Cradle of ‘Cue: 21 Stops on North Carolina’s Historic Barbecue Trail
Starting in Ayden with famed Skylight Inn and finishing in Murphy with Herb’s Pit Bar-B-Que, the North Carolina Barbecue Society Historic Barbecue Trail spotlights 21 stops that specialize in roasting pig the old-fashioned way – slowly, over pits of wood or charcoal. Both distinct styles of barbecue, Eastern and Lexington, are represented on the trail and continue to cause heated debates along the way over which tastes better.
Eastern-style ‘cue tends to be vinegar-based, while Western- or Lexington-style is generally more ketchup-based. And, yes, you’ll also see it spelled two ways: barbecue and barbeque – or often just ‘cue or Q. Whatever the style or spelling, you’ll find it still tastes great in the Tar Heel State at these select Trail members.
1 Skylight Inn
1 Skylight InnAydenSee on map
Founded in 1947, this small, cash-only destination sells pork sandwiches with slaw and corn bread, plus sodas and iced tea. Just look for the replica of the Washington, D.C., capitol building on top of the Skylight Inn.
2 Bum's Restaurant
2 Bum's RestaurantAydenSee on map
A full-service restaurant, Bum's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is one of the only barbecue joints in eastern N.C. with a buffet table filled with freshly prepared vegetable sides such as black-eyed peas, collards and stewed rutabaga.
3 B’s Barbecue and Grill
3 B’s Barbecue and GrillGreenvilleSee on map
The McLawhorn family owns and operates this classic ‘cue joint. They close for the day when they run out.
4 Grady’s Barbecue
4 Grady’s BarbecueDudleySee on map
Steve and Gerri Grady opened Grady's Barbecue on July 4, 1986. Their classic ‘cue and sauce have kept patrons quite patriotic about it ever since.
5 Stephenson’s Barbecue
5 Stephenson’s BarbecueWillow SpringsSee on map
Stephenson’s was founded by hog farmer Paul Stephenson back in 1958. His chopped barbecue and sauce have been popular ever since.
6 The Pik-n-Pig
6 The Pik-n-PigCarthageSee on map
Besides a variety of delicious sandwiches such as pulled pork, BBQ brisket and pulled BBQ chicken, try the jumbo smoked wings - the chicken is delivered daily from local farmers. The Pik-n-Pig also serves beer and wine.
7 Hursey’s Barbecue
7 Hursey’s BarbecueBurlingtonSee on map
The Hursey family has been cooking whole hogs for many decades and started selling to the public in 1960. Cooked in open pits over hickory and oak, Hursey’s barbecued pork is renowned for being perfectly moist and sauced.
8 Stamey’s Barbecue
photo: Stamey’s Barbecue
8 Stamey’s BarbecueGreensboroSee on map
C. Warner Stamey started this Triad family tradition, and grandson Chip carries it on at two locations. The smiling service, coleslaw, hushpuppies, sweet tea and homemade cobbler are equally famous.
9 Fuzzy’s Bar-B-Q
9 Fuzzy’s Bar-B-QMadisonSee on map
Fuzzy’s features Western-style barbecue 7 days a week, except Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Trays, plates, sandwiches and other ‘cue specialties are all on the menu.
10 Real Q
photo: Visit Winston-Salem
10 Real QWinston-SalemSee on map
Formerly Little Richard's, Richard Berrier's Real Q now has two popular Winston-Salem locations, including the original and classic Country Club Road location and a more modern outpost on Gumtree Road. BBQ sandwiches, trays and plates all come with Richard’s tangy secret sauce.
11 Smiley’s Lexington BBQ
11 Smiley’s Lexington BBQLexingtonSee on map
With a variety of names and owners through the years, Smiley’s has been a Lexington landmark for more than six decades. Current owner Steve Yount has continued the tradition with a classic Lexington-style ‘cue experience.
12 Lexington Bar-B-Q Center
12 Lexington Bar-B-Q CenterLexingtonSee on map
Known as Lexington’s oldest barbecue joint still cooking on pits, the ‘cue at the Bar-B-Q Center is custom-ordered, depending on your preference for browned bit, fat and more. There’s also curb service.
13 Richard’s Bar-B-Q
13 Richard’s Bar-B-QSalisburySee on map
Originally T&F Bar-B-Q, which opened way back in 1935, Richard’s Bar-B-Q is actually known for serving tasty Eastern-style ‘cue. It remains a North Main Street classic for barbecue.
14 Wink’s Barbeque
14 Wink’s BarbequeSalisburySee on map
Originally named for “Wink” Wansler, Wink’s is another favorite Salisbury ‘cue destination. Just look for the sign that says “The King of Barbecue.”
15 M&K Barbecue & Country Cooking
15 M&K Barbecue & Country CookingGranite QuarrySee on map
Founded by Myron and Kathy Thomas in 1990, M&K features classic ‘cue and other country-style fare. Myron was once a long-distance truck driver and knows good ‘cue and country cooking.
16 Bar-B-Q King
16 Bar-B-Q KingLincolntonSee on map
Owner Steve Abernethy has been serving pit-smoked barbecue, hand-pattied burgers and hand-breaded onion rings at Bar-B-Q King since 1971. Order at the counter, hear your order get hollered back to the cooks and enjoy your plate of food within minutes.
17 Switzerland Café
17 Switzerland CaféLittle SwitzerlandSee on map
Open seasonally from spring through fall, Switzerland Café has one of the largest wood-fired smokehouses in North Carolina. Try the Applewood-smoked trout – it’s a favorite among diners.
18 Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge
18 Red Bridges Barbecue LodgeShelbySee on map
A family-owned operation since 1946, this is a Shelby institution. The pork is cooked on cedar overnight and the sauce is popular in-house and at home at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge.
19 Hubba Hubba Smokehouse
19 Hubba Hubba SmokehouseFlat RockSee on map
Order your chicken, pork butts, ribs and brisket at the Hubba Hubba Smokehouse window, then grab a seat in the outdoor courtyard complete with picnic tables and gardens or in the fully enclosed room off the courtyard.
20 Herb's Pit Bar-B-Que
20 Herb's Pit Bar-B-QueMurphySee on map
Open since 1982, Herb’s is known as the only barbecue restaurant west of Asheville using open pit cooking. The pork is known for being smoky and the sauce sweet.
Cradle of ‘Cue and the North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail are registered trademarks of The North Carolina Barbecue Society, Inc.
Updated April 23, 2019