Monk: Marc Russell and Adam Cunningham are the guys behind Longleaf Swine, the Raleigh food truck that will be opening a brick and mortar store at Transfer Co Food Hall. The NC F&B podcast hosts Max Trujillo and Matthew Weiss get the origin story of how and why Marc and Adam got into barbecue and also get some details on their upcoming food stall, including what the bar will likely look like (think shots and PBR).
Description: Raleigh is up in smoke! Esquites (Mexican street corn) on the side of a classic double patty burger done on a flat top with American cheese and dill pickles all on a potato bun. Hungry yet? I haven’t even talked about BBQ yet. Adam Cunningham and Marc Russel are fusing Eastern North Carolina, Texas and Kansas City BBQ’s all in one. As if melding different BBQ cultures wasn’t enough, these mad-bbq geniuses introduce latin flavors (barbacoa) into their whole hogs, smoked meats and sides. We nerd out on BBQ, why you have to use a flat top to cook burgers, how to use smokers inside. You can listen to this now and go experience it all soon at Longleaf Swine BBQ inside the Transfer CO food hall!
Name: Noble Smoke Date: 8/24/19 Address: 2216 Freedom Dr, Charlotte, NC 28208 Order: The Miss Mary Platter (1 lb brisket, 1 lb pork, 1 rack ribs, 1 lb turkey, red slaw, coleslaw, pickled veggies), 12 wings, hush puppies (link to menu) Pricing: $$$
Monk: In 1919, the first Lexington-style barbecue stand was set up across the street from the courthouse in Lexington, NC by Sid Weaver. Shortly after, Jess Swicegood set up his own stand and both businesses thrived to the point of building permanent restaurants. Eventually, they would go on to train Warner Stamey in the ways of Lexington-style barbecue, and he continued to spread that gospel all over the Piedmont of North Carolina to owners who would go on to open such famed joints as Bridges Barbecue Lodge, Alston Bridges Barbecue, Lexington Barbecue, and Stamey’s own namesake restaurant, Stamey’s Barbecue.
Exactly 100 years later and 60 miles to the south in Charlotte, Chef Jim Noble has finally opened up his passion project restaurant in the form of Noble Smoke, continuing the Lexington-style barbecue tradition (though he does offer a variety of smoke meats). Everyone knows Noble as the chef and restaurateur behind higher-end restaurants like Noble Grill, Rooster’s, and King’s Kitchen, but a Lexington-style barbecue restaurant has been 25 years in the making.
Speedy: Monk and I got to spend a couple hours with Noble before the restaurant opened and, though we didn’t get a chance to sample anything, I left that meeting confident that the man knew his ‘cue and had a true passion for it, so I was more than excited to sample the goods. The space Noble built is fantastic – rustic but refined, with ample seating, a large bar, a nice outdoor space, and a brewery joining next door.
Monk: For our group of 5, the Miss Mary Platter was the perfect order as it gave us a chance to try just about all of the meats and in the right quantity. At the time of our visit, Noble Smoke still hadn’t fired up the brick masonry pits that were styled after Lexington Barbecue, so our pork was smoked in one of the six large offset smokers occupying the smoke room. As he is doing across the board, Noble is using high-quality ingredients (which you pay for, as the platter was $88) and in this case its Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork. On this day, the pork wasn’t quite the crowd favorite while still being very good. I can’t wait to try them now that they’ve fired up those brick pits.
Speedy: Noble clearly studied up on the Texas brisket he was trying to emulate. And I’ll say, he did a nice job. The prime brisket was moist, peppery, and flavorful. I had previously sworn off ordering brisket in the Carolinas, but Noble Smoke is joining Lewis Barbecue on the exception list. I rank it just a tad behind Lewis, but still a top ten brisket I’ve had in my life. I think any Texan would be impressed.
Monk: I couldn’t agree more, and also think that any Texan would also be impressed with the ribs that Noble Smoke is slinging. Rubbed generously with salt and pepper, I was relieved that Noble avoided the temptation to offer a saucy, sweet rib and instead something far more nuanced. North Carolina isn’t known for ribs and they can often be an afterthought, but these were more Texas Trinity than KC Masterpiece. By far, these were the favorite meats on the table in our group that day.
Speedy: I’m on record saying I don’t know why anyone would order smoked turkey at a barbecue restaurant given the choice of other delectable meats from our hooved friends. Well, I’m man enough to admit it – I was wrong. The turkey at Noble Smoke was probably the best I’ve had. Like the brisket, it was seasoned with just salt and (plenty of) pepper, but that was enough to tease out an incredible amount of flavor, all while retaining moisture. This is a hard thing to do with turkey, so hats off to Jim Noble for this. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite thing I had that day (that goes to the ribs), but it was the biggest surprise for me.
Monk: Like everything else, the wings from were delicious and well smoked, even if they were a bit on the small side. Noble gets his heritage chicken from Winston-Salem-based Joyce Farms, which is nice to see them source from a North Carolina operation.
We ordered a side of the hush puppies made with Anson Mills heirloom grain corn (again, note the high quality ingredients) and the table gobbled them up pretty quickly. The Miss Mary’s Platter came with small sides of both eastern and western (red) slaw as well as pickled veggies in the form of onions, pickles, and beets. The beets were definitely different.
Speedy: Sometimes new restaurants take a few months to get up to speed and everything rolling, but Chef Jim Noble is clearly a pro and the meal we had at Noble Smoke was one of my top barbecue meals all year. Noble Smoke was designed to be a destination barbecue joint, and I think it will be just that. I’m certainly adding it to the list for every time I visit Charlotte.
Monk: Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ joins the Charlotte food podcast Scallionpancake to discuss a lot of similar ground from his appearance on order/fire in terms of how he got to Charlotte and his culinary background before Sweet Lew’s.
The lively discussion continues from there and here is some new information in a typical week for Lewis as well as information on his new-ish Saturday sausage special, which is made of half Neese’s hot sausage, half Creekstone ground beef, spices, and then marinated in Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale. Outside of the restaurant, we also get a sense of Lewis’s favorite places to eat in Charlotte.
Name: Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q Date: 8/10/19 Address: 100 E 3rd St, Pembroke, NC 28372 Order: Lunch buffet (link to menu) Pricing: $
Monk: Barbecue buffets are typically found in the eastern part of North Carolina as well as in the midlands of South Carolina but not very many other places in the US other than that. Personally, I am not opposed to the idea of buffets in general like some *cough*Mrs. Monk*cough* and have had some decent experiences. One of which being at the now-closed store of Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ in Lumberton that was shuttered a few years ago due to Hurricane damage. With their Pembroke location on our route to Ocean Isle Beach for the week, a quick stop for lunch was a fairly easy decision.
Before I get to the barbecue, I want to pause briefly on the fried chicken. While not technically a barbecue item, you will tend to find it on the menu at a lot of barbecue joints in North Carolina (both old and new), and its usually not simply an afterthought. That’s certainly the case at Fuller’s, and while the pork is good, the fried chicken is arguably the main attraction. It’s that good.
Onto the barbecue, which is an eastern-style chopped pork smoked over wood. It’s flavorful and smokey, and a little squirt of the vinegar table sauce doesn’t hurt one bit.
The hush puppies are orb-shaped and smaller than your average hush puppy, so you may mistake them for fried okra. They stay pretty fresh under the heating lamps and I went back for seconds. The other sides of coleslaw, mac and cheese, and collards that I chose from the huge buffet were all good but pretty standard fare.
But onto the dessert, where you have a choice of red jello, chocolate-iced 5-layer yellow cake, strawberry shortcake, chocolate pudding, and some bomb-ass banana pudding. I’m far from a ‘naner pudding connoisseur but I know what I like and I quite liked the version at Fuller’s. I definitely went back for seconds.
Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ also has two stores in Fayetteville and are hoping to open another store back in Lumberton (although not at the same location, which was damaged too much). Owner Eric Locklear (as well as his parents Fuller and Delora before they passed) has been operating their barbecue/seafood/soul food buffets for more than 30 years and offer good food for a cheap price (as low as $8.99 for a lunch buffet during the week). It’s certainly worth a stop if you are in Cumberland or Robeson Counties in the southeastern part of the state.
As part of Sam Jones’ publicity tour for his book earlier this year, he stopped by Hugh Acheson Stirs the Pot while in town for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. A lot of familiar ground is covered if you’ve heard other Sam Jones interviews, but Acheson does offer a chef’s perspective as well.
Description: North Carolina chef Sam Jones stops by Empire State South to talk about his new book ‘Whole Hog BBQ’ and how much different writing about barbecue is than cooking it.
It’s official: Matt Horn is opening a brick and mortar in the bay area
A “Black Tie BBQ” event is a more budget-friendly barbecue event worth checking out at next year’s Charleston Wine and Food Festival with Rodney Scott, John Lewis, Aaron Siegel, Taylor Garrigan, and Anthony DiBernardo, as well as out-of-towners Amy Mills and Matthew Register
NOTE: This is an updated version of a post that was last updated in October 2017.
Monk: By no means is this an exhaustive list but here are the barbecue shows and episodes that I’ve found on Netflix streaming. What have I missed? Feel free to comment below and I will update the post.
New(ish) to Netflix
Queer Eye S3E3 – “Jones Bar-B-Q” (47 mins)
This episode of Queer Eye helped make the Jones Bar-B-Q sisters – Little and Shorty – international barbecue celebrities when it aired earlier in 2019, but they have been doing barbecue in Kansas City for decades. Their sauce with the redesigned label courtesy of the Queer Eye crew is now a huge seller, with the website prominently displaying a banner reading “Please allow a 7-10 day delay in shipping as we have been overwhelmed at the response and will send your order as soon as we can.” From the looks of the episode, it appears that the newly found fame is well-deserved.
Ugly Delicious S1E5 – “BBQ” (47 mins)
Chef David Chang’s Netflix series will return for a second season soon but episode 5 in season one covered barbecue as well as other live fire customs across the world. I recapped it for the film club here.
Street Food S1E – “Cebu, Philippines” (31 mins)
In the Philippines lechon, or whole roasted pig, is the preferred form of barbecue in this nation of over 7,000 islands. In this food custom, a smaller suckling pig is tied around a pole and rotated over a live fire for hours. This episode covers lechon in addition to a few other food customs from the city of Cebu in southern Philippines.
Taco Chronicles S1E5 – “Barbacoa” (31 mins)
The Taco Chronicles is a Spanish-language food series where each episode focuses on a different type of taco. The “Barbacoa” episode focuses on the lamb/goat form of barbecue primarily located in Mexico and the southern border of Texas, which I’ve never tasted myself but is described on the episode as being “softer than the tortilla it is served on.”
Still on Netflix
Barbecue (101 mins)
I recapped this full-length film about live fire cooking across the world in our Barbecue Bros Film club series here.
Cooked S1E1 – “Fire” (52 mins)
In this first episode of the miniseries on food, food author Michael Pollan goes in search of primordial cooking and finds it in eastern North Carolina and Ed Mitchell. The episode follows Ed and his son Ryan as they pick out a pig from the butcher shop, get the coals started, and then proceed to smoke a whole hog for a small gathering at the end of the episode. Michael and a couple of buddies even try to emulate it on their own in a small, backyard pit in California. Ed also tells a story of how he learned to cook pigs from his grandfather, a former slave. The barbecue section starts at approximately 26:00.
The Mind of the Chef S1E15 – “Smoke” (23 mins)
This series’ first season follows chef David Chang and his culinary experiences around the globe. This particular episode deals with the idea of “smoke” and in addition to short segments on barbecue styles, this episode includes ones on Allen Benton’s bacon, as well as a visit by David Chang and Sean Brock to the Louisville Slugger factory to get personalized bats made.
The North Carolina barbecue segment visited Raleigh’s The Pit back when pit master Ed Mitchell was still there and showcases whole hog barbecue. The Texas segment interviews Joe Capello, the pitmaster from City Market in Luling while in Kansas City they talk with the Doug Worgul, the marketing director of Oklahoma Joe’s. Pretty basic stuff, but well shot and produced by ZPZ Productions (known for previous work with Anthony Bourdain).
The Mind of the Chef S2E7 – “Low Country BBQ” (23 mins)
Whereas season 1 followed David Chang on his culinary adventures (see above), season 2 of The Mind of a Chef follows noted Charleston Chef Sean Brock. In the seventh episode, he smokes a whole hog with friend Rodney Scott in South Carolina’s lowcountry for a small gathering despite less than optimal conditions. Sean also prepares a couple of lowcountry sides with guest chefs. Anthony Bourdain narrates.
Click through to see more episodes no longer available on Netflix
Frank Scibelli is the restaurateur behind Midwood Smokehouse, which I would argue brought back “True Cue” barbecue to Charlotte when it opened in 2012. That is, barbecue smoked over wood with no gas or electric assistance. Midwood has grown from it’s Central Avenue location to a small regional chain with 3 locations in Charlotte, another in Huntersville, and one in Columbia, SC.
In this episode of the Charlotte-based web series Order/Fire, host Marc Jacksina sits down with Frank to discuss his restaurant history in Charlotte. It’s not exclusively about barbecue and Midwood, but it’s a worthy view nonetheless. The barbecue-specific section starts at 13:38 and lasts until 16:45.