Anthony Bourdain in North Carolina: Where Tony Ate

“North Carolina, it’s all about pig pig pig pig pig,” starts Anthony Bourdain’s narration of his visit to North Carolina. There are only a few places visited by Anthony Bourdain in North Carolina, but he manages to showcase the variety of ways that barbecue varies even within the Tar Heel State. (Unfortunately, you can’t visit the same places he did – but there are good options in South Carolina if you’ll be in the area and can get around!)

Anthony Bourdain visited North Carolina to film part of season 2 (episode 7, “The BBQ Triangle”) in A Cook’s Tour. As part of this episode he also visited Kansas City and Houston, sampling the different types of barbecue – different cuts, different cooking methods, and different sauces and seasonings.

Anthony Bourdain in North Carolina Hero

Whether you’re planning a trip to North Carolina for work or pleasure, you’re going to want to sample some good Carolina-style barbecue. While you can’t dine at the same places visited by Anthony Bourdain in North Carolina, you can get inspired; below you’ll find a bit about each spot and what he ate, and then can then seek out similar experiences for yourself. To quote Tony again, “barbecue is not a cuisine, it’s an obsession;” let’s dig in!

Want to watch the episode where Anthony Bourdain visits North Carolina?
The A Cook’s Tour episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Lumbee, Skaruhreh/Tuscarora (North Carolina), Cheraw, and Mánu: Yį Įsuwą (Catawba) peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Mitchell’s Bar-B-Q (CLOSED)

Bourdain’s first barbecue stop in North Carolina is unfortunately now closed – a bit of research suggests that while Ed Mitchell of Mitchell’s Bar-B-Q is a barbecue master, he’s not the wisest businessman and lost the restaurant in a back-room poker game a few years after Tony’s visit.

In any case, Tony visited this establishment to sample Eastern Carolina-style barbecue, that is to say, “whole hog” barbecue. During his visit, he’s part of the whole process from preparing the pig carcass to grilling it, to seasoning it, to, well, enjoying it when all is said and done. His final plate comes from the “pig bar,” including trotters, pig earls, chitlins, and pulled pork – with no traditional barbecue sauce, just the vinegar and pepper sauce.


Unfortunately, Bourdain’s second stop in North Carolina isn’t a restaurant you can visit: it appears to be someone’s backyard in Marshville. There, he meets with two “generals” in “the BBQ war,” Bill Leeson and Jim Tabb.

Unlike Ed Mitchell who uses the whole hog, Bill and Jim focus on one specific cut: pork shoulder. They cook it on direct heat instead of using a separate, adjacent fire box. Once fully cooked, the meat is tender enough to literally fall off the bone – and Tony enjoys it that way. He also has a plate of pulled pork shoulder with Carolina’s distinctive tomato-based barbecue sauce, and served with red slaw and hush puppies.

“Good barbecue is an endless learning process,” Bourdain concludes at the end of the episode.

Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in North Carolina? Let me know in the comments below!

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Valerie is a travel writer currently based in Cleveland, but her favorite destinations are Alaska, London, and Jordan – only one of which Bourdain ever visited! You can find her writing on Lonely Planet, Forbes, and her travel blog, Valerie & Valise.

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