BBQ is serious business around here, so when I wanted to publish a list of BBQ places to try in Charlotte, I went to the experts, Amanda Fisher and Paul Bright, who created The Great NC BBQ Map. I’ve got one of these maps and it’s a thing of beauty. It lists over 400 BBQ joints across North Carolina. Handy infographics tell you if they cook the whole hog or part of the pig, what cooking method is used, and what style of sauce is served. It folds up and fits into your glove box and you should not hit the road without it. Here’s a peek at the map. The rest of this post was written by Amanda and Paul. Warning: it might make you hungry.
Ask a North Carolinian about their favorite BBQ, and you’re likely to incite a great debate. Everyone knows exactly where to find the “best” BBQ, and The Great NC BBQ Map will help you track down your favorite style around the state. But we believe that even the most ordinary things can be turned into an adventure with just the tiniest shift of perspective. Above all, that was the goal of our map. These top five highlight some of Charlotte’s most unique BBQ joints and are a reminder of our motto: “Every Day Is an Adventure.” #EDIA
Bar-B-Q King: Bar-B-King has been serving BBQ sandwiches and trays, curbside, since 1959. Crank up the oldies on your car radio, and go back in time at one of Charlotte’s few remaining drive-ins. Built on Wilkinson Boulevard, the first four-lane highway in NC and the second-most heavily trafficked road in the state during its heyday, Bar-B-Q King has all the hallmarks of an iconic roadside eatery. Just follow the blinking red neon under the metal awning, push the button on the speaker, and place your order for some sliced or chopped ‘cue. BBQ King also offers hamburgers, fried seafood, and their 1/4 Bar-B-Q Chicken, fried and dipped in their BBQ sauce (and made famous on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and The Best Thing I Ever Ate).
2900 Wilkinson Boulevard, Charlotte
Sauceman’s: A relatively new restaurant in Charlotte’s BBQ scene, Sauceman’s has found the perfect balance of old-school and new-school. They’ve done their homework on Piedmont (or Lexington) NC ‘cue and emulate that style well, even down to the family-tree-like mural tracing the spread of the Lexington BBQ heritage. Yet Sauceman’s has some of the most off-the-wall BBQ sandwiches we’ve seen anywhere: The Dixie Cuban with BBQ, pimento cheese, and fried pickles; The Sweet Smoke with BBQ, apples, cheddar, and house-smoked bacon; and The Southern Belle with BBQ, Boursin cheese and fried green tomatoes. All grilled sandwiches come on Texas Toast with your choice of NC Piedmont-style ‘cue, smoked turkey, or brisket. Traditionalists need not worry — there’s still plenty of regular coarse-chopped sandwiches and trays to go around.
228 West Boulevard, Charlotte
McKoy’s Smokehouse & Saloon: North Carolinians have used hickory or oak wood to smoke their ‘cue since time immemorial. BBQ has always been about using what’s most readily available, and NC is the land of hickory and oak. But McKoy’s Smokehouse mixes it up with another local favorite — pecan wood. Get their pecan-smoked BBQ in a sandwich, on a platter, or piled atop nachos, baked potato, or a salad. McKoy’s throws other things on the smoker too, including their pot roast and wings.
4630 Old Pineville Road, Charlotte
Old Hickory House Restaurant: With changing regulations and back-breaking hours of labor, it’s getting harder and harder to find traditional pit-cooked BBQ. You’ll find that Old Hickory House is just what its name promises — old-fashioned. Not only do they pit-cook their ‘cue over smoldering wood coals, but they do it inside the restaurant where you can watch right from your 1970s-era turquoise vinyl booth, covered-wagon lamps overhead. Road food aficionados know there’s no truer ‘cue than behind the doors of the most unassuming, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. And inside the no-windowed, brick walls of this classic, you’ll find NC BBQ staples, including sliced and chopped pork shoulder, crispy pups, baked beans, Brunswick stew, and tea as sweet as the servers.
6538 North Tryon Street, Charlotte
10 Park Lanes: 10 Park Lanes combines two things that America made its own: BBQ and bowling. With a creative menu available until close (midnight or 2AM on weekends), you’ll have enough BBQ fuel to keep you going through a list of indoor and outdoor games, including bocce, ping pong, cornhole, shuffleboard, arcade games, and bowling. The menu is as varied as the activities, with BBQ sandwiches and sliders, BBQ tacos, and a delicious concoction called “Chachos,” house-made potato chips piled high with nacho-like toppings, pulled pork or smoked chicken, and chili. And their Stacked Mason Jar layered with pulled pork, slaw, and baked beans got the Food Network stamp of approval on the show Rebel Eats. Bonus: If you can find time in your weekday schedule for a bowling BBQ lunch, $15 will get you 2 games, shoe rental, and 1 item from the lunch menu.
1700 Montford Drive, Charlotte
Photo of 10 Park Lanes from from Barbecue Bros, a Charlotte-based blog about North Carolina and Texas BBQ.
To find all of Charlotte’s 19 BBQ restaurants (and the other 434 in the state), check out The Great NC BBQ Map.