Strolling down Banks Avenue in the South Slope, you’re immediately transfixed by two scents wafting through the bustling Downtown Asheville neighborhood. Sure, you have the delicious smell of several nearby local breweries. But the underlying, tantalizing aroma is that of Buxton Hall Barbecue.
“It’s about that quality time of being around a fire and cooking a pig for 12–15 hours,” said Executive Chef Elliott Moss, owner/pit-master of Buxton Hall. “But, from a chef’s background, there’s definitely a lot of gratification from cooking the pork perfectly, especially when you’re talking about the whole animal.”
Since opening its doors in 2015, the establishment has become regarded as one of the finest barbecue joints in the country and overseas. It’s a blend of traditional down-home cooking and cosmopolitan culinary experimentation, something Moss has seemingly perfected.
“Barbecue is pretty popular right now all over the country, and there’s a good handful of us that are trying to do it the right way—to spread the gospel of great barbecue,” Moss said.
Hailing from Florence, South Carolina, Moss was raised in the depths of whole-hog barbecue country. His family had a farm where they raised pigs to sell for consumption. It was a childhood centered around cooking and spending time with loved ones.
“All of us would get together during the holidays. We cooked whole-hog barbecue and the guys stayed up all night with the pig,” Moss recalled. “I got to see that as a little kid, all while spending time with my family. It’s a memory that has remained within me.”
When he was starting out in the culinary industry, Moss headed up to Philadelphia and began to work his way to prominence as an executive chef. Eventually, he returned to his native South Carolina to help open a restaurant in Columbia. By 2007, he found himself in Asheville. His first venture in town was The Admiral, now a centerpiece restaurant in the city’s burgeoning food scene.
“And I used to hear a lot of people in the Asheville bars asking where they should eat barbecue. I would say to them, ‘Well, you’re on the wrong side of the state,’” Moss said in reference to Eastern North Carolina’s legendary barbecue culture. “That’s where the idea came about to open a barbecue spot in Asheville. Seeing all these other restaurants open here, I figured there was definitely enough room to do that. Why not give it a shot. All I could think about back then was barbecue and having my own place.”
In the basement of Buxton Hall, Moss is sitting on his office couch. Just above his head is the dining room floor. The sounds of countless shoes and voices crossing the room in haste during the lunch rush echo into the small office. Moss grins and takes a moment to reflect.
“There are times where I’m in here and I get a real big smile on my face. I never would’ve thought what I dreamt of opening would be anything like this,” Moss said. “And, hopefully, after I’m gone, it’s still here. I want to inspire folks to open their own whole-hog barbecue place. Maybe one day, somebody who worked here goes and opens their own place and the mountains become known for its whole-hog barbecue.”