I know that this post will come too late for your trip to Durham, but I hope that this will help others.
I live in Hillsborough, about 8 miles west of Durham and I have made it my duty (and my hobby) to eat at, and rate every BBQ joint that I can find in North Carolina. My data-base currently has 88 establishments in North Carolina that I have been to so far and I know that I easily have over 100 more to visit. Unlike some noted individuals, I don’t discriminate against Q joints that don’t cook over wood coals.
A short primer on NC BBQ: There are two distinct areas for Q in NC. The east part of the state roasts the whole hog and sauces it with a vinegar and hot pepper sauce (called “eastern style”. The western part of the state only cooks the shoulders and the sauce is has more of a tomato base (called “western style” or “Lexington style” (after the city that is most famous for this style)). In the Raleigh / Durham area, east meets west and you may see some tomato sauce in with vinegar. However, most Q joints in this area are truly “eastern style”.
My recommendation for the Durham area is as follows: “Byrd’s BBQ” on Cheek Road in northeast Durham is the best that I’ve experienced in Durham (and I have been to all of them). Next would be “Hog Heaven” on Guess Road. “Bullock’s” on Hillsborough Road, followed by “Dillard’s” on Fayetteville Street, and then “Old NC BBQ” between Roxboro Road and N. Duke Street brings up the rear. The “Q Shack” also exists in Durham, but they don’t do NC Q! Their’s is a Memphis style sauce.
If you are truly in search of some really good Q, then I would suggest an excursion to downtown Raleigh to “Clyde Cooper’s” or out to Hillsborough to “Tony’s”.
If anyone would be interested in how I rate any particular Q joint or a particular town / city / area, I would be more than happy to share my ratings and notes. If I haven’t been there yet, I will be soon!