Shepard Barbecue: A Carolina Coastal Gem

Welcome to the world of Shepard Barbecue, where tradition meets innovation, and every bite tells a story. Situated in Emerald Isle, one of North Carolina’s easternmost points, Shepard Barbecue serves the authentic flavors of Eastern North Carolina BBQ with a modern twist.

Let’s explore the journey of Brandon Shepard, the pitmaster behind this culinary gem, and explore what sets Shepard Barbecue apart. Keep reading for Brandon’s advice for producing the best brisket, as well as details about his relationship with Guy Fieri following the “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” spotlight.

Be sure to listen to the complete conversation with Shepard Barbecue Pitmaster Brandon Shepard on The Low & Slow Barbecue Show.

Shepard Barbecue Pitmaster Brandon Shepard with Chigger Willard
Brandon Shepard joined The Low & Slow Barbecue Show for a conversation with Chigger Willard.

What is Shepard Barbecue?

Shepard Barbecue is a barbecue business based on live-fire cooking and located on Emerald Isle Drive in Emerald Isle, NC.

Shepard Barbecue menu items include meat plates with one, two, and three meat options with sides. Purchase smoked meats – brisket, ribs, pulled pork, carved turkey breast, and sausage links – by the half-pound and pound. Shepard offers a variety of specialty sandwiches and traditional sandwiches, each served with a side. Enjoy side items by the single serving, pint, or quart quantities. Options include pit beans, pimento mac, collards, potato salad, street corn, and coleslaw.

Open for lunch on Wednesday and Thursday (11 a.m.- 3 p.m.), and lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday (11 a.m. – 8 p.m.), the business serves diners until it is sold out.

Contact Shepard Barbecue by email or phone (252) 764-2387.

Shepard Barbecue’s Roots: Family Tradition

Brandon Shepard’s journey into the world of BBQ began with cherished memories of family gatherings and live-fire cooking.

Growing up in Swansboro, NC, a stone’s throw from Jacksonville, Brandon’s grandfather deeply influenced his passion for outdoor cooking.

“He was one of those guys like myself: very quiet, very laid back,” he says, “but one of the things that would get him talking was what he was doing outside. If it wasn’t carpentry work, it was cooking whole hogs, or he was cooking collard greens. He loved live-fire cooking. That was kind of our way of bonding.”

These moments of bonding and savoring the aroma of live fire ignited Brandon’s love for barbecue.

Crafting a Culinary Legacy: From Passion to Profession

In 2020, amidst the challenges of a global pandemic, Brandon embarked on a new culinary venture, transforming his love for barbecue into a thriving business.

“I’ve always been in the restaurant business, so I’ve cooked all kinds of things. We had another business at the time, which was as far from barbecue as possible,” he says of his food truck Urban Street Eats and Nourish Juice Bar + Cafe. “Then COVID hit, and the world got flipped on its head. We were trying to find ways of keeping the business alive.”

Despite a series of setbacks, Brandon relied on restaurant experience dating back to his teens and a desire to share his craft. What started as a pivot to adapt to changing times soon blossomed into a culinary haven.

Brandon Shepard chops barbecue at his restaurant.
Brandon Shepard chops barbecue at his restaurant in Emerald Isle, NC. Photo from Shepard Barbecue Instagram.

What sets Shepard Barbecue Apart?

Embracing Tradition: Whole Hog and Brisket Mastery

At Shepard Barbecue, tradition is at the heart of every dish.

While the Carolina coastal region may be renowned for seafood, Shepard Barbecue stands out as a beacon of authentic barbecue. From traditional Eastern Carolina whole hog cooking to Texas favorite brisket, Shepard Barbecue offers a unique experience that pays homage to the region’s heritage and the state’s evolving tastes.

Family-Oriented Hospitality

Step into Shepard Barbecue, and you’re greeted by warm Southern hospitality. With small-town charm and a welcoming atmosphere, the restaurant invites diners to become part of its extended family. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, each visit promises a smiling face and a personal touch. Brandon and his wife ensure that every guest feels at home.

Innovation Meets Tradition: Global Inspirations

While rooted in tradition, Shepard Barbecue also embraces innovation, drawing inspiration from global influences. From Cubano-style ribs to smoked pork belly, each dish reflects Brandon’s culinary journey and his passion for exploring diverse flavors. It’s a fusion of global food culture and Carolina barbecue, creating a flavor experience that transcends boundaries.

Triple D Experience: A Culinary Adventure with Guy Fieri

Shepard Barbecue reached new heights when it was featured on TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” (Triple D).

Welcoming host Guy Fieri in Season 42, Episode 34, Shepard Barbecue gained national recognition and attracted barbecue enthusiasts from far and wide. Brandon also sparked a new friendship.

“He’s one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met,” Brandon says. “We ended up doing a second television show of his family reunion. When the cameras were all gone, we sat down with him for a good four hours, just talking and getting to know each other.

“He’s been a real integral part in helping us grow the business,” he continues. “Whether it’s me asking him a business question or him inviting us out somewhere just to have fun and let loose. It’s been great.”

The Triple D effect catapulted Shepard Barbecue into the spotlight, showcasing its commitment to authenticity and flavor.

Shepard Barbecue team with Guy Fieri during Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
Brandon and Elizabeth Shepard with Guy Fieri during Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Mastering the Art of Brisket: Insider Tips from Brandon Shepard

As brisket gains popularity across North Carolina, Brandon shares his expert tips for mastering this barbecue classic:

  1. Preparation is key: Start with a dry cure to infuse flavors into the meat overnight, ensuring a rich and flavorful brisket.
  2. Cold-smoking technique: Cold-smoke the brisket for a couple of hours initially to develop a robust bark, setting the stage for a flavor-packed barbecue experience. “It’s not dirty smoke, but it’s heavy smoke,” he says.
  3. Patience is a virtue: Embrace the low and slow cooking method, allowing the brisket to render fat and develop a perfect bark before wrapping it.
  4. Rest for success: Don’t overlook the importance of resting the brisket after the cook. Give it ample time to rest, allowing flavors to meld and the meat to retain its moisture.
Brisket seasoned and on the smoker.
Briskets smoking low and slow. Photo from Instagram.

Towards the Shepard Barbecue Future

For Brandon, Shepard Barbecue is not just a business – it’s a labor of love and a testament to his family’s legacy. With a commitment to authenticity, innovation, and community, Brandon Shepard continues to redefine the barbecue experience, one delicious bite at a time.

The pitmaster puts finishing touches on dishes at his Carolina BBQ Festival tent.
Brandon Shepard puts the finishing touches on his offerings during the Carolina Barbecue Festival. See him April 6 during this year’s Carolina BBQ Festival.

About the Author

Low and Slow BBQ favorite - Boston Butt with the host.

Smoked meat, barbecue enthusiast, news journalist, and sports radio broadcaster Michael “Chigger” Willard collects a storybook of life captured through the lens of people he encounters. With a perspective seasoned by small town life in the Deep South, he dedicates conversations to uncovering savory nuggets of information, light-hearted moments of humor, and revealing glimpses of humanity.