Southerners Enjoy Barbecue for Every Meal – Even Breakfast

BBQ morning, noon, and night? We're in!

Who says you can't eat barbecue for breakfast? As J. C. Reid of the Houston Chronicle recently reported, more and more Texans are doing just that. A host of joints in Houston and Austin have started stuffing breakfast tacos with smoked brisket and eggs, and some are even piling brisket on top of waffles and rolling it inside of breakfast tamales.

This is apparently a fairly new thing for Texans. Reid opens the piece by noting that "for most barbecue consumers, lunch is where it's at." As a Carolinian, I had to chuckle at that.

I suppose that statement is true for the Lone Star State, where the standard M.O. is to cook way too little smoked beef, start selling it around 11:00 am, and close the doors when you sell out in the early afternoon, leaving a bunch of potential customers hungry. Here in the Carolinas, we're a little more hospitable, and rare is the barbecue restaurant that isn't open for dinner.

Breakfast hours are fairly common, too, especially in North Carolina. Many of the Tarheel State's most beloved barbecue restaurants are less artisan operations and more all-day diners that just happen to have big hickory-burning brick pits out back where they cook pork shoulders for 12 hours or so.

Reid makes much of the fact that Snow's BBQ in Lexington, Texas (which, by the way, I love—it ranks #2 on my list of theTop 50 Barbecue Joints in the South) opens for business at 8:00 am each Saturday. That's nice and all, but the Bar-B-Q Center (#34 on my list) in that other famous Lexington—Lexington, North Carolina—opens at 6:00 am every day of the week except Sunday, and so do Smiley's and Tarheel Q.

Down the road in Salisbury, Richard's opens up at 6:00 am. Far to the east, Bum's in Ayden unlocks its doors at 5:30 every morning (except Sunday, of course) while the whole hogs are still cooking over glowing oak coals in the pit room. Fuzzy's BBQ in Madison may be the earliest bird of all, opening at 5:00 am every single day, Sunday included.

Now, admittedly, the breakfast menus in these places tilt more toward eggs, grits, and biscuits than pit-cooked meats. The plates at Bum's come with your choice of bacon, sausage, ham, or pork tenderloin, and none of those pig parts spent even a minute on the barbecue pit.

The Chopped BBQ Plate at Hill's Lexington Barbecue, Winston-Salem NC
The Chopped BBQ Plate at Hill's Lexington Barbecue, Winston-Salem NC. Robert Moss

I have, however, enjoyed a chopped BBQ breakfast plate at Hill's Lexington Barbecue in Winston-Salem. (That's chopped pork, by the way, in case you aren't from the Carolinas.) It comes with hash browns, scrambled eggs, and a basket of biscuits, and I can attest that it's not a terrible way to kick off your morning.

But Hill's is a rare exception. For most Carolinians, the early morning hours are when you start cooking barbecue, not when you eat it. I doubt very many folks in these parts could even guess what a "breakfast taco" might be.

And I don't expect that to change anytime soon. When it comes to barbecue, Carolinians aren't in a rush. We know there will still be plenty of chopped pork, ribs, and pit-cooked chicken when dinner time rolls around.

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