Kathy and Jerry Hart opened Ole Time Barbecue off Hillsborough Street in 1993. Since then, they have grown steadily to accommodate for something as small as people stopping in for a meal to catering large events and tailgates. Ole Time Barbecue is located in a somewhat nondescript, yellow-roofed building that people have passed by numerous times when driving down Hillsborough Street. Once you step inside, you’ll find a setup of booths and counter seats that give an intimate, yet informal vibe. Each booth is set up with a condiment caddy and paper towel roll, which foreshadows the tasty, yet slightly messy barbecue you’ll be partaking in and need the extra paper towels to wipe off any stray barbecue sauce.
As I sat down to an ice cold glass of perfectly sweet tea, I was brought a basket of freshly fried hushpuppies. Normally I am not a fan of hushpuppies, but I could snack on Ole Time’s all day. The puppies were hot and fresh with a crisp exterior and a soft, interior tasting of sweet cornmeal and onions.
The fried chicken was delicious. The ¼ chicken plate with two sides rings in at $7.99. The chicken was fried to a golden brown that yielded a crisp crunch before biting into the tender, perfectly cooked white meat. The meat was seasoned well and so was the breading. The okra was crisp and just salty enough to serve as a great complement to the chicken. After enjoying the chicken and okra, the fries were unremarkable.
Ole Time serves up traditional Eastern style pork barbecue, offering two varieties of vinegar-based barbecue sauce. The mild sauce leans towards the sweet side. The hot sauce is spicy, sweet and sour all in one. This was great on top of the BBQ pork and hush puppies. A regular hand chopped BBQ pork plate with two sides also comes in at $7.99. The collards were soft and cooked well without being mushy. The splash of vinegar typical of southern greens was the needed pop of flavor to brighten up the earthy cooked greens flavor. The mac-n-cheese was creamy and saucy, but lacked significant cheese flavor. It could have used more cheese or some spice to offset the one-noted creamy taste.
Chicken pastry (12 oz. bowl, $3.99) is a southern favorite and this one did not disappoint as it was savory, salty and saucy. Although most chicken pastry I’ve had from southern cooks tends to have a thicker broth, Ole Time’s was reminiscent of a cross between chicken pastry and chicken noodle soup. Definitely a must-have.
Ole Time is a Raleigh staple for barbecue that has served everyone from college students to politicians. Their prices also reflect great value for not only the amount of food, but the quality. So the next time you’re driving down Hillsborough Street and spot the yellow-roofed building, don’t just drive on by; stop in to taste and see just what Eastern North Carolina barbecue staples are all about.
Address: 6309 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC 27606
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 @