Big JT’s BBQ – Gaffney, SC

IMG_2029
Name
: Big JT’s BBQ
Date: 5/9/15
Address: 1425 Wilcox Ave, Gaffney, SC 29341
Order: Pulled pork barbecue plate with hush puppies, barbecue slaw, and fries
Price: $13

So you guys know the whole thing with more legitimate barbecue editors stating that “they eat the bad barbecue so that you don’t have to”? Well, I never purposefully seek out the bad (who would?) but in the case of Big JT’s BBQ in Gaffney, SC, that was definitely the case for this barbecue blogger. I ate bad barbecue here and am here to tell you about it so you don’t.

In a former Sunoco gas station, Big JT’s is located right on I-85 in Gaffney not too far from the outlet mall (my reason for being in the area that Saturday). The roadside gas station barbecue ambiance works, but only if the barbecue is able to back it up…

Sadly, it does not. While the dining room in former gas station vaguely smells of smoke, the coarsely pulled pork is cold and dry. I’m guessing it was smoked on a previous day and reheated for us. Neither myself nor Mrs. Monk could muster up the energy to finish our portions of barbecue, even with some sauce (of the thick, KC Masterpiece variety) to help with the dryness.

The barbecue slaw was a case of “good job, good effort” in terms of emulating Lexington style but just was not cutting it. The hush puppies were a long weird shape and not all that great. The fries, though clearly frozen, were probably the best part of the meal.

Unfortunately, Big JT’s BBQ was so downright bad that I felt guilty about dragging my wife and daughter here for lunch. I will say that the lone server was nice enough and was very good with our two year old, its just a shame that the barbecue itself erased all feelings of goodwill I had for the restaurant.

Monk

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2 hogs
Pork – 1 hog
Sides – 1.5 hogs
Overall – 1 hog
Big Jt's BBQ on Urbanspoon

IMG_2027 IMG_2025 IMG_2028 IMG_2031

Charlotte (and NC) Accolades from The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America

I’ve just started The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America by Johnny Fugitt but wanted to share some of the accolades that Charlotte and NC received in the book. I will spoil only just a little bit, and you will have to pick it up for yourself in order to read the rest (currently the #1 new release in US Travel Guides!).

Charlotte
For not having a stellar barbecue reputation, Charlotte is decently represented. I’m proud to say that we helped point Johnny in the direction of Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen based on our Charlotte Rankings and were able to accompany him on a private tour of Boone’s prep kitchen last year.

  • Midwood Smokehouse (our review here and here) makes the top 100 barbecue restaurants in America list (everything outside of the top 25 was not ranked)
  • Midwood Smokehouse’s brisket is #6 on “10 Best Briskets outside Texas (better than 99% in Texas)”
  • Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (our review here) also makes the top 100 list
  • Boone’s brunswick stew is #1 in “The Three Best Brunswick Stews I found in all the Land”
  • Boone’s also makes “America’s 10 Best Vinegar/Tomato-Based Sauces” at #10 for their Eastern Carolina sauce
  • Finally, Boone’s brunswick stew is also listed on Johnny’s “Dream Carolina Meal” as a side along with Skylight Inn’s pork as well as Lexington Barbecue’s pork and barbecue slaw

North Carolina
North Carolina joints were also well represented, with Skylight Inn #8 overall, Allen & Son’s Barbeque (our review here) #18, and Raleigh’s The Pit (our review here) making the top 100; there were several other individual accolades for pork and sides.

Finally, thanks to Johnny for the shout out to us in his review of Lexington Barbecue. Our love for Lexington Barbecue is well-documented (review here), and its cool that he associated us with it.

Monk

Congrats to Johnny Fugitt on his new book, The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America!

front cover

Congrats to our friend Johnny Fugitt (aka Barbecue Rankings) on today’s release of his book, The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America. Speedy and I were fortunate enough to meet up with Johnny last year on his way through Charlotte and we couldn’t have met a nicer person (or one more passionate about barbecue). I can’t wait to get my hands on the book to see all  of his rankings and where some of my favorites (both NC and beyond) landed on the list (or not, as the case may be).

Order from Amazon today

In one year, barbecue critic Johnny Fugitt visited 365 barbecue restaurants across 48 states. The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America chronicles the journey, shares secrets of barbecue legends and points you to America’s best plates of barbecue. Educational, humorous and hunger-inducing, this book raises the bar for investigative food journalism. Caution: Side effects of this book may include late night cravings, spontaneous road trips and the meat sweats. Not all material may be appropriate for vegetarians. Carnivore discretion is advised.

Monk

Linkdown: 5/20/15

– In cool local barbecue and beer news, Birdsong Brewing is brewing a small batch beer with the help of Queen City Q

– Congrats to Mac’s Speed Shop as they took 5th in whole hog at last weekend’s Memphis in May

– Charlotte food writer Kathleen Purvis breaks down 5 new barbecue books from 12 Bones, Franklin Barbecue, and more

– Charlotte Five points out what you can eat at The Improper Pig for under $20 (tip not included)

– Chef Ben Adams of Durham’s Piedmont is leaving that restaurant to open a barbecue restaurant in North Durham with Wyatt Dickson, whom he met back in college at UNC

– Meanwhile, The AP Stylebook gets things horribly, horribly wrong: barbecue is a noun not a verb

– This opinion article from blues singer Pam Saulsby contains some updates on Ed Mitchell’s next venture

A reliable source tells me that while Mr. Mitchell’s Que Restaurant and Blues Experience is no longer in business at The American Tobacco Campus in Durham, there are plans to re-open in a larger location. In fact, Mitchell has his eye on two locations: one between Chapel Hill and Durham and another on the outskirts of Raleigh.

– Robert Moss has a list of the top 5 southern barbecue sides, broken down by region, in his latest column

– Catching up with prior posts from Moss, one on Aaron Franklin winning a James Beard award and another on shoulder clod, “Texas’s forgotten bbq star”

– If you’re smoking barbecue at home (and you should), here’s some great info on what wood to use for what meat

– The Men In Blazers met up with GFOP’s (great friends of the pod) at Joe’s Kansas City last week

Terry Black’s Barbecue – Austin, TX

IMG_3586
Name
: Terry Black’s Barbecue
Date: 4/6/15
Location: 1003 Barton Springs Road, Austin TX 78704
Order: 1 lb moist brisket, half a jalapeno and cheddar sausage, 1 side of cream corn, tea (link to menu)
Bill: $30

Rudy: Terry Black’s opened up this past year in Austin and has tried to piggy-back off the Black’s name, which is synonymous with barbecue in central Texas. Terry Black is from the Black’s Family in Lockhart and his son’s have started this venture in an attempt to use the family name to attract customers. I wanted to try Terry Black’s to see how it compared to the original. Truth is, it did not compare nearly as well, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.

I started with the brisket, which had a thick bark and lots of flavor. I got the end piece, so I was able to taste lots of smoke and seasoning. However there was not a great consistency to the meat and the fat was not evenly rendered, leaving parts of the fat uneaten on the plate. Probably a good thing for me overall to not eat all the fat, but it took away some of the flavoring to the meat.

The sausage was great. I always like getting jalapeno and cheddar sausage because the spice and the creamy cheese create a great mixture. This was no different, and probably the best thing I had.

Monk: The brisket is a given, but when I make it back out to central Texas I look forward to trying all of the different types of sausage. I’d say its sneakily one of my favorite smoked meats.

Rudy: I agree. Sausage is usually my favorite too because they are so different everywhere and usually very good. Most times they are my part of my standard order.

Speedy: Rudy, I must say I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t tackle the beef rib. After the experience at Black’s, I feel like that would’ve been my number one priority.

Rudy: I understand, the two problems with the beef ribs are that they are so expensive and they are so big that you don’t have room for anything else.

Monk: Which brings up a good question. As for your “standard order” – I may be mistaken but it doesn’t seem you always go for the so-called “Texas Trinity” of brisket, sausage, and ribs (beef or pork). Is it a matter of preference (and possibly stomach space) or moreso economics?

Rudy: A little of both. Brisket prices are getting out of control here, so ordering a meal and trying multiple meats starts to get expensive. It’s not like getting a barbecue sandwich or plate in NC. I could order small portions of each but I feel strange ordering 1 rib, ¼ pound of brisket and part of a sausage. I just made a decision when I started that I was always going to try and get brisket and sausage and judge as many places on the same criteria. However there are times that I do get ribs (beef or pork) just to mix it up and try something new.

Terry Black’s, like Black’s in Lockhart serves their sides in a cafeteria style. I opted for the cream corn, which was fine, but nothing great. With all the sides just sitting out under the heat lamps, it’s not the most appetizing, but they do have many more selections that most other barbecue restaurants.

Overall, Terry Black’s Barbecue is not great, but it is pretty good. The parts that I liked the most, and will probably keep me coming back, is that there was plenty of parking, seating, and the line moved fast, meaning you get your food quickly. I know those factors shouldn’t be the biggest selling points to a restaurant, but when there are many other places in the city that have 1-6 hour waits, being able to get in and get above average barbecue without a huge hassle is a big bonus.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 Hog
Brisket – 3 Hogs
Sausage – 3.5 Hogs
Sides – 3 Hog
Overall – 3 Hogs
Terry Black's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

IMG_3581 IMG_3583 IMG_3582 IMG_3585

Linkdown: 5/13/15

– The new Midwood Smokehouse gets a short write-up in Charlotte Magazine and sounds great; can’t wait to try it out

The new Midwood stays true to the original Central Avenue location, with beer signs and similar decor along the walls, but a more modern vibe to it. Rounded bench seating is a new take on a booth, and barbecue- and beer-themed cut metal art, designed by a restaurant employee, splits two sections of the dining room. The bar surface is made of reclaimed pine, and old barn siding with signs of aging bring back a rustic touch to the front of the bar and the ceiling. Rustic, but not old-fashioned: along the bar, USB ports are tucked underneath for customers who need to charge their devices.

– Charlotte Business Journal also has some coverage on Midwood Smokehouse as well

– Bill Spoon’s makes this Thrillist list of Best restaurants in Charlotte

– Marie, Let’s Eat! visits a heavy hitter in Archibald’s Bar-B-Que in Northport, AL and comes out raving about the ribs

– Some nice photos from last weekend’s Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival, which is now a NC BBQ Association event

– West Asheville is getting a new barbecue restaurant, Bonfire Barbecue, this week

– Spicy pork sandwich at Heirloom Market and brisket at La Barbecue both make Zagat’s list of America’s most iconic new dishes

– Looks like Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que is getting into the food truck game in Charlotte

– Congrats to friend of the blog Johnny aka Barbecue Rankings on the imminent release of his new book

Swig & Swine – Charleston, SC

IMG_2356

Name: Swig & Swine
Date: 4/19/14
Address: 1217 Savannah Hwy, Charleston, SC 29407
Order: 3 meat combo (pulled pork, homemade sausage, smoked pork belly), vinegar slaw, hash & rice, smoked wings appetizer (link to menu)
Price: $20 for the combo, $12 for a dozen wings

Speedy: On the second day of my college friend bro weekend, I had to lay the smack down. “Dudes,” I said, “I’m a Barbecue Bro. My readers expect – nay! – my readers deserve a second review from my time in Charleston. So what if we had ‘cue yesterday? We’re running it back!” And so we found ourselves at Swig & Swine, which I had driven by a couple of times on Savannah Highway.

Monk: I applaud your dedication to the cause, comrade Speedski!

Speedy: From an atmosphere perspective, this restaurant has everything you want from a new school ‘cue joint – a nice rustic feel, a great bar, and large beer selection. We took a seat in the bar section and our waitress quickly approached. We immediately ordered some smoked wings for appies. I added on to that by ordering the three meat combo (because I was having a hard time making decisions).

Monk:This wouldn’t have anything to do with your previous night’s activities impairing your thinking ability would it?

Speedy: I would prefer to not answer that question, Monk. Anywho, due to the events at Home Team BBQ, I have extended my brisket ban to South Carolina (with one notable exception), so I ordered the pulled pork, homemade sausage, and tacked on the pork belly, which I was excited to see. Traditional NC side vinegar slaw and traditional SC side hash and rice rounded out my order.

Monk: Ohhh, hash and rice. Really curious how you found this? I thought it was a bit weird myself.

Speedy: Patience, young grasshopper…

The wings came out first and they were divine. Smoked perfectly and tossed in a red ‘cue sauce, these wings were meaty, tender, and full of smoke flavor. They were nearly perfect. This got me super excited for the rest of the meal.

Monk: So far, so good. Now let’s just see if the rest of the meal holds up…

Speedy: Sadly, I was let down.

Monk: Well, never mind…

Speedy: The pork was decent, but lacked smoke and was a little dry. The table was stacked with several sauces (red, vinegar, mustard, white), so I added some vinegar sauce and it did help. Overall, the pork is passable, but not great. Which is more than I can say for the pork belly. Pork belly should be crisp on the outside and melt in the mouth on the inside, which this was not. Instead, it was tough and lacking of flavor. I’m certainly no expert in smoking pork belly, but I expected more.

The sausage was actually good – the best meat of my entree. It was definitely homemade and had a nice snap and really good flavor. I would’ve preferred it to be a little spicier, but that’s just me. Overall, I’d get this again.

Monk: Could you tell what smoking method Swig & Swine used? Sounds like a gasser to me.

Speedy: I’m not sure – that would be my guess as well, but I didn’t go check it out. The slaw was forgettable and the hash was decent, and something I’d order again, though I’m not familiar enough to know how it stacks up.

Overall, I was really hoping for a special meal, especially after tasting the wings. Unfortunately, I ended up with an average experience.

Monk: So far, between this place and the two Home Team BBQ’s you’ve been to it doesn’t seem like there is much to Charleston barbecue. I expect this to change when John Lewis opens his place later this year.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4.5 hogs
Smoked Wings – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Pork Belly – 1.5 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
Swig & Swine on Urbanspoon

IMG_2361 IMG_2360 IMG_2359 IMG_2358 IMG_2357 IMG_2355

Linkdown: 5/6/15

– Charlotte Agenda’s 12 things they learned from a short conversation with pitmaster Matt Barry and owner Frank Scibelli

(1) Midwood Smokehouse will open more restaurants. Frank is about to ton it with the sale of Bad Daddy’s. $21 million. He struck me as incredibly smart and he’ll use some of this cash to open more locations. Sounds like Columbia, SC is in the cards for 2016 and a Southpark location could happen soon(ish). I tried to grill him about the Bad Daddy’s sale and Southpark location, but as charming as I am, he didn’t give me anything juicy.

– Marie, Let’s Eat! visits Golden Rule Bar-B-Que, one of the oldest restaurants in the southeast, dating back to 1891

– The Smoking Ho reviews Aaron Franklin’s new book Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto

– Q 4 Fun reviews The Ultimate Book of BBQ by NC pitmaster Christopher Prieto

– Daniel Vaughn helped Sam Jones smoke a whole hog at BBQ on the Neuse this past weekend

– Robert Moss’s list of underrated SC barbecue for First We Feast

– Speaking of Robert Moss, his new book Barbecue Lover’s the Carolinas is out tomorrow

The Q Shack – Charlotte, NC

IMG_2021
Name
: The Q Shack
Date: 4/24/15
Address: 10822 Providence Road, Charlotte, NC 28277
Order: Two meat combo plate with pulled pork and brisket, slaw, hush puppies, and sweet tea (link to menu)
Price: $18

Monk: Seeing as how Speedy’s had subpar experiences at the The Q Shack in Raleigh (actually, “subpar” would be putting it lightly) as well as the sort-of-affiliated The Original Q Shack in Durham, I figured if the Barbecue Bros were going to review The Q Shack location in south Charlotte then I would be the one checking it out. So, being the team player that I am I did exactly that.

The Q Shack is a fast casual chain tucked into an upscale strip mall. You wait in line, order at the slicer, and then pay for your food and drink before seating yourself. And the smoker is presumably a gasser, due to the supposed county fire codes and whatnot. So I pretty much knew not to expect an old-timey joint

I checked Speedy’s review of the Raleigh location before ordering and based on it was set to order the beef sausage along with the pork, but when I stepped up to the counter I saw a surprisingly decent looking cut of brisket and audibled to that. It had a nice looking bark and appeared to be pretty moist. And the pork, despite being taken from a steam tray, looked decent too. Unless something went drastically wrong between the cashier and taking my seat, this looked to be more promising than Speedy’s experiences.

And I can report that what I did have was indeed pretty decent. The brisket’s bark was nice and peppery and there was a mixture of lean and fatty in each quarter-inch slice. Gotta say, not bad brisket for a gasser. The moist pork had decent bark mixed into its coarse chop. I added a little NC vinegar sauce just to check it out, and it added a nice tang. All in all, I’d have to rate both meats as above average.

Speedy: I’m flabbergasted by this. I just can’t imagine that this is true. We all know my feelings on NC brisket, much less The Q Shack. This could put a serious rift in our relationship, Monk.

Monk: Hey, good decent barbecue is decent barbecue. As for sides I had white slaw and double hushpuppies, and both were just fine. I don’t know if it will be enough to convince Speedy to try this location…

Speedy: It isn’t.

Monk: …but all in all my lunch was pretty good. With the above average meat and NC beers from NoDa and Highland among others available for $4, I could see The Q Shack definitely working in a pinch.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
The Q Shack on Urbanspoon

IMG_2018
IMG_2019 IMG_2016