10 Must-Visit Carolina Barbecue Joints

Skylight Inn, Ayden, NC (Photo: Denny Culbert).

Southern Living contributing Barbecue Editor Robert Moss travels the South in search of the most mouthwatering 'cue. From vinegar- to mustard-based sauces, here are some that best represent this regional favorite.

1.) Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge: Shelby, NC 704/482-8567 Sauce Style: Vinegar & ketchup Order the sliced pork tray with red slaw and hush puppies, or get a chopped pork sandwich with plenty of "outside brown" (the smoky outer bits of the shoulder) on a warm toasted bun. Wash it all down with a glass of sweet tea. 2.) Lexington Barbecue: Lexington, NC 336/249-9814 Sauce Style: Vinegar & ketchup Since 1962, Wayne Monk has been a master of the town's signature style, cooking pork shoulders directly over glowing oak coals inside enclosed brick pits. The meat is chopped and dressed in the classic Piedmont vinegar-and-ketchup sauce.

3.) Barbecue Center: Lexington, NC 336/248-4633 Sauce Style: Vinegar & ketchup At the Barbecue Center, pit-cooked pork shoulder is chopped, coarse chopped, or sliced—and you can order it on a sandwich, on a tray with red slaw and hush puppies or rolls, or on a plate with fries. The famous banana split is a multi-scoop concoction—a nod to the restaurant's start as an ice-cream parlor.

4.) Stamey's: Greensboro, NC 336/299-9888 Sauce Style: Vinegar & ketchup Chip Stamey carries on his grandfather Warner's tradition, cooking pork shoulders over all-hickory coals. You won't find ribs, chicken, or Brunswick stew here—just chopped or sliced pork plates and sandwiches, fries and baked beans, and Stamey's famous peach cobbler. 5.) Allen & Son Barbeque: Chapel Hill, NC 919/942-7576 Sauce Style: Vinegar & red pepper Allen & Son bridges the Eastern and Piedmont styles of North Carolina barbecue. Owner Keith Allen cooks pork shoulders Lexington style over hickory coals in closed brick pits and serves it with a basket of hush puppies. But the white mayo-based slaw and spicy, tomato-free vinegar sauce are more Eastern in style.

6.) Skylight Inn: Ayden, NC 252/746-4113 Sauce Style: Vinegar & pepper The self-proclaimed "barbecue capital of the world" is run by the Jones family, whose minimalist method hasn't changed since 1947: Whole hogs cook all night in open brick pits fired with shovelfuls of oak coals. The finished meat is seasoned with salt, cider vinegar, and Texas Pete hot sauce as it's chopped, and the skin is added for a little crunch. The only accompaniments are white slaw and a square of cornbread.

7.) Grady's Barbecue: Dudley, NC 919/735-7243 Sauce Style: Vinegar & pepper A huge pile of split oak and hickory logs sits under a tin-roofed shed behind Stephen Grady's pit room, where he cooks whole hogs and chickens overnight on open brick pits. His wife, Geri, makes all the sides from scratch, including cabbage, collards, and black-eyed peas. A tender, smoky chopped pork sandwich with coleslaw is the way to go.

8.) Scott's Bar-B-Que: Hemingway, SC 843/558-0134 Sauce Style: Vinegar & pepper At his family's country store, Rodney Scott cooks barbecue the old-time, labor-intensive Pee Dee way. He reduces white oak and pecan to embers in a giant burn barrel and uses them to fire open cinder block pits, where whole hogs roast slowly, skin-side-up, for 12 hours before they're flipped and mopped with a pepper-laced vinegar sauce. Pulled into long shreds, the tender, smoky pork is so spicy it will leave your lips tingling.

9.) Hite's Bar-B-Q: West Columbia, SC 803/794-4120 Sauce Style: Mustard-based More meat market, Hite's in West Columbia is a weekend-only takeout spot. Hite and his on David burn two cords of oak and hickory wood in the pit room behind the main building, and you can taste the wood in every smoky bite of their chopped pork and ribs.

10.) Jackie Hite's: Leesville, SC 803/532-3354 Sauce Style: Mustard-based Jackie Hite's is an ideal place to sample Midlands-style hash and rice: pork and onions simmered slowly in a giant iron pot, the meat pulled by hand into long strands, then simmered with plenty of mustard till it dissolves into a gravy-like concoction. The buffet features barbecue pulled from whole hogs cooked over hickory embers on cinder block pits. It's served with the Midlands' signature tangy yellow mustard sauce.

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