• Rob Glover

Smoky, Tangy, Sweet, and Saucy: 9 Gaston Barbecue Joints to Soothe Your Summer Soul

Bar-B-Que is a way of life around here. Entire evenings are whiled away discussing the virtues of tangy vinegar versus a sweet tomato-based sauce. And don’t even get us started on the best type of slaw.

Great news though: you can find just about any kind of barbecue your heart desires in Gaston County.

Vinegar, sweet, or mustard-based. Pork, beef, chicken, or ribs. Chopped, or sliced. You’ll find it all here.

We’ve put together just the beginnings of a list, in no particular order, of some of Gaston’s amazing Bar-B-Que restaurants. So you can decide which style is your favorite.

Are we missing any? Let us know!

Ray’s Country Smokehouse & Grill

219 S. Broad Street, Gastonia

Credit: Ray's Country Smokehouse & Grill

The low-down: Solid southern themed, old-school BBQ with plenty of smoky flavor.

Amazing menu item: Get a half-dozen wings to share first. Then go for the rib plate with potato salad. The term “fall-off-the-bone” was written for these baby back beauties.

The vibe: Table service, full bar, great dinner spot.

Ole Carolina BBQ

1011 Union Rd, Gastonia

BBQ chicken cooks on a wood-fired grill
Credit: Ole Carolina BBQ

The low-down: Third-generation pit masters producing smoky, saucy pork, beef, and chicken BBQ.

Amazing menu item: You just have to love a place that considers a half-rack of ribs an appetizer! But here, the chicken is a favored stand out.

The vibe: cozy and quiet, family, simple beer selection. Great for lunch weekdays or Sunday.


1318 Gaston Ave, Gastonia (plus two BBQ trucks that set up shop around Gaston)

R.O.'s signature pulled pork sandwich with a side of curly fries
Credit: R.O.'s Bar-B-Que

The low-down: Regionally famous BBQ joint that’s been serving Gaston County for seven decades.

Amazing menu item: No need to get fancy here. Get the pulled pork sandwich and a side of crinkle fries.

The vibe: Counter or curbside service (one of the few in Gaston). Perfect spot for a summer night out with the family.

Buddy’s BBQ

5945 W Wilkinson Blvd., Belmont

Buddy's large pulled pork plate with fries and hush puppies
Credit: Buddy's BBQ

The low-down: An unassuming gem hidden (in plain sight) with incredible breakfast that’s as good as the BBQ.

Amazing menu item: Yes, we’re talking BBQ— and Buddy’s pulled pork is awesome— but the breakfast at Buddy’s is what surprises most people. The egg and sausage on toast is a great place to start.

The vibe: Small space, open for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday. Perfect for a quick lunch or breakfast on your way to work.

Hillbilly’s BBQ & Steaks

720 McAdenville Rd., Lowell

930 E Garrison Blvd., Gastonia

The low-down: Bustling spot with homemade sauce and all the standard BBQ fair.

Amazing menu item: All-you-can-eat ribs because sometimes dinner can also a challenge. Seriously though, the ribs are really good.

The vibe: Large dining room, table service, family friendly.

Kyle Fletcher’s

4507 Wilkinson Blvd., Gastonia

The low-down: Highly rated, low-key joint for some of the best BBQ in the region. You can smell the smoky goodness all around Kyle Fletcher’s!

Amazing menu item: This is where you go for a huge pile of smoky pork, fries, and those oblong hush puppies that were meant for dipping. So the large chopped pork plate is the best place to start.

The vibe: Cash only, lots of sports memorabilia in the small dining room.


403 E Catawba Street, Belmont (behind Belmont’s Drug Store)

Brunch plate with biscuits, pulled pork, cheese, and a fried egg
Credit: Peace-N-Hominy

The low-down: Traditional BBQ (including thick cut smoked bacon) joint with an outdoor porch, full weekend brunch, and a nice little beer selection.

Amazing menu item: Porkapalooza hash. Home fries with a pulled pork, bacon, sausage hash topped with fried eggs and a chorizo gravy. Comes with cornbread.

The vibe: Counter service, family, great spot after Sunday Church.


4571 New South Hope Road, Gastonia

Close up of RayNathan's perfectly smoked brisket
Credit: RayNathan's

The low-down: If you’re passionate about the craftsmanship of excellent BBQ, RayNathan’s is the place for you.

Amazing menu item: The brisket is hardwood smoked and covered in RayNathan’s homemade spice rub. The brisket plate comes with two sides.

The vibe: Exposed brick, barn doors, rustic-but-clean aesthetic that is as well-crafted as the food. Only open Thursday through Saturday. Perfect for a weekend night out.

Shane’s Rib Shack

3660 E. Franklin Blvd, Gastonia

The low-down: Shane’s is a regional chain with locations across the Carolinas and Georgia. But don’t let that deter you. It is solid ‘cue that is smoked and hand-cut daily. They offer a variety of sauces, so no matter your style, they have you covered.

Amazing menu item: The Big Dad is a huge pulled pork sandwich served on thick-cut Texas toast. The meat is medium smoky, so it’s a good contrast to the buttery bread. Shane’s original sauce is a sweet and tangy blend that’s a strong choice for this sandwich.

The vibe: Family oriented, quick food, counter service. A lunchtime favorite.