Food & Drink

Best Barbecue In Charlotte

May 14, 2014 8:00 AM

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BBQ Chicken
Any article written in the state of North Carolina that starts with the words “best barbecue” is bound to draw some pushback. Barbecue is a serious subject around here. We can’t even agree on how it should be spelled (barbeque? BBQ? Bar-B-Q?), much less how it should be served and sauced. Charlotte has many great barbecue spots, some that have been serving smoked pig for generations and others that got into the business after the owners won barbecue cook-off competitions. Our tour of barbecue spots will take you from the Center City to every corner of Metrolina. Which barbecue is best? That’s for you to say after you try the ‘cue at these spots as well as those listed in our related links.
521 BBQ & Grill
7580 Charlotte Highway, Suite 100
Fort Mill, SC 29707
(803) 548-7675

Pitmaster Mike Dial caught the barbecue bug while catering NASCAR events, and went on to open his own highly rated spot in Fort Mill, just south of Ballantyne, with family members and friends. Pork barbecue (no beef brisket here) is made from Boston butts, hand rubbed with Dial’s secret seasonings and then smoked over hickory wood for at least 14 hours before being hand chopped and finished off with 521’s signature BBQ sauce. Baby back pork ribs receive a similar treatment before being finished off on the grill, as do the tasty chicken wings. If your children like barbecue, this is the spot, as 521 has an unusually varied kids menu. A second 521 location recently opened in Tega Cay.

Related: Best Barbecue In Charlotte

Lancaster’s BBQ
9230 Beatties Ford Road
Huntersville, NC 28078
(704) 394-1464

With an additional location (the original) in Mooresville, this barbecue spot is a favorite with race teams and is decorated with sheet metal from various NASCAR competitors of the past, plus a collection of petrobilia. In addition to chopped pork and baby back ribs, Lancaster’s offers smoked beef brisket, fried catfish, shrimp, charbroiled or fried chicken and some excellent wings, along with all the fixins and a full bar. The varied list of sides and appetizers includes whole fried okra, redneck fries and jalapeno bottle caps. Seniors and kids share a reduced price menu. The adjacent Hawg Trawgh Saloon provides a fun watering hole for adults.

Queen City Q
225 E. 6th St.
Charlotte, NC 28101
(704) 334-8437

Established by renowned pitmaster Dan “Boone” Gibson and still using some of his family recipes, Queen City Q emerged as the popular favorite in the uptown barbecue wars surrounding the Democratic National Convention. Pork here is hickory smoked for 16 hours before being hand-pulled (as opposed to the traditional chopped method) and served with a selection of five house-made sauces on the side, so you can flavor it to your satisfaction. Other hickory-smoked options include St. Louis-style ribs, beef brisket, smoked sausages and chicken, plus a selection of sandwiches, tacos, nachos and sliders using smoked meat as a main ingredient, such as the tasty Q-ban sandwich. The lengthy list of sides includes baked beans with Neese’s sausage, sweet potato fries and green bean casserole, while the full bar includes lots of local beers on draft. Queen City Q offers free Wifi and validated parking in the deck overhead, along with great happy hour and daily drink specials.

228 West Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28203
(704) 333-7070

Pork smoked for 12 hours over hickory and oak coals is the mainstay of this spot in historic South End, winner of the top award for NC barbecue in TLC’s 2013 BBQ Pitmasters competition. Sauceman’s serves its ‘cue Lexington-style with your choice of chopped or coarse chopped, topped with red or white slaw. Smoked turkey, beef brisket and racks of ribs are available as well, along with three different sauces—a vinegar based Lexington-style dip, South Carolina-style mustard sauce and the sweet tomato-based “Smoke and Love.” The pimento cheese is a house specialty; try it on the Dixie Cuban, a barbecue sandwich topped with fried pickles. Sauceman’s sides include mac and cheese made with the house pimento, fried green tomatoes, collards and deep fried corn, available as a three- or four-item vegetable plate for the non-carnivores in the family. Wash it all down with a beer at a table inside or out on the patio.

Stallings Rock Store Bar-B-Q
3116 Old Monroe Road
Stallings, NC 28104
(704) 821-0668

Located southeast of Charlotte, just beyond Matthews, Rock Store Bar-B-Q is housed in a charming historic building dating from 1936 made entirely of stone. Meats—pork, beef brisket, baby back ribs and chicken—are wood-smoked on site and very reasonably priced. A combo with BBQ pork sandwich, one side and a drink costs $6 all of the time. Regulars rave about the cornbread and banana pudding. A second location offers the same menu, plus fried chicken, in Mint Hill.

Related: Best Pulled Pork In Charlotte

With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at

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