The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC

Monk: I still need to work my way through the eastern part of the state (it’s been on my to-do list for 5 years and counting…) in order to be able to make a more comprehensive North Carolina-wide list, but in the meantime here’s my list of the best NC barbecue restaurants in the western part of the state.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

10. Old Etowah Smokehouse – Etowah (review)

A few years back Old Etowah Smokehouse was part of a trend of new whole hog joints opening up outside the eastern half of the state (more on that later). The trend may have cooled somewhat since – the amount of labor involved may have something to do with that – but Old Etowah is honoring the style properly in the shadows of the Nantahala National Forest hear Hendersonville. 6577 Brevard Rd, Etowah, NC 28729

9. Barbee’s Bar-B-Que – Peachland (review)

This was my biggest barbecue discovery of 2017, a classic highway barbecue joint off highway 74 where they are slinging near perfect Lexington-style barbecue. A true hidden gem in the small town of Peachland, which is outside of Marshville, which is outside of Monroe, which is outside of Charlotte. Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133’s-Bar-B-Q

8. Backyard BBQ Pit – Durham (review)

Backyard BBQ Pit gets somewhat overlooked in the Research Triangle Park area, but they definitely shouldn’t be. Which is somewhat curious, considering they’ve gotten coverage on Food Network’s “Man vs. Food”. Don’t make the same mistake as everyone else, and check them out. 5122 NC Hwy 55, Durham, NC 27713

7. The Barbecue Center – Lexington (review)

This underrated joint in Lexington often lives in the shadow of Lexington Barbecue not 2 miles away but many locals claim it to be the best in the city. I don’t personally happen to agree with them, but they aren’t necessarily wrong. 900 N Main St, Lexington, NC 27292

6. Allen & Son Bar-B-Que – Chapel Hill (review)

When Speedy and I checked out Allen & Son in 2012, we dinged them for their ribs instead of simply focusing on the pork. This was a mistake, and the hybrid of chopped pork shoulder with eastern sauce earned 5 hogs from us on that trip while the ribs knocked the overall rating down to 4 hogs. A return trip is surely in order to properly reassess Allen & Son (add it to the list…). 6203 Millhouse Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

5. Bar-B-Q King – Lincolnton (review)

Residents in the small town of Lincolnton (20 minutes north of Gastonia and 50 minutes from Charlotte) are lucky to have had a great barbecue joint such as Bar-B-Q King serving them for the past 46+ years. This is barbecue certainly worthy of a short detour if you are on driving in 321 in that part of the state.  2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092

4. Stamey’s Barbecue – Greensboro (review)

One irony of the #BrooklynBBQ controversy was that the following week the ACC Tournament was being hosted for the second year in a row in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center instead of in its spiritual home at the Greensboro Coliseum with Stamey’s just across the street. While I am still in the camp that there is good barbecue in Brooklyn, there just isn’t anything that approaches Stamey’s. 2206 W Gate City Blvd, Greensboro, NC 27403

3. Buxton Hall Barbecue – Asheville (review)

I’ve been thinking about the whole hog from Buxton Hall Barbecue for nearly two years and can’t wait to get back to Asheville. From what I can tell though, Elliot Moss and team continue to blow it out of the water in South Slope. 32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

2. Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby (review)

I rarely make it through Shelby without finding a reason to stop Bridges Barbecue Lodge. It might more accurately be described as more of a 1a for me behind my number 1 below, and it has yet to really let me down ever. 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28150

1. Lexington Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Lexington Barbecue aka Lexington #1 aka The Honeymonk is first, my last, my everything. 100 Smokehouse Ln, Lexington, NC 27295

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off my list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.


Linkdown: 2/28/18

– Billy Graham rarely passed through Shelby without stopping by Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge

– D.G. Martin with an off the cuff list of iconic NC eateries, including the aforementioned Billy Graham favorite Red Bridges

– Interesting:

– The McCall’s Bar-B-Q and Seafood in Clayton that abruptly closed recently will be replaced by Bernie’s Southern Gourmet Buffet by mid-March; barbecue will continue to be included

– More history:

– A short visitor’s guide on where to eat, drink, see, and do in Charlotte contains a few barbecue joints

– I don’t know how long this has been going on, but for folks not fortunate enough to live in the Carolinas, you’re welcome:

Linkdown: 1/31/18

– An oldie but goodie from Our State


– Travel and Leisure stops in Charleston and checks out the barbecue scene while they are there

Southerners have long nurtured a debate over whether Carolina-style pork or Texas-style brisket is the true king. Charleston has decided you can have it both ways. On Upper King Street, one year ago, Rodney Scott opened Rodney Scott’s BBQ, a brick temple to the low, slow, whole-hog style that put South Carolina barbecue on the map. Less than half a mile away, at Lewis Barbecue, you can sit in a gravel courtyard under the shade of a live oak and enjoy some of the best brisket in the country, Texas-style.

– John Shelton Reed has a guest post at Barbecue Bible to remind folks about True ‘Cue

– Guy Fieri recently spent some time filming “Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives” in the Wilmington area and apparently learned some things while he was there:

When asked if he favored Eastern or Western North Carolina barbecue, Fieri said he pleaded the fifth.

– From last summer, Food and Wine on where to eat and drink in Charlotte includes Midwood Smokehouse

– Seoul Food Meat Co is one of the restaurants in Southend where you can eat lunch for less than $10

– Kathleen Purvis preaches on Charlotte barbecue

Linkdown: 1/3/18

– Sadly, a man was shot to death in the parking lot of BBQ Joe’s in Trinity outside of High Point, NC shortly before Christmas

– Adam Perry Lang’s APL will be more steakhouse than barbecue restaurant

Barbecue fans will want to come by for grab-and-go lunch.

APL’s dining room won’t be open for lunch, but Lang will offer to-go barbecue sandwiches out of a 70-square-foot space that used to be a one-chair barbershop.

“It’s going to be almost like a New York-style pizza window,” Lang says of his grab-and-go lunch set-up.

– The Shanghai (not China) Volunteer Fire Department held its annual Christmas fundraiser to supplement their budget

– Seasoned Review continues on the NC BBQ Trail at Stephenson’s Bar-B-Q in Willow Spring and finds it to be well worth the trek

– I’m on board!


Monk’s 10 Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2017

Trying something new: a year-end list for my favorite barbecue meals of the year. I used to do this for music, film, and tv but in recent years that has fallen off. Perhaps this will stoke the coals of my list-making motivation in other areas, but at the very least its worth documenting the hobby which has taken up so much of my (and my poor wife’s) free time for the past 5.5 years. Come to think of it, the timeline of this blog lines up almost perfectly with my drop off in listmaking…

In any case, hope you enjoy. This will conclude our reviews and original for 2017, but we will be back in 2018.


10. Swig & Swine – 4 hogs (review)

The Summerville location of Swig & Swine included a whole hog smoker (whereas their West Ashley location does not have enough space for one), following the popular trend of the past few years. The whole hog was quite good but their brisket and hash and rice wasn’t too bad either, 1990 Old Trolley Rd, Summerville, SC 29485

9. Hill’s Lexington Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

Hill’s claims to be the original “Lexington Barbecue” in name (but definitely not first to serve in that style). They may be a notch below the better places in Lexington, but they are certainly not doing the style any disservice. 4005 Patterson Ave, Winston-Salem, NC 27105 

8. Barbee’s Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

This was truly a surprise for me. I kinda-sorta knew of this place and had passed by it many times , but I had no idea it would be (as I referred to it in my review) “the platonic ideal of the NC roadside barbecue shack”. A must visit, if only to step back in time a bit. Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133

7. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

In 2017, I am happy to say that I rediscovered Bill Spoon’s after a few years away. It’s about as close as we have to a barbecue institution in Charlotte (54 years and counting), and though they are an eastern NC joint and I’m a Lexington-style fanboy, I simply believe that I need to go more often. 5524 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217

6. Rodney Scott’s BBQ – 4 hogs (review)

While my expectations of the brand new Rodney Scott’s BBQ were sky high, I must say that the whole hog didn’t quite match the perfection of Scott’s BBQ back in Hemingway. Nevertheless, taking it for what it’s worth, we should all be glad that Rodney Scott has made his pork accessible without having to drive in the middle of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. 1011 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

5. Bar-B-Q King – 4.5 hogs (review)

Bar-B-Q King is another NC barbecue institution, though I only discovered it in early 2017. They do seem to be a little underrated on the NC barbecue scene despite smoking over wood for the past 46 years. Hopefully this will change. 2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092

4. B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – 4.5 hogs (review)

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque was just named best restaurant in Atlanta by Eater (note no “barbecue” modifier), and for good reason. Bryan Furman is another one of the torch bearers of whole hog barbecue, but don’t sleep on his brisket or hash and rice. 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

3. Jon G’s BBQ – 4.5 hogs (review)

It appears that Jon G’s has taken a well-deserved break due to the birth of Garren and his wife Kelly’s first child, but I can’t wait until they are back out there slinging some legit Texas-style brisket out of their recently-purchased food truck. Marshville, NC

2. Lewis Barbecue – 4.5 hogs (review)

Unlike Rudy and Speedy, I hadn’t really had a taste of true Central Texas barbecue since I sadly haven’t made it out there since the start of the blog. That recently changed earlier this year because John Lewis (formerly of La Barbecue) brought central Texas to Charleston and I tasted is sublime brisket. All hail the king, apparently. 464 N Nassau St, Charleston, SC 29403

1. Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – 5 hogs (review)

In a year where I did not have a meal at Lexington Barbecue (my ride or die) Red Bridges is going to easily take the #1 spot on this list. Sadly, it had been nearly 4 years since my last visit but rest assured, it won’t be that long before my next. After 70+ years, they’ve still got it. 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28152

Honorable Mentions: The Smoke Pit – Salisbury, NC (review), DAS BBQ – Atlanta, GA (review)

Photo Gallery: Saturday Lunch at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby, NC

Monk: Some more shots from around the grounds at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge. See my review from this visit here.

IMG_0704I started my stroll at the iconic green and yellow sign closest to Hwy 74, which is just simply a great retro sign. Over 70 years!

Red Bridges is known for their large wood pile, though on this particular Saturday the pile was a little smaller than normal. Must have been a busy night and morning in preparation for the Saturday lunch.

IMG_0718I mean, what other mailbox would be more appropriate for a barbecue joint? No idea if this is the actual mailbox in use.

IMG_0720I don’t know the story behind this limousine or if the patrons were in the restaurant at the time but it cracked me up.

IMG_0729Another notable car on the Red Bridges premises, albeit for different reasons. I wish I had gotten the full car in this shot.

A few exterior shots of the restaurant from different vantage points during the lunch hour on a busy Saturday. In all my times visiting, I hadn’t stepped back to take a shot of the entire building.

IMG_0751I do love the font of the “Bridge’s” sign in the this shot. The same font is used over the door.


Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby, NC (solo Monk review)

: Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge
Date: 10/21/17
Address: 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28150
Order: Barbecue plate with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and baked beans, Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $11.50

Monk: With all apologies to Speedy (who loves this place just as much, if not more than, me), our last visit and only review of Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was over 4 years ago and it was time. In late October, my wife and in-laws roped me into going to the Livermush Festival in downtown Shelby with the promise of Red Bridges for lunch beforehand. And boy, did that promise work on me like a charm.

Last time, Speedy and I thought our visit would yield a slam-dunk 5 hog review but found a few nits to pick and rated it just below. I wondered in the review if it was the start of a trend but I am happy to report that it was an indeed an anomaly and everything on this visit was as good as ever. The chopped pork tray didn’t have as coarse a chop as last time and the table dip had the right consistency. Even the fries, a worrying blunder last time around, were as you would expect.

I must spend a few sentences to opine on the glory of the hush puppies. These large oblong goodies come by the basket full and are top 3 hush puppies for me, ever. They have a perfect mix of sweet and savory and combined with the crunch when they are provided fresh out of the fryer, they are a religious experience.

On this Saturday, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was doing steady business between seated customers and takeout orders. At times, the waiting for a table left customers spilling out of the small waiting area and out the door as well. I imagine Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge had seen this scene on a regular basis in their 70+ years on highway 74 in Shelby. And why not – a short wait to get a table is a small price to pay to get pretty much the perfect meal.

Atmosphere/ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Roadtrip: Western NC Barbecue and Brewery Tour

Autumn in North Carolina usually means heading to the mountains to see the leaves turn, go apple picking, or just feel true fall weather (especially when it can occasionally stay in the 90’s until late October in the Piedmont). From Charlotte, its but a short 2-hour drive to Asheville via US-74/I-26. While it may not be physically possible to hit all of the spots below, if one were to pick and choose from the list below I’m pretty confident he or she could have a pretty great time.


Heading West (Shelby)

Heading west, Shelby is a town about 45 minutes from Charlotte and home to two competing barbecue restaurants under the name “Bridges” – Alston Bridges Barbecue and my pick, which has been and always will be Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge (website) right off 74. This joint, a recent winner of both the Thrillist and Garden & Gun March Madness Barbecue Brackets in back-to-back years, is a pretty true representation of Lexington-style barbecue smoked over handchopped wood logs (check the enourmous wood pile out back).

In historic downtown Shelby, Newgrass Brewing (website) has burst onto the scene to be the first brewery in Cleveland County. While there is small plates available at the brewpub, the beer is the main attraction and they have a little bit of everything from your standard hoppy wheat or IPA to Fall seasonals to the occasional sour or gose.

Alternate – A little further down the road towards Asheville, Green River Barbeque (website) is just a half mile away from the main strip in downtown Saluda, a charming little mountain town just off the (you guessed it) Green River. Their beer list is a little on the smaller side but they keep it pretty local. If you’re lucky, snag a table on their small-ish patio and enjoy the crisp fall mountain air.

South of Asheville (Etowah/Mills River/Brevard)

Many of the apple orchards are just outside of Hendersonville, NC and in nearby Etowah the Old Etowah Smokehouse (website) recently opened in a location formerly occupied by The Barbecue Shack. While I never made it to there, the new tenants (led by Mike Moore, co-founder of Blind Pig Supper Club and former owner of Seven Sows) are the latest NC joint to smoke whole hogs the old fashioned way.

A mile or so past the Asheville Airport in the small town of Mills River, is Sierra Nevada‘s beautiful, sprawling campus (website). If you haven’t planned ahead and gotten a reservation weeks in advance, you wont be able to go on the guided tour (the shorter, unguided tour is still an option, however). But there’s still plenty to do – dine at the brewpub, play cornhole or bocce out back on the patio, walk the grounds, or sit by a firepit and listen to live music if the weather is cool enough.

Alternate – At the foot of the Pisgah National Forest, you reach the Oskar Blues Brewery’s east coast operation in Brevard (Facebook page). Here, you can try the beers from  the brewery that started the beer-in-a-can craze back in 2002 (albeit from their original Lyons, CO location).


Buxton Hall Barbecue (website) was the first of the new wave of NC whole hog joints, opening in August 2015. Pitmaster Elliot Moss originally hails from the Pee Dee region of SC (specifically Florence) and he brings that style of barbecue to the bustling South Slope neighborhood of Asheville. Other Pee Dee influences on the menu are barbecue hash and rice and chicken bog (a gumbo-like rice dish). However, be warned that with Buxton Hall being named one of Bon Appetit’s 10 best new restaurants in America, you may find yourself waiting.

Burial Beer Co. (website) is just a block away from Buxton Hall, but there is no lack of options in South Slope. Catawba Brewing Co. (website) is literally next door and Twin Leaf Brewery (website), Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium (website), and Green Man Brewery (website) are all within a two-block radius so take your pick.

Alternate – I personally can’t  speak to the quality, but Speedy really dug Luella’s Bar-B-Que (website)


Linkdown: 9/28/16

– Thrillist lists Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge as the best in the state of NC in this list of the best barbecue in each state in America

– TMBBQ tries dry-aged brisket at Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland, Texas, where “the texture is more like a steak”

– More on Charleston being the future of barbecue

– The namesake of Jackie Hite’s Bar-B-Que has passed away

– Our State visits B’s Barbecue in Greenville