Durham’s Smokin’ Hot Barbecue Restaurants
Feast on flavorful brisket, tender pulled pork, saucy smoked ribs and more at some of the best local barbecue spots in Durham.
Posted By Kristin Bedinger on May 22, 2023
Depending on where you grew up, you may think that any slab of meat smothered in A.1. Sauce is barbecue. However, real barbecue is slow-cooked in a combination of marinade, fat, and spices over indirect heat (sometimes up to 18 hours). One thing is certain – when a North Carolina pitmaster puts their heart and soul into barbecuing, it shows.
As we highlight some of the best nationally-recognized and locally beloved spots serving NC-style barbecue in the Bull City, we also pay respect to the very existence of barbecue, which can be attributed to America’s Indigenous people and enslaved Africans.
When traveling through North Carolina to find the best, stop by Durham for this smokin' list of restaurants serving flavorful brisket, tender pulled pork, saucy smoked ribs and all the slow-cooked meat you can dream of. We know your mouth is already watering.
Named one of the “South’s most legendary barbecue joints” by Southern Living, Backyard BBQ Pit is a classic barbecue joint serving chicken, turkey, ribs, brisket, and pork cooked over oak and hickory. Apparently, the writing is actually on the wall here, because the walls are covered with signatures and messages from hundreds of satisfied customers.
709 Washington Street
Do yourself a favor and visit this family-owned "best place to hear blues music" Indy Week winner, offering hickory-smoked barbecue, daily drink specials, and nightly sets of American roots music. With plenty of outdoor seating, you can sit outside and enjoy your slow-smoked, pit-cooked ribs while listening to live music. Make sure you grab a slice or two of their chocolate lava cake.
3330 Quebec Drive
In the 1940s, Glen Bullock started selling his barbecue door-to-door. Years later, he would join forces with his wife Lillian, a skilled cook and baker, to open the original Bullock’s Bar-B-Cue. Their restaurant is a well-loved, family-owned and operated fixture in Durham serving family-style all-you-can-eat barbecue pork and fried chicken. Pair your barbecue with coleslaw, string beans, fries, or hushpuppies. (Also, they are cash only, so make sure to bring those bills!)
2816 Cheek Road
When you see a sign with a pig in a chef’s hat, you know you’re in the right place. Behind the doors, you'll find perfectly seasoned and tender barbecue cooked to perfection. Food writer Greg Cox describes the pork as, “tasty stuff, laced with just the right amount of fat and well-browned crust.” Combine the chipotle peach ribs or some of that well-browned pork with sides of potato salad, collards, beans, and Brunswick stew, and you will leave full and happy. (Also, they are open for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!)
2419 Guess Road
With a name like Hog Heaven Bar-B-Q, you know it’s good. The menu features succulent, homestyle main dishes like ribs, barbecue chicken, fried chicken, seafood, and more prepared with traditional recipes. Make sure to top off your meal with a giant glass of iced tea!
3327 Holloway Street
Established in 1995, Home Plate Restaurant specializes in Southern cooking served cafeteria-style. Stop by Sunday-Monday for a hearty lunch or dinner of barbecued chicken, meatloaf, boneless ribs, fried apples, blackeye peas, and more. With numerous entrees and sides daily, they are sure to have something for everyone to enjoy!
Loosen up those belts and head to Lawrence Barbecue at Boxyard RTP for life-changing, melt-in-your-mouth barbecue. The spot features “BBQ, oysters, bevs, and vibes” inspired by chef and owner Jake Wood's family pig-pickings and oyster roasts. Feast on Texas-style brisket, voodoo macaroni, pulled pork, deviled egg potato salad, and a whole lot more.
455 S. Driver St.
Mike D's line of signature sauces and all-purpose dry rubs have put Mike De Los Santos on the map in East Durham for years. His unique mix of spices and seasonings, inspired by his African American and Latino heritage, mean that his barbecue flavors are like no other. Finally, Durhamites can experience more than just his spices at Mike D's BBQ Smokehouse & Retail. At the smokehouse, it's ok to be greedy with sandwiches, plates, sides and desserts on the menu. It's hard to choose between the delicious smoked chicken, brisket, pulled pork and ribs, but luckily there are two- and three-meat plate options on the menu. Arrive early, because items often sell out, and if you can get your hands on a side of mac 'n cheese and a banana pudding cake, you can thank us later for the recommendation.
2510 University Drive
No one leaves The Original Q Shack hungry. With Western Carolina and Texas-style barbecue dishes, this Indy Week Best BBQ winner is serving up a variety of smokin' flavors. Stop by for some chili-rubbed beef brisket, St. Louis cut pork ribs, smoked chicken wings, and more. All their meats are smoked in-house with their special blend of hickory and mesquite woods.
1647 Cole Mill Road
Catching national attention for their whole hog approach, Picnic has been featured in numerous publications. When you visit, sit outside on one of their picnic tables and sample some of that famous whole hog barbecue. Pair your meal with a craft beer or cocktail, and top it off with a bowl of banana pudding.
Looking for more iconically Southern dishes in Durham? Read our roundup curated by expert Nikki Miller Ka.
Know of another barbecue restaurant worthy of being included in this roundup of the best? Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.