Chef’s Table: Danny’s Bar-B-Que

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Serving perfectly smoked meats with a sauce for every preference


Danny’s Bar-B-Que has been serving the town of Cary smoked meats out of its hickory smoker for more than 30 years. A departure from traditional North Carolina pork barbecue, Danny’s has established itself as a beloved local barbecue joint by offering a variety of meats accompanied by a range of different sauces. 

When owner Danny Thompson arrived in the Triangle during autumn 1992, he had a difficult time navigating the Tar Heel State’s narrow definition of barbecue. Rather than indulge in North Carolina’s vinegar-based smoked whole hog, Thompson was looking for something more akin to what he was used to while living in Florida—a pit filled with hickory smoked meat, not limited to just swine.

Thompson had moved himself and his family to Cary when his longtime employer migrated north from Florida. Not long after, the company was sold and a number of jobs, including Thompson’s, were cut. 

So, he decided to open the kind of barbecue restaurant he had been desperately trying to find in North Carolina since arriving here. 

Cary locals have made Danny's Bar-B-Cue a staple in the community for its smoked ribs.

Thanks to his stellar reputation in the community for a style of barbecue that he cooked at his sons’ sporting events, banquets and fundraisers, this was an easy transition. 

Thompson loved the joy of feeding a big crowd, so he pursued his passion and opened Danny’s Bar-B-Que at 682 Cary Towne Boulevard. In 1995, he moved the joint to its current location: 311 Ashville Avenue, Suite G, in Cary.

Three decades later, Danny’s Bar-B-Que is still going strong with a sister location in Durham at 2945 S. Miami Boulevard, Suite 118. Thompson is now semi-retired but still oversees much of the business. Daily operations have been passed on to Thompson’s wife, Barbara, and his sons, Kevin and Adam. Danny’s third son, Brian, manages the RTP/Durham location.

Adam says he wears many hats at the restaurant, but his favorite is pitmaster.


At the heart of Danny’s Bar-B-Que is the same Southern Pride smoker the restaurant has been using since its inception—a smoker so large a wall had to be removed in order for it to be properly installed. 
Pitmasters begin cooking the pork and beef over hickory wood around 7 p.m. the night before service, then let the meat smoke overnight. Other meats requiring different levels of smoke and heat—like ribs, sausage and beef brisket—are placed in the smoker at different times the day of service. 
“There are several factors that can alter how long something takes,” Adam says. “It is almost a mix of science and art—learning how the smoker operates, and what and when to do something to get the desired output. It’s certainly not as simple as just turning it on and setting a timer.”
Through decades of understanding the science and art of properly smoking meats, Danny’s Bar-B-Que has established its following. “It’s truly just about letting the meat be the focus,” Adam says. “The chopped pork is our staple and is what brings the people coming in looking for great barbecue.” 
For those who like to experiment, Danny’s Bar-B-Que provides multiple sauces. The most popular stays true to Danny’s Florida influences: a sweet barbecue sauce called “High on the Hog.” Additional choices include vinegar, mustard and hot sauces. Being able to choose from these options gives diners the opportunity to discover their perfect match, or combine flavors. 
Despite being influenced by Florida’s barbecue scene, Danny’s Bar-B-Que’s longevity in the Old North State has prompted diners to refer to it as a true North Carolina barbecue joint. In truth, the restaurant’s blend of barbecue from Florida, North Carolina and even Texas has created a style unique to Western Wake that appeals to a variety of preferences.
“Cary and the surrounding areas have grown tremendously since the time we first opened. This has brought people from all across the country to the area,” Adam says. “And similar to Danny’s experience when he moved here, we often hear customers say they have recently moved here from Florida or Texas or elsewhere, and [that they] haven’t been able to find barbecue that resembles their home state—until they found us.” 
Check out more stories around Western Wake by visiting 5 West online.




  1. 8 ounces of brown sugar
  2. 4 ounces of white sugar
  3. 4 tablespoons of paprika 
  4. 2 tablespoons of salt
  5. 2 tablespoons of lemon pepper
  7. Directions
  8. Combine all ingredients and rub the blend generously on your ribs before smoking them.
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