Name: Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen
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!
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 Hogs
Name: The Pit Durham
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).
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
Name: Elwoods BBQ & Burger Bar
Address: 16139 Lancaster Hwy, Charlotte, NC 28277
Order: Classic Carolina Pulled Pork plate with cornbread, hush puppies, red slaw, and sweet tea (link to menu)
I never ate at the previous incarnation of Elwood’s Barbecue & Burger Bar (then simply known as Elwood’s BBQ) but from what I can tell I wasn’t missing much. Then last fall it was purchased by a couple of brothers-in-law, one of which was a former manager at Ri-Ra, who then hired a chef who previously worked at Burger Co. As I understand it, they immediately began to overhaul the menu and improve the quality of food.
But before I get to the food, Elwood’s interior is nice and generically rustic with a good array of televisions. With a solid beer list in tow, I imagine this could be a pretty good place to watch a [insert favorite sport here] game. In addition to wings and various burgers on the menu, they have barbecue in various forms - pulled pork, brisket, chicken, ribs, and burnt ends. Naturally, I ordered the pulled pork with hush puppies and red slaw.
The pulled pork came out in a mix of slightly dry and more moist shreds of pork. My order had decent pieces of bark (a welcome sight) that to my surprise had decent smoke. Very unexpected, considering there were no signs of a stick burner in the middle of this restaurant on the end of a strip mall. There were two pork sauces on the table: a “Piedmont” vinegar” sauce (which if we’re nitpicking was really an eastern-style vinegar sauce) and a non-traditional “Elwood’s” sauce that was tomato and vinegar-based with a special blend of spices. Of the two, the Elwood’s sauce worked best with the pork for me.
The menu states that all sides are scratch-made in house, which I can certainly appreciate. The hush puppies automatically came with a side of honey butter, which I am always happy to see. The red slaw had an off-putting brownish tint to it and had a slightly unappealing texture, so I did not finish it. Each plate order comes with cornbread, which was a little redundant with my hush puppies order but it was a nice, sweet-ish little muffin that I didn’t mind.
So Elwood’s Barbecue & Burger Bar exceeded my somewhat (and perhaps unfairly) low expectations going in. If it weren’t all the way in south Ballantyne I could see myself maybe going again in the right circumstances. As it stands, it’s an average barbecue restaurant for Charlotte.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs
Name: Lancaster’s BBQ
Address: 9230 Beatties Ford Rd, Huntersville, NC 28078
Order: Bar-B-Que pork dinner with slaw, brunswick stew and Sun Drop (link to menu)
By my count, Lancaster’s BBQ is the fourth Charlotte-area barbecue restaurant that serves Eastern NC barbecue (including Midwood Smokehouse, Bill Spoon’s, and Bubba’s). I promise our dear readers that I will stop being surprised by other barbecue styles in Piedmont-located Charlotte because according to Tom Hanchett, a historian at the city’s Levine Museum of the New South and expert on Southern food, “it is a city of newcomers and we have other people’s barbecue.” In any case, I visited the Huntersville location of Lancaster’s last week because I had not had barbecue in the month of March and I was tweakin’.
If you go to Lancaster’s I pray you aren’t annoyed by NASCAR and NASCAR memorabilia. Because it’s literally everywhere. Next to my booth was a car engine, which I had the good fortune of staring at during my meal.
On this Friday, they had a pork barbecue plate special which includes 2 sides and a drink and represents a pretty outstanding value considering the meal is usually $10.75 on its own. Picking that with bbq slaw and brunswick stew as my sides, it wasn’t but 3 minutes later that I had a plate in front of me. Bonus points for quickness.
The pork was moist and fairly tender but had little smoke, even in the pieces of bark in my coarsely pulled plate. The two sauces on the table were a vinegar, eastern sauce and a heavier ketchup-y barbecue sauce. I stayed away from the heavier sauce but the vinegar sauce complemented the meat pretty well. Too bad about the lack of smoke, though - likely due to the pork being smoked in a gas or electric smoker.
Even before you order, you get a basket of hush puppies and mine were fresh out of the deep fryer and once I happily let them cool off, they were great - probably the best part of the meal. As for the sides I ordered, the “bbq slaw” wasn’t the Lexington style slaw its name would indicate but made in the eastern style of the pork with mayo and a little mustard. The brunswick stew needed salt but at least the veggies didn’t taste like they were originally frozen. They did have Sun Drop from a soda fountain, so props on that.
Lancaster’s BBQ has another location further north in Mooresville, but I won’t be rushing there any time soon. If for some reason I happen to be in the area (unlikely), maybe I will check it out since it’s a quick meal with friendly service.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 Hogs
Name: Jake’s Good Eats
Address: 12721 Albemarle Rd Charlotte, NC 28227
Order: Pit smoked barbeque plate with white slaw, Texas toast, pasta salad, Yuengling (link to menu)
While not a true barbecue joint, Jake’s Good Eats is a southern restaurant that serves barbecue among other southern staples like fried bologna, fried flounder, and meatloaf. It is housed in an old historic Gulf gas station and has been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” so there’s that.
Now I don’t normally find myself in east Charlotte outside of 485, but I happened to be buying a bicycle via Craigslist nearby and had 30 minutes to kill. Naturally, I can’t help myself if there’s even a chance of barbecue (just ask my wife), so I stopped in to try it and have a beer.
The barbecue is eastern style with a slight kick but I found it to be too moist, almost as if it was cooked in a crock pot (whatever it was cooked in, its definitely roast pork). It certainly wasn’t cooked in a smoker, because there was zero smoke to it. Other than the slaw (a white slaw at that), the other sides weren’t really barbecue sides but were average.
It may seem harsh to judge Jake’s Good Eats based solely on its barbecue, but that’s kind of what I do. If I were judging it as a whole, I would be much more favorable as it does have a lot of things going for it in a part of Charlotte that (I’m assuming) doesn’t have much of a food scene. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend going solely for the barbecue.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2 Hogs
Name: Mighty Quinn’s
Address: 103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003
Order: 1 lb pulled pork, single serving brisket, single serving sausage, single serving spare ribs, slaw, sweet potato casserole, burnt end baked beans, and a growler of Lagunitas Pilsner (link to menu)
Price: ~$94 (for four)
In the middle of NYC’s East Village, there lies an honest-to-goodness barbecue joint that cooks over wood - breathe in the glorious smoke when you enter and check the stack on the shelves as you wait to order - and on a snowy winter night after (several) drinks with friends, Mighty Quinn’s was the perfect suggestion. I first heard of Mighty Quinn’s when it was named one of Steven Raichlen’s 10 Best BBQ & Grill Restaurants of 2013 (fun fact from that article: it is co-run by a former Wallflowers drummer), so naturally when my wife booked us a trip to NYC for my birthday I knew I wanted to get there..
Mighty Quinn’s has a fast casual set up and after entering the restaurant, patrons line up at the end of the narrow-ish 65 seat room. From there you work your way down the cafeteria-style line, ordering meat first before sides and finally beer (being able to order growlers is a stroke of genius). There are plenty of meat options to choose from and in addition to what we ordered you also have the choice of burnt ends, a brontosaurus rib (at nearly 2 lbs, it is recommended for two), wings, or a half chicken.
The pork has a nice bark and is pulled freshly in front of you as you order but is then unfortunately automatically doused with their house sauce which is vinegar-based but is sweeter than nearly any sauce you’d find in North Carolina. I liked the pork a lot but would definitely order it with sauce on the side next time.
The brisket is sliced to order as well, and as you would expect you can get lean, fatty, or both. An order of both was a little more fatty than I would expect but the brisket had a good tug to it and a nice peppery bark.
The sausage was spicy, had a nice snap, and was really good. The spare ribs were tender, didn’t fall away too easily from the bone, and had good flavor. All of the meat was really well smoked and moist and I would recommend any of what we had. Each meat order includes your choice of a picked add-on of either cucumber, celery, red onions, or chiles.
The sides generally kept pace with the meat. While not traditional barbecue sides, the sweet potato casserole with maple and pecans was outstanding and the broccoli slaw was actually quite good. The baked beans were solid and you may even get to see the carvers adding burnt ends to the beans after slicing brisket orders. Apparently the edamame and pea salad is really good, but we didn’t choose that one (seriously, they don’t really do traditional barbecue sides here).
I had a great experience at Mighty Quinn’s. While it bills itself a “Texalina” joint combining the barbecue traditions of both Texas and North Carolina, after visiting I really consider it to be more of a Texas-style joint (as most NYC barbecue restaurants seem to be). Nevertheless, I can’t recommend it enough if you are looking for proper barbecue in the city without having to make the trek out to the Brooklyn joints.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 Hogs
Name: Richard’s Bar-B-Que
Address: 522 N Main St, Salisbury NC 28144
Order: Chopped barbecue plate with hush puppies, slaw, macaroni and cheese, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
While not exactly known for being a barbecue town, Salisbury is home to not one but two barbecue joints on the NC Historical Barbecue Trail (as well as M&K Barbecue in nearby Granite Quarry). It is also the original home to the finest (non-alcoholic) beverage to enjoy with barbecue, Cheerwine (sorry, sweet tea).
Richard’s is in an unassuming building tucked on Main Street in downtown Salisbury. Inside, Richard’s smallish interior nearly smacks you in the face with its southern country decor while old school country music plays in the background (well, before the switch to the 70’s station for the lunch hour, anyways).
The pork was a nice mix of bark and shoulder that was slightly coarsely chopped (apparently due to being hand chopped). My serving had good tenderness and moistness with a fair amount of smoke. The table sauce was more of a spicy thin sauce than you would expect to find in the Piedmont but complemented the barbecue just about perfectly.
The hush puppies were some of the largest ones I’ve seen at a NC joint but also some of the best. Several of them had visible onions when you bit into them which might have normally turned me off a little bit except for the fact that they were an almost perfect mix of savory and sweet. The slaw had visible diced tomatoes, a first that I’ve noticed, but otherwise was a classic red slaw. The less said about the mac and cheese the better.
I previously stated that despite doing things the right way, fellow Salisbury joint Wink’s was not quite worth pulling off 85 and you should continue onto Lexington if you have a hankering for real barbecue. While Richard’s Bar-B-Que certainly doesn’t match Lexington, I would be more inclined to stop over there than I would Wink’s. They both cook barbecue over wood, but Richard’s has the red slaw and the slightly spicy thin sauce, giving it the edge in my mind if you want barbecue in Salisbury.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3.5 Hogs
Name: Blue Ox Barbecue
Address: 1505 Town Creek Dr., Austin, TX 78741
Order: ½ pound of pulled pork (link to menu)
Rudy: I’ve been putting off writing this review for a while, because I didn’t think it would be fair, but after my last review of Live Oak, I think I am ready. Blue Ox Barbecue is a new food truck that is located in the enclosed back yard of Buzz Mill Coffee off East Riverside in Austin. There have been lots of these barbecue food trucks popping up that are opening to great reviews. I’ve been trying to get to more of them, but the cold weather hasn’t made visiting a food truck a high priority (not sure the 100 degree summer will be any more appealing).
The enclosed yard that Blue Ox is located in has a small stage where live music can be played as well as plenty of picnic benches for seating and even what looked like a homemade skeeball game. Lots of personality, a fun atmosphere, and pet friendly.
Unfortunately when I went to order, they had already sold out of everything but the pulled pork. This seems to be a recent theme that I have run into lately, where I’m arriving after most everything is gone. I’ll freely admit that I have purposely avoided ordering pulled pork in Texas because I’m afraid it is not going to be NC barbecue. But since I was already there, and I had no other options, I figured I would give it a go. And in a word, it was…fantastic!
Monk: Pulled pork? In Texas? Oh, this should be good…
Rudy: Well, they never tried to make it NC pulled pork. No, this was pulled pork Texas-style. The main staple of Texas barbecue is black pepper, and heavy doses of it. The outside of the meat has a bark that is built up and provides a tremendous amount of flavor in each bite. So, think NC pulled pork with a brisket bark, that’s what we were dealing with. They served it with a thicker tomato-based sauce which complimented it well, but wasn’t really needed because of the flavor of the seasoning.
I’m not quite ready to say it, mainly because it could be blasphemy, but this pulled pork could be the best I’ve had…
Monk: Alright, alright, alright…I’ve let this go on long enough. While the idea of pulled pork with a brisket-y bark sounds intriguing, let’s not get carried away here. It may be good, but it can’t compare to Lexington Barbecue (aka the gold standard) can it?
Rudy: I have hesitancy with saying it, so I know you don’t want to hear it. Maybe being away from NC for a while has made me forget some of the gloriousness that is Lexington Barbecue. I definitely need to have it again before I could think of saying that, which leads me to my ratings. I have to give Blue Ox an incomplete, because I only had the pulled pork and wasn’t able to try everything (or at least as much as I wanted). But it was a very fortunate occurrence, because if they hadn’t been sold out of everything else, I never would have tried the pulled pork. Unlike Live Oak, where I felt confident giving it a rating, because I was also confident that I didn’t want to go back, I am giving Blue Ox an incomplete until I can return, which I hope to do shortly.
Atmosphere - 3 Hogs
Pulled Pork - 4.5 Hogs
Overall - Incomplete (for now)
Name: R&R Bar-B-Que
Address: 755 Pitts School Rd NW, Concord, NC 28027
Order: Engineer’s BBQ Plate with red slaw, onion rings, hush puppies, Cheerwine and a Peppermint Patty (link to menu)
Yet again, we have another barbecue restaurant cooking eastern-style barbecue in Lexington country (in addition to Bill Spoon’s and Bubba’s). This time it’s R&R Bar-B-Que, a railroad themed barbecue restaurant in Concord.
And boy, do they keep with the railroad theme. The wood paneled interior is filled with railroad memorabilia, photos, paintings, and even a couple of tracks with electric trains hooked to the ceiling (a la the old Ham’s in High Point). A little kitschy, but endearing enough.
On this particular Friday, I arrived smack in the middle of the lunch rush and the restaurant was packed to the gills. It took a little bit for the waitress to finally come and take my order (though she was very nice and apologized for the wait) and to me, it looked like they could have stood to have another waitress or two working during lunch.
It also took a little while to get the food once I placed my order, again likely due to the lunch rush. The plate finally arrived and though the pork was tender enough it lacked smoke and bark on the pork, likely due to the use of a gas or electric smoker. The hush puppies came in a coffee filter and were more savory than sweet, but were well cooked. Curiously, both white and red slaw are available on the menu, so of course I opted for the red slaw, which was finely chopped and surprisingly good for a so-called eastern-style restaurant. The onion rings were pretty standard.
R&R Bar-B-Que has a sign off I-85 which I must have passed hundreds of times and noticed but paid little attention to it. I can’t recommend visiting during lunch unless you don’t have to get to anything pressing, as the meal took about an hour total from seating to paying the check. The staff was friendly, the food was decent, but if you are passing by the Poplar Tent Rd exit on I-85 looking for true barbecue feel free to keep on driving.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 Hogs
Name: Live Oak Barbecue
Address: 2713 East 2nd St, Austin TX 78702
Order: ¾ pound of moist brisket, tea (link to menu)
Rudy: “I hope you want brisket”
Monk: Wait, wait, wait a minute…is that really Rudy? The prodigal Barbecue Bro has returned!?!?
Rudy: …yes Monk, I’m still here. Just been a little busy. Anyways…
That was how I was greeted when I entered Live Oak, and as a matter of fact, that was exactly what I was in the mood for. Which was a good thing, because they had sold out of everything else by the time I had arrived. This was the 2nd time I had attempted to eat at Live Oak. The first time, they were sold out of everything.
Walking into Live Oak, you feel like you are in an old hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint. Picnic tables with rolls of paper towels on them, chalkboard menu, and tea and lemonade in a plastic ‘serve yourself’ stand. It feels like barbecue and it smells like barbecue, so I had high hopes for the brisket. I was sorely mistaken. The cut that I got was from the end of the brisket, which is normally the best part because of all the flavor that you get from the bark. But there was no flavor. It just tasted like burnt meat. There seemed to be no seasoning whatsoever added to the meat. Add to the blandness, much of the meat tasted dry. This was not the experience that I was expecting, especially with how often and how fast they tend to sell out.
Monk: Interesting. Normally, selling out of meat is a good sign for a joint…clearly that didn’t seem to be the case here.
Rudy: I did not get any sides, because the only one they had was baked beans, and I am not a baked bean fan. So, I’d like to say that this review is only a partial review and that I would need to go back to give a full opinion. However, with all of the great places nearby to get great barbecue, I can’t see justifying going back again after the brisket that I had.
Monk: We received a reader question a few months back asking if we go to a place three times before reviewing, and the long and short of Speedy’s answer was: “Hell naw, I ain’t got time to waste with bad barbecue.” Seems like that applies here.
Rudy: I agree. I think it depends on how much promise (if any) you see in your first visit. Do you need to put your hand on the hot stove 3 times before you realize it’s a bad idea? The best thing going for Live Oak is their atmosphere. Not just inside, but they also have plenty of outside seating on 2 patios. It would be a great place to go on a warm day with friends to enjoy barbecue. But you might want to get there early, otherwise you might get stuck with some disappointing brisket.
Atmosphere - 3 Hogs
Brisket - 1 Hog
Overall - 2 Hogs