True BBQ – West Columbia, SC

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Name
: True BBQ
Date: 12/30/16
Address: 1237 D Ave, West Columbia, SC 29169
Order: Small barbecue dinner with hash and rice, collards, and slaw (link to menu)
Price: $13.01

Monk: Ever since reading this Garden & Gun Magazine article last year about Hite’s BBQ in West Columbia, it shot to the top of my list. Being that it’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays, I took the opportunity during my week off between Christmas and New Year’s to make the trip to Columbia specifically to check it out on a Friday, only to find this:

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Nevertheless, my other planned stop was True BBQ not more than a mile away so I decided that I would head there and would figure out my second stop later.

During my research for the quick trip, I checked Marie, Let’s Eat! (as I always do when it comes to barbecue in the southeast) and True BBQ was received very favorably by those folks so at that point it was a no-brainer for me.

Speedy: Grant actually specifically mentioned seeing you here on Instagram and being jealous. It seems he’s been a bit disappointed by the Chattanooga ‘cue…

Monk: Yea, I get that sense based on some of the latest chapters on the blog, which is too bad…

I had timed my trip to arrive in Columbia as close to 10 as possible (which ended up being more like 10:30) since Hite’s opens at 8am, but luckily True BBQ opens at 10:30 Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Seeing as how I was planning to eat another meal shortly after, I only ordered a small barbecue dinner. I’ll get the pork out of the way – it was a bit on the dry side, especially considering it was so early in the day and should have been freshly smoked. You get a choice of three sauces – the Pretty Lady mustard sauce, Sexy Lady red sauce, and Lexington vinegar sauce – and it needed it. Hopefully this isn’t the case normally.

Hash and rice is a dish that intrigues me more and more these days and at True BBQ it comes standard with every dinner along with two sides. This was damned good hash and rice and by far the best part of the meal. Next time, I may even get a double order as one of my sides. The collards were above average but the slaw was a bit of a letdown and would be my choice to be replaced by more hash and rice.

As an aside, apparently the pork chop is worth ordering since the only other customer there with me at 10:30 was raving about it to pitmaster Ernest Zanders who was back and forth between the kitchen and the smoker out in front of the building, which was the first thing I noticed pulling into the parking lot. So take that for what its worth for those who are considering ordering that item.

In addition to the pork, True BBQ has some daily specials like brisket and beef ribs that may or may not be worth checking out. But at the very least I can recommend the hash and rice. As Grant so succinctly put it, “it’s two-hundred mile hash.” Come to think of it, next time I may just go triple sides of hash and rice…

For more reviews of True BBQ check out:
Marie, Let’s Eat!
Destination BBQ
Eat It Atlanta

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Hash and Rice – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
True BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
True BBQ

The Best Barbecue We Ate in 2016

Whole hog pulled pork plate

Whole hog pulled pork plate from Buxton Hall Barbecue

Q: What was the best barbecue (new or old) that you ate in 2016?

Monk: 

  • Whole hog barbecue from Buxton Hall Barbecue, Asheville – It’s simply a revelation that you can find true eastern NC/Pee Dee whole hog in the mountains of NC. I can’t wait to get back to Buxton Hall.
  • Lamb belly from Hometown Bar-B-Que, New York – I didn’t quite know what to expect with lamb belly. It was pulled similar to their pork but had completely different flavor profile. I don’t know where else I might be able to try it again that’s a little closer to home but I want to in 2017.
  • Hash and rice from True BBQ, West Columbia, SC – Grant of Marie Let’s Eat! said it best about the hash and rice from this West Columbia joint which opened in 2011: “It’s two-hundred mile hash.”

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Speedy:

  • Brisket from B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque, Atlanta – From review: “The seasoning was amazing, and the meat was tender and juicy. Overall, this was in the upper echelon of briskets that I’ve tasted.”
  • Beef rib from Hometown Bar-B-Qu, New York – From review: “It was seasoned well, providing some bark on the outside, and was cooked to perfection – tender but not overly so.”
  • Chopped pork from Lexington Barbecue – Every year.

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Rudy:

  • Brisket and sausage sandwich from Black’s Barbecue, Austin –   From review: “And it was amazing, because the fat from the brisket was soaked up by the bun, giving it a rich moist taste. The spice from the jalapenos also gave the sandwich some great flavor.  The brisket was the same great brisket you are accustomed to getting from Black’s, as was the sausage. “

What was the best barbecue you ate in 2016?

Linkdown: 1/11/17

– A nicely written, in-depth article from Robert Moss about the uptick in whole hog barbecue restaurant openings:

– BBQ Hub breaks down the worst barbecue news of 2016

– On this episode of Charlotte Magazine’s #DiscussCLT podcast, Frank Scibelli reveals that the Midwood Smokehouse Park Rd location should open in March(ish) and they are planning to open another one in Lake Norman this year

– Speaking of Midwood, they have a new burnt ends recipe that’s more in line with traditional KC style

– Marie, Let’s Eat! checks out a “Chattanooga-style” barbecue joint called Porkers Bar-B-Que

– Congrats to The Smoke Pit on the opening of their Salisbury location

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – Atlanta, GA

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Name
: B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque
Date: 12/31/2016
Address: 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: Sampler platter (pork, ribs, chicken) add brisket, fried okra, collards (link to menu)
Price: $25

Speedy: So it’s no secret that I’ve been a little slack in my barbecue eating since moving to Atlanta. So when Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat! reached out to me letting me know he and Marie (along with their boychild) would be in town on Saturday and asking if I were interested in meeting up for a meal, I jumped at the chance. Grant and Marie used to live in Atlanta, so are very in-tune with the culinary scene, including the ‘cue. Grant suggested that we meet at B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque and after reading his review, I was pumped to check it out.

Monk: Big thanks to Grant and co for dragging Speedy back into the land of barbecue blogging. And let me be the first to say that I can’t wait to see how this visit turned out.

Speedy: I arrived mere minutes before Grant, Marie, and the boychild, and we walked in at 5 pm on New Year’s Eve to find ourselves the only patrons. Grant greeted pitmaster Bryan “B” Furman on the way in, a good sign for sure.

Monk: I’m a little shocked that you were the only folks in there, but I’m assuming that has more to do with New Year’s Eve because everything I’ve read about B’s since its September opening has been supremely positive.

Speedy: Definitely, Monk. And I think there were plenty of people there for lunch, leading to a brisket shortage. But more on that later. Walking in, B’s has an old-school feel with plenty of seating, a big outdoor space, and a counter to place the order. I could smell the smoke upon walking in – not in an overpowering way, but in a way that made my mouth water. Obviously I ordered as much meat as possible on one plate, along with collards and fried okra, while Grant went with the two meat plate (pork and brisket) with a double order of the hash and rice (bold move, Grant). The staff informed us that they were out of brisket for the day, apparently a pretty common occurrence. Our disappointment was short-lived, as pitmaster Bryan told us that he could carve some directly off the smoker for us, as long as we don’t tell anyone. (We didn’t at the time, but now you know the secret loyal readers – blogging pays off.)

The meal was delivered shortly, and we eagerly dug in. Let me say this first off – I had enough food to feed three people easily – portions were not skimpy by any means.

I’ll start with what was my favorite portion – the brisket. Being carved fresh off the smoker, I could tell we got a little extra outside (bonus!). Also, it definitely came from the point of the brisket, as it was on the fatty side. Not that this is a complaint at all – the brisket was absolutely delicious. The seasoning was amazing, and the meat was tender and juicy. Overall, this was in the upper echelon of briskets that I’ve tasted. I’m curious as to what this tastes like in a normal setting, but overall, I was really pleased with a meat that is hard to find done well in these parts.

The pork at B’s is whole hog, which is also rarely found in Georgia. The meat here was also plenty tender, but came unsauced, making it slightly dry. At B’s, there are two sauces on the table – a spicy vinegar and a peach mustard. Normally, I would immediately douse the ‘cue in spicy vinegar, but Grant just raved about the peach mustard, so that’s what I tried first. Despite my well known aversion to mustard on pork barbecue, this stuff was excellent. It’s not anything like the traditional SC mustard sauce, but is rather quite sweet without the expected tang. I ended up having a conversation with Bryan about this sauce while eating – more on that later. Of course I tried the spice vinegar as well. Adding this to the whole hog pork would let it stack up favorably to nearly anything I’ve had in eastern NC. If I had to nitpick (and I do), I would love for some cracklin’ to be included in the pork to give it a little more texture, and I feel it would be fitting given the name. But I would definitely consider the pork and brisket “must orders” at B’s.

Monk: I am shocked (shocked!) to hear that Speedy willingly tried a mustard sauce on his pork. I think this shows real growth. Well done, Speedy.

Speedy: Only  because of the recommendation, Monk. The ribs were also very good. B’s serves big, meaty dry spare ribs that have been seasoned to near perfection. They were cooked perfectly – not too tender to fall off the bone, but well enough that you got an easy, clean bite. I personally prefer baby back ribs, but I can’t say I’ve had too many spare ribs that are better. I didn’t end up adding any sauce to my ribs, but would consider seeing how the peach mustard would taste on it. Overall, though, none was needed.

The chicken was also smoked perfectly and seasoned really well. The plate came with a quarter chicken, including the wing. The skin tasted smoky and good, and the chicken was tender without being dry. As a barbecue lover, this is never my top meat choice, and it isn’t at B’s either, but it was still very enjoyable.

The sides at B’s are also quite good. The fried okra had a really tasty seasoning on it, and the collards (made with turkey) are quite flavorful. I didn’t try Grant’s hash and rice (he offered, but I stupidly declined), but it looked fantastic. I think I’ll try that out next time.

Monk: I will say, hash and rise is becoming one of those dishes that I am becoming more and more interested in. With Grant getting a double order, sounds like it’s a dish I definitely need when we go to B’s next time I’m in Atlanta. Along with everything else you ate because it all sounds pretty darn good. At the very least, we could basically get the same order and you’ll just have less leftovers.

Speedy: I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about how nice of a guy pitmaster Bryan is. He came and spoke with us for quite a while during our meal. To me, the most interesting piece was his upcoming partnership with Heinz for a mustard sauce (not the peach mustard – they wanted that recipe, but Bryan wouldn’t give it to them). Bryan said the sauce the ended up with is close, but not quite the same. He mentioned that it is a sweet mustard sauce, though (“it had to be sweet if I was going to put my name on it”). I’m looking forward to trying it!

At the end of the day, this was by far the best barbecue I’ve had in Georgia. It’s good to have a go to place to take visitors. Bryan, I’ll be seeing you again soon!

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Chicken – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs
B's Cracklin' Barbeque

Ten Underrated Barbecue Joints in North Carolina

(A version of this article was published last year on Tabelog here)

Everybody knows that North Carolina is one of the greatest states in the country to travel around eating barbecue, and there are some amazing, legendary restaurants around which have been open for decades and garnered a whole lot of press and attention, but they’re not the only ones. There are more than four hundred barbecue restaurants in the Tarheel State. Many of them are outstanding even if they fly under the media’s radar. Here are ten that should not be overlooked.

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Backyard BBQ Pit – Durham
The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, or Triangle, is the DMZ between the two styles of Carolina barbecue. In that zone, you don’t find an easy boundary between eastern and western (or Lexington-style). Such is the case with Backyard BBQ Pit, whose approach is similar to the great Allen & Son in Chapel Hill in that they smoke pork shoulders (the Lexington-style cut) served with an eastern style sauce with red pepper flakes to give it a little kick. Having been previously featured on Travel Channel’s “Man vs Food” you would think that Backyard BBQ would be mentioned more in the conversation of best barbecue in the Triangle. For some reason its not, but it definitely should be.

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The Barbecue Center – Lexington
The Barbecue Center is just two miles from Lexington #1 and doesn’t get nearly as much publicity despite the fact that its recently passed owner Sonny Conrad was the major force behind The Barbecue Festival, which draws crowds of 100,000 to the city on one Saturday each October. As for the food itself, it is a classic Lexington-style joint though its dip (table sauce) can be a little sweeter than I prefer. Having grown up on Lexington #1 I certainly have my bias, but many out-of-towners without such bias (as well as plenty of locals) have stated that The Barbecue Center is the best in town. Depending on the day, they might just have a rightful claim.

Pork, brisket, ribs, wings, brunswick stewBoone’s Bar-B-Q Kitchen – Charlotte
Dan “Boone” Gibson has his own family traditions when it comes to barbecue that don’t strictly follow the eastern/Lexington taxonomy, but you’d be silly to dismiss his barbecue right off based on that. Having had a hand in starting two Charlotte-area barbecue chains, Boone tired of that life and struck out on his own in a food truck to serve his smoked wares (pork, brisket, sausage, and ribs) directly to the people. Look for him at various food truck festivals around the Charlotte area, and you won’t be disappointed.

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Fuller’s Old Fashion BBQ – Lumberton
Heading towards the NC coast can be hit or miss when it comes to barbecue restaurants, but this buffet-style barbecue joint off I-95 is a nice find. While the buffet has salad and seafood as well as fried chicken, the wood smoked barbecue is the main feature and rightly so. Just don’t be surprised if you get there right as it opens and find a line of folks chomping at the bit to get in.

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Johnson Family BBQ – Durham
When you are greeted by a sign that states “It’s All About the Wood” and a simple smoker covered by an aluminum shed at a barbecue joint, you know that’s a good start. And oh, did I mention the joint is connected to a gas station off a country highway between Raleigh and Durham? Thankfully, the barbecue follows through with well-smoked eastern style barbecue with a higher ratio of light meat to dark served in a modest dining room covered with red gingham table cloths.

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Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte
Charlotte has been oft overlooked as a barbecue town (and usually for good reason), but Midwood Smokehouse is helping to change that perception with its focus on wood smoked meats from a variety of barbecue cuisines. While it does have an eastern carolina style pork as well as the Lexington style red slaw, Midwood draws from Central Texas in its brisket and sausages, from St. Louis in its ribs, as well as from Kansas City in its burnt ends. Throw in a full bar and you might be tempted to refer to it as “yuppie-que” but whatever you call it just know that the are serving some of the finest smoked meats in the region (the brisket is arguably the best in NC).

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Porkey’s Bar-B-Que – Mount Airy
Similar to the coastal plans of NC, once you head west of the Piedmont of NC towards the mountains the barbecue becomes very hit or miss. Which is why stumbling across a Lexington-style joint like Porkey’s in Mount Airy was a nice surprise. It may not quite measure up to the best in Lexington, but if you are exploring the nearby wineries in the Yadkin Valley you can do a lot worse than the chopped pork at this wood smoking joint.

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Richard’s BBQ – Salisbury
When it comes to barbecue, Salisbury is very much the little brother to Lexington. According to some, “Lexington style” barbecue – that is, chopped pork shoulders with a vinegar and ketchup-based sauce – may have even originated there. Richard’s is a wood smoking joint that serves coarsely chopped pork with plenty of bark mixed in. Add some nearly perfect hush puppies with the right mix of savory and sweet as well as a classic red slaw, and you’ve got a joint that competes with many of the better ones in Lexington.

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The Smoke Pit – Concord
A relative newcomer, The Smoke Pit models its barbecue and presentation after Central Texas. Order a combo platter and you get a tray of meat and sides arranged like what you’d expect in just about any joint in Austin. But with the choice to drink it with a SunDrop (which along with Cheerwine is nearly the perfect drink for barbecue), it still retains some of that North Carolina charm. Much like Charlotte, Concord isn’t known for its barbecue but I’d recommend The Smoke Pit to just about anyone in the area.

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Troutman’s Bar-B-Que – Denton
Troutman’s is the archetypal NC barbecue joint: a small, standalone wood shack off a country highway in a rural part of the state. There’s a wood pile out back, two modest dining rooms, and waitresses that take your order as soon as you find your seat. The pork is consistently moist and smokey and paired with the red slaw, hushpuppies, and a Cheerwine, it’s at a price that’s hard to beat.

What other underrated NC joints did we miss?

Linkdown: 1/4/17

– The Food Experienced blog recaps a trip to NC for barbecue, their “#1 top experience in 2016”

– Robert Moss recaps last week’s Top Chef Charleston, which featured Rodney Scott

– Eater Charleston also recaps the episode

– Rodney Scott BBQ coming

– I think I missed this back in November, but Robert Moss’s top 10 SC BBQ restaurants

– Midwood Smokeshack is #12 in Charlotte Magazine’s 25 Best New Restaurants: 2017

– I still need to check out Seoul Food Meat Co but it’s apparently doing well enough to expand in the form of a covered patio, dog park, “adult playground”, and four dedicated karaoke rooms

– Barbecue is plenty represented in Eater Charleston’s year end wrap ups: predictions for 2017, favorite restaurants in 2016,  best restaurant meal in 2016, and restaurant trends from 2016

– Preview of next week’s review:

Linkdown: 12/28/16

– A pretty extensive rundown of the BBQ Year in Review, courtesy of Robert F. Moss

– Much like Cleveland before it, New Orleans is searching for a barbecue style of its own

“The history of barbecue in New Orleans sort of parallels the relationship between New Orleans and the South,” says author Lolis Eric Elie. “We are Southern, geographically, but in terms of culture, our Southernness is rightly questioned.” In 1994, when he and photographer Frank Stewart were conducting research for their book Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country, neither his hometown of New Orleans nor anywhere else in Louisiana was included.

– South Carolina pitmaster/engineer Howard Conyers is doing a South Carolina whole hog at an event near Shreveport, Louisiana on January 29

– TMBBQ ranks all of the Texas barbecue sides, and they like a vinegar cole slaw as much as folks in Western North Carolina do with our barbecue slaw

– Speaking of Texas sides

Linkdown: 12/21/16

– Daniel Vaughn on “big city barbecue” (don’t call it “craft barbecue”)

The foundation of big city barbecue is a focus on premium quality meats, such as prime grade beef from boutique brands like Creekstone and 44 Farms. There’s a reverence toward slices of fatty brisket served without sauce. A big city meat cutter might cringe at the idea of chopping their beautiful briskets, looking down on the staple of Texas barbecue that is the chopped beef sandwich. The ribs and pulled pork (and trust me, there will be pulled pork) will likely be identified by breeds like Duroc or Berkshire. Its hard to make a decent profit, even when charging $20 per pound for that prime—or in some cases Akaushi (also known as Texas Wagyu)—brisket, so the menus are diversified with cheaper items like pork shoulder and turkey breast. You won’t find big city barbecue joint that’s a single meat specialist.

– A Pakistani website has the NC Historic Barbecue Trail on its list of best trips for foodies around the world

– A review of D.G. Martin’s book released earlier this year, North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries

– Includes brisket from Franklin Barbecue at #1

– Grant and Marie give Hillbilly Willy’s Bar-B-Que in Chattanooga another try, a place that uses Memphis-style dry rub on their ribs

– Mighty Quinn’s opens its latest outpost in…Manilla, Philippines?

– BBQ Hub has a list of whole hog barbecue restaurants across the southeast and even in Brooklyn

– The more you know