Linkdown: 12/17/14

- The Raleigh News & Observer is doing a multi-part story on a four-way crossbreed of pigs called silky pork created by two brothers in eastern North Carolina that are craved by consumers in Tokyo

The Iveys are part of a weekly race against time and circumstance to deliver the pork fresh – never frozen – from barns east of Raleigh to the world’s largest metropolis. It has become an unyielding effort to penetrate the demanding Japanese marketplace, where pork is consumed with a passion akin to North Carolinians and their barbecue.

- We don’t use the word “joint” here to describe just any restaurant, and this story is about how pitmasters consider it a badge of honor

Due to its working-class reputation and association with rowdiness, “joint” came to be applied to other establishments considered uncultured or cheap. The terms “beer joint” and “burger joint” started appearing in newspaper articles in the 1940s and ’50s. It was about this time that the word “joint” started transitioning from meaning a disreputable establishment to one that is, more accurately, inexpensive and informal.

- Four Star BBQ in Wichita “focuses on Carolina-style meats that have been marinated in apple juice and rubbed with brown sugar”…hmmm

- Virgie’s Bar-B-Que, which Rudy visited a few months back, gets a write-up on its nearly 50-year history

- Billy’s Bar-B-Q in Gaston County was damaged by a fire in April and is now planning to reopen for lunch and dinner in January

- The reviews from the latter part of the barbecue circumnavigation by Marie, Let’s Eat!: Skylight Inn in Ayden (which he absolutely raves about), Grady’s in Dudley, Shuler’s in Latta, SC, and BBQ Barn in North Augusta, SC

- Look who stopped by Buz and Ned’s in Richmond this past weekend!

- If you need smoked meats or sides for Christmas lunch or dinner, you have until next Monday to place an order with Midwood Smokehouse

The Barbecue Bros Holiday 2015 Gift Guide (updated)

With just a little over a week to go, here’s some last minute gift ideas for the barbecue lover in your life. The bolded items are the ones I can personally recommend. Feel free to add any other gift ideas in the comments below.

-Monk

See last year’s gift guide here

Books

Apparel

Other

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521 BBQ and Grill – Tega Cay, SC

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Name
: 521 BBQ and Grill
Date: 11/29/14
Address: 1135 Stonecrest Blvd, Suite 101, Tega Cay, SC 29708
Order: Pork and rib barbecue combo plate (link to menu)
Price: ~$16

Last time I tried to use a Livingsocial coupon for 521 BBQ and Grill, Speedy and I ended up at the wrong location mostly – ok, completely – due to my lack of reading the small print. Well, on the day of expiration Mrs. Monk, the Monkette, and I made a trip back out to Fort Mill specifically to try the other, slightly closer location.

Of the two locations, I think I liked this building slightly more. What it lacks in traditional barbecue shack-iness – though the original is located at the end of a strip mall it looks the part of a shack (this one is also located in a strip mall but has more of a sports bar vibe) – it makes up for in beer and flat screen tv’s with sports (though I didn’t partake of any beer on this particular day).

And as it turns out, the other thing I liked slightly more at this location was the food. The pork had more smoke and some nice bark mixed in (again, for a gasser). It also wasn’t as dry as the other location, while still being a tad on the drier end of the spectrum. Similar to the other location, I added the vinegar-based sauce and that greatly helped its cause. I didn’t order the ribs last time around but did on this trip. I found that I mostly agreed with Speedy’s take on them – they were meaty and I liked the sauce, though I could take or leave the finishing of them on the grill.

The sides were more or less the same as the other location, with the scratch-made hush puppies again being the highlight. The crinkle cut fries were standard but solid, the beans seemed a little bit like an afterthought and may have been straight out of a can, and the red slaw still had too much ketchup that made it more sweet than tangy.

I didn’t mention it last time, but the combo plate gives you a ton of food, enough for a to-go box and a second meal the next day. So you definitely get a lot of food for the price.

At the Tega Cay location of 521 BBQ and Grill, the food is decent and the service was friendly but I don’t know if I would consider it worth the drive from NoDa. Though for options in Fort Mill, you could probably do a lot worse.

-Monk

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs
521 BBQ & Grill on Urbanspoon

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Friday Find: Barbecue Bros on (German) TV!

Did you guys know that Speedy and I are basically the David Hasselhoff of North Carolina barbecue to Germans (sorry Rudy)? No? Well, a few months back a German TV producer named Lars reached out to us because they were filming a short TV documentary at locations loosely based on the Historic NC Barbecue Trail. So on a rainy Friday back in July, Speedy and I met Lars and a cameraman (both super nice guys, btw) at 12 Bones Smokehouse (the Arden location) and then drove with them an hour and a half through the rain to Switzerland Cafe and General Store. That footage was then incorporated into a 30 minute TV documentary on North Carolina barbecue for a series called “Abenteuer Leben” (translated as “Adventure Life”), similar to a food travel show you might see on The Food Network or The Travel Channel here stateside.

Producer Lars has promised us an English language version at some point, but for now here is the German version. For those of you who don’t know German (that would be a group that would include us), here’s a rundown of our scenes:

  • 00:13 – A shot of Speedy and I walking to the smokehouse at Switzerland Cafe, as well as me taking photos at our meal
  • 00:39 – Speedy takes a bite out of a rib at 12 Bones Smokehouse
  • 15:35 – This is the beginning of the segment of Speedy and I, starting with an establishing shot of the two of us, then me driving in my car on the way to Little Switzerland, and Speedy searching for joints on his phone
  • 15:56 – Speedy explaining some of the reasons why we started the blog from the back of my car
  • 16:14 – Me pulling into Little Switzerland Cafe in the rain; the spot I pulled into was way too tight for my car but I stayed in it because it wouldn’t have been as cool to pull out, choose a spot two spots over, and then pull back in, possibly requiring some more straightening
  • 16:23 – Speedy and I walking back to the smokehouse, similar to the shot used at the beginning of the show; my NC barbecue shirt appears to be more of a “smedium” than a medium and also, I hate the sound of my voice
  • 16:48 – Another shot of me taking photos, this time of the smoked fish from Little Switzerland; I then take a bite and say some really insightful commentary: “its good…it’s different, but its not bad” – brilliant, I know
  • 19:43 – I try to provide some TV-worthy comments while driving; again, super insightful stuff
  • 23:13 – A shot of us pulling into the back of 12 Bones Smokehouse and right up to the smoker, which is definitely something we always do; my smedium shirt makes another appearance
  • 23:29 – Speedy does a good job of explaining what we look for when we check out the smoker – woodpiles (and type of wood), gas, electric, type of smoker, etc
  • 23:48 – More shots of me taking photos (notice a pattern?)
  • 24:15 – “Over the last few years, we really consider ourselves ‘barbecue pilgrims'” – this was a line fed to us from the producer and cameraman; maybe just a little corny but they really wanted us to incorporate it into our conversation; I tried to use it a second time and they were like “once was enough, you don’t need to overdo it”
  • 24:30 – Starting here for about 25 seconds, they used shots of plates I’ve taken from our various reviews as well as voice over from (I believe) me about Lexington-style barbecue being our favorite; gotta say, seeing my photos in a montage was pretty cool

We’ll post the English language version if and when we get word of it being posted. Hope you enjoyed this at least.

-Monk

Linkdown: 12/10/14

- Charlotte gets a new barbecue spot in Improper Pig, located in Cotswold, and it looks like they will be doing a little bit of everything

Here, they’re doing ‘cue, in what they’re calling a “portal to the barbecue explorer’s world.” That means it’s got St. Louis-style ribs in addition to the pulled pork and chicken and brisket, plus Southern egg rolls (sweet potato hash mixed with collards, with spicy mustard), Korean barbecue salmon, a “no pig” portobello sandwich…

- Speaking of new barbecue restaurants, Asheville is getting a new one in Bonfire Barbecue next spring that will be using a wood-assisted Southern Pride gas smoker (the article conflates the two, but to me, a Southern Pride is a gasser at heart)

- For the brisket lover on your Christmas gift list, here’s some leather butcher’s coasters

- A Wilson, NC man with ALS is planning to go to Franklin Barbecue as part of his bucket list and will be ordering the brisket and ribs (via)

- Daniel Vaughn of TMBBQ has an interview with Adam Perry Lang, who is currently working on a barbecue project in Los Angeles

- The latest stops on Marie, Let’s Eat!’s “circumnavigation” through eastern NC: Jack Cobb & Son Bar-B-Q in Farmville, Bum’s Restaurant in Ayden, Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro, and B’s Barbecue in Greenville

- Our State profiles Chapel Hill’s The Pig in their latest issue

The Pig belongs to Sam Suchoff, who is a 33-year-old California dude — pertinent facts, both of these. California dude is pertinent because seriously? California? And 33 because I’ve eaten barbecue older than that. He is, by far, the youngest cook I’ve met on this expedition. It’s fitting, though, and necessary, because if our children’s children’s children are going to be eating barbecue in the year 2525, someone from Generation Y is going to have to keep the pit fires burning.

- Robert Moss’ latest blog post is how to spot a wood burner; spoiler alert: the woodpile (and size thereof) gives it away

- Looks like the Buxton Hall crew was doing some research in eastern NC last week:

- If you are in Charlotte Thursday, The Great NC BBQ Map will be at the All Arts Market in NoDa

Johnson Family Barbecue – Durham, NC

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Name
: Johnson Family Barbecue
Date: 11/22/14
Address: 5021 Wake Forest Hwy, Durham, NC 27703
Order: Barbecue tray with slaw and hush puppies (link to menu)
Price: $7.50

Johnson Family Barbecue is located at the end of a gas station strip mall, which was a first for me. But a welcome first – in fact, I was excited for this very fact. But there were a couple of other things to be excited about. Their motto is “It’s All About the Wood.” The dining room was about 4 tables covered by the red and white gingham table cloths . The smokehouse, if you can call it that, was an aluminum shed covering a smoker surrounded by a chain link fence. It was all very delightful looking.

Johnson Family cooks over wood (specifically hickory), which is what drew me to it in the first place. Since I had already eaten lunch a few hours earlier and was looking for just a snack, a barbecue tray was the perfect size. A few short minutes later a small tray of barbecue, three hush puppies, and slaw was brought out.

The eastern-style pork had smoke but lacked bark, which of course is normal for eastern-style barbecue. And there was a higher ratio of white meat to dark, which initially led me to believe they might be cooking whole hogs. I later found out that not to be the case, but I suspect there may be more than just the shoulders being smoked. The chop was a little coarser than I prefer, but the pork was moist and flavorful and though it didn’t require the table vinegar sauce, adding it enhanced the pork. The hush puppies were freshly cooked orbs of cornmeal and the slaw was mayo-based. Basically, everything was pretty solid. My buddy who got a takeout plate mostly agreed as well.

Johnson Family Barbecue is on Highway 98 between north Raleigh and Durham, a stretch of highway I had not been down before, and turned out to be quite a nice little find. With the ever-increasing tendency to smoke barbecue over gas or electric, it was nice to find a small, family-owned, self described “hole in the wall” joint that is still putting in the work to create a good product.

-Monk

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 Hogs
Johnson Family Barbeque on Urbanspoon
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Friday Find: Zagat visits Arrogant Swine

In case you missed, it, here’s a short video review from Zagat to Tyson Ho’s Arrogant Swine, the first Carolina whole hog barbecue joint-slash-craft beer hall in New York. I so want to check this place out.

With the opening of Arrogant Swine, New Yorkers finally have a place to enjoy traditional whole hog Carolina barbecue. However, with in your face additions like chicharrones and a mac and cheese waffle — not to mention craft beer — this Bushwick abode is anything but humble.

-Monk

Linkdown: 12/3/14

- How Do You Spell Barbecue? Personally, I go with “barbecue”

Back in the 18th century, there were almost as many ways to spell barbecue as there were people cooking it: barbacue, barbicu, borbecue. In his diary entry for September 18, 1773, George Washington recorded that he attended, “a Barbicue of my own giving at Accotink.”

He may have been the Father of our Country, but Washington’s spelling didn’t stick. By the time of the Civil War, Americans had settled on two primary versions—barbecue and barbeque—and that’s as close as we’ve come to consensus. The North Carolina Barbecue Society has come down on the side of the “c”, but their neighbors in the Palmetto State, home of the South Carolina Barbeque Association, are more prone to go with the “q,” as are the folks out in Missouri in the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

- Southport has a new barbecue restaurant in Terry’s North Carolina Bar-B-Que & Ribs

- Zagat: Arrogant Swine brings Carolina ‘Cue to Brooklyn

- Speaking of Arrogant Swine, I haven’t linked to a Tyson Ho blog entry on SeriousEats in a few weeks, but here’s a link to his latest, on changing his menu and taking feedback; if you haven’t read the whole series, do yourself a favor and catch up asap

We’ve already cut two items from the menu: turkey legs and corn pone. There’s a certain amount of market efficiency when it comes to a barbecue menu. Certain items appear everywhere because they’re guaranteed hits: brisket, ribs, pulled pork, and chicken are time-tested and reliable. Sometimes you win big when you go against the grain, but for the most part one would do well to heed the wisdom of crowds.

- The SC Barbecue Trail marketing campaign (specifically the web series) wins some accolades by highlighting the state’s barbecue tradition

- An Army veteran has opened a NC barbecue restaurant in Tampa, Three Brothers BBQ Smokehouse

- Austin writer Matthew Odam picks apart a recent WSJ article on Austin barbecue that just plain got some things wrong

- Marie, Let’s Eat! begins their 12 chapter (!!) circumnavigation of barbecue restaurants in South Carolina and eastern North Carolina with Maurice’s in Columbiasome less than great places around Florence, and Parker’s in Wilson

Brooks’ Sandwich House – Charlotte, NC

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Name: Brooks Sandwich House
Date: 11/7/14
Address: 2710 N Brevard St, Charlotte, NC 28205
Order: Barbecue sandwich with slaw on side and fries (link to menu)
Price: $6

Brooks Sandwich House has the best burger in Charlotte. Period. End of story. But despite being located not much more than a mile from my house, I have been there a shockingly limited amount of times in the eight years I’ve lived in my neighborhood. This more than likely has to do with their operating hours – 7am to 3pm, Monday to Friday only. In other words, when I’m typically at work (well, not so much the 7am part). The last time I did manage to go some months back I saw that they have barbecue sandwiches on the menu, but they are only available in the fall. So I made a mental note and the first time I could make it on a Friday afternoon, I seized the opportunity.

Now, despite their burger’s sterling reputation I was not really sure how their barbecue would turn out. They don’t appear to have a smoker on site, so I am not sure how and where it is cooked. As far as their atmosphere goes, there is only an order counter inside while outside has some standing covered tables. It really is a take out or eat in your car kinda place, so I won’t deduct hogs for its lack of atmosphere. Even after having eaten lunch that day, I stopped by for an early afternoon snack of a barbecue sandwich and fries.

And for a burger place, the barbecue was…passable. I mean, it would do in a pinch as it actually does have some bark mixed in and I even spotted some red pepper flakes (though the sandwich itself didn’t have much of a kick). But it’s not going to make any barbecue joints stand up and take notice.

The fries are great at Brooks, and I asked for the slaw that comes with the sandwich on the side. It turned out to be a mustard/mayo slaw and after trying the sandwich by itself I scooped on the slaw. Honestly, it neither added nor subtracted from the sandwich, simply giving it a slightly different texture.

So the moral of the story when you find yourself at Brooks Sandwich House in NoDa (and I would absolutely recommend it if you are in the area), is to go with the burger or even the dog. You will be much happier that you did.

-Monk

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – N/A
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 2.5 Hogs
Brooks Sandwich House on Urbanspoon
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Linkdown: 11/26/14

- The Pit beats out NC State University in The Triangle Business Journal’s Battle of the Brands for Reader’s Choice

- Downtown Charleston is getting yet another barbecue joint, this time with Irish pub Egan & Sons coming back as a barbecue restaurant (under a new name) complete with a new smokehouse to be built out back

- I missed this back in the summer, but Home Team BBQ (currently with Sullivan’s Island and West Ashley locations) is also expanding to downtown Charleston

- Billy Durney, pitmaster of Hometown Barbecue in New York, to consult on a Los Angeles barbecue restaurant for Mendocino Farms

- Boone’s Bar-B-Que sauces are now available at Savory Spice Shop in Charlotte

- Ohio-based barbecue chain City Barbeque plans to open another triangle location; in addition to their Cary location they are opening a location at Southpoint Mall in Durham

- Jim ‘N Nicks and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que are forming a partnership for the purest of barbecue ideals – “to leverage their buying power, consolidate labor costs and grow both companies”

- A flattering review of the Flat Rock Wood Room, just outside of Asheville

As for what comes out of that 250-degree wood-fired pit, well, I can only gush. Ordering a half rack of their St. Louis style ribs, I carefully narrowed my sides down to wood-smoked mac and cheese and collard greens. While the mac and cheese was plenty cheesy, it proved to be fairly standard with minimal wood smoke. The collards, on the other hand, had plenty of flavor and a slight sweetness.

- Barbecue Rankings recounts his “barbecue odyssey” in Feast Magazine

I began my barbecue odyssey on October 22, 2013, at Pappy’s Smokehouse in St. Louis.  I was nervous as I met owner Mike Emerson and tried to act as if I knew something about barbecue.  I have always considered myself a casual barbecue fan, but the truth is that I knew very little about regional nuances, barbecue history, smoking practices and the way restaurants work before setting out on this project.  I didn’t prepare much before setting off on my journey – I wanted to learn from the people working the pits day in and day out, not the so-called experts.

- Christmas is right around the corner