Say the word “barbecue” in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area in North Carolina and people automatically think one thing: That slow-cooked pork, pulled or chopped, mixed with a tangy vinegar-based sauce. North Carolinians love their pork almost as much as they love college basketball. Or maybe more. One thing’s for sure: If you’re visiting or relocating to the area, trying traditional Eastern-style North Carolina barbecue is a must. Wherever you are in the Triangle, there’s a place not too far away where you can sample this state delicacy.
Backyard BBQ Pit
Step into the Backyard BBQ Pit in Durham and you'll definitely feel welcomed in this family-run establishment. After the tantalizing smell of smoked meat, the first thing you'll notice is the walls. Completely covered in writing, guests can grab a marker and sign their name or even write a spontaneous ode to their new favorite meal. The sandwich special -- which consists of pork barbecue, coleslaw, and two sides --can't be beaten in terms of price or quality. Diners can't go wrong, no matter what side options are chosen, whether it's candied yams, fried cabbage, stewed potatoes, or the macaroni and cheese.
Ole Time Barbeque
While you’re waiting for food at Ole Time Barbeque, located near the state fairgrounds, you sure won’t get bored. The walls and shelves that line them provide a feast for the eyes, decorated in pig-themed items from banks to figurines in all shapes and sizes. Ole Time Barbeque is rated as one of the top 10 barbecue restaurants in the state, and you can get hand-chopped pork barbecue, St. Louis-style ribs or barbecued chicken. All plates come with two sides; sweet potato sticks or apple sticks provide unique options alongside traditional fare like macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and collard greens.
Clyde Cooper's BBQ
Walk into Clyde Cooper’s BBQ for lunch on a weekday and you’ll find a mix of impeccably dressed politicians, blue-collar workers and all sorts in between. Everyone unites for the barbecue, consisting of lean pork shoulder and homemade vinegar-based sauce. Clyde Cooper's has been in business since 1938, and stepping inside gives you a glimpse into the past, where lunch counters and checkered tablecloths ruled. Barbecued or fried chicken, sliced pork barbecue, and baby back ribs provide additional meal options, along with sides like steamed cabbage, boiled potatoes or corn, and butter beans.
Fine dining and barbecue aren’t your usual combination, but The Pit in downtown Raleigh pulls it off effortlessly. You can even reserve a table online. The Pit sources all its pork from local farmers who raise the hogs in pastures. Featured on the Food Network, Travel Channel, the "Today" show and "CBS This Morning," this restaurant offers creative takes on Southern specialties in addition to its barbecue. Try an appetizer like pumpkin skillet cornbread or fried pimento cheese with spicy pepper jelly. Sides like cheesy bacon grits and sweet potato fries stand out against more traditional choices.
With three locations in the Triangle, Danny’s Bar-B-Que is convenient to many. Somewhere in between a hole-in-the-wall and upscale dining, Danny’s is great for a family night out or a quick bite to eat during your lunch hour. Cravings for all types of barbecue lovers are met here. In addition to eastern North Carolina-style pork, you can get beef brisket, sliced pork loin, turkey breast, chicken, and ribs. Slather on one of three types of sauces sitting at the table: vinegar-based, tomato-based or mustard-based. Or go for an off-the-wall combo of all three. Side options include field peas, Brunswick stew, corn-on-the-cob, collards, coleslaw and French fries.
Allen & Son Bar-B-Que
The faded sign, checkered tablecloths, rustic ambiance and far-reaching reputation make Allen & Son Bar-B-Que worth the trip to Chapel Hill’s rural region. Barbecue plates come with huge portions of meat and two sides, so come hungry to this joint. Those in your party who aren’t fans of barbecue have options too, including a cheeseburger or hot dog off the grill. If you can manage, save room for dessert, like a homemade peach cobbler or a Carolina favorite, banana pudding.
Specializing in Southern cooking, Bullock’s Bar-B-Cue in Durham offers a range of other barbecue options in addition to the traditional eastern North Carolina style. Brave the fried chicken livers if you’re looking for a culinary adventure or get a taste of coastal Carolina with crab cakes, deviled crabs or fried clams. Distinctive side offerings include pickled beets, turnip greens, and deviled eggs. If you’re hosting a large event Carolina-style, Bullock’s specializes in pig pickings and catering. The restaurant even has an 85-seat full-service banquet hall available.