In the great barbecue canon, there aren’t many mentions of Alabama. That’s something of a concern for Mobley Estes, co-owner of Moe’s Original BBQ, opening in Durham later this year. But he explains Alabama-style in a way he hopes North Carolinians will appreciate.
“It’s kind of a mix between Eastern and Western Carolina,” Estes said. “It hits both genres of flavor.”
A franchise of the Alabama barbecue chain Moe’s Original BBQ will open in the former Blu Seafood in Durham, next to French restaurant Vin Rouge. This is the company’s first Triangle location, but there are others in North Carolina, including Wilmington, Asheville and outside of Charlotte. There are 61 Moe’s currently in existence, most clustered in the South, but stretching from Maine to California, with even one location in Mexico City.
The Durham Moe’s is owned by Estes and co-owner Michael Roos, who also has a location in Oxford, Miss. Situated near Durham’s busy Ninth Street district, the new barbecue spot takes over a space occupied by Blu for more than a decade. It closed earlier this year after 12 years in business.
Estes said he got the keys to the building in August and that a renovation is currently underway, shooting for an opening in December.
Estes said barbecue at Moe’s is made from pork shoulders, mopped with a vinegar sauce during the cook and finished with a tomato-based sauce at the end. He said the pork will be smoked for 16 hours, using the wood of fruit trees.
“I like the process of barbecue,” Estes said. “I like the smoke. I like that you can’t do it in 30 minutes, that it takes a little effort and everyone does it a little differently.”
Estes, 24, is a 2018 graduate of the University of Mississippi and said he’s been working in restaurants since he was 17. Roos, his business partner, has been with Moe’s for a decade, Estes said.
Beyond pork, the menu will also have ribs, a smoked half chicken, turkey and wings that are smoked and then fried, Estes said. Alabama white sauce, a tangy, mayo-based sauce (and likely the extent of what most know of Alabama barbecue) will be served with poultry, Estes said.
There will also be fried shrimp and fried catfish sandwiches, an everyday menu of sides — including baked beans, slaw, potato salad and banana pudding — and a rotating list of 60 different sides, including Brunswick stew and sliced watermelon with cucumbers.
Estes said he and Roos looked around the Triangle for a year before finding the Blu location. He said additional Moe’s locations are the plan, but that Durham will become their flagship.
“Moe’s is an established name,” Estes said. “We know the pitfalls and successes (of the restaurant industry). We’re not doing a trial and error. We’re doing a trial in the Triangle. This is something we both believe in.”
The restaurant will also include a full bar, with mixed drinks and six draft beer taps. Some locations do a Bloody Mary with a rib garnish, which Estes said he’s considering.