People and Places: The Story of BBQ in N.C.


North Carolina is known for many things — tobacco, college basketball, beautiful beaches and, of course, barbecue. 

For the next few months, that unique piece of our history is on display in Craven County.

Every day, in all 100 counties across our state, people line up for barbecue.

It’s a way of life and a piece of North Carolina history.

That history is being celebrated in New Bern.

“This kind of allows us to link the history of why to this cultural experience that we have here in North Carolina,” said Regina Ochoa, director of public affairs at Tryon Palace. 

Inside the North Carolina History Center at Tyron Palace you’ll find this exhibit, called the Story of BBQ in N.C.
“This exhibit will allow people to explore how barbecue has grown with North Carolina’s history,” said Ochoa. “How it has evolved with North Carolina’s people and why it’s such an integral part of the North Carolina experience.”

From the earliest history of cooking over flames to some of the modern methods used across the state, it’s all discussed here.
“This is exhibit is really exciting because there is an interactive portion,” said Ochoa. “And there’s the historical component. There’s also interactive, a little small interactive exhibit. So, there’s just a lot fun and it gives you a chance to learn this history in an exciting and enticing way.”

Many eastern North Carolina favorites are highlighted, including two Ayden landmarks: the legendary Skylight Inn and Bum’s Restaurant, a place we featured on People and Places last April.
“It’s been a draw, like forever, to come to Ayden, eat barbecue,” said Larry Dennis with Bum’s Restaurant. 

But that vinegar-based goodness that we love in the East isn’t the only kind of que featured here.

The exhibit also talks about that other style of North Carolina barbecue; those who think the west is best.

At the museum, the Lexington style is compared with the Eastern style, and it explains that the vinegar-based and tomato versions really aren’t that different.
“We are a state site,” said Ochoa. “We are excited to share the story of all of North Carolina’s history. And that includes the different sides of the barbecue debate.”

But you don’t have to choose sides here, except for maybe what side dishes you like best.

“This is one little neat part of your experience here at Tryon Palace, and it gives you, hopefully, a little bit of an enticement to go out and get some local barbecue while you’re here,” said Ochoa. 

The exhibit is on loan from the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources through March.

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