BBQ Jew’s View: Holly Ridge Smokehouse

511 Highway 17 North, Holly Ridge, NC
Hours: Tu-Th & Su 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fr-Sa 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
BBQ Jew’s Grade: B-
Porky Says: “Decent Beach-B-Q at last.”

Palatable Barbecue Near the Beach? Finally!
Earlier this summer I took a family vacation to Topsail Beach.  Unsurprisingly, I dragged my wife and kids to a barbecue restaurant on the way.  Equally unsurprising was the fact that I did this over my wife’s protests.  She is only an occasional barbecue eater and, like most women, operates under the misguided belief that a greasy plate of chopped pork and hush puppies is a less than perfect pre-bikini meal.  Nonsense!  Plus, in fairness, my wife knows from traveling with me that barbecue joints within 50 or so miles of the coast tend to be mediocre at best.  Needless to say, that fact has never stopped me from trying to find exceptions to the rule.

Given that it’s located inland about five miles from Topsail Beach, Holly Ridge isn’t really a beach town as much as a refueling pit stop on the way to the beach.  Still, five miles is pretty damn close to the beach by barbecue standards, so I had to try the Holly Ridge Smokehouse despite that it looks like just the type of place I know to avoid.  It is large, overly clean and sterile (by stereotypical BBQ joint hunting standards) and is even complete with a gift shop featuring books on pirates, seashells, taffy and other beach friendly junk for sale.  It’s a definite tourist spot, in other words.  I prepared for the worst as I walked toward the counter to order some carryout.  The signs promoting the all you can eat buffet for breakfast and dinner did nothing to raise my jaded expectations. 

Beach Blanket Barbecue
Although Holly Ridge Smokehouse is nothing special, it is perfectly fine and fine is pretty tasty for a summer beach vacation.  Although the barbecue is not wood cooked, it is tender and medium-chopped to a nice consistency; unlike some so-so Eastern joints where teeth are optional to chew the ‘cue, the Smokehouse meat’s texture allows for some actual chewing.   The classic Eastern vinegar sauce was nothing too memorable but proved to be just what the pork needed, bringing out its flavor without overpowering it.  The hush puppies were hard to forget–golf ball size, spongy (mostly in a good way) and a little bit greasy–quite good and certainly among the largest pups I’ve witnessed.  The white slaw was typical Eastern North Carolina fare, a good balance for the tangy barbecue.  For those who want something other than barbecue, the restaurant serves everything from steaks to fried chicken to spaghetti, as well as a wide variety of vegetable sides (yams, collards, okra, green beans, squash, beets, etc.).  Finally, as is usually the case at barbecue joints good, bad and in between, the staff was exceptionally friendly and put a smile on my not-yet-sunburned face. 

In summary, Holly Ridge Smokehouse is a nice way to start or finish a beach vacation.  Heck, you can even get your food as takeout if you want a real BBQ-picnic-on-the-beach experience… but first you might want to run that idea past your wife.

8 Responses

  1. The reviews from this site are usually an enjoyable read, but they could be so much more helpful if they included photos of the actual food ordered (or seen, as in buffet tables). Just a thought 🙂

  2. Last time I was there it was still named “Betty’s Smokehouse”. Sounds like the name change is the only change as I found the fare pretty much as you describe. My comment was that it was a bit chewy, but with really good flavor. (That was 12 years ago!!!)

  3. Another_Q, I guess the more things change the more they stay the same, right?

  4. Sarah,

    Almost all of our reviews have pictures of the food, this was a case of me eating the food and THEN remembering I needed a photo…

    Thanks for reading!

  5. This is some of the worst bbq I’ve ever had in North Carolina. We never intend on going back.

  6. My family often vacations on the NC coast, and, like you, I’ve been consistently underwhelmed by the barbecue within 50 miles of the coast. Don’t they have any oak or hickory trees around?

  7. They do have plenty of oak & some hickory trees along the coast. The best example of this is at “Oakwood BBQ” located off Catherine Lake Road between Jacksonville & Richlands. They do it with oak & they do it right. The best bbq I’ve had close to the coast.

    I’ll add…not that it was asked of me…that HR Smokehouse is the worst I’ve had, followed closely by the highly revered Moore’s BBQ in New Bern. Roland’s BBQ in Beaufort is very forgettable as well.

  8. Not good Q in my opinion- Smokehouse is now closed.

    If in the area, try Oakwood BBQ near Catherine Lake between Jacksonville and Richlands, instead. Takeout only, and they have a website. Huge portions cooked over wood.

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