Guest Post: The Five Favorite Raleigh Barbecue Joints of Christopher Harold Wells of The Neverlutionaries

Monk: In a bit of a break from our regularly scheduled programming, we have a guest post from lead singer Christopher Harold Wells of the San Francisco “psychadelic shoegaze rock band” The Neverlutionaries. Christopher has recently gotten into barbecue but you can tell he definitely has a passion for it – in both eating it as well as smoking it himself. He’s been spending his quarantine time in Raleigh (where he grew up), and reached out to us wanting to share his thoughts.

As you may be aware, Raleigh is about to have a barbecue renaissance, so Christopher will have a lot more places to try out very soon, including the already opened Prime BBQ in Knightdale and Sam Jones BBQ downtown as well as soon-to-be opened joints like Lawrence Barbecue, Wyatt’s Barbecue, Ed Mitchell’s The Preserve, and Longleaf Swine. I’ll be curious what if his list changes later this year, particularly the two non-NC chain restaurants on his list. I definitely hope he checks them out and broadens his horizons when it comes to NC barbecue restaurants.

Photo courtesy of The Neverlutionaries / Michael Phillips

The band’s self-titled debut album was released on 2/12. Check out their lead single “Ariana” below and you can purchase it from their label Polychromatic Records or stream it on Spotify.

Back to barbecue. Take it away, Christopher…

Christopher: I’ve always been a HUGE fan of BBQ. When I was able to travel/tour, one of my favorite things to do was to check out the different BBQ spots in the places I would visit. I loved the regional variations of it. St. Louis has its mustard vibe (Editor’s Note: Hmm….), Nashville has its twangy tomato vibe, and NC has the vinegar-based tomato thang going which is my favorite of them all. 

After I finished freaking out and got my head together after Corona reared its ugly head, I started experimenting with smoking meats with different kinds of woods etc. as a way to relax. It reminds me of my music creation process. 

You must begin with quality basic ingredients, then add seasonings to the point where they are just right and of course timing is of the essence in both. The most important ingredient is love. You can tell by the taste if someone loves what they are doing. We all have had an instance where you get your favorite meal somewhere and it tastes different depending on who is preparing it. If the person cooking loves what they do it will be awesome. On the other hand, if the preparer isn’t feeling it (his cooking mission) you can taste that as well. It’s about the passion of cooking and BBQ that makes us want to get better each time and to experience the reward we get when someone takes a bite of your ‘cue, they smile and possibly get goosebumps. Food and music both do that for me…

Now, to my top 5 barbecue spots in Raleigh:

5. Dickey’s Barbecue (Raleigh, NC)

I discovered Dickey’s by accident though I’d seen their catering truck at many events that I attended. Now I get it. Dickeys’ NC style pulled pork is in my top faves for sure. They smoke everything with hickory wood, have great Brunswick Stew and they also feature next level stuffed potatoes and when I say stuffed, I mean stuffed! Loaded with BBQ or literally any way you want them. I never had pulled pork on a potato before and now I am a fan and will continue doing so. They also have classic sides and desserts to round out your meal to perfection! 6552 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27612

4. Ole Time Barbecue (Raleigh, NC)

This cool little spot on the edge of Downtown Raleigh is a NC staple and has been feeding nearby North Carolina State University students and locals for close to 25 years and they are still going strong. Simplicity is the first word that comes to mind, actually, I digress, delicious is a better word to describe this old school spot that has consistently tasty BBQ. OTB also features the classic Southern offering of a “meat and three” vegetable plate fairly priced and seriously filling. They have superb fried chicken as well and yummy slaw which we know can be a BBQ Pork’s sandwiched best friend. They also have sandwiches, chicken pastry and a rocking Brunswick Stew. And did I say affordable? You get your money’s worth here for sure! 6309 Hillsborough St #1148, Raleigh, NC 27606 oletimebarbecue.com

(Editor’s Note: This was a favorite of mine and friend of the blog Boomsauce while at NC State in the early 2000’s)

3. City Barbecue and Catering (North Raleigh, NC)

North Raleigh has a BBQ spot that is worth the drive called “City Barbecue” that has the best brisket I have ever eaten. I have recently started trying to smoke brisket and pork shoulder and I’m getting better but still have a long way to go. What they do at the award-winning City Barbecue is damn near magical. Featuring on-site smokers and hickory wood, the brisket almost disintegrates upon contact. It’s just that tender! And the flavor is outstanding. As any brisket lover knows, the secret is in the bark and they dialed in their seasonings like a champ on this one! 9424 Falls of Neuse Rd #108, Raleigh, NC 27615

2. The Pit Authentic Barbecue (Raleigh and Durham, NC)

You may want to make a reservation for this super popular Downtown Raleigh and Durham eatery! Their celebrated cuisine has been featured on Good Morning America, The Morning Show on CBS and even heralded food publication, Bon Appetit. Hey, they even beat Bobby Flay in a rib challenge.. The Pit not only features Pit-smoked free-range whole hog pork to make their classic North Carolina BBQ but they also have authentic Texas-style brisket and other amazing offerings. They proudly feature North Carolina raised pork. Their entire menu is great! I’ve never had anything bad there, and I’m a bit finicky! 328 W Davie St, Raleigh, NC 27601 thepit-raleigh.com

1. Clyde Cooper’s BBQ (Raleigh, NC)

Clyde Cooper’s in downtown Raleigh has been open ever since 1938 and believe me, there is definitely a reason that they have been open for 82 years! A no-frills casual eating spot with Pig memorabilia donning their walls, they have it nailed with their beef brisket, ribs, pulled, coarse and chopped North Carolina style BBQ pork. They proudly use their own signature vinegar based sauce, and cook with wood or a combination of wood and gas which helps give the exquisite smoke rings that make it super tender and a flavor that will have you smiling after your first bite! 327 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601 clydecoopersbbq.com/

Thanks to Christopher for his time and be sure to check out The Neverlutionaries’ new album.

Photo courtesy of The Neverlutionaries / Michael Phillips

Linkdown: 10/14/20

Featured

Instead of this year’s Barbecue Festival the 4th weekend in October in Lexington, the organizers behind the festival are instead holding a food and blood drive to benefit the community. The Barbecue Center, Smiley’s Barbecue, Smokey Joe’s BBQ, and Stamey’s Barbecue (the one in Tyro) are all participating by setting up donation tents where non-perishable items or blood can be exchanged for barbecue sandwiches. “Lift Up Lexington” is a positive spin on a barbecue festival cancellation.

From the press release:

On Saturday, October 24th, when more than 125,000 people were expected to gather in Uptown Lexington for the 37th Annual Barbecue Festival, local businesses and organizations will join the festival organizers in utilizing “festival day” to uplift the community.

With an emphasis on giving back and the city’s world-famous barbecue heritage, Lift Up Lexington (#liftUPlex) will include two components: a food drive and blood drive. Event organizers will have seven drop off locations for the food drive which will benefit Pastor’s Pantry. Those who wish to contribute are asked to bring a minimum of five new, unexpired non-perishable items. Requested items include can goods, cereal, pasta & crackers. Read more here

Native News

Clyde Cooper’s Back starting today

Southern Smoke BBQ‘s collards chowder is featured in Saveur magazine

Midwood Smokehouse, Stamey’s Barbecue, and several other barbecue restaurants appear on this list of places where presidents and presidential candidates have eaten in North Carolina

B’s Barbecue makes this list of things to do in Greenville, NC

Reminder: you can order Picnic by 3pm today and pick it up in front of the future Wyatt’s Barbecue in Raleigh on Thursday

Non-Native News

TMBBQ profiles Dozier’s

Roegel’s Barbecue is diversifying its barbecue menu in beef-lovin’ Texas

The Pig Out Inn originally opened in 1996 and was sold to Katie and Bubba McCabe earlier this year during the pandemic

Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Tar Heel Traveler Eats” by Scott Mason

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

Monk: “Tar Heel Traveler Eats” by Scott Mason is equal parts travelogue, memoir, and in-depth description of the journalistic process for a local feature newscaster. Mason has been doing “Tar Heel Traveler” segments for WRAL in Raleigh since the early 2000’s after working his way up through local news stations around the country. Mason has a folksy tone to his writing that is easy to read and the book goes by pretty quickly. While Mason’s writing is easy to read, all photos in the book are stills from the WRAL telecasts of his “Tar Heel Traveler” segment. I certainly get the practical reasons why, but it seems like such a missed opportunity given the number and breadth of the places he visited.

Subtitled “Food Journeys Across North Carolina,” his journey starts with profiles of hot dog restaurants before moving on to hamburgers then barbecue and finally ending with sweets and desserts. Along the way, he visits many of the iconic North Carolina institutions that should be on everyone’s list – barbecue or otherwise. But of course, what I was most interested in were the chapters on barbecue.

After a chapter where he acknowledges how much of a no-win situation writing about barbecue is in North Carolina (what with the east vs west/Lexington rivalry), Mason nevertheless delved into barbecue restaurants after getting his fill of the hot dog and hamburger joints. Despite being born in North Carolina he is apparently not a huge fan of barbecue and would almost always prefer a juicy cheeseburger or two mustard dogs over it. I’ll just assume that’s because he moved to Massachusetts shortly after he was born.

In any case, the barbecue restaurants he writes about his visits to are Bill’s Barbecue (Wilson), Parker’s (Wilson), B’s Barbecue (Greenville), Pik N Pig (Carthage), Wilber’s Barbecue (Goldsboro), and Clyde Cooper’s (Raleigh). Certainly not a comprehensive list, and more a list of easy-to-drive-to places from Raleigh. Each chapter deals with the circumstances that led him to that town or restaurant from his newscaster perspective and how he obtained the footage for the feature story, whether it was interviewing the owner of the restaurant or by going table to table to get sound bites from willing customers. Mason usually has an interesting anecdote or two before reflecting on his experience at the restaurant and closing out the chapter. It’s certainly a different reading experience from other books that might offer more of a profile of each barbecue restaurant, but not an unwelcome one.

If you’re interested in not only North Carolina barbecue restaurants, but classic southern ones, read “Tarheel Traveler Eats” and keep a pen and paper handy so you can jot down all the places you should visit across the state.

Available at Amazon or wherever you buy books

Linkdown: 8/21/19

Sweet Lew’s Barbeque, Buxton Hall Barbecue, Lexington Barbecue, Grady’s BBQ, and Skylight Inn BBQ all represent NC on this Thrillist list

Is the North Carolina Department of Transportation Anti-Barbecue? John Tanner things maybe perhaps so.

NC DOT, careless of the thousands of victims of The Great Wilber’s Debacle, now turns its guns on Lexington.  NC Dot has determined that the Smiley’s-Speedy’s section of Winston Road apparently gets a fair amount of traffic.  Of course it does.  It contains two barbecue places.   

Robert Moss reflects on Charleston’s dining scene so far, including the barbecue scene which went from “minor outpost to [an] acclaimed destination”

USA Today advocates for Clyde Cooper’s BBQ in Raleigh, saying its “a key stop on any tour of America’s pantheon of BBQ joints”

Bryan Furman will be at this November’s Savannah Food & Wine Festival

Can any city rival Austin’s BBQ? Austin-based food writer Rob Balon says no.

The 36th Barbecue Festival will take place October 26th in Lexington