Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville NC is true Eastern North Carolina BBQ! We debated long and hard over which BBQ joint – Sam Jones or Skylight Inn – whose menus are almost identical except that the Skylight Inn is the original Jones family location. We decided to go to the original and by the time we got there we were starving but when we opened the door there was something so old and dingy about it that we decided not to stay. We took a couple of pictures to document stopping there and bought a jar of fabulous pepper jelly at the farm stand next door and hustled over to Sam Jones BBQ.

A red wood table with a variety of BBQ items

A sampling of menu offerings at Sam Jones BBQ
Photo Credit: Website

Inside a bbq restaurant with a cow sculpture with lightbulbs hanging from the rafters

Holy Hanging Cow!

Sam Jones BBQ is a much newer and more modern facility than the Skylight Inn. But the history is what is important. Sam’s grandfather, the late Pete Jones, opened the legendary Skylight Inn when he was only 17 in 1947. His grandson Sam got involved at a very early age. Maybe love of BBQ is inherited. Pete Jones founded Skylight using fresh whole hogs  cooked over wood the same way many generations before Pete had done. Skylight Inn has become a standard in eastern NC barbecue, known for its rich family history and uncompromising dedication to cooking barbecue.

A covered pavilion with a huge sign that reads Skylight Inn BBQ

Huge sign for Skylight Inn BBQ

A man standing in front of a brick restaurant building.

Steve standing outside of the Skylight Inn.

A parking lot with a farm stand and lots of blue sky with puffy cloud.

Farm Stand next to Skylight Inn

Over the years the accolades continued to amass. In 1979 National Geographic’sBack Roads America proclaimed Pete Jones’ Skylight Inn some of the best Barbecue in the country. A few years later, in 1982, Pete’s barbecue got some politicians attention and he was invited to serve his barbecue at a congressional bowl where President Regan and Vice President Bush delighted in the wonderful smoke flavored pork. This was followed up with a letter to Pete and son Bruce stating how great the barbecue was. Local and national newspapers and magazines continued to write about this place in Ayden, NC. People magazine featured the Skylight Inn in 1991. In 1999 the Skylight Inn an article in GQ magazine proclaimed “Pete Jones was a man among pigs”. And in 2003 the Skylight Inn received its most prestigious award often referred to as the Oscars for culinary arts. The Jones family received one of four James Beard awards in a new category Americas Classics.

Since then the Skylight Inn has been featured on the Travel Channel, Food Network and the History Channel. It also continue to be featured in many publications such as Our State Magazine and Details Magazine. Details Magazine chose the Skylight Inn for having one of the Top 22 Sandwiches in America in 2006. Skylight Inn was featured on the CBS Morning Show in 2007.  Southern Living magazine featured the Skylight Inn several times, most recently naming Pete’s grandson Sam as “one of the top ten pit masters in the south” in 2012.

A two story wood building with trees in foreground.

Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville NC
Photo Credit: Website

Food menu at the order station of Sam Jones BBQ

Food menu at the order station of Sam Jones BBQ

Bar and counter area of a restaurant.

The Bar/Counter at Sam Jones BBQ

Chalkboard bar menu.

Chalkboard Bar Menu at Sam Jones BBQ
Photo Credit: Website

Pete passed away in February 2006 but his legacy and mark in Barbecue is indelible. Skylight Inn BBQ is now operated by Pete’s son Bruce, nephew Jeff, and grandson Sam Jones who are very proud and dedicated to carrying on the legacy that Pete Jones left. As an offshoot of the original Sam Jones opened Sam Jones Wood-Fired N.C. Whole Hog BBQ in Winterville. And has since expanded to Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington with more to come!

Sitting atop a menu from Sam Jones BBQ is a quarter sheet tray holding chopped pork, a slice of toasted cornbread and a paper container of coleslaw.

Jones Family Original BBQ Tray complete with Skylight Inn style Cornbread

A quarter sheet tray topped with a pulled chicken sandwich and mac n' cheese.

Pulled Chicken Sandwich with Mac N Cheese

We all loved the modern atmosphere at Sam Jones BBQ and the food was really top notch. We tasted a variety of the offerings and enjoyed everything with gusto. Kind of glad we passed on Skylight Inn.