A few weeks ago, after Ryan Dzingel signed with the Carolina Hurricanes, someone dropped the following tweet into the Slack channel we use to compile each day’s Storm Advisory:
We are happy to welcome to NC and to the @nhlcanes, Ryan Dzingel, as well as his beautiful fiancé Elise Lobb. What a pleasure it was to show you real NC BBQ!! Pictured with our very own Executive Chef @melaniedunia #ThePit pic.twitter.com/rKILw8a2qa— The Pit Barbecue (@ThePitBBQ) July 20, 2019
This, of course, prompted a heated discussion among our staff about the virtues, or lack thereof, of The Pit, which might be the most divisive barbecue restaurant in North Carolina. While that discussion was going on, I had the fleeting idea that we should do a summer barbecue tournament in place of the usual August series that we’ve done the past couple of years. But I didn’t give much thought to it, honestly.
That is, until the next day, when we put the tweet in Storm Advisory and promptly saw the comments blast into orbit with nothing but barbecue talk.
At that point, I think my exact words were “what the heck, let’s do it.” And the Canes Country Barbecue Wars was born. I mean, what could be more North Carolina than a March Madness-style tournament for barbecue?!
We created four brackets of eight barbecue joints apiece: Western/Lexington, Eastern, pulled pork, and specialty/non-NC barbecue. (To qualify as one of the two regions, the place has to serve chopped barbecue. We’re traditionalists here.) Each day next week, you’ll have a chance to vote on which place advances to the next round. That will get us down to 16 restaurants, then eight, until we get to a Final Four of one restaurant from each side of the bracket. Those will face off to determine the top barbecue restaurant in North Carolina.
Here are the seedings for the brackets:
Western (first round Monday, second round Tuesday)
- Lexington Barbecue, Lexington
- Stamey’s Barbecue, Greensboro
- Real Q/Little Richard’s Lexington BBQ, Winston-Salem
- Fuzzy’s BBQ, Madison
- Bridges Barbecue Lodge, Shelby
- Woodlands BBQ, Blowing Rock
- Short Sugar’s Pit BBQ, Reidsville
- Hill’s Lexington BBQ, Winston-Salem
Eastern (first round Tuesday, second round Wednesday)
- Skylight Inn, Ayden/Sam Jones BBQ, Winterville
- B’s Barbecue, Greenville
- Clyde Cooper’s BBQ, Raleigh
- Grady’s Barbecue, Dudley
- Ole Time Barbecue, Raleigh
- Parker’s BBQ, Greenville
- Smithfield’s Chicken and BBQ, everywhere
- Stephenson’s BBQ, Benson
Pulled Pork (first round Wednesday, second round Thursday)
- N.C. BBQ Company, PNC Arena
- Pik-n-Pig, Carthage
- Smokey’s BBQ Shack, Morrisville
- Big Al’s BBQ, Raleigh
- Q Shack, Durham
- Sonny’s BBQ, Charlotte (among other places)
- Red Hot and Blue, Raleigh
- City Barbeque, everywhere
Specialty/Non-N.C. Barbecue (first round Thursday, second round Friday)
- Brew & Cue, Cary/Apex
- The Pit, Raleigh
- BBQ House, Oak Island
- Southern Charred, Raleigh
- Queen City Q, Charlotte
- Picnic, Durham
- Midwood Smokehouse, Charlotte
- Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, everywhere
Regional finals for the West and East will be on Friday, and the Pulled Pork and Specialty on Monday, August 12. Then, the Final Four of Barbecue will get votes on Tuesday, and the grand finale on Wednesday, when we’ll crown the inaugural Barbecue Wars champion.
Yes, we know that not everything is covered here, but we couldn’t make it too expansive. (Also, pour one out for Wilber’s in Goldsboro, which would absolutely have had a spot on the Eastern list if not for the fact the state revenue department shut it down last year. They’re apparently going to reopen in the not too distant future, though.) Overall, though, we think we have a pretty good sampling of barbecue from across the Old North State. And, like you, we can’t wait to yell about it in the comments.
May the best pig win!