Although it is situated on a well-traveled highway, Stephenson’s Bar-B-Q in Willow Spring is an off-the-beaten-path place that should be considered a destination restaurant. But wherever you come from to get to it, the journey is well worth making.
A no-frills, elbows-allowed-on-the-table atmosphere at Stephenson’s allows for enjoyable, laid-back dining experience. The modest building, which traces its origins back to 1958 when Paul Stephenson Jr. started his namesake eatery, is firmly ensconced on the North Carolina Barbecue Society Barbecue Trail honor roll.
Cooked over coals for approximately nine hours, the pork remains in the pit for six to eight additional hours so it can absorb its rich, smoky flavor. The meat is then hand-chopped, and by the time it arrives at your table it is among the most flavorful ‘cue you’ll find anywhere in the state.
Also worth mentioning is Stephenson’s outstanding barbecue chicken, which is as tender and delicious as the pork. And words cannot adequately describe how delicious the golden brown hushpuppies taste.
If you’re not super hungry, a ‘cue sandwich with slaw will only set you back $2.95. If you are dining with a group, consider going all in and ordering “family style,” which involves an all-you-can-eat scenario featuring pork ‘cue, barbecue chicken, Brunswick stew, boiled potatoes, creamy slaw and hushpuppies. It’s a veritable feast, to say the least.
Additional side items include collard greens, spiced apples, French fries and other daily selections. If there’s any room left for dessert, be sure to try the scratch-made banana pudding.
As expected at such a fine country establishment, the servers at Stephenson’s are friendly and accommodating. An erstwhile cash-only place, the restaurant now gladly accepts credit cards.