Given how long it takes to make smoked meats, barbeque is one of my favorite things to enjoy when dining out. While simple in concept, you certainly need to start with great ingredients and know what you’re doing as a smoker or pitmaster to get the right results. While the Raleigh area is currently going through a barbeque renaissance, one of the places I first ran into that dished out great barbeque was Redneck BBQ Lab out in Benson. Located as part of a humble restaurant attached to a gas station, it put out great meats and sides and was worth the trip down south for me. But now, we’re blessed to have a much more convenient location in North Hills, the BBQ Lab. Located in the old Q Shack space in the older part of North Hills, you can now get the same great smoked meats and Southern sides right in Raleigh. Here’s what to expect when you visit!
If you’re visiting the BBQ Lab and are familiar with North Hills, you probably know that its location is right in the middle of things and parking is very limited. You’re probably best off using the underground parking next to the North Hills Target. Try to find a spot near one of the escalators and ride up to the ground level where you’ll find the BBQ Lab next to WhichWich. As soon as you enter, the line forms to your right! Like many barbeque joints, it’s quick casual and you order your meats/main and then the sides are added to your meal and it’s finally rung up at the end. Menus are available at the front of the line and as you move through the queueing area, you’ll go by all the BBQ Lab branded merchandise, bottled sauces, and barbeque competition awards!
Meats are sold at the BBQ Lab by the 1/2 lb. and everything is a la carte with sides in two sizes (side or pint). Sandwiches are also available along with dessert and soft drinks. A bar area/to go window is off to the back left where you can grab a craft beer, bourbon, or cocktail. Sort of a different setup but I’m sure there are reasons! After grabbing your order/tray, you can self-serve your drink and find a spot to sit in the large, open dining room. Seating is primarily 4-tops with some single seats up front near the windows and sidewalk. The dining room is nicely decorated with some cool artwork depicting rural Southern scenery. Overall the feel at the BBQ Lab feels like a refreshed que experience!
But it’s all about the food, amirite?! And the BBQ Lab is doing a nice job there. For the smoked meats I highly recommend the lean and meaty ribs or the well-caramelized, unctuous burnt ends (double-sauced brisket chunks) which might be the best in the area. The burnt ends hit you with a lot of fat, umami, sweet and flavor in a small package, I love em! The sliced brisket at BBQ Lab was solid but not a standout for me. The sides are pretty standard at the BBQ Lab but served up in larger portions. The baked beans and collards (cooked perfectly tender) are solid while I found the jalapeno mac n cheese a bit lacking, there was not much flavor to this side. The cornbread is a standard, sweetened cornbread served in chunks a la carte and I recommend getting a piece to nom on with this rich meal!
Note that the BBQ Lab also serves up some great sandwiches if you don’t want to order by the lb. and there are meat specials on specific days of the week (burnt ends, pastrami, beef ribs) which are not available all the time. They’ve also added a dinner menu (after 3pm) which has some special items like brisket nachos, tacos, and hot dogs, just in case they run out of their smoked meats!
As a fan of the original Redneck BBQ Lab, I was pretty pumped to hear that a location was moving closer to me in Raleigh. But as many local foodies know, there has been a bit of a barbeque renaissance in the area with other great options like Lawrence BBQ, Longleaf Swine, and even the brand new Midwood Barbeque opening up in the area over the past 24 months. And while I love the new BBQ Lab location and food, it may take a bit of time to reach the consistency of the old Redneck BBQ Lab which was cranking out great food. Maybe there’s just something cool about eating barbeque in a restaurant attached to a gas station! But I’ll keep an eye out on the BBQ Lab in the months ahead. Smoking great meats is as much art as science so we shall see how this location progresses over time.