Updated: Jan 19
Whether you’re a barbecue aficionado looking for new experiences or you just want to try something new, look to the Gaston County Cue Trail. We have our own unique and historic traditions in barbecue culture, but there is such a wide variety of barbecue restaurant-ing experiences it can be overwhelming. Use this trail guide to try all the best spots in Gaston County.
Ray Nathan's Brisket in Gastonia
Exhibit at The Schiele Museum
Start the Gaston Co. Cue Trail off right by visiting the Carolina 'Cue Exhibit at The Schiele Museum in Gastonia. Opening on June 18, 2022 this exhibit sponsored by First Horizon Bank, explores the history of this beloved food, discusses the science behind rubs and sauces, and hosts memorabilia from local restaurants!
Cash Only | Takeout Only
Gastonia | 704-867-0941
Off the beaten path is a restaurant so unassuming you might have just driven by it. And it may not get any more authentic than this. Pull in to a parking space adjacent to the building, a carhop takes your order, and cash only – just like business has been done here since 1957 when Black’s Barbecue opened. Black’s specialty is the barbecue sandwich – pulled pork with Black’s famous barbecue slaw. Taking it back to the family or having a picnic? At Black’s, you can buy the pork by the pound along with containers of barbecue slaw and buns for DIY family style! Open: Tues-Sat – 10:30am-8pm | Closed: Sun & Mon
Dining Room & Curbside Ordering
Gastonia | 704-866-8143
Another Gaston County treasure, R.O.’s slaw is so popular, you can buy it at area grocery stores. You may even see a billboard for R.O.’s or a huge R.O.’s food truck around town. But the history here runs even deeper – 1946 – that’s when the R.O.’s first opened.
For the authentic experience, you’ll want to go to the main location where you can also order curbside. R.O.’s does have a dining room available, and they do take a card. But all it takes to get the authentic flavor of the famous R.O.’s barbecue sandwich with barbecue slaw is to swing by for a pickup order or track down their food truck on their mobile locator. Open: Tues-Sat – 10am-9pm | Closed: Sun & Mon
Barbeque & Catering
Cash Only | Dining Room & Takeout
Gastonia | 704-824-1956
While they may not have an ancient history, Kyle Fletcher’s has been a local favorite for families and barbecue connoisseurs going on 27 years.
Takeout and catering are huge here as well, but for the truly immersive experience that’s uniquely Gaston, you may not be able to beat dining in at Kyle’s. You’ll be rubbing elbows with regulars and families who have made this their new family tradition and will proudly tell you all about it.
The most memorable part about Kyle’s may not even be their magnificent meats, but their majestic man cave of memorabilia. The walls and ceilings are plastered with fun sports memories mostly dedicated to UNC Tarheels basketball, but also featuring local sports memories and more. College sports allegiances aside, this is a sight to behold for everyone.
How do you like your sauce? Sweet and smoky? Vinegary with a kicky zing? Why not order both and mix ‘em? Kyle Fletcher’s has huge portions and lots of delicious options, so come hungry and be sure you bring cash. You may love them so much you’ll be willing to wear their “Get Porked at Kyle’s!” t-shirt out in public!
Open: Tues-Fri – 11am-8pm, Saturday – 11am-3pm | Closed: Sun, Mon, & holidays
Dining Rm & Drive-Thru/Pickup Window
Lowell | 704-824-8838
While Hillbilly’s isn’t the newest restaurant in this list, it is the newest building. Just recently built from the ground up and at a super convenient location just a hop, skip, and a jump from I-85. Lots of daylight makes the dining room bright creating a truly pleasant family dining experience.
At Hillbilly’s, they’ve got all the options. Dining room, drive-thru ordering, and drive-thru pick up for call-in orders. Cash or card. Barbecue or their popular salad bar. Full menu, kid plates, senior plates, and lunch specials. And you don’t have to consider schedules – they are open every day of the week.
Open: Mon-Thurs – 11am-9pm, Fri & Sat – 11am-9:30pm, Sun – 11am-3pm
Ole Carolina BBQ
Dining Room & Takeout
Ole Carolina BBQ is yet another barbecue tradition with community ties, a family dining experience, and convenient hours. Over the years Ole Carolina has become a comfort restaurant serving comfort food with very dedicated regulars. Don’t miss their lunch specials, senior specials, and they are always a great choice for catering.
Open: Tues-Sat – 11am-8pm, Sun – 11am-3pm | Closed: Sun
Gastonia | 704-824-8838
Blending the barbecue tradition with a modern style is RayNathan’s – 12 minutes away from 85, but well worth the drive. While barbecue culture is often super casual, RayNathan’s classes it up with a spacious and interesting dining area stylishly designed. You’ll find interesting options on the menu you won’t find elsewhere, and if brisket’s your thing, you may have just found your new favorite restaurant. Want to give it a shot? Check their hours, put on a clean shirt, grab your sweetheart for date night, and don’t forget dessert.
Open: Thurs-Sat – 11am-9pm, Sun – 10:30am-2pm | Closed: Mon-Wed
Gastonia | 980-289-1941
If you’re not feeling adventurous and just looking for something familiar and consistent, sometimes you just need a chain restaurant. Smoke Pit has four locations right here in North Carolina, and we won't be surprised to see them keep growing. While closed on Mondays, they have lunch and dinner hours every other day of the week and are truly right on I-85 at the Cox Rd Exit. Could the barbecue from a chain restaurant rival the local favorites? We’ll never tell.
Open: Tues-Thurs – 11am-8pm, Fri-Sat – 11am-9pm, Sun – 11am-8pm | Closed: Mon
How Many Can You Knock Off the List?
For our visitors, or if you’re just passing through on the interstate, we think this guide will be a big help in finding you a memorable experience that’s just right for you. For locals, neighbors, and those spending part of their summer with us, how many can you check off this summer? If there’s one you’ve yet to try – give it a shot!
If your motto is do as the locals do, and you want the authentic Gaston County barbecue experience, then look no further than the Gaston Co. Cue Trail.