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Durham’s Smokin’ Hot Barbecue Restaurants

Visit any one of Durham's best barbecue restaurants, and your tastebuds will thank you. Whether it's pulled pork, ribs, fried chicken, or fried okra you seek, you'll find it here.

Posted By Kristin Bedinger on May 01, 2024

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.

Backyard BBQ Pit

5122 NC-55

After spending nearly a year on renovations, Backyard BBQ Pit is now back with an all-new look. While the building may have changed, the food is as good as ever. 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.

The Blue Note Grill

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.

A plate of ribs, collards, hush puppies, and mac n' cheese from the Blue Note Grill sits on a picnic table looking tasty.

If you think the ribs at The Blue Note Grill look good, wait until you try their sides. Photo: Lissa Gotwals

Bullock’s Bar-B-Cue

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!)

Byrd’s BBQ

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 and dinner!)

Hog Heaven Bar-B-Q

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!

Home Plate Restaurant

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!

Lawrence Barbecue

Boxyard RTP

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.

A tray of Fried Chicken from Lawrence Barbecue sits between sides of baked beans and mac n' cheese, all garnished colorfully.

Head to Lawrence Barbecue for plates that will taste just as good as they look. Photo: Discover Durham

Mike D's BBQ Smokehouse & Retail

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, means that his barbecue flavors are like no other. Finally, Durhamites can experience more than just his spices at Mike D's BBQ Smokehouse & Retail, named North Carolina's Best New Barbecue of 2023 by Eater Carolinas. 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.

A customer waits to dig into a plate of pulled pork, mac n' cheese and potato salad from Mike D's.

With so many amazing options at Mike D's, you might just have to try one of everything. Photo: Discover Durham

The Original Q Shack

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.

The sign for The Original Q Shack stands tall on a sunny day, beckoning customers in for some tasty Durham barbecue.

Stop by The Original Q Shack to get a taste of a few different regional styles of barbecue. Photo: Discover Durham


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.

Bowls of fried okra and mac n' cheese compliment a generous helping of fried chicken from Picnic Barbecue in Durham, NC.

You won't want to miss the sides at Picnic, like the fried okra or mac n' cheese. Photo: Discover Durham

Know of another barbecue restaurant worthy of being included in this roundup of the best? Please send an email to blog@discoverdurham.com.

About the Author

Kristin Bedinger - Sr. Manager of Content
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Lover of plants, books, wine, cooking for my friends and hanging with my pup, Arlo. Find me trying every new bar and restaurant in Durham the moment it opens.