Barbecue in the Triangle: There’s nothing better!
Just saying 'barbecue' in this part of the country will get your mouth watering. If you love barbecue, there are so many incredible places preparing it that it's easy to think you've died and gone to hog heaven.
The first choice you need to make is the kind of barbecue you want. You see, in North Carolina, there are two types of barbecue that compete for your love and attention: eastern style and western (also called Lexington or Piedmont style).
Chapel Hill is the dividing line between the two styles of barbecue in the Triangle area. East of Chapel Hill you will find Eastern-style barbecue. Western style barbecue is found west of Chapel Hill. Both styles are known for great, slow-cooked pork. The pork is usually smoked over hickory or other fine woods by the restaurants. The slow, low-heat cooking allows the meat to become extremely tender while also letting it absorb the rich smoke flavors. There’s no substitute for taking the time to smoke the meat at a low temperature.
Eastern-style BBQ: A Spicy Twist On Tradition
In eastern style barbecue, whole hog is used. So the meat in your barbecue can come from any part of the hog. The barbecue sauce is vinegar-based, with some sugar and black and red peppers added for flavor. Sometimes habaneros are added to make the barbecue hotter, for those who love hot, spicy foods. The sauce is cooked at length to enhance its flavor, and it never has any tomato in it. The eastern style is considered the traditional style for the area.
Western-style BBQ: Savory Sweet & Sour Sauce
Western, or Lexington/Piedmont, style barbecue is commonly found west of Chapel Hill. Western style only uses the pork shoulder, never the whole hog. So, western style can be more portable. The sauce is called dip, and it is also vinegar based. The dip is usually sweetened with brown sugar, but molasses or honey could also be used. What makes western style different from eastern style is that western style has a little tomato paste or puree added to the dip. Sometimes ketchup is used instead. But they just use a little tomato, mostly for flavoring. Some have described the western style as a bit sweet and sour. The western style barbecue should not be confused with the thick tomato-based barbecue that you would find in Kansas City or other parts of the country.
The Best Triangle Area BBQ Joints
Many of the local barbecue meccas offer chicken, beef, and turkey, as well as pork. Side dishes can be quite varied. Typically they include cole slaw, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, collard greens, steamed or fried cabbage, butter beans, boiled potatoes, grits, corn-on-the-cob, French fries, fried okra, and so many more. If that’s not enough, the barbecue joints also offer a variety of homemade desserts such as banana pudding, peach cobbler, ice cream, cake, pies, and many more delicious treats.
Quite a few of our local barbecue restaurants have established a national reputation.
Best Barbecue In Chapel Hill
Allen & Son Bar-B-Que in Chapel Hill was recognized by Southern Living magazine as one of the best barbecue joints in the South. The magazine said that they bridge the gap between Eastern and Piedmont (Lexington) styles. They have two locations, one not far from our offices in Chapel Hill and the second just a little north of Pittsboro on 15-501.
Best Barbecue In Durham
Best Barbecue In Raleigh
The Pit Authentic Barbecue in downtown Raleigh has been featured on The CBS Morning Show, The Today Show, the Food Network, and the Travel Channel. They have also been recommended in Bon Appetit, Southern Living, Zagat, and Men’s Health. They have a second location in Downtown Durham where they feature a pretty impressive collection of Bourbons as well.
Yahoo Travel named Durham’s Backyard BBQ Pit the best barbecue in North Carolina. The restaurant believes that its secret to success is the smokehouse which uses hickory and oak wood. Man v. Food also praised this barbecue joint.
Local Eats name Clyde Cooper’s BBQ in Raleigh one of the 20 best barbecue joints in America.
NC Triangle Dining lists their three top NC barbecue joints: Allen & Son (Chapel Hill), Brew n Que (Cary- offering a great selection of craft brewed beers as well), and Clyde Cooper’s BBQ (Raleigh).
Don’t limit yourself to just these fine dining establishments. Ask your friends and neighbors which barbecue joints are the best. Everyone has a favorite. Check out all of the barbecue joints around town and find your favorite hog heaven!Larry Tollen on