Sample N.C. Heritage at Barbecue Joints in the Triangle and Beyond


Published:

For native North Carolinians, the word “barbecue” stirs strong feelings and emotions. To venture into a barbecue joint is to step back in time, to gather for a meal the way family and friends in North Carolina have for ages in this agrarian state.

For family reunions, weddings or deaths, North Carolinians held pig pickin’s, roasting whole pigs over coals in pits dug in the ground. With the barbecue, they served up farm-fresh vegetables and homespun desserts, which is why, even today, when you head out to a barbecue joint, you can plan on getting a whole meal, just like your kin cooked for you, with black-eyed peas, Brunswick stew, mac-and-cheese and more.

Kevin Lloyd, who grew up in Raleigh, says his first memory of eating out was going to a barbecue place with his father.

“I can remember being really small and going downtown to Raleigh [Clyde] Cooper’s Barbecue,” he says. “Cooper’s has been around forever. It opened in 1938, so I can remember being in there with my dad and getting this little paper boat-type thing with barbecue and hush puppies.”

He’s been a barbecue fan ever since, soaking in the unique flavors of food at mom-and-pop restaurants for 45 years.

clydecooperswarsaw.jpgAs a college student, Lloyd returned to Clyde Cooper’s and started taking friends there. Soon, those outings grew into a tradition of hunting for new barbecue places whenever the friends ventured out together. Within a short drive of the Triangle, there’s wealth of good barbecue joints, he says. Each has a distinctive style, and what is served up on a plate—from sides of vegetables, hush puppies, Brunswick stew and desserts—varies in taste. (Photo at right courtesy of Clyde Cooper's)

Some of his favorite places, besides Cooper’s, include Carolina Barbeque in Garner, Allen & Son BBQ in Chapel Hill, Big Al's Barbeque and The Pit, both in Raleigh, Hillsborough BBQ in Hillsborough, The Fire Pit in Wake Forest, Smokey's BBQ Shack in Morrisville, Stephenson's Bar-B-Q in Willow Springs, and Pik n Pig in Carthage. Each offers a different dining experience. The Pik n Pig, for example, is next to a small airport.

“You can sit there and watch these little planes come and go and sort of enjoy being outside and relaxed,” Lloyd says. “It’s a really wonderful place to cruise down, have a bite outside and enjoy the day and then cruise back up to Raleigh. You find a lot of car clubs like to go there—Mustang Club, Porsche Club.”

Some places, such as The Firepit in Wake Forest, welcome you even if you only want a bite of something sweet, he says.

“It’s one of those places you can just pop in, and if you feel like you don’t want a full meal, you can just get a slice of this Southern-style pecan pie and a glass of whole milk,” he says. “It is just the best thing you can find.”

Barbecue chains are “all right for what they are,” Lloyd says. “They cook it the same way; they season it the same way. It’s consistent, but it doesn’t have that heart and soul that you get from the mom-and-pop place.”

Most barbecue joints in the Triangle serve “eastern-style” barbecue, which is vinegar-based, but North Carolina is also known for a “western-style” barbecue. Jim Early, who closed his law office seven years ago to found the N.C. Barbecue Society in Winston-Salem and wrote The Best Tar Heel Barbecue Book, Manteo to Murphy, describes the two styles this way:

hillsboroughbbqcolowres.jpg“East of Chapel Hill, you’ll find places cooking the whole hog … and they use a vinegar-based sauce—mild apple cider vinegar with some water and some sugar, peppers—and it is cooked down,” he says. “It’s got red pepper and black pepper—that’s just for taste. If they want to make it hotter, they can put some habaneros and jack it up a little.

“West of Chapel Hill, they cook pork shoulders. There is no whole hog cooking west of Chapel Hill. They don’t call what they put on their meat ‘sauce’; they call it dip. And they have taken the eastern North Carolina vinegar-based sauce and added tomato—either tomato paste or tomato puree, ’most everybody just adds tomato ketchup. They add a sweetener— some molasses, some honey, but ’most everybody uses brown sugar—and it’s kind of a sweet-and-sour concoction.”

When it comes to barbecue, Early says, nobody can top North Carolina’s style of cooking slowly at a low temperature, a method he believes was originally brought here by native Indians, who sought ways to cook so that flames and smoke would not alert enemies to their presence. To honor those still cooking barbecue the old-fashioned way, Early researched and designed the N.C. Historic Barbecue Trail, now listed on the N.C. Barbecue Society’s website. (Photo at left courtesy of Hillsborough BBQ Company shows Pitmaster Derrick McLeod in front of the restaurant's oak and hickory coaled wood pit.)

“To be on the trail, they have to cook the old-fashioned way—low and slow over live coals—and they have to have done it for 15 or more years,” he says. “They have to cook North Carolina style.”

It’s a style that feels like home—laid back and delicious to many.

“It’s traditional. You can call it comfort food, soul food,” Lloyd says.  


Barbecue Joints

Allen & Son Barbecue in Chapel Hill

Big Al's Barbecue in Raleigh

Carolina Barbeque in Garnerthepitlowres2.jpg

Clyde Cooper's Barbecue in Raleigh

Danny's Bar-B-Que in Durham, Morrisville, Cary

Dickey's Barbecue Pit in Cary, Durham, Knightdale and Raleigh

Hillsborough BBQ Company in Hillsborough

Smokey's BBQ Shack in Morrisville

Stephenson's Bar-B-Q in Willow Springs

The Fire Pit in Wake Forest

The Pik n Pig in Carthage

The Pit, in Raleigh (Photo at right of The Pit by Scott LeVoyer)

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Weekend Family Fun Across the Triangle

Dec. 6-8: Community Day at the Museum, Teen Science Café, Live Raptors and Pop-Up Art

Holiday Gifts That Foster Motor Development

The latest 'Oh, Baby!' column

Helping Children Through Winter Holiday Routine Changes

The latest 'Understanding Kids' column
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2019

Come by the Finley Center any time during the day to participate in a collaborative community art project celebrating what you are thankful for! Play a game of “Roll a Turkey” and take home...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Did you know bucks or male deer can grow a new set of antlers each year? Explore pelts, skulls, tracks, and scat of white-tailed deer through hands-on discovery stations. Then learn about the...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2854
Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Please join Admissions, Division Directors and our Head of School as they talk about Duke School’s unique program, specifically for incoming kindergarten through fourth grade students for the...

Cost: $0

Where:
Duke School
3716 Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Duke School
Telephone: 919-416-9420
Contact Name: Logan Blaylock

More information

Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #127198.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Have you ever wondered what happens to our wildlife during the winter? They have a variety of adaptations to help them get through the cold months. Come explore some of their techniques then take a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

There are a lot of dangers in the woods for deer and rabbits! Read a story about these mammals and practice hiding from predators during a fun game, then make a deer-themed craft. For ages 3-5...

Cost: FREE. Registration is required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850

More information

Design and create a keepsake apron with vibrant markers and other fun decorations. After completing your apron, enjoy baking and decorating your own individual cake. Ages 6-10. 

Cost: $35/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come talk about books and eat pizza. No assigned reading prior to the meeting. Call or stop by to register: 919-245-2532.

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Parents of children learn age-appropriate social skills for children ages 3-6. Register online by Nov. 28.

Cost: $22/person or $33/couple

Where:
Project Enlightenment
501 S. Boylan Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Please visit the Homeschoolers of Holly Springs 4th Annual Holiday Market Day. Student entrepreneurs will be showcasing their products while learning about running their own businesses. All...

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Hope Community Church
2080 E Williams St
Apex, NC  27539
View map »

More information

As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

More information

Want a fun arty Friday night activity for your teen? We've got the Teen Art Takeover just for them. Once a month we open up the community clay studio just for the 11-17 set. We have art...

Cost: $5 Resident/$6 nonresident

Where:
Chapel Hill Community Clay Studio
200 Plant Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Community Clay Studio and Chapel Hill Teen Center
Telephone: 919-968-2878
Contact Name: Robena Meek
Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Join the three ensembles of the Cary Youth Voices for choral music. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Greenwood Forest Baptist Church
110 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

On season 6 of American Idol, Melinda Doolittle stunned both the audience and the judges with her powerhouse vocals and her personal charm. She placed third in the voting, and has since gone on to...

Cost: $28 + taxes and fees

Where:
The Clayton Center
111 E. Second Street
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Sponsor: The Clayton Center
Telephone: 919-553-1737
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet at the Waterwise Garden (first parking lot on right) No preregistration required.Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends....

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

More information

See award-winning houses from the Town of Cary's 9th Annual Gingerbread House Competition on display. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

More information

Ages 4-12 enjoy free arts and crafts. Registration not required. Children must have adult accompaniment. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Take your American Girl to enjoy crafts, games, tea etiquette and more. Registration required online. Ages 5-10. Choose course #127007 for the 11 a.m. tea or #127008 for the 1 p.m. tea. 

Cost: $21/child

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Website »

More information

Get ready for the holidays with festive activities, shopping, a holiday concert at 5 p.m. and much more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Lafayette Village
8450 Honeycutt Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Website »

More information

Make an angel out of polymer clay to hang on a tree. Register online. Choose course #127353.

Cost: $19/resident, $25/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Kick off your holiday season with horse-drawn carriage rides, hot apple cider, live music, handmade crafts, holiday activities, and a visit with Ol' Saint Nick.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Drive
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Oak View County Park
Telephone: 919-250-1013
Website »

More information

As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

More information

Ages 3-12 and their fathers enjoy a night of dancing, light refreshments, photos and more. Registration required at Rolesville Community Center.

Cost: $25.00 per couple, non-resident $30.00 per couple, $10.00 per additional child

Where:
Rolesville Community Center
514 Southtown Circle
Rolesville, NC  27571
View map »


Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags