< Back to Oral History project: Chapel Hill Eats
< Back to Oral History project: Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition
Allen & Son Barbeque
Keith Allen grew up working on his grandparents’ farm in Burlington, North Carolina. There he learned to cure hams and make sausages. When Keith was nine years old, his father, James Allen, bought an Amoco station that happened to serve food. A couple of years later, he bought a barbecue restaurant, and Keith’s fate was sealed. One Saturday afternoon when he was in his late twenties, Keith was having a meal with some friends at a barbecue joint in Chapel Hill. He thought he could do a better job of smoking meat and frying hushpuppies, so he bought the place on the spot. That place is Allen & Son Barbeque (named in honor of his father), which has been in business under Keith’s watch since 1970. Keith’s dedication to the craft of ‘cue begins at 3 a.m. each morning. Between stoking fires and turning meat, he makes more than fifteen different desserts from his grandmother’s recipes. Even the ice cream is homemade. But what really brings people back for more is Keith’s dedication to his craft and, of course, that vinegar-based Carolina ‘cue.