Linkdown: 9/17/14

- Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor of Texas Monthly, is definitely the right man to write an article about being “meat drunk”

You’re experiencing a rapid heartbeat, flush cheeks, and a sweaty brow. All are symptoms of overindulgence, but not of the alcoholic kind. Rather than an elevated BAC, the cause might be a high that even a teetotaler can get. You’re getting meat drunk.

- Speaking of Texas Monthly, their annual barbecue fest was this past Sunday and it looks like it was a blast (more photos here and one blog’s top 5 bites here)

- The title says it all: “For traditional Carolina barbecue, a trip to Lexington, NC is a must”

A tanked economy winnowed down the joints, but not the residents’ passion for barbecue shoulders. That’s what makes Lexington barbecue different: Many pit masters have tried the typical ribs, beef briskets, turkey and chicken, but few now offer them except on a few days a week and on special occasions.

“Ribs never caught on in Lexington,” Yountz said, adding that he also tried beef brisket but found it too wasteful and the novelty soon wore off for his customers.

- The latest entries in Tyson Ho’s How I Built a Barbecue Restaurant in Brooklyn series looks at the interior decorating on a dime aspect and standing before the community board

- Elizabeth Karmel (aka Grill Girl) has left Hill Country to start Carolina Cue To-Go, an “online barbecue shack” that will offer whole mail order whole hog barbecue; it goes live on 11/1 (via @BBQsnob)

But after more than a decade focused on Texas-style food, it is time for me to go back to my North Carolina roots.  I have partnered with a childhood friend to form an online “Barbecue Shack” that will sell traditionally smoked Eastern Carolina whole hog barbecue nationwide.  My whole hog is inspired by my long-time barbecue buddy, Ed Mitchell, and it will be sauced with my signature Lexington-Style Vinegar Sauce.  In my opinion, it will be the best of what North Carolina has to offer.

- More coverage on the Great NC BBQ Map

- The Carolina/Texas barbecue joint Curly’s Carolina, TX Barbecue in Round Rock, TX closed last Sunday

- Barbecue Rankings made his way back through NC last week

- Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples visits Skylight Inn

This is eastern North Carolina, so the hogs started whole and then got chopped into hunks. At the Skylight Inn, cracklins intermingle with the meat.The occasional crunch is entirely intentional. The pork doesn’t need accompaniment, but a bath in the thin, vinegar-based sauce produces an entirely different flavor explosion.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue – Kansas City, MO

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Name: Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue
Date: 7/26/14
Address: 101 W 22nd St, Kansas City, MO
Order: Burnt ends appetizer, BBQ combo lunch with crown prime beef rib and sliced brisket (link to menu)
Price: ~$30

Speedy: I recently took a trip to visit a college friend in Kansas City, so of course had to check out the barbecue while I was there. We unfortunately had a fairly packed schedule, so waiting in line at Arthur Bryant’s or Oklahoma Joe’s wasn’t in the cards, but fortunately, there’s plenty of ‘cue to choose from in the city. Going in, I had never heard of Jack Stack, but if the smell outside was any indication, I was in for a treat.

Jack Stack isn’t your old school barbecue joint – and by that I mean there’s a hostess and waitresses. It definitely has a more modern feel. There are pros and cons to this – mostly that you can buy beer, but the barbecue generally isn’t quite as good. It’s a tough trade-off to make, but I happily ordered a local brew upon seating.

The menu at Jack Stack is pretty diverse, so I was pretty happy when our group decided to order the burnt end appetizer, meaning I could try something else as my entree. I was surprised to see on the menu that they offered beef, pork, ham, and sausage burnt ends, as I had only heard of beef (which is what we ordered). I’d be curious to know other people’s experiences with non-beef burnt ends.

The burnt ends came and were gone very quickly. They were served with a spicy and non-spicy sauce, but I’m a man so I only had the spicy. It was really, really good. Overall, the burnt ends were pretty good but not the best I’d had, which was a little disappointing. I was hoping to have been blown away. I would like to have had a little more bark to the meat, but overall, it was enjoyable. It’s worth noting that I would be thrilled to have these burnt ends in NC, but I don’t think they are better than what you can get at Midwood Smokehouse.

The brisket came sauced, which my man Rudy says is a bad sign. I don’t think it was used to cover old brisket, because there was a good tug to it – just not quite as much smoke as I’d like. In NC, this brisket would be considered good to very good, but in Texas (and I’m assuming Kansas City), it was just average.

The beef rib, however, was another story. It was fantastic. I flip flopped over ordering it due to the additional $8 cost, but am glad I did. It was amazingly tender, had great flavor, and was by far the highlight of the meal. I thought it came damn close to the best beef rib I’ve ever tasted (at Black’s Barbecue). This is definitely the order if you come to Jack Stack.

I honestly don’t remember anything about the sides, so I’ll leave that as an N/A. If you care, then you’re reading the wrong site.

Monk: So what’s the final verdict? Did you regret not being able to wait in line at one of the more well known joints or were you pleased with this taste of KC barbecue? I also want to point out that this is the first official Barbecue Bros review in Mizzourah.

Speedy: I do. If I get the chance to go back to KC, I definitely want to check out one of the more known places. To me, I feel like if there’s great ‘cue there, the wait would be worth it. Overall, it was a good meal, but I did expect a bit more.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Beef rib – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 Hogs
Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue on Urbanspoon
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Linkdown: 9/10/14

The 20 most ridiculous NFL stadium foods includes the Hogmolly from Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers (though technically Charlotte is not “in the heart of whole hog country”)

The Hogmolly, created for Panthers GM Dave Gettleman and inspired by his nickname for “linemen of girth.” Sliced smoked brisket, tomato BBQ sauce, fried onions, pickled jalapeno, and cole slaw. It’s called a Hogmolly, so why isn’t there pork? And why are they featuring brisket in the heart of whole hog country? So many questions.

- The 85th Mallard Creek Barbecue Festival and the Q City Barbecue Championship make Creative Loafing’s 5 food events not to miss this fall

- The East-West Barbecue Fest was held in downtown Greensboro last weekend

- A short profile on Lexington, NC barbecue and five of its 17 or so barbecue joints

- The latest Smoked column on eater takes a look at Black’s Barbecue; here’s our review (along with Kreuz Market) if you are so inclined

- Speaking of Black’s, their soon-to-be-opened Austin location is hiring

- Marie, Let’s Eat! visits Chuck’s Barbecue in Opelika and Price’s Barbecue House in Auburn during a recent trip to Alabama

- Big Wayner checks out Ubon’s Bar-B-Que and Catering in Yazoo City, Mississippi

- Thanks for the shout out, Barbecue Rankings!

- This awesome 12″ x 18″ print made in South Carolina is on sale from Huckberry (sans frame); if you aren’t a member feel free to join using this link and get $5 credit

Lexington Barbecue – Lexington, NC

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Name: Lexington #1 Barbecue
Date: 7/23/14
Address: 100 Smokehouse Lane, Lexington NC 27295 (link to menu)
Order: 2 large chop trays, 1 chopped plate, 1 chopped sandwich, side of hushpuppies, 4 Cheerwines
Price: $50 (for 4)

Rudy: Ahhh, reunited and it feels so good. The whole Rudy clan made a summer pilgrimage to North Carolina and got to enjoy some barbecue with Speedy and Monk. Seeing y’all was fine and everything, but being reunited with great Lexington Barbecue was really the best part.

I feel like there was a bit of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ aspect to NC style barbecue. I’d been eating brisket, sausage, and ribs for so long, that I had forgotten about how great a plate of chopped pork can be.

Speedy: And what better place to reunite than consensus Barbecue Bros favorite, Lexington Barbecue aka Lexington #1 aka Monk’s Place aka Honeymonk’s aka heaven. Some of you may be thinking, “Speedy – how can this be the Bros’ favorite when you haven’t been there in the two plus years you’ve had the blog?” Well, loyal readers, the reality of it is that rarely does a month pass by when I don’t figure out a way to get my hands on some of this delicious chopped pork, but we had to have all the Bros reunited for this review.

Monk: That’s true – I can attest that Speedy brings home a pint of chopped pork from Lexington Barbecue regularly (I am usually a beneficiary of such a trip). Even though Speedy and I live but an hour away from Lexington we knew that for the official review we needed to wait until Rudy was back in North Carolina. And yes, it somehow took over two years for us to arrange to all be in Lexington at the same time. When it comes to a plate of chopped pork, Lexington Barbecue is our gold standard.

Rudy: Absolutely it is.  There is so much flavor to the pork.  It is tender and moist.  The thing I liked most about it was that it already came sauced, so it had plenty of flavor and didn’t force you to try and figure out how much you needed to put on it. It is obvious from the flavor (and from the smell outside) that they are using real wood pits as opposed to gas or electric smokers to cook.  This makes a tremendous amount of difference in the flavor.  I was all ready to put Texas brisket above North Carolina Pork, but Lexington #1 is giving me lots to think about.

Speedy: I couldn’t agree more, Rudy. The pork is absolutely perfect. It’s not smoked by man – it’s smoked by God through man. There’s no other way to put it. It has the perfect amount of bark mixed in with the smoky, savory pork. It’s all shoulder, so there is consistency from bite to bite (which you don’t always get with whole hog), and it’s just damn good. Lexington does keep a spicy dip and Texas Pete on the table, which can be added for a little heat, but it’s certainly not necessary. The tang, the hint of sweetness, the tenderness – it could not be any better. And probably my favorite thing about Lexington barbecue is the consistency. These guys have been doing their thing for 50+ years, and it shows. I’ve never had a single bite of chopped pork there that wasn’t absolutely divine, and this trip was no different.

Monk: The barbecue slaw at Lexington is what Speedy and I always compare slaw to when we go to a NC joint. It is a perfect mix of tangy and crunchy. The hush puppies are darn near perfect, and to top it off, we each ordered a Cheerwine with our meal. Rudy, how good was it to have a Cheerwine with barbecue once again?

Rudy: Don’t even get me started on how great it was. Texas has a red soda too, called Big Red, and it is terrible. People say it tastes like a red creme soda or even bubble gum, but either way I say it is not good. When you have Cheerwine and sweet tea (also rarely served in Texas) on the menu, I’m going to give you a big bump in rating. That and being able to walk around back and see the wood burning into the smokers were the coolest parts of Lexington #1’s atmosphere.  Other than that it seems like a basic barbecue joint. So if there is going to be any knock on Lexington #1, it would be the atmosphere. That’s not really the most important part of a restaurant, the food is, and they nailed the food.

Speedy: We went in expecting this to be a slam dunk 5 hog experience, but we’ve been disappointed before. Not this time. The meal at Lexington #1 was absolutely perfect. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – if you want barbecue, be it eastern, western, Lexington, Memphis or Texas, this is the gold standard, top of the mart meal. Everything else is just trying to play catch-up.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Lexington Barbecue on Urbanspoon
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Linkdown: 9/3/14

- This posted just after last week’s linkdown so is a little old by now, but The New York Times spends 36 hours in Charlotte and gives props to Midwood Smokehouse

8. ‘Cue & Brew | 7 p.m.

Charlotte has never been known as a big barbecue town, but Midwood Smokehouse’s pitmaster and executive chef, Matt Barry, seeks to change that with this noisy, popular restaurant. Mr. Barry cooks his chicken, pork and turkey over North Carolina hickory in a computer-controlled smoker. His hand-pulled, chopped pork is lightly covered with a vinegar-based sauce. The chicken is tossed with a delicious house or mustard sauce. Texas-style brisket is smoked for 12 to 14 hours, and is delicious dry or slathered in sauce (barbecue plates run $8 to $15). Pair with collards and baked beans and chase with a Red Ale from NoDa Brewing Company ($5).

- Speaking of Midwood, they are bringing barbecue into the 21st century with its new online ordering app

- The folks behind the Great NC BBQ Map have 5 tips for planning a barbecue tour

- Marie, Let’s Eat! visits Wiley’s Championship BBQ in Savannah, GA

- This showed up in our timeline recently even though the original article is from July 2012, but in any case here’s Rodney Scott’s BBQ Mixtape featuring a mix of rap, hip hop, and funk

- Here’s how to make the Korean-Southern ribs a la Heirloom Market BBQ

- Eater Austin spends a day with John Lewis of la Barbecue (via)

- Short interview on barbecue and grilling tips with Hugh Mangum of Mighty Quinn’s BBQ (via)

- The NC Barbecue Trail is in good company on this list of other trails worth visiting which include cheese, bourbon, and beer

- The NC BBQ Association is looking for judges for the Q City Charlotte Championship in October:

- Slaw is the most distinctive food in North Carolina, according to this infographic:

What you’re looking at isn’t the most popular food by state. It’s the food that most distinguishes them from the rest of the pack.

From Co.Design

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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