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8 barbecue superlatives in Raleigh

We’re putting our hand in the fire to highlight some of our favorite barbecue spots in the City of Oaks.

A loaded plate of barbecue, Cheerwine Ale, banana pudding, and a napkin holder reading "Clyde Cooper's BBQ" sit on a metal table.

Feast your eyes on this tray of Eastern Carolina-style meats from Raleigh’s oldest barbecue joint.

Photo by Sean Junqueira/Clyde Cooper’s Barbeque

Talk about pride in place — North and South Carolinians love their sweet tea, university rivalries, and most importantly, their barbecue. We’re putting our hands in the fire to highlight some of our favorite pulled pork joints in the City of Oaks.

Best bang for your buck

Ole Time Barbecue, 6309 Hillsborough St.

  • This spot is a real down-home eatery, serving vinegar-based Eastern Carolina chopped ‘cue. After serving the community for 28+ years, southern hospitality is included with your plate of BBQ.
  • Pro tip: Have Ole Time do the heavy lifting of a pig pickin’ for you with your choice of sides + beverages and of course, the whole hog.

Longest standing BBQ joint

Clyde Cooper’s Barbeque, 327 S. Wilmington St.

  • Although the restaurant plans to leave downtown soon, this spot was established in 1938, making it the oldest barbecue joint in Raleigh — and there are no plans to stop smoking anytime soon. Clyde Cooper’s serves up Eastern Carolina-style ‘cue with a vinegar-based sauce and Cheerwine baked beans. The sides are just as tasty as the slow-cooked pork shoulder.
  • Pro tip: Keep it classic with the chopped pork sammy tray, complete with slaw, hush puppies, and fresh pork skins.

Barbecue being chopped at Sam Jones BBQ | Photo by @samjonesbbq + Baxter Miller

New to Raleigh, not new to ‘cue

Sam Jones BBQ, 502 W. Lenoir St.

  • This spot is rich in history with its Eastern Carolina flavors. The story began in 1947 when Sam Jones’ grandfather, Pete, opened the legendary Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC. Pitmaster Sam went on to expand the family’s slow cooked, whole-hog barbecue to Raleigh in 2021.
  • Our picks: The pork skins + pimento cheese and smoked turkey sandwich.

Southern proper, with a twist

Smokestack Cafe, 701 E. Lane St.

  • This little slice of Carolina heaven is tucked into the historic Oakwood neighborhood. The cafe offers bourbon-infused barbecue flavors and southern classics with a twist. Everything is made in-house and sourced as locally as possible.
  • Pro tip: The menu changes daily, so follow their Instagram to keep up. Also make sure to check out the market for homemade goodies.

Social butterfly

Backyard Bistro, 1235 Hurricane Alley Way

  • The pulled pork shoulder is topped with a special Jessie P sauce, and trust us when we say it’s a must try. Backyard Bistro and chef Joe Lumbrazo have been featured on The Food Network and Discovery Channel multiple times for their “on-site cooking” and creative food innovations.
  • Pro tip: Stop by before a PNC Arena visit or watch a live broadcast of Canes Corner hosted by play-by-play commentator Mike Maniscalco.

Branch out award

Lechon Latin BBQ, 5959 Triangle Town Blvd.

  • ‘Cue with a Latin flair. Eastern Carolina style is tried-and-true, but Lechon breaks barbecue barriers with its slow-roasted pork shoulder and Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken.
  • Pro tip: Try the tripleta platter which includes pulled chicken + pork, argentine sausage, lechon rice, and sweet plantains.
A brisket sandwich with a side of pimento mac and cheese and esquites.

Try this: The pimento mac and cheese at Longleaf Swine.

Photo by RALtoday

Vibes and swine

Longleaf Swine, 300 E. Edenton St.

  • This spot opened in 2022 and serves classics alongside inventive bites like the collard green melt, fried oyster crackers, roasted sweet potatoes, and persimmon upside down cake.
  • Pro tip: Sit out on the patio with your tray piled high and take in the vibes.

Wait, this is vegan?

Element Gastropub, 421 Fayetteville St., Ste. 103

  • Barbecue should be for everyone, not just meat eaters. Element is 100% vegan and serves plant-based southern + barbecue faves like chik’n and waffles, barbecue nachos, and a classic NC-style barbecue plate.
  • Pro tip: If you’re craving brunch, try the Nojangles supremes or biscuits and mushroom gravy.

This list only scratches the surface of good barbecue in the Triangle — send us your recs.

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