Name: Johnson Family Barbecue
Address: 5021 Wake Forest Hwy, Durham, NC 27703
Order: Barbecue tray with slaw and hush puppies (link to menu)
Johnson Family Barbecue is located at the end of a gas station strip mall, which was a first for me. But a welcome first – in fact, I was excited for this very fact. But there were a couple of other things to be excited about. Their motto is “It’s All About the Wood.” The dining room was about 4 tables covered by the red and white gingham table cloths . The smokehouse, if you can call it that, was an aluminum shed covering a smoker surrounded by a chain link fence. It was all very delightful looking.
Johnson Family cooks over wood (specifically hickory), which is what drew me to it in the first place. Since I had already eaten lunch a few hours earlier and was looking for just a snack, a barbecue tray was the perfect size. A few short minutes later a small tray of barbecue, three hush puppies, and slaw was brought out.
The eastern-style pork had smoke but lacked bark, which of course is normal for eastern-style barbecue. And there was a higher ratio of white meat to dark, which initially led me to believe they might be cooking whole hogs. I later found out that not to be the case, but I suspect there may be more than just the shoulders being smoked. The chop was a little coarser than I prefer, but the pork was moist and flavorful and though it didn’t require the table vinegar sauce, adding it enhanced the pork. The hush puppies were freshly cooked orbs of cornmeal and the slaw was mayo-based. Basically, everything was pretty solid. My buddy who got a takeout plate mostly agreed as well.
Johnson Family Barbecue is on Highway 98 between north Raleigh and Durham, a stretch of highway I had not been down before, and turned out to be quite a nice little find. With the ever-increasing tendency to smoke barbecue over gas or electric, it was nice to find a small, family-owned, self described “hole in the wall” joint that is still putting in the work to create a good product.