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Sam Jones BBQ for Eater Carolinas
The spread at Sam Jones BBQ.
Forrest Mason Media

11 Exceptional Barbecue Spots in the Triangle

Where to get pulled pork, smoked chicken, and St. Louis-style ribs

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The spread at Sam Jones BBQ.
| Forrest Mason Media

Barbecue in the Triangle is as varied as the region’s population itself. Sure there’s traditional Carolina style, but there’s also Texas style, Lexington style, Latin style, and more. There are down-home family joints and more modern, upscale establishments. Some are smoking whole hogs while others are cooking with cuts. There are smoked turkeys, chickens, and plenty of ribs and brisket for those who need a break from the pig.

Let’s get the controversy out of the way— asking a North Carolinian, “What’s the best barbecue?” is bound to stir up some strong feelings. These 11 restaurants represent some of the best, and most innovative, barbecue the Triangle has to offer, but by no means does that mean there aren’t other favorites out there too. Either way, it’s hard to go wrong at any of these, so grab some napkins, get those sleeves rolled up, and dive into some divine ‘cue.

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Picnic offers locally sourced whole hog barbecue alongside an expansive menu of Southern classics like a fried catfish sandwich, deviled eggs, Brunswick stew, and more. The menu often changes with new specials and homemade desserts making star appearances — keep an eye out for the Picnic burger. A full bar serves beer, wine, and cocktails, with catering and takeout also available.

Bullock's Bar-B-Cue

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Family-run Bullock’s has been a Durham institution since 1940, with faded framed photographs of celebrities and sports stars dotting the window, a pay-at-the-front system, and cafeteria-style service in the dining room. Expect to find barbecue joint staples like pulled pork, fried chicken, collards, mac and cheese, and more, alongside more eclectic offerings (for a North Carolina barbecue shop) like Maryland-style crab cakes, chicken parmesan, and quesadillas.

The Pig

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The only place in Chapel Hill currently offering whole hog barbecue, the Pig serves classic ‘cue with some updates. There’s Eastern-style pork barbecue, of course, but also pork cheek served banh mi-style, pork tongue tacos, and fried bologna sandwiches with the bologna made in-house. For a barbecue restaurant, there’s also a surprising number of vegetarian options, and it recently opened the Piggyback Bar behind the main shop, serving beer, wine, cocktails, and an abbreviated bar snacks menu.

Lawrence Barbecue

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Chef Jake Wood and his team at Lawrence Barbecue quickly built a reputation for slinging some of the Triangle’s most innovative meats. The menu changes frequently, but there’s always pulled pork, brisket, and smoked turkey alongside sides like mac and cheese (with Voodoo chip topping), slaw, and fries. The smoked birria tacos were so popular when the restaurant opened that Wood had to remove them from the menu and will open an entirely separate taco spot next door. Get there early and expect a line — when the meats sell out for the day, that’s it.

A red tray with a barbecue sandwich and oysters.
Lawrence Barbecue offers puled pork and oysters.
John Park

Backyard BBQ Pit

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In 2021, Southern Living Magazine named Backyard BBQ Pit one of the South’s most legendary barbecue joints, and the legions of fans who continue to flock to this South Durham staple would agree. The menu is focused on the meats — pork, turkey, beef brisket, chicken, ribs, and fish. Plates, platters, and sandwiches are all available, as are more than a dozen sides. Soul food aficionados will appreciate deep cuts like the pork feet and the fried whiting.

Lechon Latin BBQ

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Since opening in Raleigh less than a year ago, Lechon Latin BBQ has injected new excitement into the Triangle’s barbecue scene. It certainly isn’t the first to introduce Latin barbecue traditions to the Triangle, but it is one of the only ones with such a dedicated focus to the craft. The menu includes pernil, Cuban sandwiches, salchipapas (fries topped with smoked Argentine sausage), empanadas, tacos, Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken, and more.

Lechon Latin BBQ spread
Lechon Latin BBQ spread.
Stacey Sprenz Photography

The BBQ Lab

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The Raleigh outpost of the award-winning Redneck BBQ Lab in Benson, North Carolina, offers much of the same as the original location without the 40 minute drive. There’s smoked pulled pork, brisket, and turkey, of course, but also weekly rotating specials like massive bone-in smoked pork chops. The new location will also serve beer and has plans to offer brunch as well.

Allen & Son Bar-B-Que

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After closing the iconic Chapel Hill location, the Allen family licensed the Pittsboro location of Allen & Son to be run by the folks behind Sanford’s Stubbs & Son Barbecue. The menu remains fairly similar, with a focus on sandwiches or plates of wood-smoked pulled pork, fried catfish, and burgers, alongside plenty of classic house sides.

Clyde Cooper's Barbeque

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Since 1938, Clyde Cooper’s has been downtown Raleigh’s go-to for barbecue. The Eastern-style pork comes chopped or pulled, and there’s also chopped chicken and beef brisket. The Brunswick stew is so popular that it can be ordered by the gallon, and for something different, it has a special dog on the menu — chopped pork barbecue topped with a sausage dog and slaw.

Sam Jones BBQ

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Sam Jones is one of America’s most foremost pitmasters, and for years fans had to make the trek east to Winterville, North Carolina, to get a taste of his award-winning barbecue. Luckily Jones and his team opened a Raleigh location that serves much of the same menu, with some twists for the big city folk. Go-tos include the Jones family barbecue tray (smoked pulled pork, a piece of Skylight Inn-style cornbread, and a side) and the Jones family chicken tray (choice of white or dark meat slow-smoked chicken quarter, choice of bread, and a side). There’s also fried catfish bites, pork skins, and pimento cheese, with plenty of sides and salads.

Aviator Smokehouse

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It’s hard to beat the combination of beer and barbecue, so the folks at Aviator Brewing decided to open a smokehouse. Pair Aviator’s brews with wood-smoked pulled pork, St. Louis-style ribs, brisket, chicken, or smoked meatloaf. The Piggy Mac Skillet, a popular menu item, is smoked pulled pork layered in a cast iron skillet with cheddar mac and cheese, chives, bacon, and Aviator BBQ sauce.

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Picnic

Picnic offers locally sourced whole hog barbecue alongside an expansive menu of Southern classics like a fried catfish sandwich, deviled eggs, Brunswick stew, and more. The menu often changes with new specials and homemade desserts making star appearances — keep an eye out for the Picnic burger. A full bar serves beer, wine, and cocktails, with catering and takeout also available.

Bullock's Bar-B-Cue

Family-run Bullock’s has been a Durham institution since 1940, with faded framed photographs of celebrities and sports stars dotting the window, a pay-at-the-front system, and cafeteria-style service in the dining room. Expect to find barbecue joint staples like pulled pork, fried chicken, collards, mac and cheese, and more, alongside more eclectic offerings (for a North Carolina barbecue shop) like Maryland-style crab cakes, chicken parmesan, and quesadillas.

The Pig

The only place in Chapel Hill currently offering whole hog barbecue, the Pig serves classic ‘cue with some updates. There’s Eastern-style pork barbecue, of course, but also pork cheek served banh mi-style, pork tongue tacos, and fried bologna sandwiches with the bologna made in-house. For a barbecue restaurant, there’s also a surprising number of vegetarian options, and it recently opened the Piggyback Bar behind the main shop, serving beer, wine, cocktails, and an abbreviated bar snacks menu.

Lawrence Barbecue

Chef Jake Wood and his team at Lawrence Barbecue quickly built a reputation for slinging some of the Triangle’s most innovative meats. The menu changes frequently, but there’s always pulled pork, brisket, and smoked turkey alongside sides like mac and cheese (with Voodoo chip topping), slaw, and fries. The smoked birria tacos were so popular when the restaurant opened that Wood had to remove them from the menu and will open an entirely separate taco spot next door. Get there early and expect a line — when the meats sell out for the day, that’s it.

A red tray with a barbecue sandwich and oysters.
Lawrence Barbecue offers puled pork and oysters.
John Park

Backyard BBQ Pit

In 2021, Southern Living Magazine named Backyard BBQ Pit one of the South’s most legendary barbecue joints, and the legions of fans who continue to flock to this South Durham staple would agree. The menu is focused on the meats — pork, turkey, beef brisket, chicken, ribs, and fish. Plates, platters, and sandwiches are all available, as are more than a dozen sides. Soul food aficionados will appreciate deep cuts like the pork feet and the fried whiting.

Lechon Latin BBQ

Since opening in Raleigh less than a year ago, Lechon Latin BBQ has injected new excitement into the Triangle’s barbecue scene. It certainly isn’t the first to introduce Latin barbecue traditions to the Triangle, but it is one of the only ones with such a dedicated focus to the craft. The menu includes pernil, Cuban sandwiches, salchipapas (fries topped with smoked Argentine sausage), empanadas, tacos, Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken, and more.

Lechon Latin BBQ spread
Lechon Latin BBQ spread.
Stacey Sprenz Photography

The BBQ Lab

The Raleigh outpost of the award-winning Redneck BBQ Lab in Benson, North Carolina, offers much of the same as the original location without the 40 minute drive. There’s smoked pulled pork, brisket, and turkey, of course, but also weekly rotating specials like massive bone-in smoked pork chops. The new location will also serve beer and has plans to offer brunch as well.

Allen & Son Bar-B-Que

After closing the iconic Chapel Hill location, the Allen family licensed the Pittsboro location of Allen & Son to be run by the folks behind Sanford’s Stubbs & Son Barbecue. The menu remains fairly similar, with a focus on sandwiches or plates of wood-smoked pulled pork, fried catfish, and burgers, alongside plenty of classic house sides.

Clyde Cooper's Barbeque

Since 1938, Clyde Cooper’s has been downtown Raleigh’s go-to for barbecue. The Eastern-style pork comes chopped or pulled, and there’s also chopped chicken and beef brisket. The Brunswick stew is so popular that it can be ordered by the gallon, and for something different, it has a special dog on the menu — chopped pork barbecue topped with a sausage dog and slaw.

Sam Jones BBQ

Sam Jones is one of America’s most foremost pitmasters, and for years fans had to make the trek east to Winterville, North Carolina, to get a taste of his award-winning barbecue. Luckily Jones and his team opened a Raleigh location that serves much of the same menu, with some twists for the big city folk. Go-tos include the Jones family barbecue tray (smoked pulled pork, a piece of Skylight Inn-style cornbread, and a side) and the Jones family chicken tray (choice of white or dark meat slow-smoked chicken quarter, choice of bread, and a side). There’s also fried catfish bites, pork skins, and pimento cheese, with plenty of sides and salads.

Aviator Smokehouse

It’s hard to beat the combination of beer and barbecue, so the folks at Aviator Brewing decided to open a smokehouse. Pair Aviator’s brews with wood-smoked pulled pork, St. Louis-style ribs, brisket, chicken, or smoked meatloaf. The Piggy Mac Skillet, a popular menu item, is smoked pulled pork layered in a cast iron skillet with cheddar mac and cheese, chives, bacon, and Aviator BBQ sauce.

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