BBQ Jew’s View: Allen & Son Barbeque

Sign of the Shrine

Sign of the Shrine (photo by drinkerthinker from Creative Commons)

6203 Millhouse Rd., Chapel Hill, NC
No Website
BBQ Jew’s Grade: A+
Porky Says: “You can take me now, I’ve lived a good life.” 

Preface: It’s no coincidence that we decided to make Allen & Son the subject of our first review. Years ago, Allen’s helped convince the Rib Rabbi and Porky LeSwine to worship at the temple of barbecue and it remains one of our favorite joints.

For The Doubters: Or Why You Shouldn’t Not GoYes, it has a Chapel Hill address. Yes, many Chapel Hill residents wouldn’t know a barbecue pit from a hole in the ground if Bon Appetit didn’t feel the need to explain it to them. Yes, the food is more expensive than most barbecue joints, even very good ones, and the prices keep going up. (Economics 101 teaches us that this is the law of supply and demand, and we are confident the invisible hand will take care of society’s best barbecue interests.) Yes, Allen’s probably gets a lot of press because the national media prefers to spend the night at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill than at the Econo Lodge in Lexington. But Allen & Son deserves every bit of the acclaim it has received; Keith Allen and his crew serve some of the best barbecue in North Carolina. And, at the risk of diving head-first into an empty pool of hyperbole, this means Allen’s serves some of the best barbecue in the world.


The Grub: Or Why You Should Go

Allen’s barbecue has more flavor than just about any pork anywhere even before the terrific sauce is added. Allen’s focuses on cooking pork shoulders (a Lexington style trait) but the sauce is very much in the Eastern tradition. Some complain that the occasional gristle or slightly charred skin finds its way onto the plate, but that is inevitable when one cooks over wood and chops the meat by hand. The slaw is, in my opinion, perfect and complements that coarse-chopped meat well. The slaw is rather coarsely chopped and heavy on the vinegar and black pepper.

The desserts, down to the ice cream, are homemade and nothing short of great. They look a bit shabby, but who cares when they disappear so quickly? I could go on about this place but you get the point. The only weak link is the hush puppies, which are inconsistent. They are golf ball-size, which may be part of the problem. Although I have sometimes had great puppies at Allen’s, they are often too dense or over-fried. I suspect it is difficult to do a good job deep frying a golf-ball-size lump of corn meal. But the bad news starts and ends there. The rest of the menu is terrific, well worth a drive from Lexington, Goldsboro or beyond.

A Final Note: Need We Say More?Quite a few years back Allen’s caught fire and suffered significant flame and smoke damage. The very next day a bunch of Allen’s regulars showed up in the parking lot with their construction tools ready, volunteering their labor. Needless to say Allen’s reopened quickly and the regulars weren’t without the divine swine for long. And that tells you more about Allen’s than an article in Bon Appetit ever will.


Postscript: For an interesting slideshow on Allen’s narrated by John Shelton Reed and Keith Allen himself, check out Last of the ‘Pitmasters’.

12 Responses

  1. Congradulations on your first review. Allen & Son is truly worthy of being first.

    One minor correction: The Google map link points to Millhouse Road across from the Farm House restaurant. Allen & Son is northeast of this point at the intersection of Millhouse and NC 86. The satellite view shows the parking lot pretty well.,+chapel+hill&ie=UTF8&ll=35.992098,-79.071718&spn=0.001749,0.003551&t=h&z=19

  2. Fun website…you all have got to try Roland’s in Beaufort NC. Q and slaw are both great. So is their sauce (vinegar-y of course).

    Lived in TN for years and never bothered to try Memphis BBQ b/c it’s slathered in that sweet awful sauce.

  3. Great review, this is an interesting site. I found you through roadfood digest. I’m also a food blogger here in the Triangle, but I have yet to check out some of these BBQ places. I fell in love with smoked meats after staying at a local’s house for his chili cook off. His smoked shredded pork was out of this world and I need to have it again but without waiting 14 hours this time!

  4. […] Joint, as my first and last visit there several years ago gave me no reason to go anywhere but Allen & Son when dining on swine in Chapel Hill.  However, a couple of friends had been talking up The […]

  5. Visited Allen & Son BBQ a couple of weeks back. Was looking forward to some really good ‘que, but alas I was terribly disappointed. Granted, I was born in Winston-Salem, and raised on Lexington style BBQ. But since moving to Raleigh in ’91, have become somewhat tolerant of “Eastern style”. Now good ‘que is good ‘que no matter where you get it, and Allen & Son was decent. My problem was the amount of food I got for the price. Unbelieveable !! I ordered a plate of chopped, and out came this plate that wouldn’t fill a 5yo. For the price that was charged, I should’ve had to take home a doggie bag. Go visit Speedy’s in Lexington, order a chopped plate. 3 times the amount of food, for less money.

  6. 3fan4evr, you are right that the prices at Allen’s have gotten a little ridiculous. I think it is still good enough to pay the price, especially given they are one of an elite few still cooking over wood the traditional way, but the price now exceeds $10 for a large BBQ plate. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t call Allen’s Eastern style, exactly. Their sauce is Eastern, having no ketchup in it, but they don’t cook whole hog, so it is sort of a hybrid.

  7. […] Minor Changes Posted on December 18, 2009 by Porky LeSwine Just a quick update for any Allen & Son’s devotees out there.  (I’m talking about the Chapel Hill location, of course.) I visited for […]

  8. I have been eating at Allen & Son for nearly 20 years. I would not keep going back if the food wasn’t good. However, two points above hint at reasons I don’t eat there more often.
    1) The prices have continued to climb and what was once a nice economical, non-franchised, wood cooked meal, is now expensive. Eating at Allen & Son has now become a “treat”, not a staple.
    2) The quality of their barbeque can be “hit-or-miss”. I’ve taken friends there after bragging about the place only to be very disappointed and embarrassed. Other times I’ve gone with my family and had some of the best barbeque I’ve ever had… on par with Bridge’s in Shelby.

  9. […] Posted on February 15, 2010 by Porky LeSwine Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of our first post.  Just a month before our first post, the Rib Rabbi and I came up with the idea for the site over […]

  10. […] to UsPeter on Happy Anniversary to UsHappy Anniversary to Us « BBQ Jew on BBQ Jew’s View: Allen & Son BarbequePorky LeSwine on Guest Post: Brookwood Farms Carolina Pit BBQpenny mattson on Guest Post: […]

  11. […] I visited the state later to do the documentary based on the book, I discovered Keith Allen in Chapel Hill. His food, the meat, the pies, everything exemplified the old fashioned, made-from-scratch flavor […]

  12. Allen & Sons deserves all praise you BBQJews give it in this review. I just visited last week and devoured the sandwich – tender meat and tangy, spicy sauce – as well as an impressive piece of pecan pie. Delicious!

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