Text and Photos by Lauren Fulcher and Monique Laborde
In the big cities of NC, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the south. Especially in college towns like Chapel Hill, it’s hard to find authentic southern cooking. If you drive out though just a few miles from Franklin Street, there’s a little place called Allen & Son BBQ that is famous for keeping North Carolina food traditions alive.
On the drive to Allen & Son from downtown Chapel Hill to Hillsborough, the landscape transforms within minutes. The bustle of the college town quiets as the land opens up into green forest and pasture. With neighborhoods tucked away in the woods, the only signs of activity are the nods of drowsy cows and horses. It’s easy to miss the faded sign and unassuming building of Allen & Son Bar-B-Que nestled along Highway 86.
Inside this humble house, the food lives up to the promise of family and tradition that’s expected in a place named after a father and son. When we sat down, there was a basket of butter ready on the table. We ordered coffees while we looked over the menu. The waitress brought over an old stainless steel coffee pot and poured out the first of three cups of rich, hot coffee we enjoyed with our afternoon meal.
I ordered the BBQ sandwich, which sits at a fair price point of around eight dollars with a side included. A heap of moist, smoky, vinegar-flavored pork arrived with fine-chopped, peppery mayonnaise coleslaw on a classic white bun.
I don’t often like potato salad, but I liked this potato salad. It was just enough mustard, just enough sweet, nothing overbearing. The hushpuppies came in cute crispy balls wrapped in just the right amount of fry, and the Brunswick stew pushed my nostalgia button when I spotted some butter beans hiding behind the chunks of potato and bits of corn.
And then there was the pie. Oh, the pie. Berry pie. Chess pie. No fancy, persuasive descriptions. Just the simple names that let you know you’re in for a good southern pie.
With wise quotes and sayings on the wall, coloring books and smiling pigs beside the tables, and logs stacked against wood fire stove outside the window, our meal at Allen & Sons was surrounded with warmth. I left full and satisfied, with some renewed southern pride for our great food traditions.