Friday Find: Kathleen Purvis’ Short 2010 Barbecue Road Trip

Image via Kathleen Purvis

In 2010,  Charlotte Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis documented a barbecue road trip in 3 short blog posts and if there is anything we love here at Barbecue Bros, it’s a barbecue road trip. If you want to read the opinion of someone who is actually qualified to write about barbecue and food in general, please read on. I’ve included a few short sentences below from each of the entries.

Barbecue road trip, Part I: Keaton’s, Cleveland, NC

The real star of the menu is just the same: Half-chicken fried, dipped in sauce and grilled. The meat inside is a little dry, but the skin is the point, peppery and just a little chewy.

Barbecue road trip, Part II: Port-A-Pit, Statesville, NC

The barbecue is smoky, moist and already sauced, the sauce on the side is dark, sweet and tastes strongly of liquid smoke.

Barbecue road trip, Part III: Cook’s BBQ, Lexington, NC

I’ve been hearing about Brandon Cook at Cook’s BBQ for a couple of years. I had just been waiting for an open travel day to check his place out. The son of barbecuer Doug Cook, who owns Backcountry Barbecue in Lexington, Brandon opened his own place and decided to forego modern shortcuts like electric or gas cookers and go back to all-wood cooked barbecue.

Link to all posts on Kathleen Purvis’ blog tagged with “barbecue”


Linkdown: 11/19/14

- Charleston-based food writer Robert Moss (who has writtedn two books on barbecue) is named barbecue editor for Southern Living magazine

SL: How about a little preview. Where are the best places to grab barbecue in the Carolinas?

RM: There are so many great places to eat barbecue in the Carolinas [note, folks in "the Carolinas" always say "the Carolinas" and not "Carolina," because to us they are two distinct places, just like the Dakotas] that it’s hard to narrow it down. But, here are a few can’t-miss places that should be on everybody’s list: Scott’s Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, SC; Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC; Allen & Son in Chapel Hill (the one on Millhouse Road, north of town); Stamey’s in Greensboro, NC; Jackie Hite’s in Leesville, SC; and, just about any of the dozen joints in Lexington, North Carolina, that still cook with wood, like Barbecue Center, Lexington Barbecue, and Cook’s Barbecue.

- Speaking of which, here is his first blog post on Southern Living’s The Daily South blog on John Lewis and his upcoming Charleston barbecue restaurant

“I’ve been looking for another city to go open a barbecue place,” he says. He considered Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, but decided the soil wasn’t fertile enough there. “South Carolina is deeply rooted in the barbecue tradition,” Lewis says. “People here [in Charleston] have been very receptive to what I make.”

- Belmont-based competition team Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ took home a grand championship at last weekend’s When Pigs Fly Barbecue Festival in Fayetteville, the latest NC BBQ Association event

- Interesting question posed by Burger Mary: Are you eating bad BBQ or just being served by bad staff? (via)

- Mac’s Speed Shop here in Charlotte is the latest to get the Our State barbecue profile treatment, though I think the writer goes a little too far in his praise of the joint

- More coverage on Carolina ‘Cue and its creator Elizabeth Karmel, who is coming to next month’s Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival

- The Great NC BBQ Map team stops by WNCN in Raleigh to have an east vs. west barbecue tasting

- They also have some map signings coming up around North Carolina, starting on November 28 in Belmont

- Pro tip: Don’t forget to rest your brisket

- Midwood Smokehouse is taking orders for smoked turkey (and other meats and sides) until next Monday, November 24th

- Elliott Moss (of the forthcoming Buxton Hall) is doing an eastern style barbecued heritage turkey as part of a pick-up dinner for Thanksgiving; details here

Sugarfire Smoke House – St. Louis, MO

Name: Sugarfire Smoke House
Date: 10/28/14
Address: 9200 Olive Blvd, St. Louis, MO
Order: Combo plate with pork and brisket, collards and fries (link to menu)
Price: $14

Speedy: I recently found myself in St. Louis for a brief work trip. So of course I reached out to friend of the blog and St. Louis native Johnny of Barbecue Rankings in order to figure out where to go. Johnny rattled off a bunch of places (most notably Bogart’s and Pappy’s), but unfortunately, those are the type of places that sell out before dinner time and were too far away from my client for lunch. The only place on Johnny’s list that was logistically feasible was Sugarfire Smoke House. It wasn’t a place he had been, but was on his list (editor’s note: Johnny has since been as well), so I figured it was worth checking out. So I forced my work team to take a trip with me for a long lunch one day.

Monk: Wow, such power Speedy doth yield…

Speedy: Though St. Louis is known for its ribs, I decided to go with the pork and brisket combo plate, as I felt like that would give me a good feel for the restaurant. I added a sausage link to my meal as well, but wasn’t able to try it, as it ended up having cheese in it (which I do not tolerate).

Monk: I can attest that Speedy does not tolerate cheese. Or any dairy, for that matter.

Speedy: The brisket was solid. I had a nice, fatty slice with decent bark on the outside. It wasn’t too dry, but I wasn’t overwhelmed with the flavor. Rudy always says that a great brisket needs no sauce, but I felt like this did. Sugarfire has quite a selection of sauces, but I stuck with the traditional spicy sauce, which was good.

I felt pretty similarly about the pulled pork. It had a nice bark, but could have used a little more smoke on it. The spicy sauce went well with the pork as well, and, overall, it was enjoyable.

Monk: Though both may have been enjoyable, it seems a little dubious to me that they both required sauce. Not exactly a ringing endorsement…

Speedy: I’m not much into sides, but Sugarfire is actually known for having great sides – particularly the mac & cheese, which I didn’t sample (obviously). For my money, the collards were great. I was surprised to have such goods collards outside the South, so kudos to Sugarfire for that.

I also feel it’s important to note that Sugarfire is famous for its odd barbecue creations. For example, one of my co-workers had chorizo stuffed pork tenderloin with chorizo gravy. It looked amazing, and my co-worker confirmed as much. I think if I ever take a trip back, that’s the route I’ll take. Either way, I do think Sugarfire Smoke House is worth checking out, though there are probably better options in the area.

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs
Sugarfire Smoke House on Urbanspoon
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Friday Find: Help fund more “BBQ with Franklin” videos

Aaron Franklin is looking for help when it comes to his BBQ with Franklin web series.

We’re looking for community support to fund this project. KLRU is a non-profit public media organization and relies on community support for funding. Response from the first web season of BBQ with Franklin was smoking and we’ve been getting messages every day asking for new videos. We want to deliver them as soon as we can, so money raised during this campaign will go directly to the finishing costs and post-production of the second series.

The campaign will close on November 25 and has a goal of $25,000. More details here.


Linkdown: 11/12/14

- The Guardian: “Pulled Pork: why we’re pigging out on US barbecue food”

As punters went wild for barbecue in general, and pulled pork in particular, restaurant chains and supermarkets jumped on the porcine bandwagon. There has been a 35% increase in the amount of US barbecue dishes served in UK restaurants since 2010, according to thefoodpeople, and a rash of smokehouses and diner pastiches have opened in London, Manchester, Leeds, Brighton and beyond. “We are in the midst of a meat-centric tsunami,” says Richard Turner, the director at Pitt Cue Co and the co-founder of rare-breed butchers Turner and George.

- A NC-born chef in Seattle is converting Western Washingtoners to vinegar-based pulled pork at his restaurant Bourbon and Bones

- Marie, Let’s Eat! finds some pork ladled in a “thick, mildly sweet sauce” at Hwy 58 BBQ in Chattanooga

- Speaking of whom, Grant took a badass barbecue roadtrip through SC and eastern NC last weekend, which will not doubt lead to a multi-week series of posts on his blog that I can’t wait to check out

- And finally, a “blogger spotlight” on Grant by Urbanspoon where he answered a question on his favorite barbecue

6. Barbecue seems to be one of your favorite cuisines, considering you have a very detailed section reserved for it on your blog. What are your favorite barbecue dishes and where do you go to get them?

That’s a big, fun question! We’ve written about more than 300 barbecue joints and really enjoyed a big majority of them. I like the burnt ends at Southern Soul on St Simons Island a lot, and the mustard slaw at Brooks Barbeque in Muscle Shoals AL, and the chopped pork and red slaw tray at Bar-B-Q Center in Lexington NC. I like the Brunswick stew at Turn-Around in Tallapoosa GA, and the chicken mull at Butt Hutt in Athens. Overall, my favorite barbecue is either at Old Clinton in Gray GA, or Scott’s in Hemingway SC, but that could change around the next corner.

- “North Carolina” makes Steve Raichlen’s Top 10 Meat Cities in the US (via)

North Carolina: OK—it’s not one city, but a whole state gone hog wild for pulled pork at such landmark barbecue joints as Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, Wilber’s in Goldsboro, the Skylight Inn in Ayden, the Pit in Raleigh, and the new Ed Mitchell’s in Durham.

- Mark Avalos of SLAB (Slow, Low, and Bangin’) describes his barbecue as “Memphis meets Carolina meets Texas.” (via)

- A short blog and photos about Arrogant Swine

- Elwood’s BBQ is hosting a beer dinner with new-ish Charlotte brewery Sugar Creek Brewing on November 19

- Well damn, this looks like it was amazing:

521 BBQ and Grill – Indian Land, SC

Name: 521 BBQ and Grill
Date: 10/25/14
Address: 7580 Charlotte Hwy, Indian Land, SC 29707
Order: Monk: Combo plate with pork and sausage, fries, hush puppies, red slaw, and beans; Speedy: Rib tray with fries and hush puppies (link to menu)
Price: Monk: $13.50; Speedy: $15-ish

Monk: At this point in our Charlotte barbecue journey, we are starting to run out of places in Charlotte proper to eat and rank. Even still, I didn’t think we’d have to go to a place that is at least 50 minutes away from my house. To be clear, Indian Land is just south of Fort Mill, which isn’t all that far from Charlotte. And we were in the area to go to a pumpkin patch with the Monkette. But realizing it was going to take upwards of an hour with traffic to get home when I meant to go to the other, closer location (to use a Livingsocial coupon  before it expired) was a little disheartening. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So, 521 BBQ and Grill.

Speedy: Monk mentioned this trip to me earlier in the week. But I don’t have any mini-Speedies running around, so the pumpkin patch was out of the question. Fortunately, 521 BBQ and Grill is just down the road from the best whiskey store in the area! And I take any excuse I can to check out what new scotches they’ve stocked. So I was in!

Monk: 521 claims to rub and cook the pork butts nightly for 14 hours but unfortunately the pork lacked a significant amount of smoke (possibly signifying that it was cooked by a gasser?), though it was tender and moist. Adding the table sauce added some zip to the barbecue and would be my recommended way of eating.

Speedy: The ribs were big, meaty baby-back ribs, and they had decent flavor. I enjoyed the sauce that was served on the ribs, and the tenderness was right, but I do like a bit more smoke flavor and more presence of a rub on the meat. They were finished on the grill, which is not my preference, as I think the grill char takes away from the meat flavor. I also prefer ribs to be cooked without the membrane, which was not the case here. Overall, the ribs were fine, but I don’t think I’ll be making special trips down to Indian Land just for the ribs.

Monk: The sausage is also finished on the grill and is pretty good, but if I had to guess it is commercially bought instead of being made in house or from a local vendor. It was fine, but I wouldn’t consider it an essential order based on this visit.

Speedy: I also ordered some wings, which were fried, so not really barbecue. I ordered the hot wings, but got a mustardy sauce, which actually worked pretty well. If you’re a wing fan, they’re worth trying, but again, not worth a special trip.

Monk: Of the side items, the hush puppies were best and appeared to be scratch made. I liked them and wish we had a table basket of them instead of just a couple that came with my plate. 521 BBQ offers a choice of red or white slaw, but the red slaw was a little too ketchup-y and needed more vinegar.

Speedy: Overall, 521 BBQ and Grill is a decent meal. I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to check out, and it ended up being a pretty expensive trip for ole Speedy (not due to the barbecue, but rather the two bottles of scotch I ended up with on my way there). So next time, Monk, see if you can find a pumpkin patch a little closer to home.

(For another review of 521 BBQ and Grill, check out Big Wayner BBQ)

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs
521 BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Friday Find: The Origin of The Great NC BBQ Map

I think I missed this video on The Great NC BBQ Map from earlier this year (presumably during their Kickstarter campaign). Paul and Amanda have been getting a lot of nice publicity since the release of the map in late July/early August but if for some reason you have missed word of it up until know, here is a nice primer on the origins of the map and what it contains.

More information here.


Linkdown: 11/5/14

- Want to know what its like to judge a NC BBQ Association competition? Well, Big Wayner has the deets.

- TMBBQ interviews Sam Jones from Skylight Inn

DV: Do the people who cook it for a living have those same arguments?

SJ: I don’t think so. I don’t anyway. I’m not one of those people that’ll tell you that our way is the only way and that if you don’t do it our way you’re going to hell. Barbecue is defined by geography. In North Carolina it really changes by community. Do what you do and do it with the passion that ought to be in there, and you should be proud of the product you turn out. If you’re half-assing it you know you ought not walk to the forefront with your chest out.

- Speaking of which, some great photos from his Dias de los Puercos event with TMBBQ this past Sunday in Dallas including the one below of Sam Jones and Daniel Vaughn

- This article is subtitled “The Great Beef vs. Pork BBQ Debate” (via)

- Still more coverage on The Great NC BBQ Map

- The original list from USA Today was posted earlier in the year, but Fox 8 in High Point just got around to linking to it

- Just found this article from March of this year (as well as the blog itself), but it’s worth linking to: “The Great Gas Controversy and Pride in the Name of BBQ” 

- Pat Forde, sports columnist from Yahoo, gives Queen City Q and Birdsong Brewing a shoutout in his latest column


When hungry and thirsty in Charlotte – site of both the ACC championship game and a bowl game, so you may get there – The Dash recommends a stop at Queen City Q (39). It’s a quality barbecue joint that doubles as a de facto sports bar. Try the Carolina Classic nachos, with pulled pork and smoked chicken onboard, and then get after the brisket. There are plenty of sauces to choose from, including all the Carolina-centric choices. Combine your meal with a Higher Ground IPA (40) from Birdsong Brewery in Charlotte and thank The Dash later.

- Carolina Cue to Go, an “online barbecue shack”, is now open as of November 1

Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ and Rocky Top BBQ Company

For this year’s Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship (our photos and some thoughts here), they had several more barbecue trucks than they did last year. This, in turn, allowed Speedy and I to check out a couple more Charlotte-area barbecue vendors that we hadn’t been able to try yet. It may be harsh to judge each of these vendors based on their output at a barbecue festival, but nonetheless here’s some of our quick thoughts on the two sandwiches that we both tried that day.

Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ – Belmont, NC (link)
Pork sammy – 3 hogs

Monk: Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ has won a lot of competition trophies on the Memphis Barbecue Network, including grand champion of last year’s version of the Q City Championship (when it was a Memphis Barbecue Network event; this year it was sanctioned by the NC BBQ Association). From what I can tell, they mostly do private events and catering, so this was a fairly rare opportunity to try their barbecue. Their pulled pork sandwich was coarsely pulled pork strands as opposed to chopped and had decent smoke. But ultimately I found it a little dry unless I added their eastern style sauce, which I dashed on before leaving their truck and sitting elsewhere. Not bad, but I wasn’t blown away like I was hoping from such an accomplished barbecue competition team.

Speedy: I actually didn’t notice the sauce before leaving the truck, so I had to do without. Like Monk, I found it to be a little dry and a little lacking on the flavor. At the end of the day, competition barbecue is so different than churning out a bunch of sammies for a festival crowd. I just feel like it this setting, vendors should pick a flavor and go with it instead of having festival goers choose and sauce their own sandwich.
Ranucci's Big Butt BBQ
Sandwich from Ranucci's Big Butt BBQ

Rocky Top BBQ Co. – Monroe, NC (link)
Pork sammy – 3 hogs

Speedy: The Rocky Top BBQ Company is a catering and competition team out of Monroe, NC. They’ve been competing since 2009 and have even appeared on BBQ Pitmasters. Monk and I both ordered the barbecue sandwich from Rocky Top as well. I thought the sandwich was pretty good, but not great. I did enjoy it more than Ranucci’s – it was sauced, so dryness wasn’t an issue. It did taste a bit sweeter than I am accustomed to, so I probably would prefer a little more vinegar-y tang. Overall, I thought it was enjoyable.

Monk: To me, something was a little off on this sandwich, texture-wise. And I agree with Speedy on the sauce being a little sweeter than I’d like. Of the two sandwiches I tasted, I preferred Ranucci’s to this one, but as you can tell neither knocked my socks off.
Rocky Top BBQ Co.
Sandwich from Rocky Top BBQ Co.