Down east in Kinston, North Carolina there is restaurant where dishes like Pig in a Puppy, collard greens and peach cobbler are legendary and the secret ingredients to the success of this 70-year tradition. Owner Joe Hargitt says King’s Restaurant has always been family-owned and that cooking with a dash of love makes King’s a prime destination for Southern comfort food.

I think people enjoy Kings for the family atmosphere, the traditions that we uphold—basically keeping the tradition going and the quality where it needs to be. And teaching people what barbecue is.

Joe Hargitt, President and CEO of Kings Restaurant

“There are some people who don’t know what barbecue is and don’t understand it; you can’t change those people,” said Joe Hargitt, President of Kings Restaurant in Kinston, NC.

If anyone knows and understands barbecue, it’s Hargitt. He’s been working at Kings Restaurant, a well-known purveyor of true Eastern North Carolina barbecue, since he was 17-years-old. He started there waiting tables. Now he’s the president and CEO, and his wife, son and two stepchildren work there as well.

“We’ve definitely done the best we can to keep it in the family,” said Hargitt.

The history of King’s Restaurant began with Frank King’s country store and filling station over 75 years ago. When Frank’s son Wilbur started serving food at the store, that sparked the start of the Kings’ Southern food legacy.

Eventually, Hargitt was posed to take on the Kings’ family tradition. In 2003 the restaurant was passed down to Hargitt from Wilbur King Jr.

Today, the family traditions that started cooking 75 years ago, are still at large, in the form of the popular Pig in a Puppy, collard greens, homemade peach cobbler and the backbone of it all, real Eastern North Carolina barbecue made with love.

“I think people enjoy Kings for the family atmosphere, the traditions that we uphold—basically keeping the tradition going and the quality where it needs to be,” Hargitt said. “And teaching people what barbecue is.”