Allen & Son Barbecue, Chapel Hill
Keith Allen
6203 Millhouse Rd
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
(919) 942-7576

“Allen & Son looks like a barbecue place. It has vinyl tile flooring, wooden tables, checkered oilcloth tablecloths and slat back chairs. Keith Allen is a hunter and the walls are covered with pictures of ducks, pheasants and intermittently a stuffed large mouth bass or two. The walls are painted cinder block and paneling. This place has the right feel.

A walk out back quickly tells you that this is a “serious” barbecue place. Large brick barbecue pits on either side of a sizeable firebox billow with gray smoke and good smells. Outside, whole hickory logs await the chain saw and a splitting maul. Keith Allen still does the Paul Bunyan-thing himself. There are few Eastern North Carolina-style barbecues still using wood or charcoal. Allen & Son is the only place that I know of that splits its own wood.

The barbecue only comes chopped. It has a tangy, rich, brown taste with smoky overtones. The outside brown mixed in gives it a great flavor and more body. Sauced at the smokehouse, none is added in the kitchen. This rich (not fat) tasting ’cue has a wonderful peppery taste and good zip without adding sauce at the table.

The sauce at the table is a thin, reddish, vinegary, spicy blend that imparts tartness. The peppers bring on the heat when tasted alone. On the ’cue, it has the perfect combination. The slow smoked over live coals barbecue and the tart, peppery, vinegar-base sauce really do the tango.

The slaw was slightly tart with vinegar and pepper and a good fresh taste of cabbage. It is not overwhelmed with spices or mayo. It’s good.”

 Excerpts from The Best Tar Heel Barbecue Manteo to Murphy page 182.