Sam Jones, pictured outside the Wintervile location of Sam Jones BBQ, plans to open a second location of his namesake restaurant in Raleigh next fall. (Photo via Sam Jones BBQ Facebook page)
By Jane Welborn Hudson
Pitt County restaurateur Sam Jones plans to open his first eatery outside of his home county -- in North Carolina's Capital City.
A second Sam Jones BBQ, specializing in his family's wood-fired whole hog eastern North Carolina-style barbecue, is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019 in a former gas station on the edge of Raleigh's Boylan Heights neighborhood, Jones said in a telephone interview.
The menu will feature the chopped pork barbecue, slaw and cornbread made famous by his grandfather, Pete Jones, at Ayden's legendary Skylight Inn. Fare also will include items like wood-cooked ribs and chicken, potato salad, baked beans and salads that are popular at Winterville's Sam Jones BBQ.
The new restaurant also will have a full cocktail bar in addition to selling beer and wine.
The Raleigh location was suggested to Jones by his friend Ashley Christensen, a renowned Raleigh chef and owner of several restaurants.
"Ashley would drive past this gas station every day, and she told me 'I can just smell smoke coming out of it and I think about you.'"
He said the new restaurant space is on the edge of a residential area, three blocks from Red Hat Amphitheatre and "a stone's throw" from a new train station.
Jones said architects are in the process of working on a design for the 5,000-foot restaurant and a smokehouse addition.
"I don't want cookie-cutter restaurants," he said. "An old gas station fits the community and fits us ... but it will have the same Sam Jones experience as the one (in Winterville). A chimney and a smokehouse defines what whole-hog barbecue is."
Since opening Sam Jones BBQ three years ago, Jones said he has had "a bunch of opportunities" to expand his restaurant business.
"I've been approached by developers in Wilmington, in Charlotte ... I never said no. I took the time to meet with them. I didn't want to miss an opportunity.
"I don't intend to franchise, but I want to grow," he said.
He said he and Michael Letchworth, his partner in the Winterville restaurant, have hired employees who have adopted their ideals and principles.
"All that matters is to treat people nice and serve the best food you can," he said.
Those employees literally keep the fires burning while Jones travels the world to spread his passion for traditional pit-cooked barbecue.
He has been on the road for 120 days this year, traveling to such far-flung locales as New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Maui, Copenhagen and Sweden -- cooking pigs and teaching others about the tradition.
"I use events as a tool to stay relevant," he said. "There is a larger world that appreciates the legacy, and helps keep the food of the region from becoming extinct."
Expanding into the Raleigh restaurant market is another way to share the local food traditions, he said.
Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, wrote The Daily Reflector's Hot Dish restaurant column for 12 years and the Greensboro News & Record's Short Orders restaurant column for 8 years. Email her at email@example.com.