North Carolina BBQ: East vs. West – Who do you Love?

 In Food & Dining, OBX Locals

There are a few things I had to learn when I moved to North Carolina 18 years ago after spending my previous life in Northern Virginia and then New Jersey.

One was that people actually smiled and said hi when you crossed paths, even if they didn’t know you.

I also had to learn to love oysters and that chili was served with crackers, not rice. And after thinking that the Garden State was a little odd for taking so much pride in their hoagies, I discovered that was nothing compared to the Tar Heel State’s obsession with barbecue.

There is even such a thing as the North Carolina Barbecue Society that publishes two of its own monthly newspapers – the NCBS Pig Tales and the NCBS Piglets. And if you ever thought about signing up for a BBQ boot camp, you can do it right there on the site.

After spending some time on the society’s website and other links, I learned something else I didn’t know about North Carolina even after all this time. North Carolina BBQ is a pretty important part of the state’s heritage and culture, not to mention can be the subject of a good dose of rivalry. That’s because here in the Cradle of ‘Cue – the Barbecue Capital of the World – there’s more than one way to cook barbecue.

The N.C. General Assembly even got in on the feud a few years back about which style of barbecue was the “official” Tar Heel version – the Lexington-style (or western) or the Eastern style.

Lawmakers couldn’t agree on the two styles, both which are pork based but the differ in the sauce and preferred cuts of meat.

Lexington-style, also referred to as Piedmont-style, is cooked in a red sauce made up of ketchup, vinegar and pepper and consists of pork shoulder. It’s served up with red slaw, that includes the same sauce, and hush puppies. Lexington-style barbecue tends to have a smokier taste compared to its eastern rival.

Over here on the eastern side of the state, we prefer to hold the tomato. Eastern-style barbecue uses just about every edible part of the pig , which is cooked in a vinegar and pepper based sauce that gives it a distinct spicy tartness.

Which one is better? It’s hard to say, but luckily there is plenty of great barbecue to go around on the Outer Banks at Sooey’s BBQ and Rib Shack, Pigman’s Bar-B-Que, Currituck BBQ Company and High Cotton BBQ.

North Carolina BBQ…dig in and pick a side. 

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