City Barbeque hails from Ohio, and thank goodness it’s landed here in North Carolina. Opening their Cary location in 2014, they’ve since expanded to include a Garner locale in 2015 and Durham’s store opens early this summer. Their Cary location is right outside of my gym and the struggle is all too real when smelling the deliciously smoked meat wafting through the air after a tough workout. Tempting as it is, I’ve had to limit my City Barbeque intake so as to not completely thwart my exercise efforts. However, when the time comes to sit down for a meal at City Barbeque, they never let me down. From their main entrees to side dishes, every menu item is made with a lot of tender loving care.
Yes, we have a plethora of barbeque joints here in the Triangle. So just what exactly makes City Barbeque unique? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is every time I walk in, I am greeted with the genuine smiles of General Manager Jason Strickland and his team. With an open kitchen, you can catch a glimpse into the bustling happenings behind the counter and see how excited everyone seems to be working here. With the cowbell that rings for a special order or when Will is calling out ticket numbers, it’s clear that pride and enthusiasm shines through and through. This is also one of the few places I’ve eaten where the meals have consistently been correct, hot, and fresh. This speaks volumes for any restaurant, regardless of cuisine.
I was recently invited over to partake in testing out their newest menu addition, The Big Bone ($19.99). This bear of an entrée is a show-stopper. Jaws literally dropped at tables surrounding us as it was walked over to our table. The Big Bone is aptly named both for its size and amazing flavor. This delectably tender beef rib is given a liberal coffee-chipotle chili blend rubdown before being slow smoked for over 15 hours, producing the perfect smoke ring around the meat. Each bite is more tender and rich than the previous, making you yearn for more even though you know there’s no way you can finish the nearly one pound “bone” by yourself under normal circumstances. With its debut, The Big Bone is only offered right now on Saturdays. I will undoubtedly be back to experience its perfect composition of unctuousness again.
The City Sampler ($17.99) is comprised of beef brisket, pulled pork, sausage, turkey, 2 sides (we chose mac and cheese and green beans with bacon) and Texas toast. This is perfect when you have a crowd who wants a bit of everything or you can’t make up your mind because the options are all so good. The beef brisket, much like The Big Bone, is one of the most tender briskets anywhere here in the Triangle. Blissfully soft, yet not mushy, it’s a real winner. Their pulled pork is just as moist, but does well with the addition of either their original tomato-based barbeque sauce or the “Jamaican Me Crazy” eastern-style barbeque sauce. Their house-made sausage is more peppery than it is spicy. With a distinctive “snap” when you bite into it, you know it’s been smoked within the confines of City Barbeque, too. Smoked turkey is just plain ol’ turkey breast, right? Wrong! City Barbeque transforms this extremely lean protein into the stuff you wish you grew up eating for Thanksgiving. Salty, smoky and juicy; it doesn’t get much better than that. City Barbeque is also one of the rare places I could eat a few of their sides and be completely satisfied. Their mac and cheese is saucy, cheesy and yummy. Their green beans are chock-full of bacon and pepper and have a nice little pot likker going, too. Don’t forget to use the Texas toast to mop up the extra juices from either the meats or sides – you won’t regret it!
An item arriving just in time for Lent, the Fried catfish special ($12.28) with 2 sides (we chose corn pudding and gumbo) was another favorite of our group. The catfish was encapsulated in a crunchy cornmeal coating that protected the flavorful meat inside. The surprise for us was the tartar sauce. Most places, especially a barbeque joint where fish is not the “main” item ordered, would mix together mayo and relish and call it a day. City Barbeque’s tartar sauce had hints of dill and lemon that really made the catfish sing and elevated it to another level. Again, the sides were winners with this dish, too. City Barbeque’s gumbo is an honorable riff on a traditional Cajun gumbo with bits of smoked sausage, okra and spices served over rice. Their corn pudding is a deceptive name for an incredibly scrumptious dish. Imagine a light and airy soufflé filled with hearty bits of corn topped with a crisp, sweet crust. This is definitely City Barbeque’s dark horse side dish.
With the barbeque sauces in bottles at the table to add according to your likeness, you can share a meal with a fan of Lexington, Eastern or any other style of barbeque without qualm at City Barbeque. This restaurant is a show of southern hospitality done right with big flavors, big portions and big smiles; both from customers and the City Barbeque team.
Address: 1305 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary, NC 27511
Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.