Barbecue Restaurants in Roanoke Rapids, NC

By Paul Hughes on April 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm EST

The Roanoke Valley is smack-dab-with-a-cloth-napkin in the midst of North Carolina barbecue country, where the meat is cooked slow and the sauce has the tang of vinegar.

For a taste of this regional treat, stop by Ralph’s in Weldon, The Barbecue Stand in Scotland Neck or Lynch’s in Hollister.

Ralph's Barbecue

Kim Amerson, owner of Ralph’s Barbecue, is operating the restaurant her grandfather founded. “We’ve been here since 1941,” Amerson says. “It’s been passed through three generations.”

As a child in the 1960s, Amerson remembers a huge woodpile – fuel for the fire – and a room with six tables in it. Now her main dining room holds 175, and the banquet rooms work for up to 150.

One thing that never changes, though, is the food. “It’s all my grandfather’s recipes,” she says.

Amerson’s staff cooks all night, every night, on the premises. Amerson says Ralph’s sees all kinds of customers, from lawyers and judges to farmers in work boots.

“It’s upscale barbecue,” she says. “But no, you don’t have to wear a tie,” she says.

Travelers on I-95 also stop, with Ralph’s just two blocks away. Then they spread the word too. Barbecue in this area is vinegar-based, more spicy than sweet, relying on crushed red pepper for instance.

“The sauce is a big deal,” she says. “Everyone’s always fussing about the sauce.” People also praise the coleslaw.

“Around here if you eat barbecue you eat coleslaw,” Amerson says. “It’s like if you eat mashed potatoes, you have gravy.” Holten Williams agrees. “Usually you have coleslaw,” he says. “It’s served cold, not warm or room temperature, and it’s very sweet rather than spicy, like some northern slaws.”

The Bar-B-Que Stand

That gives a good taste combination – a spicy barbecue and a sweet slaw. Call it a one-two punch. Williams runs the Bar-B-Que Stand, formerly Scotland Neck BBQ. He bought it in mid-2008. “I’ve always liked cooking,” says Williams, who was born in Scotland Neck.

“Barbecue is huge in North Carolina,” Williams says. “Any gathering you go to, most likely there is barbecue.” "Carolinians don’t smoke their ‘cue", he says, preferring charcoal, wood or electric cookers. Williams employs 15 and his barbecue joint is nothing fancy – which is how they like it in the Roanoke Valley.

“It’s a rustic feel: exposed wood, old photographs and antique farm implements,” he says. High season for him is hunting and fishing season for everyone else. “The restaurants just boom in the spring and fall.”

At Lynch’s Bar-B-Q & Grill in Hollister, the barbecue is so good customers buy it by the pound. Customers will drive several hours to buy a few pounds of the succulent meat to take back home and share with friends and family. It’s the sauce that keeps customers loyal – and at Lynch’s the sauce is already mixed into the meat, not served on the side.

Take a look at more restaurants in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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