It started out as a small family operation run out of a homemade pit in the backyard. A lot has changed since the 1940s, but Hursey’s Bar-B-Q has remained a constant source of stupendous, affordable North Carolina barbecue.

From its signature chopped barbecue plate to its tasty chicken to its finger-licking ribs, the menu keeps Pavlov’s dog salivating.

The Hursey family has done right by the Alamance County community for several decades. Hursey’s has branched out from its modest upbringings to four locations across the county. Elon University students should look no further than 1834 S. Church St. in Burlington for a location.

The smell of burning hickory wood from the chimneys entices you into the restaurant. Walking through the front doors, patrons are struck with a rustic charm. The wooden seats, old newspaper clippings and family photos return customers to a time of simplicity and comfort.

When you sit down, what you see is what you get: good food done right. Hursey’s uses a wood fire pit and spends about 10-12 hours preparing its meat.

“We do it here the old-fashioned way,” said Chris Hursey, one of the owners. “We start with the wood fire every morning, not a gas-powered fire pit or anything like that. The taste of the meat, the taste of the product, is what keeps the customers coming back. We take the time to do it the way it’s supposed to be done.”

Chris Hursey is the proud grandson of the restaurant’s founders, Sylvester and Daisy Hursey. Chris Hursey’s father, Charles Hursey, learned to manage the business side of the restaurant and helped elevate Hursey’s to where it is today. 

The family business has even served four U.S. presidents, including Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

First-timers have to try the chopped pork barbecue and chicken combination plate. Each combo comes with french fries, hushpuppies and coleslaw, though it’s recommended to substitute the coleslaw with baked beans. This plate could run up to about $9. Add some sweet tea to the order, and you are good to go.

Hursey’s also offers its customers a small dessert menu. Homemade peach cobbler with ice cream is a terrific buy that will leave you satisfied. That is, of course, if you arrive with a large enough appetite to make it past dinner. 

The best practice is to arrive hungry, loosen your belt and leave happy.

For the college student on a tighter budget, Hursey’s offers weekday specials Mondays through Thursdays. A favorite is the $2.19 chopped barbecue sandwiches on Wednesdays. Whatever your price point, Hursey’s has something for everybody.

“There’s no other place to go for barbecue than Hursey’s,” said Mary Rogers, a loyal Hursey’s customer and Burlington resident.

The love and passion that goes into cooking is evident in what makes it onto the final plate. Sitting inside the dining area, Chris Hursey often hears customers talk about his father. With two sons of his own, he looks to pass along the family torch and develop a legacy of his own.

“The future’s bright,” Chris Hursey said. “I’ve got two sons that are in the business. My brother has two sons that are in the business. My sister works here as well, and she’s got one son that works with us. We’re still growing.”