Switzerland Cafe and General Store – Little Switzerland, NC

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Name: Switzerland Cafe and General Store
Date: 7/18/14
Address: 9440 State Highway 226A, Pisgah National Forest, Marion, NC 28752
Order: Speedy: Cafe Barbeque Platter; Monk: The Whole Trout (link to menu)
Price: Speedy: $10.25; Monk: $11.45

Monk: After we left 12 Bones in Arden, Speedy and I headed to Switzerland Cafe and General Store in Little Switzerland. Side note: who else knew that there was a Little Switzerland in North Carolina? Show of hands? No one else? ANYWAYS, in case you were wondering it is located just off the intersection of Highway 226A and the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Marion. Switzerland Cafe was the most recent addition to the NC Historical Barbecue Trail, essentially replacing Deano’s in Mocksville. And next to Herb’s in Murphy, I’m willing to bet its the most remotely located.

Speedy: We went on a rainy/foggy afternoon, so we really couldn’t see that well where we were driving. To say it’s off the beaten path is an understatement. Now this could be a good thing, as a joint has to attract business to stay open, and the more remote it is, the harder it is to attract business. However, whenever a barbecue joint’s main attraction is something other than the ‘cue, I’m skeptical.

Monk: Before ordering, we checked out the smoker located in a colorfully decorated shack out back. We stumbled upon a couple of workers checking on some pork butts in the smoker and got to check it out a little bit. Switzerland Cafe uses a vertical smoker with little more than a pan separating the hickory wood coals from the stack of pork butts. This was definitely a unique technique I haven’t seen in other pits on our barbecue travels.

Speedy: And honestly, I’m not sure it’s a technique I’d recommend. It does keep the direct heat off of the meat, but seems like it would keep some smoke away as well. However, it was a super cool smoker and awesome opportunity to check it out.

But we weren’t there to look at the smoker – it was time to eat. As we had already had a massive barbecue meal at 12 Bones, I decided to stick to the essential – the “barbeque cafe platter,” complete with slaw and baked beans. Digging in, something about the pork was a little off to me. It was plenty tender, but the taste was just not exactly what I expected. It wasn’t bad, but it lacked the expected pork flavor. My best guess is that the odd taste is due to being cooked in the same smoker as the fish.

Monk: Speaking of the fish, I tried “The Whole Trout” appetizer as my dish since it was so unique (not to mention I also was stuffed from 12 Bones). I apparently didn’t read the menu too carefully because as I took a forkful of the trout I was surprised by the fact that it was chilled. I could taste the smoke – unlike the pork cooked over hickory, the fish is cooked over applewood (h/t) – but it was just unexpected and different. I think its worth trying once, but if I ever find myself back I probably won’t order it again.

One of the owners also brought us out a smoked salmon BLT because she wanted us to try, and I took a sliver. Had I been hungrier, I would have eaten the whole thing because that thing was pretty delicious. They also offer a smoked trout BLT, but we didn’t taste that.

Speedy: Overall, Switzerland Cafe was a fine barbecue meal, but likely the last I’ll ever eat there. I think Monk liked it better than I did, but the location is just so remote that it would take an amazing meal to compensate. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t there for me.

But at least we got to check another one off the trail list…

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Trout – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs
Switzerland Cafe on Urbanspoon
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Linkdown: 8/27/14

- Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine writes a post about creating a menu at his upcoming whole hog joint in Bushwick and has this great quote:

“Every time brisket shows up on a Carolina menu, God runs over a basket of sweet fluffy kittens with a Mack truck.”

- Marie, Let’s Eat! returns to Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q and provides some great perspective on Atlanta barbecue in the process; also, Grant, I’ll take you up on that offer next time I’m in town!

- Sounds like crowds weren’t quite as good as hoped for at last week’s RibFest in Raleigh due to competing activities in downtown

- Carolina Barbecue off Business I-85 in Spartanburg gets some good marks

- “Valley BBQ tradition involves caring” includes a little bit of history

“Virginians don’t have a barbecue tradition,” Matthew Poteat, a Stauntonian from eastern North Carolina, starts to say, then rights himself before setting off a small war.

The nationally renowned North Carolina-barbecue style came from Tidewater Virginia, the Carolina Q Pig Pickers owner admits.

Pig done Poteat’s way involves pulling pieces of pork off the roast, chopping it coarse with a cleaver, and mixing the dark and white meat together, crispy skin and all. His sauce is “vinegar and red pepper sauce, real thin.”

While Texas and other states prefer red sauces, the vinegar-based sauce is the oldest and first in the country according to Poteat, who’s also a history professor at Lynchburg College.

- Look for The Great NC BBQ Map folks on Charlotte Today next Friday

- More from Buxton Hall:

12 Bones Smokehouse – Arden, NC

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Name: 12 Bones Smokehouse
Date: 7/18/14
Address: 3578 Sweeten Creek Road, Arden, NC 28704
Order: Speedy: Two half rack of ribs, rib taster, beer; Monk: Pulled pork plate and sliced brisket plate with collards, baked beans, vinegar slaw, and cucumber salad, Pisgah Pale Ale (link to menu)
Price: Speedy: $34; Monk: $20

Monk: One joint that’s been on our hit list ever since we started the blog 2+ years ago was 12 Bones Smokehouse in Asheville. All of our past visits came pre-blog, with the River Arts location outside of downtown Asheville being nearest and dearest to our heart. They actually do have two locations – one in River Arts and another in nearby Arden, out towards the airport – and on this day we found ourselves in Arden (more on that in the future).

Speedy: This was my first visit to the Arden location, and other than the location, I think I liked it better than the River Arts locale. It’s bigger and has similar outdoor seating. The old gas station atmosphere has a really nice feel to it, so I enjoyed it very much. As for the order, Monk and I went a little crazy. We ended up ordering three bones of each type of rib offered, a brisket plate, a pork plate, sides, and beers. It was definitely a lot of food, but we were hungry, so the order wasn’t out of line.

Monk: For once I didn’t sabotage myself and eat anything before a barbecue meal! As for the food, the pork just didn’t have the smokiness in the bark that I prefer, which is likely due to being smoked in a Southern Pride gasser. It’s pretty clear that the pork is not the focus of 12 Bones, which shouldn’t be all that surprising considering the name.

Speedy: All things considered, I thought the pork was pretty decent. While it won’t win any awards on this blog, it had good tenderness, and I thought there was a touch of wood flavor (though not enough). It’s clear by the wood piles of oak and hickory in the back that 12 Bones does make a concerted effort to impart smoke flavor into their gas cooks, so for a gas cooker, I think this is some of the better pork I’ve had.

Monk: The brisket was pretty unfortunate, really. It was very thinly sliced (think sliced deli roast beef on setting 2 or 3) and thus had dried out considerably by the time we got the food. Plus, similar to the pork it didn’t have the smoke or smoke ring in the bark. I had not gotten the brisket here before and based on this visit, customers should avoid it as well.

Speedy: But let’s be honest – you don’t go to a place called 12 Bones for the brisket. The ribs are as good as you’ll find anywhere. 12 Bones is known for its unique and eclectic sauces, and on this day, they had their standard salt/pepper rub, brown sugar, and chipotle blueberry ribs, along with special smoked apple and pineapple habanero ribs. Monk and I decided to order 3 bones of each flavor. The ribs themselves are always cooked perfectly – tender without actually falling from the bone. The different sauces allow for different flavors, but I have noticed that 12 bones generally produces a very sweet rib, which is in contrast to the vinegar-y tang I’m used to when eating ‘cue. I think it ends up working very well and kudos to them for thinking outside the BBQ box.

Monk: The ribs are definitely the highlight at 12 Bones, but holy heck watch out for those sauced with pineapple habanero. They start out sweet but can get you on the back end, particularly if you aren’t expecting it. And I definitely got got.

12 Bones has southern sides, but not all are necessarily what you think of when it comes to barbecue. A slice of cornbread comes with each plate, and I loved it. Had I not been stuffed by all of the meat, I would have eaten mine and possibly Speedy’s. The collards, baked beans, vinegar slaw, and cucumber salad all had merit and I would recommend any of them as a side choice. Again, not all were traditional barbecue sides but still worthy of an order.

Speedy: You stay away from my cornbread, Monk! That stuff was delicious. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – you can’t get 5 hogs for sides if you don’t offer hush puppies, but 12 Bones gives you everything else you could want.

All in all, a meal at 12 Bones Smokehouse is a great experience. I had previously never ordered anything but ribs, and I don’t think I ever will again. I understand offering other meats, but really, if you order something other than ribs, it’s your own fault if you don’t enjoy the meal. So man up, order the ribs, and enjoy!

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Ribs – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4 Hogs

12 Bones Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

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Lancaster’s Bar-B-Que – Mooresville, NC

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Name: Lancaster’s BBQ
Date: 7/12/14
Address: 515 Rinehardt Rd, Mooresville, NC 28115
Order: BBQ tray with bbq slaw and Sweetwater 420 (link to menu)
Price: ~$13

In my review of the Lancaster’s BBQ in Huntersville, I ended by saying I wouldn’t be rushing to the Mooresville location any time soon. Well as it turns out, less than 4 months later I just so happened to find myself there. But not because I necessarily sought it out.

Right before I came here, I tried the sub par barbecue at Carolina Ribs on the Run after I dropped my wife off at a baby shower in town. After I left, I still had a little more time to kill and was so disappointed with my previous meal that I decided to stop by Lancaster’s BBQ to try and salvage my lunch that day. But mainly because I knew they had beer and that sounded good at the moment.

Seeing as how I had already tried the Huntersville location, I knew more or less what to expect. And Mooresville basically matched up to that, though I did rate the pork a little higher this time around. But I suspect that may be due to having it directly after the bland meal at Carolina Ribs on the Run (ok, I’ll stop piling on starting…now). At least this pork had some smoke and spice. It still wasn’t great.

The slaw was the same mustard/mayo slaw as the other location. I was already pretty full so no hush puppies for me, which was too bad because they were the best part of my meal at the other location.

In terms of decor, the Mooresville location takes the NASCAR theme and cranks it to 11 (after all, Mooresville is the “Official Stock Car Capital of the World”). And they have a bus in the middle of the restaurant in which diners can sit in. So there’s that. Unfortunately, the barbecue is still pretty average.

-Monk

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
Lancaster's BBQ & Wings on Urbanspoon
Lancaster's BBQ & Wings on Foodio54
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Linkdown: 8/20/14

- Wayne Monk, Sam Jones, and other “old-school pitmasters” weigh in on how the barbecue industry is changing

“To cook pork shoulders the way we do it, it’s a 10-hour process. It’s hard these days to find young men to learn a trade like this that they’re proud of, that have 10-hour days. People take shortcuts, like gas cookers. But the more gas cookers there are, the better my business gets.” - Rick Monk, Lexington Barbecue (Lexington, NC)

- You may remember this bill from a few months back due to its dubious claim to South Carolina being “birthplace of barbecue,” but in any case its finally official: barbecue is South Carolina’s “southern picnic cuisine”

- Speaking of South Carolina, would the Senator Frank Underwood from House of Cards really be eating ribs instead of pulled pork?

- Registration for the 2014 Q City Charlotte BBQ Championship is now live until slots fill up; also, it is now a NC BBQ Association event rather than a Memphis BBQ Network one as it had been in years past

- According to Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor of Texas Monthly, “[t]he brisket I’ve had in New York lately is better than a lot of places in Texas”

- Vote for best barbecue (as well as other cuisines) in Creative Loafing Charlotte’s Best of 2014 survey

- On September 7, five Louisville chefs will compete in a whole hog challenge to determine who will be crowned the “BBQ King or Queen” (via)

At the stand-up tasting reception, they’ll serve six dishes that illustrate entire animal usage, scored on utilization, presentation, barbecue influences and flavor. The perfect plate spotlights the whole pig and can ultimately inspire restaurant owners to greater support of local agriculture, according to event founder Brady Lowe.

- This Eater guide to the best pulled pork in Austin features a couple of the usual suspects plus a few I hadn’t heard of before (via)

- Marie, Let’s Eat! visits Papa Joe’s BBQ Pit and Cook Out in a review from last week

- This month’s Carolina ‘Cue feature from Our State is Big Mike’s Barbecue, a food truck out of the Raleigh area

At this writing, there is but one place you can find Big Mike’s Barbecue: It’s indeterminate, location at present unknown, its setting determined by demand, a roving outlet for the conveyance of pork in its various guises. Big Mike calls it the Red Barn. You would, too, if you saw it, because that’s exactly what it appears to be. No room for towering bales of hay or horse stalls or tractors, though, just big enough for a sink and a counter and a little smoker toward the back, on what looks like a screened-in porch, and small enough to be pulled behind a GMC Sierra 2500HD. You order through one of the barn windows. On the window is a drawing of a pig holding a fork and knife, a pig with a big smile on his face, as if he’s happy to be eating himself. And, on any given day, the Red Barn could be in the parking lot of the building where you work, near a bar you frequent, or at a party where you’re the guest of honor.

- Brooks Sandwich House, home of Charlotte’s best burger, has barbecue available seasonally and it is back; I’m not sure what to expect from it but when I try it I’ll at least get a burger as well

- A preview of things to come from Buxton Hall?

Carolina Ribs on the Run – Mooresville, NC

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Name: Carolina Ribs on the Run
Date: 7/12/14
Address: 858 N Carolina 1100, Mooresville, NC 28117
Order: Pulled pork sandwich with hush puppies and sweet tea (link to menu)
Price: $7.17

Usually, I am pretty good at researching and finding worthwhile joints to try when I’m in an unfamiliar area. I thought I did the due diligence for Mooresville (in which I happened to find myself after dropping off Mrs. Monk for her cousin’s baby shower), but as I pulled up to an empty restaurant at 11:30 on a Saturday I immediately knew I had made a huge mistake. I even double checked to see if it opened at 12 on Saturdays but nope, it opened at 11. I contemplated going back in the car and going somewhere else, but I figured I was already there so I’d give it a shot.

And yea…I should have just turned back around. Everything about the meal was below average. I bit into the pulled pork sandwich and…nothing. Blandness. The pork was moist but had no smoke, as if it was cooked in a crock pot (I wouldn’t be surprised if this was actually the case). The slaw on top of the sandwich tasted like a commercial mayo coleslaw. The hush puppies also tasted commercially bought and originally frozen. And to top it off, they asked what sauce I wanted for my sandwich so I ordered the “hickory BBQ” sauce on the side. Thankfully I did because you guessed it, it was a commercially made sauce. Perhaps I should have gone with the ribs, being that they are in the name and all, but I can’t see how they would have been too much better based on the pork. Plus, they use the same sauces.

As you will see in another review later this week, I ended up going to another place immediately after because I was so disappointed with Carolina Ribs on the Run. I hate to be too negative but based on this meal I feel as if they aren’t really trying. Avoid. (Update: As of August 2, enough people had avoided that they apparently have closed.)

-Monk

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 1.5 hogs
Pork – 1.5 hogs
Sides – 1.5 hogs
Overall – 1.5 hogs
Carolina Ribs on the Run on Urbanspoon
Carolina Ribs on the Run on Foodio54
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Friday Find: Port-A-Pit BBQ Video Profile

Port-A-Pit BBQ, Statesville, NC

I hadn’t previously heard of Port-A-Pit BBQ, but they are the barbecue catering arm of Koala-T-Katering in Statesville. And apparently they are kind of hard to find if you are looking for takeout from the offices of Koala-T. Here’s another video profile from Our State Magazine from some time ago, similar to the one for Hillsborough BBQ Company we posted a few weeks back. Watch it, if only to hear what is my introduction to the use of the word “rotisserize.”

-Monk

Linkdown: 8/13/20

- This is my nightmare: the Lone Star Tick (named for Texas) can make you allergic to barbecue as well as burgers

- The 2014 NC Whole Hog Barbecue State Championship will be October 3/4 in Downtown Raleigh

This year, the State Championship will return to Downtown Raleigh as part of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Wide Open Bluegrass Festival. After the judging is complete, the mouth-watering barbecue will be chopped and sold in sandwiches to festival attendees on Saturday, October 4.

- Another article from the Mooresville Tribune on The Great NC BBQ Map; it was also listed this week as one of the 5 things you need to know in the South right now from Southern Living

- Barbecue on other lists, pt. 1: Garden and Gun named their top breakfast joints in the South and Southern Soul Barbeque in St. Simons Island, GA made the list

- Barbecue on other lists, pt. 2: in addition to legendary barbecue, Skylight Inn in Ayden apparently has one of the NC’s best burgers

- Thrillist’s list of The 15 Best New BBQ Joints in America

- A letter to the president regarding NC barbecue, plus a pork butt recipe

Dear President Obama,

It seems you like barbecue. You broke in line at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, but I guess the headaches of being president allow you some leeway. You had a cold Bud Light when you hit Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City, even if they had run out of slaw, but you stood in line there, so between the beer and waiting your turn, you showed your humanity and touch with the common man.

I know you’ve been to North Carolina many times, but I’ve yet to hear about you stopping at one of our well-smoked, traditional barbecue joints. They really are your kind of places. I’m not talking about the newfangled ones, where the emphasis is on selling you a liquor drink. No, we have some time-honored places where wood smoke meets the meat.

- 12 Bones Smokehouse makes this list of places to eat from The Telegraph’s (UK) guide to Asheville as well as Culture Trip’s 10 “must-try” local restaurants in Asheville

- How I Built A Barbecue Restaurant in Brookyln: A Lease Safari, from Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine – you remember, Arrogant Swine is the Carolina style whole hog joint who is using Heritage Cheshire hogs that I want to go to next time I’m in NYC (via)

- A shot of the space where Buxton Hall will be housed

- Pat Martin, pitmaster of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, cooked the annual barbecue dinner at the James Beard House last Thursday and here was the draft menu

Kepley’s Barbecue – High Point, NC

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Name: Kepley’s Pit-Cooked Barbecue
Date: 7/10/14
Address: 1304 N Main St., High Point, NC
Order: Chopped plate with fries, slaw, hush puppies (link to menu)
Price: $7.20

Speedy: I was recently in the home place of High Point during a work day, just working from my parent’s house. This seemed like as good a time as any to go back to my roots and grab some ‘cue from Kepley’s for lunch. It has been a long time since I had eaten at Kepley’s, as I generally make the drive to Lexington in lieu of eating High Point ‘cue, but after this meal, I think I’ll opt for Kepley’s more often.

Monk: You know, it’s sad to say that I’ve only eaten at Kepley’s once, and it was just 4 years ago. Sounds like I’ve been missing out on quality barbecue all these years.

Rudy: I’m the same, it was a couple of miles away from my house and I rarely went, however I always enjoyed it when I did go.

Speedy: The restaurant itself isn’t much more than a trailer – I’d be surprised if it could fit more than 30 people. But it is quaint and is exactly what you think of when you think of a traditional ‘cue joint. They do have a separate small smokehouse for smoking the pork shoulders and there was a large wood pile sitting outside the smokehouse – always a great sign.

Monk: So I’ve been missing out on wood smoked barbecue in my backyard all these years! And not 2 miles from our high school. Man, I feel like an idiot.

Speedy: One thing I love about these restaurants is the order process. As the menu at most Lexington style joints is pretty consistent, all I have to say is “chopped tray with hush puppies and a Cheerwine” and I’m good to go. The food is then served quickly and you’re ready to eat.

The pork at Kepley’s is really, really good. There’s just the right amount of smoke and bark. It’s clear these guys know what they’re doing. My serving was just a tad dry, but adding some extra dip provided on the table cleared that up immediately.

The sides are also very good. The slaw could use a little more tang (I add more dip here too, as well as some Texas Pete) and the fries are just your standard crinkle fries, but both are good. I’m not a huge fan of the pickle slices that come on top of the slaw, but they don’t really affect the flavor of the slaw once removed, so no harm done. The hush puppies at Kepley’s are perfect – definitely among the best you’ll find anywhere.

Monk: Well that’s settled. I’m definitely heading to Kepley’s next time I make it home.

Speedy: All in all, Kepley’s is a very good barbecue restaurant. If you moved it to the middle of Lexington, it would stack up well with the other joints in town. If you find yourself in downtown High Point, I’d say Kepley’s Barbecue is definitely the place to go to check out some ‘cue.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4 Hogs
Kepley's Barbecue on Urbanspoon
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