Lunch at The BBQ Joint

© Courtesy of Tom Colicchio
Lunch at The BBQ Joint

Editor's note: Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo's Top Chef (and a Food & Wine Best New Chef 1991), will be blogging every day this week about his road trip from Atlanta.

Day three, and we set out before dawn to hit Chapel Hill by lunchtime. Damon had to part ways to head out to Craft Los Angeles, but we picked up a few new travelers at the Raleigh Durham airport: Katie Grieco, my business partner in Craft Restaurants, as well as Jeffrey Zurofsky and Sisha Ortuzar, my partners in 'wichcraft.

Our first stop of the day was selected by Jeffrey, who went to school at UNC Chapel Hill and worked at the time with a guy named Damon Lapas. Now, Lapas co-owns a restaurant called The BBQ Joint, so we stopped in to get a taste of what Eastern North Carolina Barbecue was all about.

Although we were only about 200 miles as the crow flies from Big T's in Columbia, South Carolina, here the style of barbecue is totally unique from the mustard based sauce we had there. With Eastern North Carolina barbecue the pork is smoked, pulled, and coarsely chopped, and served plain except for a hint of a tangy vinegar sauce. It's unadorned, so the hardwood smoked meat has no sweet sauces to hide behind.

Damon and his partner Jeffrey Childres served up a hearty lunch, highlights of which included smoked blue fish, spare ribs, and of course the signature pulled pork served with slaw, pickles, and cornbread.