REVIEW: Allen & Son Barbeque – Chapel Hill
Allen & Son Barbeque is a little barbecue joint located just about a mile or two off of I-40 near Chapel Hill on N.C. 86. Allen & Son Barbeque is kind of an odd hybrid barbecue joint. The restaurant is located right along the dividing line between eastern North Carolina and Lexington style so it is only fitting that they use a little bit from each style. Allen & Son doesn’t cook the whole hog. Instead, they just cook the shoulder hitting the Lexington-style. They use a tangy, vinegar-based sauce to keep the ‘cue moist hitting the eastern North Carolina-style sentiments.
Another thing to note about Allen & Son is that they are one of the few remaining barbecue joints in North Carolina that still cook over hardwood coals (with a mix of charcoal, I believe…). Additionally, they also chop their own hickory wood right outside the smokehouse which is pretty damn cool before they use it to fire the pit. Chopping wood kicks ass and the fact that they do it on site makes it taste even better.
The interior of the Chapel Hill restaurant looks similar to the hunting lodge that I used to go to with my dad when I was younger. There were paintings of ducks, quail, deer and other North Carolina wildlife on the walls. There are mounted deer heads hanging and it looks like a true Southern establishment. I’ve read that hunter’s will roll into Allen & Son in full camo after they have been sitting in the duck blinds or out in the field. You can always use “stuffed animals” as a selling point to your kids but make sure that you put a disclaimer in there that the stuffed animals might not be the cute and cuddly type. Anyways, let’s get on to the food…
Their hush puppies were quite impressive. A lot of barbecue restaurants across North Carolina have made it commonplace to bring a basket of hush puppies to the table when you sit down. I only wish that Allen & Son did this because I would be in hush puppy heaven. I had to order them for an additional charge of $1.55 because I had already ordered fried okra as the side to my barbecue sandwich but the additional charge for the hush puppies was well worth it. They are one more style in the various types of hush puppies across North Carolina. They have a thick, sweet glazed crust that is crunchy and followed by a soft interior full of that corn taste that you look for in hush puppy. Serious Eats, one of our favorite food blogs, considers Allen & Son’s hush puppies to be “revelatory”. I agree.
The barbecue sandwich was pretty dang good. I was a little thrown off by the sesame seed bun which you don’t usually see unless a burger patty is sandwiched between it. However, I think it worked well as a bun for a barbecue sandwich and would actually think about using it at home when I make some homemade barbecue. Allen & Son serves mayonnaise-based eastern North Carolina slaw which they topped the sandwich with. The barbecue was tender and moist with a little bit of char to it adding a bit of the crunch that I like in the barbecue that I eat.
I added a little additional sauce to the sandwich which was a little different than most sauces. It was a little spicier than most and there was definitely some butter in there making it taste like a vinegary, Texas Pete-like barbecue sauce. The barbecue doesn’t require the sauce because it tastes good by itself but it does add a different flavor to it If I had been a little hungrier, I would have gotten the barbecue plate because I like eating barbecue sans bun.
The fried okra was a good side for the barbecue but not good enough to warrant getting it again next time. I would probably check out their stew or give their potato salad a try. I don’t regret the okra but I do regret not ordering dessert because they are all made in house by Keith Allen. My friend, Bill, tweeted me that I should definitely give their homemade dessert but I didn’t get his tweet until I was already on the road away from Allen & Son. Guess I will have to get some the next time I stop in there.
Allen & Son Barbeque is open to satisfy your barbecue cravings on Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. It kind of sucks that they aren’t open to cure a case of the Mondays but I am still impressed by their hours especially since I can stop in there anytime that I am headed east on during the week. Allen & Son has a sister restaurant over in Pittsboro serving up the same good food…from what I’ve heard. I just haven’t had a chance to make it over there to compare the two yet.