We were not sure what to expect when we went to the Redneck BBQ Lab in Benson. They’re located right off highway 40 and are worth a drive for anyone. We loved the look as we pulled up. They’re connected to a gas station but have a great country vibe. Cars were already lined up at the drive thru and outside the door prior to their 11am opening. We came inside to truly amazing smells and were very warmly greeted, asking if we were there for the burnt ends. We let the gentleman, Larry, know we were there to meet with Jerry. We took a seat and soaked in the ambiance provided by a huge shelf of awards and a really great wall menu of great barbecue combinations. They have family options for whatever size you many need as well as great sandwich creations and many individual plates and sides of barbecue heaven. They also have a busy catering business, a food truck, and another food truck on the way. Food is served on some butcher paper, giving a very authentic barbecue experience. We loved a separate dining room that was between the restaurant and gas station, with both closed off to the gas station. More awards decorated the space in there. Hip bluegrass tunes set the background for a really filling, quality meal while enjoying great conversation and learning all about it he restaurant and the history of Johnston County.
Jerry had so much information and it is clear immediately that he’s got a really great spot. He sources the vast majority of his produce locally and was bragging on the turnips from his cousin’s farm and are served with the turnip greens. The collards were also out of this world, with one diner stopping to thank Jerry for these specifically and let him know they were better than his granny’s, although he wouldn’t be admitting that to her. He loves to travel and learn about food, taking many of his lessons back to his lab (perfect name for the restaurant!). He was recently in Arizona with plans to check out Arkansas and Texas in the near future. In his quest for new barbecue secrets he asks the locals where they would take their families rather than what the most popular corporate choice in the area might be. Frequently, the best spots are holes in the wall at gas stations or road sides. His place has the same character of many of his favorite finds. His meat is not sourced local, but his is very familiar with the quality of where it is sourced, informing us of his pork supplier in Iowa, his beef source in Montana, and how a chicken farm in Gainesville, GA does a special run for him each Tuesday and Thursday. He boasts that there is no steamer in his restaurant and barbecue will never be reheated. Also, that he only recently got a freezer, although it pretty much only has pie crust in it. There is also no fryer, meaning hush puppies and fries aren’t on the menu, but a freshness to all of the items definitely is. Jerry’s experience has had him featured on the popular show “Chopped” and he was recognized for this by some diners while we were there. It was really cool to hear about the experience as we always love behind the scenes insight. He was nominated for the show by his daughter, and skeptical it was real when the show reached out to him. This is a very family oriented business with his sister helping with much of the design work and building the tables, and his family helping build out the additional dining room. He is most proud of a 3rd place barbecue award won by his daughter.
Our food was truly delicious and did not disappoint in any area. We had a great barbecue tray prepared just for us. I had high hopes of finishing the tray upon looking at it, but there was no way to eat it all and we had plenty of great leftovers to take with us. We had his St. Louis style ribs which were really great. They were very tender and the sauce was just right for St. Louis style. I love my ribs and am very proud of my own sauce recipe, but his sauce was top notch. The brisket was tender and went great with all of the sauce options. The turkey was seasoned to perfection and nice and juicy. The pulled pork was as good as you’d expect from someone with an eastern North Carolina upbringing. The chopped chicken was incredible and a real favorite for us. This is the only way chicken is served here and that’s just fine with us. The house made sausage was my personal favorite. It was sweet and spicy with so many flavors. It had a jalapeño and vinegar base and so many flavors coming together in the right way. The burnt ends are very good and drip with caramelized goodness. There is great care placed in making sure only the point of the muscle is used, limiting these on the menu to two days a week, and while supplies last. Sides of the turnips, collards, jalapeño Mac and cheese, and pickled onion and okra were all great choices to go with any of the meats.
They are voted the best barbecue in the Triangle area for two years running in the WRAL voters choice awards. In fact they’re winners of over 450 awards and championships that are on display throughout their unique barbecue space. Food is prepared competition style and we loved it all. There is an emphasis on good service and this is seen immediately and throughout your stay as staff interacts with everyone to ensure the best experience possible. Jerry takes time to teach everyone how to take time with each customer and make it a personal experience.
For atmosphere, great food, and true southern hospitality there are no better places on our list than the Redneck Barbecue Lab. We can’t wait to check them out again and see what other creations they’ve come up with.