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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Name: Heirloom Market BBQ
Date: 6/27/14
Address: 2243 Akers Mill Rd., Atlanta, GA 30339
Order: Spicy korean pork with kimchi slaw, and brunswick stew (link to menu)
Price: $12

In advance of a recent long weekend to visit friends in Atlanta, our original plan was to go to Fox Brothers but after I consulted with Grant of Marie, Let’s Eat! on Twitter (who then wrote a funny letter to Mrs. Monk) we decided that Heirloom Market BBQ would be a better way to go. Not that Fox Brothers wouldn’t have been good (especially since Mrs. Monk and I could have used a beer or three after a 4 hour drive with a sometimes fussy 15 month old), but it probably wouldn’t have been as representative of Atlanta as Heirloom Market seeing as how Fox Brothers is a Texas-style joint.

Heirloom Market is located at the opposite end of a convenience store and doesn’t offer much in the way of seating other than an outdoor deck that is standing only. Diners can also take respite in the tent over a long rectangular table or in the shade next to their mobile smoker, as some did on this slightly steamy late-June afternoon. Also out back is the smokehouse, into which I periodically saw a worker carting pallets of split logs for smoking.

The spicy Korean pork comes in chunks as opposed to pulled or chopped. The platters come with a substantial bun so folks can make a sandwich with a portion of the meat and then finish the rest with a fork. I piled on the kimchi slaw and a little spicy korean sauce called “KB” and the resulting sandwich was a revelation. I hadn’t tasted any barbecue like this before, with the smokiness of the pork from the wood smoke mixing with the spicy korean sauce and the crunchy kimchi slaw. There are no words to express just how fantastic it was.

I was also able to taste both the regular pork and the brisket from Mrs. Monk and my buddy Jimbo. Mrs. Monk didn’t come close to finishing her pork platter, so naturally I obliged in helping her do so. I found it to have nice smokiness, good bark, moist texture. The brisket had a Texas-style black bark, but was a tad on the dry side that day. Still, both were fantastic albeit maybe a level below the spicy pork.

I already mentioned the kimchi slaw I had with the bread, and my second side was Brunswick stew; I’m not a huge Brunswick stew fan but “when in Georgia,” I figured. Though honestly, hot stew didn’t make a lot of sense on an hot day in June when I was already sweating due to the spicy pork, even if the stew did have chunks of smoky pork and obviously not frozen veggies. Worth getting, but preferably during the cooler months or if you take it back to home or work in AC. I also tried some of the collards, which were also quite good.

Even though I left a little bit sweaty due in equal parts to the spicy sauce as well as the fact that we found a spot on the deck where there wasn’t much shade, I left very satisfied. Maybe during our next trip down to Atlanta we will make it to Fox Brothers, but it was clear to me that we made the right choice in choosing Heirloom Market BBQ this time instead.

-Monk

(For another review of Heirloom Market BBQ, check out Marie, Let’s Eat!)

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Spicy Korean Pork - 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Brisket - 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Heirloom Market BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Name: Home Team BBQ
Date: 6/16/14
Address: 1205 Ashley River Rd., Charleston, SC
Order: Three meat platter (brisket, pork, ribs) with red rice and collards (link to menu)
Price: $18.25

I had heard a lot of great things about Home Team BBQ and owner/chef Aaron Siegel, so knew I had to check it out when I went with the fam to Charleston for a week. A recent Esquire article only confirmed my desire to check it out. A lazy afternoon presented the perfect opportunity to check it out with my Dad and Bro - two guys familiar with good ‘cue.

Upon arriving, I really enjoyed the atmosphere. Home Team has both indoor and outdoor seating and also has a nice bar. You order at the counter, and both the meat and the sides are sitting in steam trays and ready to be pulled (with the exception of the ribs, which are cut in the back). I found this to be a little bit of an odd presentation, and I’m not sure it helped the quality of the meal.

Digging in, I thought the pork lacked flavor - it was definitely moist (thanks to the steam trays), but I couldn’t really taste any seasoning or smoke on the meat. A lot of places like to “let the meat speak for itself” but I think truly great ‘cue needs to have that smoke flavor and a good rub only enhances it. The brisket was similar - moist, but in need of sauce. Home Team has several sauces - I stuck with the hot red - which helps, but overall, I was a little disappointed in the pork and brisket.

I had higher expectations for the ribs and while those lofty expectations weren’t quite met, I did enjoy them. I was first surprised that they were spare ribs, as I’d expect America’s best ribs to be baby back ribs, which I generally find to be more tender. The spare ribs were presented dry, and had a fair amount of seasoning, which I enjoyed. The ribs were fairly tender, and I did enjoy them, but best ribs in America, they are not.

The sides, on the other hand, were excellent. The collards were perfect and the red rice was enjoyable. The Bro said that the baked beans (which I didn’t sample) were the best he’d ever had, so that’s high praise. There were no hush puppies on the menu, which is always a disappointment, but each platter did come with corn bread muffins, which were also very good.

Overall, the meal at Home Team was a little underwhelming. So much so that I decided to walk around the building looking for a wood pile, as I didn’t think the food tasted wood-smoked. I did find said wood pile, so I think maybe the stream tray hid the smoke flavor. I don’t know much about the Charleston BBQ scene, but I think on my next trip, I’ll check out a new place instead of a return to Home Team BBQ.

-Speedy

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 Hogs

Home Team BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Name: R.O.’s Bar-B-Q
Date: 6/14/14
Address: 1318 Gaston Ave, Gastonia, NC 28052
Order: Minced bbq pork sandwich, hush puppies, half sweet/half unsweet tea (link to menu)
Price: $9.86

After Kyle Fletcher’s, Mrs. Monk was cool with us checking out R.O.‘s Bar-B-Q while we were in Gastonia. Because frankly, we don’t make the trip from Charlotte to Gastonia all that often (slash ever), so might as well take advantage of it. Well me, not so much her; she stayed in the car.

I won’t say it turned out to be a mistake, because at the very least I was able to cross another joint off our list. But it was not even close to being good.

The menu board at the register listed an “oven roasted pork” sandwich, so at least there were no illusions whether or not this was true barbecue. I ordered a barbecue sandwich, hush puppies, and slaw, only to be told that the slaw came on the sandwich. Cool, I thought, since the sides were all a la carte and the hush puppies alone were $2.25 on their own.

Little did I know that the “slaw” that comes on the sandwich is a sauce of what appears to be a thousand island and diced cabbage. Had I known, I would have asked for it on the side. It more or less made the sandwich inedible for me. I had maybe 3 bites before wrapping it back up to throw away.

At least the hush puppies were good - in fact, they were better than the ones we had just had at Kyle Fletcher’s. By far, the best part of the meal.

There must be something that keeps the folks coming to R.O.’s Bar-B-Q since it originally opened in 1946, but I’m not sure what it is. If you are looking for true barbecue in Gastonia, don’t come here. Their version of barbecue is some mutant hybrid that doesn’t fit the definition of traditional barbecue in any way. If you are looking for a good value, you probably shouldn’t come here either. My total was nearly $10, which was more than my meal at Kyle Fletcher’s, and for far less food. That being said, if you are looking for something you haven’t eaten before and likely won’t see too many other places, feel free to check out R.O.’s Bar-B-Q.

-Monk

(For another review of R.O.’s, check out Marie, Let’s Eat!)

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2 hogs
Pork – 1 hog
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 1 Hog

R.O.'s Bar-B-Cue on Urbanspoon

R O'S Barbecue on Foodio54

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Name: Kyle Fletcher’s Barbecue & Catering
Date: 6/14/14
Address: 4507 Wilkinson Blvd, Gastonia, NC 28056
Order: Small barbecue plate with hush puppies, slaw,  baked beans, fries, and sweet tea (link to menu)
Price: ~$8

First off, I’d like to apologize to Speedy for going to Kyle Fletcher’s without him. Ever since they beat one of our favorites, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge, in the championship round of the Charlotte Observer’s Best Barbecue in the Charlotte Area bracket year, we had discussed checking it out together. Unfortunately (for Speedy, not me), for Father’s Day Mrs. Monk decided to surprise me with a quick trip to Gastonia for lunch. So you see it was out of my hands.

The parking lot to Kyle Fletcher’s is a bit of a maze to negotiate, but we were able to find a spot without too much hassle (leaving would be a little trickier). We arrived at 11am on a Saturday, with the smokers are going full blast at the rear of the building, creating a smoky haze in the parking lot. So far so good. 

Skipping ahead a little bit, you will see below that I gave the atmosphere 1 hog. That is because I am an NC State fan, and the walls and tables in Kyle Fletcher’s look like Dean Smith and Charles Kuralt collectively threw up on them (i.e. they are covered with UNC memorabilia). The only reason why I didn’t give it 0 hogs was because they did have one NC State baseball jersey on the wall towards the back.

We were able to sit right away but had we arrived 30-45 minutes later we would have been waiting for a table. There were also quite a bit of pick up orders that day. Based on what I saw, the Gastonia locals certainly seem to love this place.

Which is why it was a little unfortunate that while the pork was smoky with a good amount of bark mixed in, I found it to be a bit dry. Using the table dip - a reddish vinegar concoction which I understand is neither an eastern nor Lexington style dip - helped but the texture a bit was still a bit dry nonetheless.

At this point, I must mention that the portions here were huge. Both Mrs. Monk and I got a small plate while we ordered a kids meal for the Monk-ette. Well, as it turns out, the small plates (served in cardboard trays) were really large and the kids plates are average size. I can only imagine the size of the large plate and the giants who must eat them. It was a great value for the money, that’s for sure.

Each plate also comes with hush puppies, slaw, and fries. All were the definition of average, and none particularly stood out except maybe the hush puppies. Still, it was a lot of food for the money.

It would be an understatement to say that I expected more from Kyle Fletcher’s. I can’t see how this place was named the winner of the Barbecue Bracket by the Charlotte Observer panel of judges, unless those folks had a vastly different experience than I did. In fact, Speedy, I would gladly check this place out again with you just to see if this visit could have been an anomaly. That is, if you aren’t still holding a grudge.

-Monk

(For another review of Kyle Fletcher’s, check out Big Wayner BBQ)

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 1 hog
Pork – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs

Kyle Fletcher's BBQ & Catering on Urbanspoon

Fletcher's Kyle BBQ & Catering on Foodio54

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Name: Midwood Smokehouse
Date: 5/26/14
Location: 1401 Central Avenue, Charlotte, NC
Order: Pig Out Combo Platter (chopped pork, beef brisket, St. Louis style pork ribs, and hickory smoked sausage), bbq slaw, bbq baked beans, and hush puppies (link to menu)
Bill: $31

Speedy: Happy two year blogaversary, Monk!

Monk: And a happy blogaversary to you too, Speedy! What is the present for a two year blogaversary? Bacon?

Speedy: Might be a little early for that. Let’s call it the hushpuppy anniversary.

Anyway, Monk and I have a few spots in our Charlotte that are kind of go-to spots for a nice barbecue meal. We probably frequent Queen City Q and Midwood Smokehouse the most, but I’d probably consider Midwood Smokehouse my favorite in Charlotte. When Monk recently moved a food truck ahead of the Smokehouse on the Charlotte Big Board, I thought it was time for a re-review. The reasons for the re-review are two-fold: 1) our initial review was completed shortly after starting the blog (I mean, we ordered smoked turkey for chrissake), and I think Midwood itself has improved, including adding their awesome burnt ends to the menu full time (or so we thought).

Monk: To clarify, they do have burnt ends on the menu full time but they don’t allow you to choose that as one of the meats in the combo platter we were ordering. Which didn’t matter anyways, because they happened to be out of them that night. Undeterred (well, mostly me, not so much Speedy), we chose our four meats for the Pig Out Combo Platter - chopped pork, brisket, sausage and St. Louis ribs. No smoked turkey this time!

Speedy: I’m not sure if my take on this meal was colored by the lack of burnt ends, but the overall experience was not as good as I was expecting. The pork is very good, but I remember it having a considerably smokier flavor. Don’t get me wrong - you could still taste the smoke, but it used to be the smokiest pork I’d ever tasted, which I actually liked. The brisket was actually better than I remember. Monk and I ordered a mix between fatty and lean, which was a mistake. The fatty brisket was awesome, and included a really nice bark, but the lean was pretty dry. It’s still among the best brisket that I’ve found in NC, but shying away from the lean is the right play.

Monk: Fatty is definitely the way to go, and I agree that the brisket has improved considerably in the two years since our last official review. I may go as far as to say it just may be the best brisket in Charlotte. Although after eating a few slices I noted to Speedy that it seemed a little dry only to realize that was because he had taken all of the fatty slices! Et tu, Speedy?

The sausage had a nice snap and great flavor, but I assume that it’s not made in house. I haven’t heard or read otherwise so can’t be sure, but in any case it’s still a very solid sausage for North Carolina. Ribs are less so my jam than Speedy, but they had a good amount of tenderness and provided the right amount of tug, not falling off the bone with each bite.

Speedy: Rating barbecue restaurants can be hard. This was certainly not the best meal I’ve had at Midwood Smokehouse, but that’s what separates the good from the great. Overall, this was a good meal from a very good joint. But I just can’t say it was great…

Monk: We experienced this last fall at one of our favorite joints ever, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby. We went in fully expecting a slam-dunk 5 hog review but that particular experience didn’t measure up, so we just couldn’t do it. Still, Midwood Smokehouse is our favorite brick and mortar barbecue joint in town, and I think I can speak for Speedy that we would highly recommend it to anyone looking for good and occasionally great barbecue in Charlotte.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket - 4 hogs
Sausage - 3 hogs
Ribs - 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 Hogs

Midwood Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Midwood Smokehouse on Foodio54

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Name: Ed Mitchell’s Que
Date: 5/26/14
Address: 359 Blackwell St, Durham, NC 27701
Order: Chopped whole hog and brisket combo platter (off menu) with collards and fries (link to menu)
Price: $16

Speedy: I’ve previously declared my love for Raleigh’s The Pit, so I was pumped to hear Ed Mitchell return to the restaurant world with his new restaurant Que (Monk note: It should be noted that Ed Mitchell was gone by the time we visited The Pit in 2012; Speedy note: It should be double noted that I had previously eaten at the Pit when Ed Mitchell was still there - it was just pre-blog.). A work outing to a Durham Bulls game afforded me the opportunity to give it a try (the restaurant is right next to the stadium).

Monk: Also worth mentioning is that Ed Mitchell has a barbecue stall inside the Durham Bulls stadium as well, and I’ve heard on at least one occasion of Mitchell himself working the stall during a ballgame, although that was before Que opened.

Speedy: Walking in, the restaurant has a very modern feel. I didn’t venture too far in, as the bar is there to greet you right as you walk in. It definitely does not look like a stereotypical ‘cue joint, but the upside to that is the awesome beer and whiskey selection. I quickly bellied up to the bar, ordered a beer, and picked up a menu.

Monk: I’m already so in on this place…

Speedy: I knew I wanted to try both the whole hog and the brisket, but unfortunately, a combo plate isn’t on the menu. However, I didn’t even have to play the blog card (would that work???) to convince the bartender to let me order it.

Monk: I can see it now…”but, but, but…I have a barbecue blog and need a combo plate so I can properly review!”

Speedy: As is my custom, I asked if the slaw was mayo based and passed on it when I found out that it was, opting for collards and fries instead. The food came out quickly, and it turned out to be a considerable portion, so I dug in.

At this point, I need to make a confession: I like eastern style chopped pork as much as Lexington style.

Monk: This is honestly the first time I’ve heard you say anything about this. And frankly, I’m shocked. I like eastern a lot but it plays second fiddle to Lexington in my book. Although tasting Skylight Inn’s barbecue at Midwood Smokehouse last fall has me reconsidering. I can only imagine that Ed Mitchell’s might help the case for eastern as well.

Speedy: Ed Mitchell’s pork was nearly perfect. Chopped finely, with the awesome tang of a great vinegar sauce. The one inherent problem with whole hog is the lack of bark relative to Lexington style, and while I did notice that, it did not take away from my enjoyment. There were two dips provided on the table, but I didn’t touch either - there was just no need to.

Monk: And that’s exactly why I will almost always prefer Lexington - the amount of bark created by cooking shoulders, and the inherent smokiness and flavor that comes with it.

Speedy: Rudy is fond of saying the Texas barbecue joints use sauce to cover up bad brisket, so I was a little concerned when this brisket came out slathered in sauce. I don’t think that it was the case that the sauce was really needed, as the brisket had good tug and seemed plenty moist. It wasn’t the best brisket I’ve had, but it was still very good and I easily finished my entire plate.

The collards were very good. They tasted like good southern collards are supposed to and had little bits of bacon thrown in for good measure. The fries were also good, but I would’ve prefered to see fried okra on the menu. That’s getting pretty nitpicky, but I don’t have much else bad to say about the meal.

Overall, this was one of the top barbecue experiences I’ve had in a while. I really loved Ed Mitchell’s Que and can’t wait to go back.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 Hogs

Ed Mitchell's Que on Urbanspoon

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Name: la Barbecue
Date: 5/17/14
Address: 1200 E. 6th St., Austin, TX 78702 (link to menu)
Order: ¾ pound of brisket, ½ pound of ribs, 1 sausage, side of potato salad
Price: $30

Rudy: After spending hours in the classroom, minutes in the library, and many thousands of dollars earning a graduate degree, what’s the only thing I wanted to do on graduation day? Go pick up great barbecue instead of going to pick up my degree.

Monk: Congratulations on all that learning, Rudy!

Rudy: I have been hearing great things about la Barbecue for well over a year, but haven’t had the time to go wait in the line (much shorter than at Franklin’s, but still a line). So I figured this would be as good of an occasion as any.

la Barbecue was originally established LeAnn Mueller who is the granddaughter of the famous Texas pitmaster Louie Mueller. She has moved on, and in her place John Lewis has taken over, keeping the name and raising the level of barbecue that’s produced.

It still operates out of a trailer, but it has set up permanent residence, so they have plenty of picnic benches and shade tarps. They opened at 11:00, so I got there at 9:30 hoping to snag a good spot, which I did, 3rd in line. As the line grew, everyone sat on the picnic benches creating a makeshift queue. Adding to the atmosphere was the offering of free beer on weekends. Let that sink in, free beer, not some bread for the table as a freebie. FREE BEER!

Monk: Uhhh wow, best idea ever. Who is going to bring this idea to NC?

Rudy: la Barbecue is known for their massive beef ribs, but I decided to opt out of that and try as much of the other meats as possible. When I got up to the front to order, Lewis (who was taking the orders and cutting the meat) handed me a piece of brisket to try. This is a dirty trick, because I immediately upped the amount of brisket that I was planning on ordering. I started with the brisket, which was amazing. It was so juicy with a great amount of smoke and crust. They served two different sauces with it, but I have no idea what those even taste like because the meat was perfect by itself. La serves thicker slices than many of the other places, and that helps to keep the pieces super juicy.

Next I moved on to the ribs, which were the best I’ve ever had. Very meaty, super moist, and extremely tender. The problem that I have had with most ribs is that they are usually tough or they don’t have much meat. These had a similar rub to the brisket, but they also had a glaze that had just a hint of sweetness and spice. They were perfect.

The last meat that I had was one of their sausages, which they called “Hot Guts.”

Monk: Hot guts? Sounds appetizing…

Rudy: This was the least impressive meat I had. The link that I had was a bit dry and a bit disappointing. They make their sausage in-house and make it from 100% beef, which causes some of the dryness, but it was still more than I cared for.

I also ordered a side of their buttermilk bacon potato salad. It was better than most efforts at potato salad, but it still wasn’t anything to write home about. What’s still my complaint about Texas barbecue is that they put so much time and effort into cooking the meat, and then put little effort into the sides. Most places offer the same ones, which means I usually just end up ordering meat.

la Barbecue pitmaster John Lewis has completely mastered Texas barbecue. For my money, this is the best in Austin. This shouldn’t come at any surprise, because Lewis’s first job as a barbecue cook was to help Aaron Franklin open Franklin’s. He then cooked for them for 2 ½ years before taking over la Barbecue and transferring what he learned at Franklin’s and adding his own touch. It doesn’t have the hype that Franklin’s does, but it also doesn’t have near the line. When you are weighing taste and length of wait, it isn’t even close.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4.5 Hogs (Half Hog bump for the free beer)
Brisket – 5 Hogs
Ribs – 5 Hogs (because 6 isn’t allowed)
Sausage – 3 Hogs
Sides – 3 Hogs
Overall – 4.5 Hogs

La Barbecue Cuisine Texicana on Urbanspoon

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Bonus photos after the jump

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Name: Southport Smoke House
Date: 5/22/14
Address: 1102 N Howe St, Southport, NC 28461
Order: Lunch portion pork and brisket, small red slaw, and sweet tea (link to menu)
Price: $14.51

Like Duke’s Old South BBQ in Leland, Southport Smoke House is another joint by the coast that is cooking over wood. Based on what I’ve read online, it looked fairly promising so we took the ferry from Fort Fisher across the Cape Fear River to Southport so I could check it out for myself (Mrs. Monk opted not to have barbecue for the second day in a row - pfft).

On the website for the restaurant, it claims to have “the finest wood smoked bbq this side of Texas” which is just a weird thing to say in North Carolina. But the restaurant definitely does have a Texas bent to it - in addition to pulled pork it has brisket, sausage (labeled as “Kreuz” in the restaurant so possibly shipped in from Lockhart), and ribs on the menu.

Had the sausage not already sold out (at 12:30 on a Thursday, which is kind of impressive), I would have gotten it as well as pork and brisket for my lunch that day. Instead, I stuck with just pork and brisket and although they don’t have a combo plate, the lady who took my order suggested I just get lunch portions of the two meats. Done.

I could taste the hickory wood smoke in the pork, particularly the bark, but it was a tad bit dry. Southport Smoke House has several house sauces available (with a sign promising more to come), so I tried the pork with Lexington (of course), Eastern, and “NC Tangy.” The Lexington sauce came off best for me, with the Eastern coming second, and the NC Tangy barely registering. Whatever the case, although the pork had good smoke it  definitely needed some sauce, whichever one the eater may have preferred.

The brisket was sliced (or chopped if you prefer) to order and had a slight smoke ring as well as a decent tug to it. It also wasn’t completely overdone, so it had that going for it. The restaurant had only been up and running for a little over a month at the point where I visited, but both the brisket and the pork showed a fair amount of promise.

The red slaw was a decent Lexington imitation and not too much more to be said about it. Southport Smoke House doesn’t offer hush puppies, which again is a more Texas way of doing things, and instead each dish came with a couple slices of Sunbeam sliced bread. I think its a shame they don’t offer hush puppies and I’d love to see them on the menu eventually.

Southport Smoke House only opened back on April 18 and I would imagine that they are in some ways still working out the kinks. However, like the pork and brisket, the restaurant itself shows a lot of promise and I’d love to check this place out in another 6 months or year once they really get going. Definitely a joint worth keeping an eye on.

-Monk

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

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Name: Herb’s Pit B-B-Q
Date: 5/29/14
Address: 15735 U.S. 64, Murphy, NC 28906
Order: Chopped Bar-B-Q plate with fries and hush puppies (link to menu)
Price: $9.99

Speedy: Monk and I have been talking for a while about trying to hit up every spot on the Historic NC Barbecue Trail. It’s a lofty goal, but one made even more difficult by the presence of Herb’s Pit BBQ, which sits just outside of Murphy, NC, which is literally as far west as you can go in the state. So when a six hour drive to Nashville popped up on my schedule, I couldn’t resist the urge to make it an eight hour drive in order to check out Herb’s. So first things first - if you want to go to Herb’s, you will be driving two hours out of the way. It is in the middle of nowhere.

Monk: What a soldier for the cause. Mad props to you, Speedy. I thought this would be the last place we would get to on the trail. And that it would be in like 2018.

Speedy: Anything for our readers, Monk. I knew this barbecue was going to have to blow me away for me to ever eat it again. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

When you walk in to Herb’s, it’s set up sort of like a Cracker Barrel, with a small country store in the room with the register. When I got there, the restaurant was basically empty, so I went and sat myself. The dining room is large and would seat plenty, and the tables are fairly nice. Herb’s also has a salad bar, which is a first for me at a ‘cue joint. I didn’t bother to peek at the salad bar, and if you want to know how it is, you’re reading the wrong site.

Monk: …or are Mrs. Monk.

Speedy: Monk - you and I both know she doesn’t read the site.

Monk: True… *sigh*

Speedy: Anyhoo, opening the menu, I saw quite a few other food options - steaks, burgers - as well as a variety of barbecue goodness. Surprisingly, Herb’s cooks brisket, ribs, and chicken in addition to the standard pork. Normally, I would’ve ordered everything, but I was by myself and was not super hungry (a poor excuse, I know),

Monk: Hey, that’s called pulling a Monk!

Speedy: …so I stuck with the staple - the chopped BBQ plate. I asked the waitress whether the slaw is mayo based, and it is, so I didn’t bother to order it. Let’s just assume I tried it and found it to be terrible. Instead, I went with fries and hush puppies, which is fairly standard for me.

I was surprised by the amount of time it took for the meal to arrive. I actually took this as a good sign, thinking it means the ‘cue was reheated over fire as opposed to sitting in a warmer all afternoon (I was eating around 2:30, so missed the lunch rush).

Monk: Or as opposed to being reheated in a microwave.

Speedy: I was served a generous portion and was excited to dig in. The pork was actually quite good. It had great smoke flavor, was very tender, and included plenty of bark. It was not dry at all (read: no heat lamp) and probably didn’t need any extra dip. However, in an effort to try the dip provided on the table, I did add a generous portion about halfway through my meal. This was a mistake. The dip was just too sweet. It definitely could have used more vinegar and something to give it some heat (I’d prefer red pepper, but just throwing some Texas Pete in there would’ve done wonders). I don’t want to say it ruined the pork, but it was not an improvement. Overall, though, I was impressed with the pork on the plate.

Monk: The pork sounds good (sans dip of course) and based on your description, I can see why Herb’s was included on the Historic NC BBQ Trail (even if it is in BFE NC). You get that smoke by cooking over wood.

Speedy: The hush puppies were another story - they were not good. Maybe it was due to over-frying, but I just didn’t think the flavor was there. The fries were pretty good - thick cut steak fries - but overall, the sides were not impressive.

The pork was very good, and if you do happen to be passing through Murphy, Herb’s is worth a stop. I’m curious whether their other meats are as good as the pork - I suspect they are, as Herb’s seems to cook things the right way. However, the inconvenience of the location likely means this will be my one and only visit to Herb’s.

(For another review of Herb’s, check out Marie, Let’s Eat!)

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 3.5 Hogs

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Herbs Pit Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

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Name: A & G Bar-B-Que & Chicken
Date: 5/21/14
Address: 800 S Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
Order: Pork BBQ chopped plate with cole slaw, yam sticks, hush puppies, and sweet tea (link to menu)
Price: $10

I don’t really have high hopes when it comes to barbecue at the beach. Even still, as soon as I passed A & G Bar-B-Que & Chicken in Carolina Beach, I knew that I would be checking it out at some point during our week-long stay at nearby Kure Beach, and after a few days it was time to finally do just that to escape the monotony of honey baked ham sandwiches at the house.

Unfortunately, it was no surprise to me that the barbecue itself wasn’t all that great. The meat itself lacked smoke and was clearly cooked in a gas or electric smoker, possibly not even one where you can add wood chips to approximate smoke. Also, the texture of the coarsely pulled chunks was fairly mushy. And once I added the house made sauce, in each bite the meat was overpowered by the vinegar.

The hush puppies come with each barbecue plate and were simply ok but weren’t as sweet as I’d prefer. The cole slaw, on the other hand, had too much sugar and was far too sweet. For my second side, I decided to try “yam sticks” which are more or less like deep fried cheese sticks, but with mashed yams instead of mozzarella cheese. I have to admit, they were just kind of weird.

A & G Bar-B-Que & Chicken is located in a small roadside shack with both window and sit-down service, and in addition to barbecue they serve fried chicken and seafood. Next time I go, I’ll probably forgo the roast pork they call barbecue and go one of those routes instead.

-Monk

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

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A & G Barbecue & Chicken on Urbanspoon