If you’ve spent any time in North Carolina, you quickly learn about the area’s passion for barbeque! And whether you’re a fan of Eastern NC barbeque or Western NC barbeque, you’ll have legendary que shacks that you just have to try and check out. Skylight Inn is one of those barbeque classics and third generation pitmaster Sam Jones is part of that barbeque legacy. With his original restaurant in Winterville and now his newest location in Raleigh, you don’t have to travel very far to try out his top-notch whole-hog barbeque that’s smoked over oak. Located a couple of blocks away from the Red Hat Amphitheater, you’ll find his delicious smoked meats and Southern sides just a stone’s throw away from the downtown action. Given the restaurant opened up during the pandemic, the first couple of meals I did at Sam Jones BBQ were take-out but recently I got in for a seated meal. Here’s what to expect if you visit!
Located in a newly growing neighborhood of Raleigh, Sam Jones BBQ sits amidst some brand new apartment buildings, condos and not too far from the ever popular, Boulted Bread. Inside you’ll find a very similar space to his original restaurant. The interior is basic and Southern with a concrete floor, painted wood and a marble dining counter-top snaking along the back of the space. There’s a smallish dining space inside along with a private room upstairs but where I’d imagine you want to eat at is one of the sidewalk tables up front or a table on the side-patio! Sam Jones BBQ is fast-casual, order upfront and the food is brought out to you. However, if there’s a line up front, you can work around it by just dining at the bar in back.
Prices at Sam Jones BBQ are a touch higher than the Winterville location, from $7 to $16 and you can choose from all the usual favorites: smoked pork barbeque, turkey, chicken, and ribs. Dine on your smoked meat in plate or sandwich format along with some wonderful Southern sides like collards, mac n cheese, baked beans and more. Plates come with corn bread or my favorite, the sweet potato muffin! There’s also a handful of salads and non-smokehouse items on the menu, choose from a chicken club, burger, fish sandwich or pimiento cheese sandwich.
As a starter, I’m a fan of the smoked wings! Slicked with some barbeque sauce, it’s a perfect way to get your meal started, sans pork. But given we’re in North Carolina, the pig reigns supreme and that it does at Sam Jones BBQ. The smoked ribs are excellent here, lean and meaty, cooked so they pull easily from the bone. And of course the barbeque! Going back to their Skylight Inn origins, Sam does a wonderful lightly chopped que. I’ve seen him prepare this barbeque at media events and they work in bits of cracklin’ into the meat for some crunchy texture. AND I’m pretty sure they work in more drippings in to keep the meat moist and full of umami. I think the barbeque here is as good as any you will get in the Triangle.
Beyond the smoked meats, I also really appreciate the Southern sides at Sam Jones BBQ. The collards are perfectly cooked leaving some texture and shape to the greens. The baked beans are loaded with ground meat, cowboy-style. And that sweet potato muffin just tops the whole meal off. You definitely get a lot of food eating here! As a bonus, the beer list is pretty solid, offering more than basic domestic brews for your meal bevvy. And the desserts? To die for…
Overall I’ve been very impressed by what Sam Jones BBQ is putting out. It’s not that easy to open during a pandemic but they handled things with aplomb. From their perfectly smoked meats, well prepared Southern sides to the friendly service, I doubt you can go wrong here. It sort of reminds me a bit of what the Pit used to be like when it first opened up. So welcome to Raleigh, Sam Jones! It’s great to have you in town along with your wonderful food.
Sam Jones BBQ, Raleigh
502 W. Lenoir Street
Raleigh, NC 27601