Join the Jones family on their quest to one of a kind BBQ, through the preservation of decades of cooking over a wood-burning pit in a smokehouse. Good food can provide a transcendent experience, and for Sam Jones, at times it’s even religious. 

I never knew or realized that this old pit was still in existence….When I stepped in it for the first time, it was almost like a religious experience.

Sam Jones, Owner of Sam Jones BBQ, Co-owner of the Skylight Inn BBQ


Stoking the Fire

For Sam Jones and his family, BBQ goes far beyond being a southern culinary experience. It is a preserved tradition through generations of Jones’ and a religious practice of keeping a historic method alive.

“Fire is something that I think mesmerizes every child on some level, that same fire that’s such a terrible thing creates such a beautiful thing here,” Jones says of their smokehouse, whole hog methodology.

Between being the Chief of the Ayden Fire Department, and carrying on the family BBQ legacy via smokehouse fire pits, Jones’s lifestyle has evoked a true understanding and appreciation for fire.

Royal Family of BBQ

“Whole hog” is what Eastern NC is historically known for in terms of BBQ, and the Jones family men have been using whole hog since 1947. “BBQ has completely gone through a renaissance, it’s become trendy,” says Jones, “There’s an old country song that says I was country when country wasn’t cool, and that’s our family with BBQ.”

Pete Jones ignited the family’s journey into the world of BBQ when he opened the Skylight Inn BBQ in the summer of 1947. The barbeque patriarch used to say, “if it’s not cooked with wood it’s not barbeque.”

Since Pete’s passing, his son and Sam’s father, Bruce Jones, has taken over the Skylight Inn alongside Sam as a father and son power duo. Bruce has been at the Skylight Inn for 56 years, almost his entire life.

Coming Full Circle

As BBQ continues to evolve, there are less and less smokehouses and pits being used, which differentiates the deep, smoky flavors created at the Skylight Inn, and Sam Jones BBQ.  “All the old school BBQ places, the one I came from, that smokehouse was treated like it was the inner sanctum,” says Sam, who can’t imagine his own restaurant, Sam Jones BBQ being run any other way.

For Sam, it comes down to being able to cultivate an experience, and share a labor of love that he was born into. He began following in the steps of his grandfather and father from the time he learned to walk.

“When you think of old church revival meetings, a revival was intended to make you leave a little different than you came and that’s the way I approach whole hog, and the way I approach our food,” Sam says of the religious experience he has bringing his family’s decades of passion to the table for customers.


Want more homegrown stories and My Home, NC news delivered to your inbox?
Sign Up for the My Home, NC Email Newsletter! »