolina BBQ. US Presidents have visited their establishment on several occasions.

    March 4, 2015 at 7:21 am
  9. J

    Alston Bridges at 620 east Grover street Shelby is Better

    February 25, 2015 at 2:51 pm
  10. Chuck

    In Eastern NC? Try Wilber’s and/or Parker’s BBQ; then compare those to the rest. No contest. The best is cooked over hickory. Hickory logs have become so expensive that even some of the old-time best joints have gone to gas, electric, or oak. It is sad that we are fast loosing to the economics of gas. Ask around and find those few places that use hickory logs (not chips or artificially flavored sauce).
    If you cook at home on your own grill, use ample, water soaked hickory chips and try one of three sauces, Eastern NC: Kings BBQ sauce, Piedmont NC: Lexington BBQ sauce, and Western NC: Honky Tonk Pig (available online). A couple of drinks, close your eyes, and you will almost think you are there…red checkered plastic table cloth and all.

    February 25, 2015 at 11:36 am
  11. Bryant

    Red Bridges is a must anytime you drive through Shelby!

    February 24, 2015 at 3:15 pm
  12. News across North Carolina for February 23, 2015

    […] Seven of Southern Living’s ten “Must-Visit Barbecue Joints” are North Carolina joints, including one of my all-time favorites, Stamey’s. […]

    February 23, 2015 at 7:05 am
  13. Ann Queen

    Smiley’s Lexington BBQ on Winston Road in Lexington,N.C. The BEST!!!!

    February 22, 2015 at 2:09 pm
  14. Patricia

    i disagree with Stamey’s, but I do love Prissy Polly’s in Kernersville

    February 22, 2015 at 3:15 am
  15. Fred

    Sorry y’all: the best is Tommy’s BBQ in Thomasville,NC. Lexington BBQ is vastly overrated

    February 21, 2015 at 10:19 pm
  16. Karl Hill

    I don’t get it. In the magazine, Red Bridges Barbecue is No. 6, under “Five More Joints to Visit.” I also noticed that, in the magazine, the Pee Dee region of South Carolina is referred to as the “so-called” Pee Dee region. What’s up with that?

    February 21, 2015 at 10:17 pm
  17. Scott

    Wayne Monk is the BBQ god.

    February 21, 2015 at 8:11 pm
  18. Aubrey

    Speedy’s in Lexington should be on this list!

    February 21, 2015 at 7:11 pm
  19. C. Grant Starr

    I wholeheartedly agree with Bridges being at the top of the list – the best ‘cue I’ve ever had. Lexington #1 is the most overrated place I’ve ever eaten at in my life. And I’m glad to see someone mention Hursey’s, because I live in the Burlington area. They do other things besides BBQ well, too.

    February 21, 2015 at 2:44 pm
  20. Lillian

    whoever wrote this article surely did not do very good research

    February 21, 2015 at 2:32 pm
  21. Dewey

    Amen Traveler…..No B’s….No BBQ

    February 21, 2015 at 2:23 pm
  22. traveler

    Any top 10 BBQ joints list without B’s in Greenville NC is just trash

    February 21, 2015 at 10:00 am
  23. Alfred

    How do you leave off Wilber’s, B’s, and Hursey’s. I like the places you smell 1/2 mile before you arrive.

    February 21, 2015 at 4:35 am
  24. Betty

    Dickey Do’s Barbecue in Haw River NC is awesome

    February 21, 2015 at 1:09 am
  25. Paula Steed

    What about Lexington Style Trimmings? My opinion, they have the best bbq and food in Lexington. Plus, love the waitresses there.

    February 20, 2015 at 10:24 pm
  26. Sakethia Dalton

    I am from Eastern NC and a must stop is Gardner’s Barbecue on Hwy 301 in Rocky Mount, NC. Please ask all the people that are traveling North. They stop at Gardner’s and then hit I~95 going home with their barbecue. I love, love,love their green cole slaw.

    February 20, 2015 at 9:34 pm
  27. Betsy

    Best by far is Speedy’ s in Lexington! Another great one is BBQ Joe’s in Archdale!

    February 20, 2015 at 9:10 pm
  28. Mel

    Short Sugar’s in Reidsville NC is wonderful.

    February 20, 2015 at 9:05 pm
  29. Five for Friday: February 20, 2015 | Big Wayner's BBQ Blog

    […] on with the phenomenon that is lists on the intarwebs, Southern Living published a list of 10 must-visit BBQ joints in the Carolinas.  All but 3 are in the Old North State — sorry, […]

    February 20, 2015 at 1:31 pm
  30. Ralph T Zipperhead

    I’ve tried a lot of these – good choices mostly. I’d add Winks in Salisbury, my personal favorite. I’d remove Stameys. I have never understood why that place is so liked. I’ve eaten there several times thinking that the other times were off days. It just never rises above mediocre IMO. Keep the suggestions coming folks, I’m always looking to add to my travel plans.

    February 20, 2015 at 9:55 am
  31. LAF in the A.M. February 19th, 2015 | Left At the Fork

    […] Southern Living presents ten must-visit Carolina barbecue palaces, both North and South, encompassing all the regional styles. At Lexington Barbecue, “The meat is chopped and dressed in the classic Piedmont vinegar-and-ketchup sauce.” Allen & Son of Chapel Hill  uses an Eastern-style “spicy, tomato-free vinegar sauce.” The Skylight Inn in Ayden finishes its meat with “salt, cider vinegar, and Texas Pete hot sauce as it’s chopped, and the skin is added for a little crunch.” The hog at Jackie Hite’s of Leesville, SC is “simmered with plenty of mustard.” […]

    February 19, 2015 at 12:30 pm
  32. BBQ News: 02/13 – 02/19 : TMBBQ

    […] – Southern Living ranks their ten favorite Carolina barbecue joints. […]

    February 19, 2015 at 8:01 am
  33. Mark Sizemore

    I have eaten at a couple of these on your list. But here is a few more to try, they are really good. 1. Hannah’s Barbeque in Claremont, NC. 2. JD’s Smokehouse in Rutherford College, NC. Awesome sides here. 3. Hog Wild Bar-B-Que in Granite Falls, NC

    February 19, 2015 at 7:00 am
  34. Linkdown: 2/18/15 | Barbecue Bros

    […] Robert Moss’ list of 10 Must-Visit Carolina Barbecue Joints includes several Barbecue Bros […]

    February 18, 2015 at 10:32 am
  35. Adrian

    I’m sorry Southern Living you didn’t visit Farm Boy’s BBQ in Chapin, SC. They have best BBQ all around! They have mustard & vinegar pork barbecue meats.
    Farm Boy’s Barbeque – The Best Dang Barbeque in These Here Parts.

    February 17, 2015 at 8:34 pm
  36. Jeanne Hilko

    “Earl Dukes BBQ” Circa 1965… Orangeburg, SC- Featured on The Food network… Who’s Judging these BBQ’s joints you folks are visiting? WOW!!!!

    February 17, 2015 at 8:14 pm
  37. Jeff

    Undoubtedly the best barbecue in North Carolina sits in a place you would not think about. Oak Island and the Oak Island Barbecue House.

    February 17, 2015 at 7:59 pm
  38. Tammy

    WOW!!! I’m 50 and I’ve been eating at Red Bridge’s BBQ in Shelby, NC since I was a child! Best BBQ around.

    February 17, 2015 at 6:50 pm
  39. Shawn

    Sweatman’s in Holly Hill SC. Been going there since a small kid in late 70’s. Their hash is the only hash I’ll eat! Mustard based BBQ sauce. Yes. Yes

    February 17, 2015 at 6:29 pm
  40. Kenneth L

    Sorry Mr. Moss but you have left out one of the best in Eastern NC. Parkers BBQ has been in business a long time and many of the BBQ places in the area are spin offs of the original PARKERS BBQ in Wilson NC. http://www.yelp.com/biz/parkers-barbecue-wilson I have eaten at many BBQ joints in my travels around these great states and none compare to Parkers BBQ. They have been reported on by WRAL channel 5 Tarheel Traveler Scott Mason in the past. I have never eaten at any other place that has corn sticks and until you get some hot from the kitchen you will never know how good corn bread can be. When ever I travel within 20 miles of Wilson I always go and pick up take home to freeze until my next trip to my family home.

    February 17, 2015 at 5:57 pm
  41. Franklin Sams

    OOPS, I made a mistake on my first comment. Sorry, Y’all.

    February 17, 2015 at 9:19 am
  42. Franklin Sams

    I still say Sweatman’s near Holly Hill, SC. is the standard to judge each and every Bar B Que joints (no pun intended)

    February 17, 2015 at 9:12 am
  43. Franklin Sams

    I still say Sweatman’s near St. George, SC. is the standard to judge and and all Bar B Que joints (no pun intended)

    February 17, 2015 at 9:09 am
  44. Rumors & Notes: 2/16/15 | Holy City Sinner

    […] 10 Must-Visit Carolina Barbecue Joints  (The Daily South). […]

    February 17, 2015 at 7:45 am
  45. Ailine fox

    Jackie Hite cooks his Bar B Que the old fashioned way. It is great and he has the very best coleslaw you have ever tasted. Everything here is great.

    February 17, 2015 at 7:44 am
  46. Bill Jeffries

    Stameys has chicken.

    February 17, 2015 at 7:15 am
  47. Barbara

    Skylight Inn best I’ve had out of several of these

    February 17, 2015 at 5:39 am

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