People and Places: Hardison’s Carolina Barbecue

People and Places

Just outside of the small town of Jamesville, Hardison’s Carolina Barbecue has been cooking up eastern North Carolina barbecue for decades.

“We have had the barbecue facility here since August 11, 1994,” said Nancy Hardison, head chef. 

It’s where they cook, packages and ship barbecue to grocery stores all over the East, even into Virginia.

“My husband’s grandparents started it in 1933,” Hardison said. “And they started it back in 1933. And then they had a fire occur in 94.”

After the fire, the operation moved to their current location, ushering in a new generation for the Hardison family. 

“Ever since I could walk, I had my little footstool,” said Sarah Hardison Harris. “I’d stand on it, put lids on. It’s just what I know. It’s what I’ve done my whole life.”

While Hardison’s has been cooking barbecue for decades, it hasn’t always been available to eat at their Jamesville location. 

“People kept saying you need to have something here,” said Hardison. “So we were going to do like a little snack bar thing, just barbecue sandwiches. And then it kind of just got bigger.”

“Much busier than we ever thought it would be,” said Harris. “But we’ve had great support from the community.”

That support has continued to grow since Hardison’s opened the restaurant in late 2016.

“This is as good a representation of home-cooked barbecue as you’re going to find,” said Steve Basnight, who drives from Plymouth to get their barbecue. 

“An informal country restaurant with plenty of good food and the price is right,” said Laverna Copeland, a regular. “Can’t beat that.”

Just about every person who works at the restaurant is a Hardison. 

“Sometimes we want to strangle each other because we’re family,” said Harris. “And I work with brothers! But no, I love it. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

“I love it when I’m in the kitchen with my daughter, my daughter-in-law, my son,” said Hardison. “And my sister is like, ‘Don’t you get tired?’ I’m like, ‘What more could you ask?’ You have your whole family.”

That family is expanding, with scores of customers coming to enjoy the restaurant. 

“It’s a family atmosphere,” said Copeland. “And it’s very informal. And you can meet other people, talk to friends.”

“Ten miles from anywhere right here,” said Basnight. “So to get this full everyday, it’s got to be doing something right.”

“I want people that if they’ve worked all day, or they’re at work and they come in here for lunch, I want them to feel good when they’ve left,” said Hardison. “I don’t want them to hear about our problems. And it’s just all about them to me. To make them feel good and that they’ve had a good meal and they’re satisfied.”

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