Best BBQ near Durham and Duke University

We are heading back for our reunion and wanted to grab lunch somewhere with great BBQ.

We used to go to Bullocks 20 years ago but I’m not sure how it’s holding up.

Any recommendations?



When I recently lived there, you had to go out of Durham, at least to Cary, and preferably half an hour out into the country. I don’t recall the actual venues, but there’s a site–BBQJew! (or something like that)–that has the goods.

I also used to go to Bullock’s–but that was 40 years ago, and I have no recent experience there.
If you’re willing to visit Chapel Damn Hill, Allen & Son is a classic.
If CDH is too offensive, try Raleigh. Both The Pit and Ole Time are good to very good, but City BBQ (no personal experience) enjoys the best reputation.
In Durham, proper? I would probably go to Bullock’s (open since 1952–must be doing something right) just for old times sake. If that’s not your thing, consider highly-regarded (again, no personal experience) Backyard BBQ Pit; Original Q Shack; or Johnson Family BBQ. Avoid the Blue Note Grill–fun place with good blues music, but the best rating I could give the Q is “generic.”

Good luck, and enjoy your reunion.

Bob Fleming
Duke Law, 1977

Coda: Yahoo Travel, in 2015, named Backyard BBQ Pit the “best barbecue in North Carolina.” Blasphemy! Everyone knows that title is a perennial toss-up between B’s Barbecue in Greenville and Skylight Inn in Ayden. What did Yahoo base its decision on? I quote: “sweet sauces, tender pork ribs, and pork chops.” Sweet sauces?!! Pork chops?!!
How 'bout the damn barbecue?

Here’s the blasphemy, if you wish to read it (keep it away from innocent children): Durham's Backyard BBQ Pit named best barbecue in North Carolina - ABC11 Raleigh-Durham

Second Edit: Here’s a more reasonable (though not perfect) ranking of the 10 best NC BBQ joints, and Backyard is missing: The 9 Best BBQ Joints In North Carolina
I can personally vouch for the first 7 on the list.

Allen & Son. The Q is worth it.

4th nominee for Allen & Son. I’m a Chapel Hill guy so it’s a natural for me anyway, but it’s always been better than Bullocks. Maybe 15 mins from Duke

Allen and Son!

Robert that may be the most comprehensive response I’ve ever gotten to any post I’ve ever written :slight_smile:

Thanks to all! It sounds like within a 15 mile radius it would be bullocks for nostalgia and Allen & Son for the food (provided I can handle spending any amount of time in Chapel Hill). Not super excited by that description of Backyard and I’m definitely not looking for pork chops.

We won’t be able to get all the way out to Bs or Skylight Inn this trip, but I’ve earmarked them for our next family trip to the area.

Thanks again


My favorite bbq place in Durham lately is Allen & Son is a local favorite but inconsistent. I stopped going some time ago. If you’d like suggestions for places other than bbq send me a pm.

I like q shack in Durham. Not an old school place, but they do a good job. It’s the best I’ve found in the area, and I’ve tried most of them. I didn’t love Allen’s. And q shack is very convenient to Duke.

Disclaimer: most of the commentary here is 10 years old, although I’ve managed to do a recruiting trip each year for 9 of the last 10 :smiley:

Sounds like you’re looking primarily in Durham, so Lexington is out of the way (~80 mins iirc - I used to drive my infant daughter there on weekends because she’d sleep in the car). Flashback to Lexington Barbecue and “ordering the brown” was great… thanks!

Q Shack was a strong 7. To be honest, I ate their brisket most of the time, covering it in sauce.

Bullocks was mediocre on a good day. Tried a couple of times and it’s one of those places covered with pics of visiting D-list stars and filled with blue hairs. Local guys in Seattle would fly it in every year for the UNC games. Also - it was cash only, iirc. Might want to check if you go.

My go-to place for pulled pork was Hog Heaven, on Guess. It’s pretty much what you’d expect for blue-collar, NC barbecue. Not the cleanest place on the planet and the sides were not overly memorable, but the pulled pork was great.

Actual conversation the first time I visited, with a local high school girl running the register:

Me: “Hi, says you have barbecue. What kind of meat is it?”
Her: “Um. Barbecue. You know, barbecue.”
Me: “Barbecued what?”
Her: “Barbecue.”
Me: “I’m sorry? Beef? Pork? Chicken?”
Her: “You aren’t from around here, are you?”
Me: “I’ll take some barbecue.”

Fuqua School of Business, 2007 :wink:

Good plan.

B’s is my personal favorite. It’s a relative newcomer to NC’s BBQ elite, founded in the late 1970s–in my hometown, though after I left for greener pastures which turned out to be BBQ wastelands. Most recent meal there was September 2016, but I arrived late (1:00 pm) and the BBQ was sold out; had to make do with chicken, potatoes, slaw and corn sticks. That was a disappointment but not a hardship: Everything at B’s is great. The BBQ often sells out, so go early–or call ahead, now that B’s has finally (as of last year) installed a telephone. I asked Peggy McLawhorn (one of the founders, who now works there part time) if there was anything in the sauce besides apple cider vinegar and red pepper flakes, qualifying my question by saying I would understand if it was a state secret she couldn’t reveal. She stared at me for a moment, then smiled broadly and answered, “Yes, there is.” And that’s all the answer I got. My best guess? The only other ingredient is salt.* Dexter (never heard his last name, if he has one) has been the pitmaster from day one. Try to get there before he hangs it up. B’s is located at 751 B’s Barbecue Road. Does that tell you something?

Skylight Inn was my personal favorite before B’s came along, because up 'til then B’s it was the best BBQ I had ever eaten. All the years I lived in Greenville (1956-1968 full-time, 1969-1972 part-time) we made frequent 12-mile pilgrimages to Ayden (“The collard Capital of the World”) to eat at Skylight. So I was shocked when, on a visit home, my parents suggested I try a different place, B’s. Skylight was opened in 1947 by 19-year-old Pete Jones, who already had 12 years of whole-hog BBQ experience working with his dad. Pete was a fixture until his death in 2006. When National Geographic named Skylight “Barbecue Capital of the World” in 1979, he built a miniature Capitol Dome over the entrance. Video: Capitol Q on Vimeo I haven’t eaten there since 2013, but at that point it hadn’t missed a beat; the tradition is carried on by Pete’s son, grandson, and nephew. Great BBQ, slaw, and cornbread.

Another of Pete’s sons operates Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, half-way between Greenville and Ayden. I plan on giving it a try when next I’m up that way. It has the pedigree.

There is other outstanding BBQ all over Eastern NC, but one you could easily visit on your trip to B’s and Skylight is among the very best: Wilber’s, in Goldsboro. When I fly to Raleigh and drive to Greenville, I always stop at Wilber’s on the way.

If you decide on a BBQ tour, one you want to avoid despite its widespread good reputation** is Parker’s in Wilson. It used to be among the greats, but now cooks with gas, not wood. Sad. The only reason to stop at Parker’s now is for some of the finest chicken ever fried–but I can get my fill of excellent fried chicken in Atlanta, first and foremost at Busy Bee Cafe, and have no need to search it out when traveling.

Speaking of BBQ tours, check out the official NC BBQ Trail: - Diese Website steht zum Verkauf! - Informationen zum Thema ncbbqsociety.


  • And absolutely no tomato product! As Dennis Rogers of the Raleigh News & Observer sagely observed, “People who would put ketchup in the sauce they feed to innocent children are capable of anything.”
    ** It’s close to I-95, and lots of snow birds stop on their way to or from Florida. Doesn’t really surprise me that they don’t know the difference.


Pitmaster Ed Mitchell has a BBQ food truck:

Ed’s a genius, a BBQ savant. For the 10 years or so he had his own BBQ joint in Wilson, he served the finest BBQ I have ever eaten. Ever. Period.

Strongly urge you to find out where Ed’s truck will be during your reunion.

probably passed each other walking but you were probably in library more–I graduated Duke in 1977 also, undergraduate degree.