The Dixie Pig – Rock Hill, SC

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Name
: The Dixie Pig
Location: 2007 Celanese Rd, Rock Hill, SC 29732
Date: 7/20/15
Order: Pork platter with hash and red slaw, half rack of ribs
Price: Monk: $27

We’ve long ago established that we don’t trust Yelp reviews when it comes to to barbecue. However, when I come across a new joint I do admit that I sometimes use the site as a reference. After my experience at The Dixie Pig in Rock Hill, SC (4.7 stars on the site), I think I have written off Yelp even more so in terms of barbecue credibility.

On a Monday shortly after 12 noon, I walked into a small restaurant with a full lunch crowd. If the locals are packing a place in, well that’s usually a good sign. I took a spot at the bar and before long all tables and spots at the bar were filled. It turned out to be downhill from there, but I will say that the service at the bar was good at least.

I asked for the pork with the sauce on the side in the event that it came out drenched in the stuff as other plates seemed to be. The meat appeared to have been held under a heat lamp for a while prior to serving. Plus there was no bark or smoke. I peeked into the kitchen from the bar and saw a Southern Pride gas smoker in the back. You can usually coax some smoke out of a Southern Pride with some wood chunks during the process, but it was as if they hadn’t even tried that. I simply couldn’t finish my serving.

I added a half rack of ribs to my order since there was no combo platters available. The meat fell off the bone when I picked up a rib which could be indicative of boiling of ribs before cooking them. Either way, they were way overcooked and were just about on par with the pork, which is to say not so good.

Sides were a mixed bag. The red slaw lacked tang and had a weird sweetness to them (likely due to excess ketchup but that alone may not have accounted for the taste). I’m no hash and rice expert, but at least this version seemed to be ok. That and the two hush puppies that came with the platter were by far the best part of the meal.

I can only imagine why this place was so packed and had a line of folks waiting to be seated by the time I left. Smokeless, dry pork and ribs with the consistency of boiled ribs: that’s what you are in for if you stop into The Dixie Pig in Rock Hill. What a disappointing meal.

Monk

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 1.5 hogs
Ribs – 1.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs
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Linkdown: 7/22/15

– Robert Moss examines the different types of pits you might encounter in the southeastern US

– For the home smoker, here are the best smokers under $500

– The Raleigh News & Observer likes The Blistered Pig in Apex

– Johnny Fugitt profiles Smoke House in Newport, RI for Opportunity Lives

– Marie, Let’s Eat! visits Chicken Comer in Columbus, GA

– Burger Mary explains the peach paper that is all the rage for brisket smokers

– Laura Maniec has expanded her Corkbuzz wine studio/restaurant concept to Charlotte (of all places), and even has some wine pairing suggestions for NC barbecue

Okay, last question. What would you pair with classic Southern dishes like pimento cheese and Carolina barbecue — vinegar-based, of course?

Vinegar is typically hard to pair. For a vinegar-based barbecue I would choose something with the acidity to match. A wine from someplace cold, like the Willamette Valley. I think the sweetness and tart flavors of a Pinot Noir and its silkiness would match the fat of the pork. Or something like a really good German Riesling that has sweetness balanced with acidity. It would almost become a glaze to the barbecue.

– Midwood Smokehouse is expected to begin construction this fall on their latest location in Columbia, SC

– If you want to work at the upcoming whole hog Asheville joint Buxton Hall (opening in August), you can apply here; also, the last pop up before the restaurant opening is this Saturday

– Esquire has an excerpt at how to order at a barbecue restaurant from Aaron Franklin’s book

– Last call:

Barbecue Bros Book Club: The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America by Johnny Fugitt

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Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

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Monk: From October 2013 to October 2014, barbecue writer Johnny Fugitt ate at 365+ barbecue restaurants across the lower 48 United States and compiled his own rankings into a book, The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America. His rankings were not based on marketing or TV exposure or from compiling previous lists together into one mega list (as many barbecue lists tend to be), but by one man driving across the US in a Subaru judging barbecue through his own palate.

Speedy and I met up with Johnny last year in Charlotte and was able to get a private tour of the commissary kitchen of Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen where they smoke their meat and do their prep work for the food truck. We’ve continued to keep in touch with him via email and Twitter and consider him a friend of the blog. Full disclosure and all that: Johnny was kind enough to provide complimentary signed copies of his book to both Speedy and me. Though Speedy forgot and bought another one from Amazon anyways (never a bad thing to support a writer, however).

Speedy: That’s right, Monk. I was being supportive, not forgetful. Anyway, in terms of the book itself, I really like the way Johnny went about it. There’s so much subjectivity to these lists that Johnny made sure to tell the story behind why he did this in the first place, his methodology, and a little bit about each trip he took. He was very specific about both what he liked and didn’t like at each place.

Monk: As for the list itself, it’s broken up between ranking his top 25 and then the remaining 75 restaurants are unranked and listed by state. While there are some of the usual suspects on the list, there are some glaring omissions that he wasn’t able to get to (Scott’s Bar-B-Que, La Barbecue, or Killen’s Barbecue) or some that folks might scratch their head at (a non-Franklin or La Barbecue Austin pick for #1 overall, a Florida joint in the top 5, etc). But that’s ok, because that was the whole point of the book.

For NC and specifically Charlotte, I was happy to see some of our favorites represented on the list. We covered this in a previous post, but Midwood Smokehouse and Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen were both decently represented in the book – both in terms of the restaurants themselves on the unranked list of 75 but also particular dishes (brisket for Midwood and brunswick stew and sauce for Boone’s). Speedy, what were your thoughts on the list?

Speedy: As I mentioned above, I like the way Johnny went about it, but of course, I don’t agree with the rankings 100%. I think it’s a little Texas heavy and anything that doesn’t have Lexington BBQ in the top 25 (it does make the top 100), doesn’t line up with my taste completely. However, I think that’s the point. What I do like is that anywhere in the continental 48 I go, I know someone has been there before me to figure out if there’s anywhere worth trying. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Monk: Agreed. If I had any minor complaints, I would have liked to have seen full color photos, but I’m assuming that came down to a budget issue. In any case, while I may not agree completely with how the rankings shook out, I can’t fault Johnny’s hustle. Definitely a worthy read.

Linkdown: 7/15/15

– A review of Archibald’s Barbecue in Northport, AL with the choice quote “It’s painful when a giant falters.”

– Bon Apetit interviews Johnny Fugitt about his book, “The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America”

– Daniel Vaughn on the growth of Texas BBQ (as well as barbecue in general); that article also links to this great interactive infographic from the food service marketing research company who provided him data, CHD Expert

– EDIA Maps, Inc (behind The Great NC BBQ Map and the upcoming NC Beer Map) get the Charlotte Agenda interview treatment about creating physical maps in a digital world

But the biggest difference between print and digital is the physicality and the connection to a tangible object. You can’t hang a phone app or website on your wall and stick pins in it to mark all the places you’ve visited. You can stand in front of a map and look and remember and plan and dream. Our maps also create a sense of community, something we had never imagined before making them. We live in a world that oftentimes feels so detached, and maps are visible things you hold in your hands that someone sees, and it sparks a conversation over a commonality. People want to know where you’re going and where you’ve been and what you thought of it. Maps aren’t just guides; they’re memorabilia too – beautiful trip mementos that become part of your home and take you back to an adventure you had or a wonderful time making memories with people you love. They touch something deep within – a nostalgia and a wanderlust.

– Thrillist’s list of best barbecue by region

– Grant tries mutton in the latest barbecue review from Marie, Let’s Eat!

– The Tasting Table with five barbecue myths that need busting

– More on the use of the word “barbecue” and how the word caught on in the northeast in the early part of the century when they really meant “grilling”

Southerners weren’t too keen on this new definition for one of their favorite words. “Many Georgia epicures insist that this is an insult to the honorable name of barbecue,” Rufus Jarman wrote in The Saturday Evening Post in 1954. “You cannot barbecue hamburgers, roasting ears, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, or salami, and it is a shame and a disgrace to mention barbecue in connection with such foolishness.”

– On barbecue and religion in NC by way of Dickie Do’s in Haw River, from the bluegrass blog The Bluegrass Situation

– The Charleston Brown Water Society BBQ Invitational took place this past Sunday and had some famous guests

Pitmasters Sam Jones and Rodney Scott were at Sunday’s second annual Charleston Brown Water Society’s Summer Invitational BBQ, but they weren’t working the pits. No, they both drove multiple hours from their respective homes just to eat and visit. That’s how good the barbecue was.

Teams from Illinois’ 17th Street Barbecue, Tennessee’s Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, and Charleston’s own Home Team BBQ stayed up all night Saturday smoking meat and fighting mosquitos at the Holy City Brewing compound on Dorchester Road. They offered up their labors to more than 300 guests (including Jones and Scott) who lined up the next day in the hot afternoon sun to check in.

– Because why not:

Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que – Matthews, NC (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que
Location: 111 Matthews Station St, Matthews, NC 28105
Date: 6/28/15
Order: Monk: pork platter with two ribs, collards, and jalapeno cheese grits; Speedy: smoked wings, ribs platter with collards and Brunswick stew (link to menu)
Price: Monk: $17; Speedy: $20

Monk: As we’ve hit most of the Charlotte-area joints, you may start to notice that from time to time there will be some re-reviewing of joints that only one of us hit up the first time around. I went to Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que just over two years ago by myself, so I figured The Barbecue Bros should give this Alabama-style chain from Colorado another shot with Speedy in tow. Though Speedy assured me before hand that there would be no chicken and white sauce ordered by him.

It also gave us an opportunity to finally meet up with Big Wayner before he moved from the Charlotte area. Three-plus years ago as we were starting Barbecue Bros, I remember coming across Big Wayner BBQ and using it as a reference point for our blog. Wayne’s a super nice guy who is very knowledgeable about barbecue, and I wish it hadn’t taken so long for us to finally meet up with him.

Speedy: First off, let me say this. Big Wayner is the man. If I’ve met a nicer dude before, I couldn’t tell you when. If Wayner were a barbecue joint, I’d give him 5 hogs. But since he’s not, let’s talk about the real joint. I was skeptical of going to Moe’s based on previous reviews and other heresay. Honestly, it just sounded mediocre at best. However, while I was at a barbecue joint, I figured I’d order enough to understand the real deal, so I made sure to get ribs, pork, and smoked wings. Let’s start with the good: the smoked wings. These guys had great flavor, hinting at a great rub, and were cooked to the perfect level of tenderness. They weren’t too hot and overall, were very enjoyable. Moving on to the pork, however…

Monk: The pork was the saddest of the three meats we tried. It was dry and lacking in smoke and any bark or discernible flavor, even with the red sauce drizzled over it. I remember being pretty much the same way last time around and if I ever make it back I’ll go with wings or *gasp* chicken instead.

Speedy: Not so fast, Monk… the ribs were actually pretty decent. They had a nice bite, indicating they weren’t overcooked, and had a nice smoky flavor. And they were topped off with just the right amount of glaze – not over-sauced  by any means, but adding a bit of flavor. These ribs weren’t the best I’ve had by any means, but I did enjoy them.

Monk: The sides were another low point of the meal. The jalapeno cheese grits were better than average but the collards lacked taste and Speedy couldn’t bring himself to finish his Brunswick stew. The platters come with cornbread and that was merely ok.

Speedy: Overall, this was a very mediocre barbecue experience. It took Big Wayner to get me out that far into the Charlotte suburbs (editor’s note: Speedy considers everything outside of a 2 mile radius from downtown a “suburb”), and I don’t regret going, but I won’t be making any trips out that way just to visit Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que anytime soon.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Wings – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
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Photos: Midwood Smokehouse’s First Annual July Fourth Rib Eating Challenge

This past Fourth of July, I was invited to be a guest judge for Midwood Smokehouse’s First Annual Rib Eating Challenge benefiting Claire’s Army at their Central Avenue location. First off, Claire’s Army is a very wonderful charity that benefits families of kids with cancer. Here is their mission from the website:

Claire’s Army strives to act as God’s hands and feet by providing support for families fighting childhood cancer. Through an established network of resources we will support the families’ daily responsibilities, allowing them to put their time and focus on their child.

So yeah, definitely a worthy cause. I also learned at this event that FS Food Group (the company headed by restaurateur Frank Scibelli behind Midwood Smokehouse, Mama Ricotta’s, and Paco’s Tacos) supports Claire’s Army by donating (I believe) two meals per week for each family that Claire’s Army supports. Very cool. If you are interested in joining Claire’s Army and support that wonderful organization, that link again is here.

As for the challenge itself, each contestant had to eat a full rack of ribs, 10 ounce sides of mac and cheese, collards, and beans, and a half moon of watermelon within 30 minutes. The first to finish would win $1000 in gift cards to Midwood Smokehouse. Little did I know that the eventual winner, a man named Joe Mencetti who drove down from Connecticut specifically for this event, would finish in about 5 minutes destroying the rest of the competition. Brad from Unknown Brewing and another contestant seated beside Joe were not too far behind, but I’d say the rest of the 10 or so contestants were not even close.

Thanks again to Midwood Smokehouse for asking us to participate in a fun event for a great cause. I believe they aim to make this an annual event each July Fourth, and we hope to continue to be invited back to help out in any way we can.

Monk

Linkdown: 7/8/15

– Michael W Twitty with a thought-provoking piece: Barbecue is an American Tradition – of enslaved Africans and Native Americans

– How the word barbecue has “divided the coalition of the grilling”

– Friend of the blog Johnny Fugit also weighs in on how words matter when it comes to the word “barbecue”

– We linked to this article a few weeks back, but its worth another link: Tyson Ho (among others) gets a profile in Garden & Gun Magazine

A guide to barbecue in the San Francisco bay area includes the Lexington-style joint Rusty’s Southern

Sarah Fritsche: “When I first visited Lexington Barbecue in North Carolina about a decade ago, I knew I’d met my ideal kind of ‘cue. Slow-smoked pork shoulder is finely chopped, not pulled, and served with a tangy vinegar sauce and all the fixings, which include a tomato-based red slaw and cornmeal hush puppies. Happily, thanks to Rusty’s Southern, I don’t have to book a flight to N.C. to get my fix. Prior to opening their Tenderloin restaurant earlier this spring, owner Rusty Olson and chef Francis Rubio spent time with Lexington Barbecue owner Wayne Monk to learn how to re-create the unique barbecue.”

– The 10 best barbecue restaurants in Britain, for what thats worth

– There is a South Carolina Barbecue Association judging class this Saturday in Cheraw

– Grant’s latest joints on Marie, Let’s Eat!: Center Point Pit Barbecue in Hendersonville, TN and Bill’s Bar-B-Q in Hull, GA

– In a follow-up on Michael Symon and his quest to create “Cleveland-style” barbecue, Thrillist asks just exactly what it is (via)

– Smoking tips from a man who knows what he is talking about, Steve Raichlen

Micklethwait Craft Meats – Austin, TX

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Name: Micklethwait Craft Meats
Date: 6/12/15
Location: 1309 Rosewood Ave, Austin, TX 78702
Order: 1/2 Lb Moist Brisket, 1 Beef Rib, 1 side of jalapeno cheese grits, Tea (link to menu)
Bill: $32

Rudy: With a light day and some free time, I decided to make my way to Micklethwait Craft Meats, a barbecue food trailer that has received lots of high praise over the last couple of years. It has made appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live the past two years when he has brought his show to South By Southwest, plus numerous other write-ups. Plus, Mrs. Rudy had given me a gift card for my birthday, so I really had no excuse not to try it out for the first time.

Monk: Wow, good job by Mrs. Rudy. She really knows the way to her man’s heart.

Rudy: I showed up shortly before they opened for lunch and found a small line, but nothing too bad.  That seems to be what is to be expected at most of the good barbecue places now in Austin. However, once the line started moving, it took forever! This is my biggest complaint with Micklethwait, the speed at which everything seemed to move. It took about an hour to move through the 15 or so people in front of me in line (add to that fact, you are standing in the heat the entire time you wait). That might not be that bad if it weren’t for the fact that it took 15 minutes after ordering for your food to be ready. Most places cut the meat when you order and hand it directly to you, but not here. I don’t know if it is due to the lack of space or help, but La Barbecue has a similar setup and ran like a well-oiled machine compared to Micklethwait.

Even though it is a food trailer, Micklethwait has picnic tables with permanent shade constructed over it. That definitely helps with the heat while you are eating. When my food arrived, I was very hungry and ready to dive right in. First was the brisket, and it did not disappoint. It had a great bark with lots of smoke, but the meat was very juicy and tender. It pulled apart easily without a need for utensils. They offered a sauce on the side, which added to the meat, but was not needed.

In order to not have a meal of meat on meat, I next moved to the jalapeno cheddar grits. These were fantastic. They had a great jalapeno flavor and tasted of smoke, but the heat was not overwhelming. I think they were the star of the meal. They were so thick that I didn’t eat all of them for fear of filling up too much on sides.

Lastly, I moved to the beef rib. I had not ordered a beef rib in a long time, usually opting for sausage instead, and usually because of price and the sheer size of the ribs. But Micklethwait has had good reviews of their beef ribs, so I decided to give it a shot. This was a mistake. The flavoring was good, which is the reason for it getting 3 hogs, but it was way too fatty. They had also either not let the fat render long enough, or had let it sit and reset, because there were large sections of hard fat throughout the rib. You can tell from the picture that there is a big ribbon of fat that is not rendered running through the middle.

Monk: Yeesh, that is not so appetizing. So, question, upon finishing your meal, did you have any regrets in having waited so long? And where would you rank them in the Austin barbecue hierarchy. Clearly, it does not seem to be at the same level of Franklin or La Barbecue.

Rudy: The wait seemed long for how long the actual line was. And their efficiency seemed poor, especially for a place that has been established for a couple of years. One of the positives for Micklethwait is that they are open until 6:00, so you can get barbecue later in the day than some of the other places that are only open until they sell out, which is normally early. However, they do sell out of some of their meats early in the day, so they might not have everything available later. The overall quality was not on par with Franklin or La Barbecue, but the brisket and sides were still better than most places.

Overall, the barbecue was good at Micklethwait, and merits a return visit, especially because they have such good reviews elsewhere (maybe I just got a bad rib). However, I think next time I will get more brisket and try some of their artisan sausages. I also hope that their service is able to speed up, or it might not be a great option going forward no matter how short the lines could be.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance –  3 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Beef Rib – 3 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
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