Barbecue Bros - North Carolina and Texas Barbecue

"If you don't like barbecue, you need some help. You need to seek medical attention." - Wilberdean Shirley

Charlotte, NC / Austin, TX

Ratings System:
0 hogs - Get out of here with that
1 hog - What is this? A Yankee joint?
2 hogs - It's just alright for me, dawg
3 hogs - Don't act like you're not impressed
4 hogs - That's high praise!
5 hogs - I need to change my pants
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- Giving a whole other meaning to barbecue hash, the owner/operator of Smokey’s BBQ in Dallas, NC charged for selling marijuana in and around his restaurant

- The NCAA recently allowed unlimited snacks for “student-athletes” and this article runs down the best advantages gained by schools due to local cuisine (many of which are not coincidentally barbecue)

NC State: The Wolfpack will attempt to turn the ACC’s best prospects away from Tallahassee by offering unlimited whole hog barbecue and vinegar-based sauce from The Pit in Raleigh. The toughest recruiting battles on Tobacco Road will be between NC State and North Carolina, which will attempt to lure recruits with fried chicken-and-cheddar biscuits from Chapel Hill’s Time-Out (available 24 hours a day, of course).

- A Barbecue Bros hometown joint gets a shout out from The Great NC BBQ Map

- Is Durham becoming a barbecue mecca? BBQ Jew thinks so.

- The Barbecue Bros tend to stay out of political debates and focus on barbecue, but this final paragraph in a story about last night’s debate of GOP candidates for Senate in NC caught our eye

In a lightning round at the end of the debate, the candidates were asked to pick their favorite style of North Carolina barbecue. Three picked Lexington, which is built around a vinegar-based red sauce.

“I love it all,” said Tillis, smiling coyly.

- The latest stops on Marie, Let’s Eat!’s epic NC barbecue road trip finds him in Hill’s Lexington Barbecue in Winston-Salem, Deano’s in Mocksville, and Carolina Bar-B-Q in Statesville; gotta say I’ve definitely enjoyed reading about Grant’s NC travels (barbecue-related and not) the past few weeks

thebestycom:

Straight out of North Carolina, the Barbecue Bros are experts in this delicious pork concoction, bringing you some amazing reviews and recommendations on where to find the best BBQ. Monk, Rudy, and Speedy are the masterminds behind this one-of-a-kind blog, all three having extensive experience and knowledge in all things barbecue. Hailing from High Point, NC, and having attended high school together, the bros are actually now living in different places themselves (Monk and Speedy in Charlotte, Rudy in Austin, TX). However, their love for all things barbecue kept the trio together, and now they actually use this geographically diverse setting as a way to spread even more barbecue goodness on the site. As much as they love the delicious pork dish, the bros were getting frustrated with all of the unsatisfactory reviews they found of BBQ joints around their area, and decided to finally take matters into their own hands, thus creating the Barbecue Bros blog. Here, you can find fantastic reviews, recommendations, tips, and more on all things barbecue, both in North Carolina and beyond. You can start by clicking on the Charlotte Rankings tab, which gives you a hefty list of the top spots for BBQ in and around Charlotte; each review complete with great, insightful information as well as some mouth-watering photographs.  Otherwise, you can click on the Map of Joints to take a look at all the places that these boys have covered across the country. Another cool category is The North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail, which gives you a list of all the historic BBQ places in the state, all of which the bros are attempting to have eaten at by the end of 2014. Be sure you check out this wonderful site, especially if you love barbeque too!

Barbecue Bros the blog!

Barbecue Bros the Facebook page!

Barbecue Bros Twitter!

Barbecue Bros’ list of favorite restaurants at TheBesty.com!

Be sure to also check out TheBesty.com Facebook page and follow us onTwitter!

Thanks to TheBesty for a nice profile on our site! And be on the lookout for possibly more from them on us…

-Monk

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Name: Pappy’s Old Fashioned BBQ
Date: 4/5/14
Address: 1982 Chesnee Hwy, Spartanburg, SC 29303
Order: BBQ plate with red slaw, hush puppies, and sweet tea; “white velvet” cake for dessert (link to menu)
Price: $11.75

Monk: Well, I’ve hit a first in my barbecue blogging experience. Something I had heard dirty rumors of but never thought I would see myself. This past weekend I encountered a modern convenience which has revolutionized home cooking but has no place in a proper barbecue joint. Yep, I’m talking about a microwave.

Speedy: But was it an old fashioned microwave? (Sorry, I had to…)

Rudy: Was it at least a dirty microwave that could be considered “seasoned”?

Monk: Not even close, guys. Pappy’s Old Fashioned BBQ started out promising enough. It’s housed in a small roadside shack in Spartanburg, SC with a standalone smokehouse and a sizable woodpile out back. Order at a counter and you’re set. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Now to say that it was a slow lunch hour for a Saturday would be an understatement. There was one family who ordered takeout before us but once they left we were the only customers dining in the restaurant. However, for some reason our order took awhile to come out.

As I went to refill my sweet tea I noticed one of the owners shoveling barbecue out of a large aluminum pan into a paper boat and warming it in the microwave. And this had to be done 4 times for our group. A few minutes later once our plates were finally brought out to us, I noticed that the warmed over barbecue had good chunks of bark and smokiness but was really dry. I can’t understand why the owners would go the trouble of splitting logs and cooking over wood but storing the barbecue in large aluminum foil pans in the refrigerator. Based on the bark and smokiness, I can only guess that had the moisture and tenderness matched it I would have been impressed. Instead, I could only guess. There was a variety of sauces - vinegar, mild sweet, medium hot, and hot - and even that didn’t help too much.

Rudy: Any chance the logs and smokehouse were just props to lure in suckers (if so, it worked)?  Because I would agree there is no use in going through all that work for just a microwave.

Monk: I don’t think so - the bark on the pork was too smoky for those logs to just be for show. Though you never can tell in South Carolina…

The red slaw was a nice surprise on the menu and was passable. The hush puppies were a favorite of my in-laws, who said it reminded them of a joint called Bob Petty’s Oakwood Drive-In in Greensboro that went out of business many years ago, and I thought they were pretty good myself. There was a “white velvet” cake on the menu that was made that morning, so my curiosity got the best of me and I ordered dessert. It was a decent sheet cake, but I was a little disappointed based on the name.

Had Pappy’s Old Fashioned BBQ done some things differently, I could see it being a hidden gem of a joint just off 85 in upstate South Carolina. Too bad that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Speedy: I have nothing more to add other than to say the only reason to waste our time on this review is to warn people not to go. A microwave is completely and utterly unacceptable. Speedy’s rating: 0 hogs.

Monk (whispering): Shhh, don’t anyone tell Speedy he doesn’t really get his own ratings…

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance - 3.5 hogs
Pork – 1.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 2 Hogs

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Pappys Old Fashioned BBQ on Urbanspoon

Fire Smoke & Flavor BBQ Tour with Michael & Bryan Voltaggio: North Carolina

The Voltaggio bros stop by Wilber’s in Goldsboro as part of a barbecue tour sponsored by Williams-Sonoma. Speaking of which…

Hey, Restoration Hardware/Crate and Barrel/Target/whoever, how about you fund the Barbecue Bros official barbecue road trip? It’ll be super awesome, we promise.

-Monk

- The Charlotte Observer has a list of various road trips for Spring (including one for beer), and here is a 10-stop NC barbecue tour which includes some not-so-obvious choices

- Speaking of road trips, the latest reviews from Marie, Let’s Eat!’s NC barbecue roadtrip: The Barbecue Center in Lexington, Allen & Son Barbeque in Chapel Hill, Hursey’s in Burlington, and Short Sugar’s in Reidsville

- Bar-B-Q King in Charlotte is included as part of the history of Wilkinson Boulevard from the March 2014 issue of Charlotte Magazine

Few places are more familiar on Wilkinson than Bar-B-Q King. Follow the curved arrow of its sign, and most days you’ll see a lot full of cars. Behind the counter, a static buzz fills the room as co-owner Gus Karapanos flips on the speaker system.

“Same one we’ve had for 40 years,” he says. “People love to hear it.”  The sign, too, has been the same since Karapanos’s uncles opened the place back in 1959. Except for a few days after Hurricane Hugo knocked it down in 1989, that sign and the billboard–sized, ice-cream-eating Inuit at Dairy Queen next door have remained constants in a changing neighborhood. 

- Ed Mitchell, Sam Jones, and Rodney Scott are the pitmasters from the Carolinas in this year’s Big Apple Barbecue Block party in June

- I think I’ve seen a version of this list before, but in case you missed it Lexington comes in at #4 in this list of 10 best barbecue cities (h/t Rudy)

4. Lexington, North Carolina

Pork is the game in Lexington, a small town just an hour’s drive northeast of Charlotte, where a regional favorite is the wood-smoked pork shoulder, coarsely chopped and topped by a mostly vinegar based sauce -0 those who know their way around a Lexington grill often order it with some outside brown, which means more flavorful extra bark from the meat) and sometimes extra dip, which is just the word for the thinner sauce. Another Lexington trademark is red slaw, coleslaw that’s swapped out the mayo for BBQ sauce. There’s a lot to the Lexington scene, which is why the city throws the annual Barbecue Festival to celebrate it. For the regular season, Lexington Barbecue #1, established in 1962 and better known by locals as the Honeymonk, is the quintessential Lexington joint, widely hailed as the best in the business, always happy to help a diner out with a big plate of pork and some Cheerwine.

- Speaking of Lexington, this year’s BBQ Capital Cook-Off is April 25-26

- The Charlotte Smokeoff at Unknown Brewing is this Saturday in Charlotte:

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Name: Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen
Date: 4/3/14
Order: Hand pulled NC pork shoulder plateful with Sis Gibson’s baked beans and Aunt Faith’s homemade chow chow and sweet tea (link to menu)
Price: $19.58 (don’t worry, I got 2+ meals out of it)

Monk: If you’ve eaten some of Charlotte’s best barbecue in the past decade, chances are it is in some way owed to Dan “Boone” Gibson. Along with his friend John “JD” Duncan, he helped start the original Mac’s Speed Shop on South Blvd (which in my opinion has gone downhill since they both left) in 2005 as well as more recently a Barbecue Bros favorite Queen City Q in 2012. Now, he has struck out on his own and started Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen, a food truck that has popped up in various south Charlotte office parks in recent months.

Boone’s family recipes, which don’t necessarily follow eastern or piedmont barbecue traditions, were the basis for Queen City Q and remain the basis for his food truck. So while they do have an eastern NC vinegar sauce, a SC mustard sauce, and a rib sauce (called “PoPo,” the same name used at Queen City Q), the signature pork sauce is apparently a mixture of the rib and mustard sauces. While it is referred to as a “Piedmont” sauce, you wouldn’t find anything like it at Lexington #1. The family influence is also evident in the names of the sides (again, some of which share names with sides at Queen City Q) – Sis Gibson’s baked beans with Neese’s, Aunt Nell’s mac-n-cheese, Aunt Faith’s homemade chow chow, etc.

You can choose either a “big sandwich” with one side or a “plateful” which comes with two. I ordered the hand-pulled NC pork shoulder plateful with baked beans and chow chow. And since it would likely be a while until I made it out again, I decided I also wanted to try the brisket and sausage. Thankfully, they obliged me with a couple of slices and a link for $6 extra. After a bit of a wait, the lady who took my order handed me two heavy boxes packed pretty well with smoked meat. I opened the boxes to a very strong waft of smoke, which was heavenly. The pork was moist, tender, and smokey and pulled with large chunks of bark. It. Was. Great. I mean, really, really great. I tried the Piedmont sauce with it but really, the meat didn’t need it at all.

The brisket was smokey, sauced, and had a good tug to it. The sausage link was slathered with the mustard sauce and it complemented it well. Both were really good. So at this point, Boone is 3-for-3. The beans and chow chow were reminiscent of the same dishes from Queen City Q, which I liked back then and liked on this day. There was also a small side of chow chow that I didn’t realize came with the pork (I wouldn’t have ordered a side of it if I knew).

Some minor nitpicks – the sweet tea wasn’t sweet at all and the ordering process could have been more efficient. A few folks who had ordered before I got there grumbled about the wait, and mine took maybe 7-8 minutes. Also, some hush puppies on the menu would have been nice - although logistically that might be tough in a food truck.

So does Charlotte’s best barbecue come from Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen? That’s hard to say, and I want to be careful not to romanticize too much simply because it comes from a food truck and everything can seem like it tastes better from a food truck. I can say that it is up there in terms of pork in Charlotte, and that I haven’t tasted too much better. I highly recommend you to track it down and try for yourself; as of this writing, Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen is available on Tuesdays at Coliseum Center Building 6, Wednesdays at Carmel Crossing office park at 51 and Johnston Road, and Thursdays at 5032 Parkway Plaza (near the Farmer’s Market off Yorkmont). (Update: apparently they are also at some Sizzlin’ Saturdays at the same lot that hosts Food Truck Friday - Camden at Park Avenue in Southend)

Speedy: Monk - I’ve read the entire review and I must say I’m skeptical. I’ve never sampled the food at Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen, but I just find it hard to fathom that it’s better than current Charlotte favorite Midwood Smokehouse. (Editor’s note: Speedy is not on board with the food truck revolution)

Rudy: In Texas I have seen some great barbecue come from food trucks (i.e. Franklin’s started in a truck). But the problem I have with them is, where is the pit and how are they cooking the meat? The two best barbecue trucks in Austin have permanent locations, so they have their pits right there, but what about this one that drives around between locations? Do they cook it at a pit located at one of their other restaurants and then just serve it from the truck? I’ll be interested to hear Speedy’s review to see if Boone’s stands up.

Monk: Good questions, and ones I’ve actually been thinking about since last week. Could Boone’s simply be a rebranded Queen City Q food truck with food that he cooks at the restaurant, or has he really started off on his own? The food and sauces are similar (down to the names in some cases), but I want to believe that the meat was higher quality barbecue than the restaurant - I don’t recall the meat at Queen City Q having this much smoke. Again, I have to be careful that I’m not looking at it through food truck-colored glasses. I guess I could ask next time I go…

Speedy: Speaking of Midwood Smokehouse, I think it’s time to go re-review it. Our original review is nearly two years old, and very early in our lives as Barbecue Bros (I mean we ordered smoked turkey for Chrissakes). I think I’ve grown to love it even more since that time.

Out of respect for our bro-ness, I have to respect this review and believe that Boone’s is something special, but I will be on the lookout for this truck in order to verify the review sample some of that ‘cue.

Monk: That’s fair, and maybe if you are ever in Charlotte during the week and can take some time off for lunch we can check it out. As for Midwood Smokehouse, I’ve been thinking a re-review of it was in order anyways. I mean, c’mon - smoked turkey!?!? Yeesh.

Speedy: So then it’s settled, a re-review of Midwood Smokehouse is in order. A gentleman’s agreement…

Monk and Speedy: Huzzah!

Ratings:
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 Hogs

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bbqboard:

(via New Film Documents Alabama Barbecue)

Courtesy of the Southern Foodways Alliance, here’s a short video on Archibald’s, a joint that I’ve never been to but according to rlreevesjr is his ”last meal on earth joint”

We’re pleased to share our newest short film, Archibald’s, made by Wes Wages of Armosa Films. Head to Northport, Alabama, where you’ll meet George Archibald Jr., his sister Paulette Washington, and her son Woodrow Washington. Their family has been in the barbecue business since 1962. The tiny establishment just a stone’s throw from Tuscaloosa is famous in Alabama and beyond for its pit-smoked ribs and sliced pork butt.

If you’d like to learn more, check out our oral history with George Archibald Jr., part of the Alabama leg of our Southern BBQ Trail.

- The first three reviews from Marie, Let’s Eat!’s epic NC barbecue roadtrip last month have been posted: Red Bridges in ShelbyWink’s King in Salisbury, and Lexington #1

- As beef prices rise, more and more Texas pitmasters are turning to pork

- Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ, Grand Champions of the 2013 Q-City BBQ Competition, is hoping to crowdsource a portion of their new food truck

- Thrillist’s list of best barbecue in Atlanta

- The latest Carolina ‘Cue Restaurant featured in Our State Magazine is Bum’s Restaurant in Ayden

- JJ’s Red Hots is having a Bacon Beer & BBQ dinner on April 24 as part of NC Beer Month

- A short article on SC’s Barbecue Trail (via bbqboard)

- Mission BBQ, a military and first responder-focused Baltimore-based chain created by an Under Armour founder, opened earlier this week in Wilmington

- Another (more promising sounding) coastal barbecue restaurant, Southport Smokehouse BBQ, is opening sometime this month:

Natives of Lexington – a town some would argue is North Carolina’s barbecue ground zero – the Hemphills’ restaurant specialized in pork shoulders cooked over hickory logs “imported” from Davidson County. The pits, Elaine Hemphill said, were modeled after those at the famous Lexington Barbecue along Interstate 85 Business.

A trio of restaurateurs, Troy Knight, Jim Sparks and Ryan Salley (who will serve as pitmaster) has taken over the spot and are returning it to its roots. They’ll offer brisket, ribs and pulled pork with both Lexington-style and vinegar sauces cooked over hickory. Salley said he’ll mostly be smoking shoulders, a hallmark of the upstate variety, but would occasionally go whole hog, the more traditional method in the Eastern region.

- Scott’s BBQ is having their annual picnic on April 19 and oh how I wish I could make it back down to Hemingway for it

So about this "Serious Eats Guide to Barbecue Styles: North Carolina" video…

  • Sponsored by Arby’s Smokehouse Brisket sandwich. This is clearly a tone-setter for how fantastically well this video is going to go.
  • On comes Ed Levine, the founder of Serious Eats, who obviously read about the differences in eastern and western NC barbecue about 2 minutes before he was on camera. CLEARLY he has no idea what he is talking about. Also, has he ever received media training? His crazy hand and eye movements distract from his lack of barbecue knowledge, and that’s saying a lot.
  • Then, they bring on John Stage, whose original Dinosaur Barbecue was originally from the barbecue hotbed of Syracuse, New Freaking York, to talk about NC barbecue. He even says at 0:52 he won’t speak for the rest of North Carolina…UH YEA YOU THINK? Hey Serious Eats/Arby’s, novel idea: how about you get an actual pitmaster from NC to actually talk intelligently about NC barbecue.
  • John then begins to talk about how he loves sauce with barbecue, which is not in any way traditional to NC. Sure, we have our table sauces or dips but nothing like the thick sauce they slather on at 1:10.ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?!?!
  • At 1:29, they show several seconds of brisket being sliced. A brisket. Being sliced. VERY RELEVANT TO A DISCUSSION ON NC BARBECUE.
  • Finally, they wrap up this crapshow of a video with yet another ad for Arby’s Smokehouse Brisket sandwich. OH THAT’S JUST A PERFECT WAY TO GO OUT.

If you saw that and were worried that they wouldn’t cover your favorite style of barbecue, well worry no more. They have similarly crappy videos of NYC pitmasters talking about barbecue from South Carolina, Texas, Memphis, Chicago (huh?), and Kansas City. THANKS, SERIOUS EATS.

-Monk

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Name: The Pit Durham
Date: 3/10/14
Address: 321 W. Geer St., Durham, NC 27701
Order: Lexington style outside brown, eastern style chopped pork, beef brisket, beef short ribs, corn bread, red slaw, fried okra (link to menu)
Price: $117.64 (for four people, including drinks)

Speedy: Upon finding out that Raleigh favorite The Pit was opening a new restaurant in Durham, I started looking for excuses to check it out, as I’ve had nothing but solid experiences in several trips to The Pit. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the new Pit quite lives up to the standard.

Monk: Although the rating for The Pit in Raleigh isn’t quite up there with our highest rankings, we did have a great time there a few years back and thus I was jealous of Speedy’s trip.

Speedy: Walking in, the atmosphere is more upscale than most barbecue joints, but overall is similar to the Raleigh version. It is a bit more closed off, and our group was seated in a large dining room, which was completely separated from the bar area. Overall, the atmosphere is fine, but it doesn’t scream “barbecue” at all.

The first thing I noticed about the menu is that it is somewhat different than The Pit in downtown Raleigh. Many menu items are the same, but The Pit Durham focuses on more “family style” ordering. Also, The Pit Durham did not have the BBQ soul rolls on the menu, which was a huge disappointment as these BBQ style egg rolls might be my favorite appetizer on Earth. Our group skipped all the appetizers and ordered an assortment of meats, sides, and cornbread.

Monk: No soul rolls?!? For shame!

Speedy: When the meat arrived, we received fairly large portions of our four meats. The menu advises that these are large enough for two people, which is probably about right; however, our group was totally prepared to sacrifice our stomachs (more on that later…) to over-indulge on smoked barbecue delicacies.

My personal favorite meat was the eastern chopped pork, as I found it to be tender with just the right amount of vinegary goodness. The Lexington style pork was fine, but just didn’t hold a candle to the real stuff you get in Lexington. Strangely enough, the rest of my group (who all grew up in Eastern NC) did not think much of the Eastern style but really liked the Lexington style. To me, that really just means that you can find much better versions of either style elsewhere. I remember all of the pork being better at the Raleigh version.

Monk: Funny how that worked out…

Speedy: The brisket, I thought, was pretty good and very similar to the Raleigh version. I’ve definitely had better and as my brisket palate is becoming more refined, I’m starting to learn what great brisket is. This was not great brisket, but it’s also really easy to get horrible brisket, and this certainly isn’t that either. I would probably order this again on a subsequent trip.

As for the short rib, this order was not my idea. For some reason, short rib seems to have become the most “mainstream” of all the traditional barbecue goods, as it can be found on menus of many high end restaurants. I’m not sure I understand why. I get that the meat can be cooked such that it’s super tender, but I don’t think it holds the smoky flavor in as well as some other meats. I’ll personally take pork ribs ten time out of ten when it comes to any type of rib. All that being said, this was a pretty decent version of short rib - it’s just not something I would tend to order at any barbecue joint. So take that into account when you consider my rating - similar to “degree of difficulty” on a gymnastics routine - I’m not sure there could ever be a short rib that would earn five hogs.

Monk: I’ll be honest here, I had to look up what a short rib was. I don’t think I’ve ever had one, unless I still just don’t know what it is.

Speedy: I was a little disappointed in the sides. The hush puppies and fried okra were strong, but the barbecue slaw lacked the necessary tang and was just so-so. The corn bread was kind of bad. It looked like banana bread and just didn’t taste quite right.

Monk: Being that the Durham location of The Pit just opened last November, do you think they could still be working out the kinks any? Or maybe the slight differences in the menus between the two may just mean that Durham won’t ever be quite as good.

Speedy: The issues I had with the food didn’t really seem to have much to do with it being new. The service was fine. It just seemed like the operators made a conscious decision to make The Pit Durham different from The Pit Raleigh. In my opinion, the changes were not for the better.

Overall, I thought the meal was good, but not as good as my experiences at The Pit Raleigh. I will say that starting about three hours later, my stomach was in bad shape for about two days. I think this is likely due to my extreme over-indulgence, and it wouldn’t stop me from a return trip, but I do think it probably has affected my perception, and thus my rating. I had high expectations going in, and was left wanting a little more (in terms of quality - I had eaten plenty of food).

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs
Eastern Pork – 3.5 hogs
Lexington Outside Brown – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Short Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs

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The Pit on Urbanspoon