Photo Gallery: Quick stop in Lexington, NC

Monk: Mrs. Monk was bringing a good friend of ours a quart of Lexington Barbecue on the way from Charlotte to High Point. However, we arrived in town 15 minutes before it opened, so to kill time I had her stop by Barbecue Center first. Speedy and I had previously checked out (and dug) Barbecue Center almost 4 years ago but I hadn’t had the opportunity to go back since.

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This is the first of three different signs that The Barbecue Center (or Bar-B-Q Center) has on its property.

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This is sign #2 with the classic Coca-Cola signage. Note the different spelling of “barbecue”.

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And finally, the iconic sign off Main Street that is the most well known of the 3. Perhaps one day I’ll devote a post to barbecue signage in and around Lexington.

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The Barbecue Center is True ‘Cue certified and has the sticker to prove it. I was surprised to see that they also accepted both Apple Pay and Android Pay.

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Sonny Conrad was a barbecue icon who owned the Barbecue Center and was one of the creators of the Barbecue Festival. Every year, he would present the first barbecue sandwich of the festival to the mayor of Lexington. Here are some festival posters throughout the years.

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Sonny Conrad passed away in 2013 and a plaque in his memory is near the register. It is now run by his sons and his entire family works there.

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I got a chopped barbecue sandwich for breakfast and it was fantastic and just as good as I remembered. As you can see, the meat-to-bun ratio is very favorable towards the meat.

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Then, it was onto Lexington Barbecue to pick up that quart of barbecue and side of red slaw we had promised our friends.

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The smokestacks were going full throttle at 10am on a Saturday morning, which is always a good sign.

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I stepped away from the parking lot because I had never taken a photo of the street sign on the way to Lexington Barbecue and snapped this photo on the way out.

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Finally, here’s my photo of Smokehouse Lane. Then, it was onto High Point.

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Until next time, Lexington!

Linkdown: 4/19/17

READ THIS NOW: This doozy of an article in this week’s New Yorker from James Beard-nominated writer Lauren Collins explores America’s most political food; it was based on a Charlotte Observer article from the awesome Kathleen Purvis on Maurice’s Piggy Park from last December

In 1964, Maurice Bessinger was the president of the National Association for the Preservation of White People. On August 12th of that year, Anne Newman and a friend drove to the West Columbia Piggie Park. They stopped outside the lot for curbside service. A waitress emerged and, seeing that they were black, returned to the building without speaking to them. Then a man with a pad approached the car but refused to take their order, even though white customers were being served. In Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., the district court asserted that “the fact that Piggie Park at all six of its eating places denies full and equal service to Negroes because of their race is uncontested and completely established by evidence,” but it concluded that the restaurants, because they were principally drive-ins, weren’t subject to the public-accommodation provision of the Civil Rights Act. When a higher court reversed the ruling, Bessinger appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming that being forced to serve black people violated his religious principles. He lost, in a unanimous decision.

– The Atlanta Journal Constitution reviews Texas-style Das BBQ; our review to come in a couple of weeks

– A sneak peek at the Juan Luis menu from John Lewis; the Tex-Mex spinoff will open in downtown Charleston later this spring

– A McRib-style sandwich made with actual smoked rib meat

– Grant tries some decent chopped beef at Hwy 58 BBQ in Ooltewah, TN

– Eater: 17 Essential Dallas-Fort Worth Barbecue Destinations

– Chef Vivian Howard’s favorite barbecue restaurants include B’s Barbecue and Skylight Inn

– Confirmation that Chef Jim Noble’s barbecue restaurant has gone mobile

– Fuller’s Old Fashioned Barbecue has reopened in Fayetteville after the original Lumberton location closed due to damage from Hurricane Matthew

– EDIA Maps is selling a NC BBQ and Beer Map combo pack

 

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – Atlanta, GA (Monk’s take)

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Name: B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque
Date: 3/31/17
Address: 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: Two meat plate (brisket and pulled pork) with hash and rice, collard greens, and cracklin’ cornbread (link to menu)
Price: $18

Monk: In the past few months, Speedy has checked out B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque in Atlanta twice and rubbed it in my face each time. Finally, I got sick enough of it and packed the Monk family in the car and made the 4 hour trip down to Atlanta just to shut Speedy up. Actually…the Monk clan just happened to be spending a long weekend in Atlanta so I arranged a lunch stop but that’s neither here nor there. And to be fair he wasn’t really rubbing it in my face per se, but it was at least a light brag that got under my skin.

Speedy: No. It was a face rub. Cause this place is awesome.

Monk: Guess my first instincts were right then….

Sitting 15 minutes west of downtown Atlanta in the Riverside neighborhood, B’s sits in an old house that used to be another barbecue joint named Hottie Hawg’s. Neither Speedy nor I have checked that place out but at B’s, you order at the bar and they bring it out to you. Speaking of bar, they do have a couple of solid beers on tap including local favorite Creature Comforts Tropicalia IPA, in which both Mrs. Monk and I both indulged. There is a decent sized patio and we tried to sit out on it but found that it was just a little too chilly in the shade on this particular late March day.

The whole hog pork at B’s is smoked from heritage hogs and was definitely the star of the show. It was served in coarsely pulled strands reminiscent of Scott’s Bar-B-Cue and was just downright excellent. Unlike Speedy’s visit, mine wasn’t on the dry side and each strand had a nice silky texture. I tried both the spicy vinegar and peach mustard sauces and while neither was essential, both complemented the pork well. Speaking of the pork, on our way out to the car, I even caught a worker carting a half of one of those heritage hogs from their annex to the main building, so I took the opportunity to snap a few photos.

Speedy: I’m surprised you don’t have more to say about the peach mustard sauce. I thought it was excellent and unlike anything I’ve had before. I’m generally against mustard sauce on pork (it belongs on sausage), but this stuff is legit.

Monk: I only used it sparingly but did think it was good. I guess I’m surprised at just how enthusiastic you are about it. 

While not quite on the level of the pork, the brisket had excellent bark and a nice tug to it. On this day, it was slightly on the dry side perhaps due to sitting under a warming lamp for too long. Still, these were darn good slices of brisket.

The side of hash and rice was excellent. If you recall, in Speedy’s review of B’s last December, Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat! went for a double side of hash and rice and after tasting, I completely understand why. This stuff was just plain great and certainly in the upper rankings of barbecue hash I’ve tried in my life. The collards were good but had a different taste than your usual vinegary greens due to the addition of a heavy dose of minced garlic. Pretty good, but I don’t know if I’d go for them again here.

Being that it’s the only bonafide whole hog joint in town and that they also smoke a mean brisket, if you are in Atlanta I urge you to make the trip to the westside and check out B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque. You won’t be disappointed.

For more reviews of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque, check out:
Speedy’s take
Marie, Let’s Eat

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs
B's Cracklin Barbecue  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
B's Cracklin Barbeque

Photo Gallery: A Free Range Pig Pickin’ with Sam Jones

For the second year running, Free Range Brewing and Order/Fire combined powers to host a premiere screening of an episode of the web series with a pig pickin’ to follow. While last year’s episode featured four NC breweries (Burial Beer Co., Fonta Flora Brewery, Fullsteam Brewery, and Free Range Brewing), this year’s episode was on Sam Jones and Skylight Inn. Sam joined the festivities and smoked a 230 pound hog the night before for the pig pickin’. The whole shindig and its $10 suggested donation for the barbecue benefited the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, so there was an abundance of reasons to make it out to Free Range on a Sunday afternoon.

The 40 or so minute episode of Order/Fire was primarily a discussion between Sam and host Mark Jacksina that took place at Skylight Inn with topics ranging from the history of Sam’s family and barbecue to his first experiences gaining exposure outside of Ayden and his involvement with the Fatback Collective. It was a casual conversation between the two, with Sam peppering in his usual mix of one-liners and idioms. The packed house enjoyed the screening and you can view it here once it is made available online.

Now the first time I tasted Sam Jones’s barbecue, it was at when he smoked a whole hog at Midwood Smokehouse’s Southern ‘Cue Supper in 2013 and the whole hog literally (actually figuratively) blew my mind. I had not yet tasted cracklin’ skin mixed in with whole hog barbecue and absolutely loved that texture. The whole thing was a “revelatory experience” I hadn’t been able to try in the 3.5 years since. That is, until this day, and it definitely did not disappoint in the slightest. I’m still thinking about that pork as I type this, as a matter of fact.

Afterwards, I made a resolution: I will visit Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ in 2017. Mark it down.

 

Linkdown: 4/12/17

– Robert Moss on “The Tyranny of Texas Barbecue”

– …and TMBBQ with the retort; claims that Moss is “jealous of neighbor’s popularity”

– The 15 pitmasters for the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party have been announced; Sam Jones and Rodney Scott represent the Carolinas

– Cuegrass ’17 takes over Davie Street in front of the Pit this Saturday for a day of barbecue, beer, and bluegrass

– Henry’s Smokehouse and the Greenville BBQ Trail Tour are in this Charlotte Five article on what to do in the SC town about 1hr 40 minutes away from Charlotte

– BBQ Hub also has a Charleston barbecue tour for the burgeoning barbecue capital

– Marie, Let’s Eat! is pleasantly surprised by some barbecue in Pigeon Forge from Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que

– The Smoking Ho went to the Houston BBQ Festival last weekend and took some great photos

– Wayne Mueller BBQ is eyeing a Houston-area location for expansion

– Don’t forget about the fried chicken

Central BBQ – Memphis, TN

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Name
: Central BBQ
Date: 3/30/17
Address: 2249 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38104
Order: Rib combo (half wet/half dry) with brisket, pork, collards, fries (link to menu)
Price: $25

Speedy: I’m writing this blog post from a Starbucks in Memphis. I had to fly in town for a client meeting, so naturally, I had to fly in early in order to sample some Memphis ‘cue for lunch. The client site wasn’t too far from Central BBQ, so I decided I would just knock out the big dog first thing and head that way for lunch.

Monk: I like the dedication. In fact, I’m thinking about naming you our new senior Tennessee correspondent.

Speedy: Thanks, Monk. It’s a position I’ll take seriously. So much so that I think a move to Nashville is in order. But more on that another time.

Walking in, Central BBQ is everything you could ever want from a ‘cue joint. You order at the counter and take a number, then go sit either inside or at their ample outdoor seating. I wasn’t overly hungry, but since I don’t travel to Memphis often, I had to go ahead and order the ribs, pork and brisket. When asked wet or dry ribs, I was also offered the choice of half and half. I went with it, despite the fact that this was before my client meeting and I was wearing a suit. That’s true commitment to you, dear reader.

Monk: Again, digging the dedication. Longtime readers know that I don’t necessarily always try all of the meats when I review a joint, only the most well-known (tiny tummy syndrome). And then to risk a suit on top of it? Well done, Speedy. Well done.

Speedy: The food was delivered shortly and I was ready to dig in.

I’ll start with the brisket, because that was the only disappointment. It was dry and lacked flavor, so just don’t order it, k?

Monk: I guess there’s a reason why Memphis isn’t known for their brisket.

Speedy: The pork was considerably better. It came unsauced, but was cooked well and perfectly tender. There was a bit of bark in it, but I wish it came with some dip on it. I did add some vinegar sauce, which was good, though I could’ve used a bit more tang. I guess that’s the Carolina boy in me. Overall, a solid offering.

The ribs, though, my god. I’ve never had ribs so good. The ribs were big and meaty, heavily rubbed, and cooked to perfection. I got an absolutely perfect bite every time, and loved the rub. You hear people talk about sweet heat with barbecue rubs all the time, but this is the first one I’ve had that really pulled it off. The sauce was also really good and balanced with the rib perfectly. If I had to choose, I’d say I preferred the dry ribs, but it’s really personal preference. I can say without hesitation that these were the best ribs I ever had, and the only thing I finished on my massive plate of food. These are ribs that I’m going to dream about.

Monk: This might be the first time we’ve reviewed truly great pork ribs for the blog and I gotta say, they sound amazing.

Speedy: I had a little bit of a tough time rating this overall, as I had one good meat, one amazing meat, and one bad meat. It kind of reminds me of Allen & Son in Chapel Hill, which had some of the best pork I’ve ever had but bad ribs. Overall, I think it’s best to (mostly) ignore what a joint does poorly if it has a bread and butter (or rather, a rib and sauce?) to make up for it. And that’s the case here.

So the moral of the story is – if you make it to Memphis, go to Central BBQ and order the ribs. You won’t regret it.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 1.5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs
Central BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Central BBQ

Linkdown: 4/5/17

– Looks like NC Governor Roy Cooper will be getting some smoked salmon, coffee, apples, and chocolate from Washington Governor Jay Inslee

– A NY Times profile on Kansas City with some great photography

– Rodney Scott was featured in a KC vs SC barbecue showdown on Late Show with Stephen Colbert

– Southern Living readers voted Carolina BBQ in Spartanburg the best in the state

– Pulled pork + Giant Hush Puppy =

– Jim Early, founder and CEO of the NC BBQ Society received the Winner’s Circle Award from Visit NC 365

– Queen City Q remains the barbecue vendor at Charlotte Knights stadium this year, and are now smoking all barbecue in-house

Barbecue smoked in-house, which had previously only been available on the catering menu, has been added at the outfield picnic area. New items offered to fans include house-smoked, hand pulled pork; slow-cooked, carved brisket; grilled hot dogs; and corn on the cob and potato salad.

– It’s not barbecue, but Bojangles is a NC institution (duh)

Rocky Top BBQ Co (food truck) – Charlotte, NC

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Name
: Rocky Top BBQ Company
Date: 3/24/17
Order: Pulled pork and brisket plate with bacon jalapeno mac n cheese and rocky top slaw
Price: $11

MonkSince the last time I tried Rocky Top BBQ Co at the 2014 Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship they’ve started a food truck and have been making the rounds at the usual food truck rallies around Charlotte. The Monk clan and I checked out the new family-friendly Cotswold Food Truck Rally on a recent Friday night which afforded a good opportunity to check out the truck to see how it compared to the sandwich I had in a festival environment last time around.

Rocky Top graciously allowed me to get a plate of both brisket and pork, which wasn’t on the menu. The pulled pork was moist and somewhat smokey but nothing spectacular. Rocky Top BBQ Company has their own line of sauce that is sweet and vinegar-based, and it works pretty well with the pork.

As for the brisket, it was rather disappointing. In my two slices, the fat was not rendered all the way and outside of the first bite the rest were tough and unpleasant.

The lady taking my order said they were “kind of known for” their bacon jalapeno mac n cheese, and to her credit it was the best part of the meal. The mayo-based slaw was just fine but nothing more than that.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with Rocky Top BBQ Company on this night.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – N/A
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs

Friday Find: Rien Fertel talks Wilber’s Barbecue

Also known as the other feud from Fertel’s book “The One True Barbecue” (our take here). In the chapter on Wilber’s Barbecue in the book, Wilber happened to be off work for his 83rd birthday (an extremely rare occurrence) so Fertel ends up spending his time with one of the pitmasters Keith Ward who goes by the name of “Pop”. During his time with Pop, Fertel notes a division of race between the white-owned restaurant and its white front of the house staff and the pitmasters and kitchen who tend black. This has been disputed by Wilber himself. In any case, Fertel speaks to his approach to writing the book at this appearance at Flyleaf Book Store in Chapel Hill last year as well as the supposed feud with Wilber Shirley.

Monk