In case you’ve not yet head, Raleigh-based yuppie-friendly barbecue purveyors, The Pit, have confirmed their plans to open a location in Durham. Details are in the Herald-Sun. Despite my trepidation over an upscale, tofu-barbecuing restaurant moving closer to my home, I have a lot of respect for The Pit’s commitment to cooking over wood and am excited about the news.
I finally made it to Speedy Lohr’s a couple of weeks back and it was well worth the visit. Speedy Lohr’s is located a bit outside of Lexington in the (what I shall call) hamlet of Arcadia, and they cook their barbecue over wood as God intended. As you can see in the photo below, Speedy Lohr’s adds a bit more
sauce dip than I prefer but quibbles aside it was good ‘cue.
There’s a new barbecue restaurant open way up north, the north part of the state that is. Robinson Ferry Restaurant & Spirits opened in Warrenton a week ago, and specializes in southern food including barbecue. I plan to try it soon but let me know if you’ve already been…
If a friend had told me about a new BBQ joint in Wake Forest that cooks over wood coals and is run by Keith Allen’s next door neighbor, I’d have replied one of two ways: “Hmm, that is a weird dream” or “Have you been drinking again?” But when I read about such a restaurant in the News & Observer recently, I took it more seriously.
Evidently, there really is a new barbecue joint in Wake Forest that cooks with hickory and oak (gas-free, thank you very much). And it really is run by a neighbor of legendary pitmaster Keith Allen of Chapel Hill’s Allen & Son, which is one of the best ‘cue spots on the planet. I’m not sure that photosynthesis works with pitmasters, so I can’t figure out if Keith Allen’s special BBQ sunshine will help grow a neighbor into a great pitman, but I’m willing to test that theory. I’ll be headed to Fire Pit BBQ soon, and I hope you do the same.
Big news from downtown Raleigh where the venerable Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue will soon disappear from the building it has occupied since 1938. Cooper’s is not going out of business but will soon move to make way for new development.
Losing a historic spot like Cooper’s is the downside of the continued real estate boom that has brought hundreds of millions of dollars of new investment to downtown Raleigh in recent years. The modest building that long-housed Cooper’s, even as the shadows of nearby buildings grew longer and longer, seemed invincible for awhile–every time a development proposal bubbled to the surface, it popped and Cooper’s was spared. But this time looks like it will be different. The Holts, who own Coopers, were forced to choose between moving or trying to survive what would have been an estimated 15 months in dormancy while development went on around them. So they are moving.
Thanks to reader Dave “Pork Skins” Schiller for sending me the article from the Raleigh Public Record that describes the situation Cooper’s faces. As Dave said to me, it’s hard to imagine Cooper’s anywhere but 109 East Davie Street. Where will they land next? Probably not too far from their current location, according to the Triangle Business Journal. Good luck to the Holts as they try to move forward while preserving the restaurant’s distinct history.
A few Piedmont-area NC BBQ articles of note:
Sad news from Lumberton, where I’ve learned that just a few months after opening, Nelson’s Barbecue has shut its doors. Owner Andy Price apparently overextended himself financially and, despite a beautiful restaurant space and a true passion for traditional wood-cooked barbecue, Nelson’s is no more. No word yet on what will happen to the property or equipment. I’ll check with Andy and see if he’d like to share anymore on this site. I was impressed by Andy and his family, and am very sad to see their dream fade away so quickly. Here’s to hoping an angel investor will swoop in and help Andy out.
One of Chapel Hill’s best loved restaurants is turning 30. Crook’s Corner has long offered barbecue as an afterthought on its menu of southern staples (shrimp and grits) and innovative originals (Cheese Pork!, anyone?). Although Crook’s has been hailed as “Sacred ground for Southern foodies” by the New York Times, their barbecue has never been anything particularly special–not even cooked on site, but rather “imported” from Bullock’s in Durham and marked up in price significantly. However, Crook’s is an excellent restaurant and they are celebrating their 30th with a barbecue bash tonight.
According to a clumsily written Valentine’s Day press release, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is “coming soon to Raleigh.” Of course, Dickey’s has had a downtown Raleigh location for some time now, so it’s unclear what this means. The news release contains amazingly little information so it’s not at all clear if and where a new franchise is opening, but I am assuming Dickey’s will soon open in North Raleigh or lord knows where else. Stay tuned… and brace yourself.
Food trucks, a popular concept in large cities like Los Angeles and New York for years, infiltrated North Carolina over the last few years and have really taken off. The combination of low overhead and being able to seek out your customers seems to be a winning formula for food truck operators. Although mobile taco vendors are probably the godfathers of the burgeoning North Carolina food truck scene, whether they know it or not, food trucks now run the gamut from burgers to Indian food to pretty much anything you can imagine. And it didn’t take long for savvy entrepreneurs to put two and two together and realize that 2+2=BBQ.
In an ideal world, food trucks specializing in North Carolina pork barbecue will allow the use of inexpensive rural land and less rigid regulations to cook the ‘cue on wood-fired pits. The operators can then “bring the pork to market” in the big city–downtown Charlotte, Raleigh, wherever–where property costs are high and wood-cooking is less practical. For now this is a pipe dream, and BBQ food trucks are mostly gassers like most brick and mortar joints, but a man can dream. Below is a list of North Carolina-based BBQ food trucks I’m aware of:
- The Barbecue Joint from Chapel Hill
- Big Al’s BBQ from Raleigh (previously a food truck, now with a brick and mortar location; not sure food truck still operating)
- Chick-N-Que from Knightdale
- Fatback’s BBQ & Rib Shack from Fayetteville
- Habana Blues BBQ from Wake Forest (no longer in business, as far as I know)
- The Humble Pig from Raleigh
- the lowdown food truck from Asheville (BBQ and vegetarian banh mi sandwiches!)
- Mama Jean’s BBQ from Durham (also with a brick and mortar location)
- Old North State BBQ from Chapel Hill
- Poor Piggy’s from Wilmington
- Red’s BBQ from Charlotte
- RO’s Bar-B-Que from Gastonia (also with a brick and mortar location)
Surely there are others I’ve yet to hear about, so please add a comment if you know of any other Tar Heel food trucks that specialize in barbecue.