Old Etowah Smokehouse – Etowah, NC

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Name
: Old Etowah Smokehouse
Date: 9/17/16
Address: 6577 Brevard Rd, Etowah, NC 28729
Order: Three meat plate with pulled pork, brisket, and sausage with slaw, collards, and barbecue hash; hush puppy basket,  (link to menu)
Price: $21.50

Monk: When I met Elliot Moss of Asheville’s Buxton Hall Barbecue back in June, he recommended I check out Old Etowah Smokehouse started by a buddy of his Mike Moore, co-founder of Blind Pig Supper Club and former owner of Seven Sows. Etowah is a small mountain community about 15 minutes west of Hendersonville, which is itself about 30 minutes from Asheville. On a recent apple picking day trip in the mountains (#dadlife), this allowed me a good opportunity to continue my mini quest to try all of the new wave whole hog joints in NC. This makes 3 of 4 including aforementioned Buxton Hall and Picnic.

As I understand it, Old Etowah Smokehouse took over a location that used to house another barbecue spot called The Barbecue Shack. They’ve since added a patio around the side that overlooks a golf course. And on a mid-September Saturday, the shaded patio provided a nice spot to eat. One quirk is that if you are eating on the patio, you actually order at the hostess station and it is brought out to the patio – as opposed to ordering via a waitress at the table if you sit inside the main dining area. There’s also a buffet, which makes a third way of ordering.

I ordered a 3 meat platter with pork, brisket, and sausage (didn’t plan to, but accidentally ordered “the Texas trinity”) because Mrs. Monk wasn’t going for the deluxe combo that would have added chicken and ribs. The pulled pork was very well smoked and moist. I tried the Eastern sauce and it definitely enhanced the meat like a good sauce should.

The brisket was a mix of fatty and lean (no choice given when ordering) and had a good peppery bark. It was a very good approximation of central Texas style and I’d say above average for a brisket in NC. I’m unsure of the origins of the sausage and whether it’s imported from Texas or made in house, but it was fine but maybe slightly dry.

As a starter, we ordered a hush puppy basket and lo and behold, it actually comes with a side of melted pimento cheese. I had never seen this before and I gotta tell you, I didn’t mind it. Though I still probably prefer honey butter or served just plain, I’m glad I tried it. The collards were Mrs. Monk approved and the only miss of the meal for me was the barbecue hash. The flavor of the gravy had a slightly burnt taste that was a bit off-putting. Perhaps it was an off day for the hash.

While overall I enjoyed the meal at Old Etowah Smokehouse and the direction they’re going in since opening in just June, of the new wave of whole hog joints I’d rank it behind Buxton Hall but ahead of Picnic. Sam Jones BBQ, you’re up next hopefully soon.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Linkdown: 9/21/16

– Pulled pork v brisket: who you got? John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue and Aaron Siegel of Home Team BBQ weigh in

AM: Which is better, beef brisket or pulled pork?  

Siegel: There is no argument there, really. It’s just a matter of preference, which seems to vary regionally. But even now, regional lines are getting blurred. We’re supposedly a pork town. But we’ve been doing beef brisket with salt and pepper and it’s one of our best selling products. So at the end of the day, it’s a fun argument. But it’s not valid.

Lewis: I think there are things about both that make them stand out. Beef has a stronger flavor than pork. But what pork has is marveling, which gives it a juicier taste. In Texas, there’s an order called the “Holy Trinity,” which includes sausage, beef and pork on the same plate. So I’m really just a fan of it all. It’s all about personal preference.

– The Charleston Post and Courier likes what they eat from  Lewis Barbecue

– Buxton Hall recipes online (presumably from the upcoming cookbook): hush puppies at Bon Appétit and chicken bog at Garden & Gun

– The North State Journal previews next month’s Barbecue Revival (paywall)

“Barbecue is sacred to the people of North Carolina,” says Dickson. “If you’re going to do this, you have an obligation to be a good steward of our state cuisine. I can’t think of a better way to do it than this.”

– I may have missed this, but The Pit is servicing barbecue sandwiches at NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium this football season

– Grant makes an unplanned stop at Countryboy Cafe in Pennington, VA

– Texas Pete is getting a new look

– Finally, I  spotted an appearance by NC barbecue on last week’s episode of “Mr. Robot”

Friday Find: Pitmaster Helen Turner Is A One-Woman Barbecue Machine

Another Eater/Southern Foodways Alliance documentary.

They said a woman couldn’t run a barbecue joint…but that was before they tried Helen Turner’s sandwiches. Turner has owned and operated Helen’s Bar-B-Que in Brownsville, Tennesee by herself since 1996, and amassed a loyal following due to her smoky cooking and secret sauce recipe. Watch the above video from the Southern Foodways Alliance documentary series to learn more.

Monk

Linkdown: 9/14/16

– Jim Noble is smoking barbecue for the Tabor Bungalow Social this coming Saturday, presumably as a test run for his forthcoming barbecue restaurant Noble Smoke

– Charlotte Observer food editor Kathleen Purvis stopped by Robert Moss’ podcast The Winnow to discuss Charlotte food, restaurant decor and Maurice’s Piggie Park and their tainted history with the Confederate flag at the 30:03 mark

– Grant’s latest stop is a second take at Kevin Brown’s Burgers & Bar-B-Q in Ooltewah

– Rodney Scott’s neighbor-blessed design passed the Charleston Board of Architectural Review (BAR) last Thursday

– Destination BBQ mulls over on the potential restaurant approach for Rodney Scott’s Bar-B-Que

– A pop-up donut shop will be at Franklin Barbecue on October 2

– Midwood Smokehouse has 3 packages for your gamedays this fall

Picnic – Durham, NC

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Name
: Picnic
Date: 9/5/16
Address: 1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705
Order: Pulled pork plate with pimento mac & cheese, bacon braised collards (link to menu)
Price: $13.95

Monk: In the recent (and very welcome) trend of new whole hog barbecue joints opening in North Carolina in the past year, Picnic is one of the newest alongside Old Etowah Smokehouse (opened June 2016), Sam Jones BBQ (November 2015), and Buxton Hall Barbecue (August 2015), having opened earlier this year in February. Despite being at the end of a long weekend, I convinced the Mrs. Monk to stop at Picnic in Durham for lunch on our way back from Atlantic Beach over Labor Day weekend.

Picnic is located in a fairly picturesque setting amongst tall pine trees in a Durham neighborhood not far off of I-85. The building itself has an average sized dining room with a bar as well as 5-6 outdoor tables. An open kitchen overlooks the new south decor dining area, and the rattle of food preparation is audible but not distracting.

My pulled pork was overall moist and smokey and served unsauced, choosing to let the smoke shine in each silky pork strand. Each table does have a very tasty mixed eastern and western-style Pig Whistle sauce (named for barbecue man Wyatt Dickson’s original pig catering outfit) on the table. I’ve read that the whole hog pork at Picnic can sometimes be on the dry side but that was not my experience. In any case, I alternated between using sauce and not. While I didn’t buy sauce this time, I would consider it next time around .

I generally liked the sides less than the pork. We were fairly hungry from the 3+ hour drive, so we ordered fried green tomatoes as a starter that were more breading than tomato. Each plate comes with hush puppies and slaw in addition to 2 sides. The house-made hush puppies were a little disappointing and not as sweet as I prefer though clearly not frozen as they were of various sizes and shapes. The slaw was not too noteworthy. Of my other two sides, the pimento mac and cheese had good flavor but was very rich (to the point where I decided not to finish it) and the collards were a little bland and needed salt or ideally more vinegar.

Overall, the whole hog pork at Picnic was great but I found the sides to be more of a mixed bag. I also thought it was a bit pricey for what it was – a common complaint from other friends who had previously eaten there. For lunch with Mrs Monk and the Monkette, our tab ran $50 before tip with two plates, a kid’s meal, an appetizer, and a beer. If I do make it back (and I would definitely go again), next time I’ll probably go for their version of a tray with just pork, slaw, and hush puppies.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Picnic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Photo Gallery: Midwood Smokeshack and Pitmaster Michael Wagner

I recently was invited by Frank Scibelli to meet new pitmaster Michael Wagner at the recently-opened Midwood Smokeshack in Matthews. Midwood Smokeshack is the fast-casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse, with cafeteria-style counter service and a slimmed-down menu. Which makes sense since Midwood Smokeshack is a Texas-style joint and as Frank pointed out to me, most Texas joints really are fast casual (and have been before that term was coined). Over a platter of all the meats and most of the sides  (including corn bread, a change from the hush puppies offered at the bigger brother) doled out by Michael himself, the three of us sat down for lunch and a conversation about barbecue.

Last fall, FS Food Group (the parent company of Midwood Smokehouse and Midwood Smokeshack) posted a job posting for a Texas pitmaster to relocate to Charlotte. After a lengthy interview process, they hired Michael Wagner who previously ran his own food truck before training at Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart and then working at Kent Black’s in San Marcos, TX for nearly two years. After hiring him, they met up earlier this year in Texas while Frank and Plaza Midwood location pitmaster Matt Barry were buying new smokers for both Smokeshack and the upcoming Park Road location of Midwood Smokehouse (this will be a larger capacity smoker than the current ones they use at each location; the Park Road location will open by the end of the year). Michael then made the move to Charlotte just a few weeks ago prior to the opening of Midwood Smokeshack.

So far, Michael says he’s really enjoying his time in Charlotte and spent the first couple of weeks trying new restaurants around town, not having a bad meal among them. He clearly knows his stuff when it comes to barbecue, and Frank hopes that in time he will be able to move between the Midwood Smokehouse and Midwood Smokeshack locations to help up-skill the staffs on the smoking process of the meats (particularly brisket). I look forward to seeing Michael’s growing influence on the franchise over the near future.

I also couldn’t waste the chance to ask Frank about President Obama and Hillary Clinton stopping by the original Plaza Midwood location back in July. He got to speak with the president for about five minutes (who he said was very friendly to him and the staff) and even got to hold his black card to pay for one of the orders (the Clinton campaign paid for the rest). Clinton spent most of her time speaking with patrons in the restaurant that day. Apparently the reason they stopped in was due to secret service personnel having stopped in a few day before and recommending it. They received a lot of exposure from the visit, with photos even appearing in London’s The Daily Mail.

Thanks to Frank and Michael for the opportunity to try out all of the meats at the 2-week old Midwood Smokeshack. I plan to be back soon.

Monk

(Update: an earlier version of this entry incorrectly stated that Michael worked at Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart for 2.5 years)

Linkdown: 9/7/16

– Sneak peek of Scott’s Bar-B-Que second outpost opening in Charleston

– More on B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque opening their second location in Atlanta

– The Drawn Cutlass reviewed the recently-opened Midwood Smokeshack in Matthews a few days after it opened

– EDIA Maps is curating The Great NC BBQ & Brewery Tour October 1-16

– The origins of the Weber Grill from Smithsonian

– Daniel Vaughn of TMBBQ on The New Carolina Barbecue that includes Sam Jones BBQ, Picnic, Buxton Hall Barbecue, and Old Etowah Smokehouse

– Is “barbecue” for squares?

Fox Bros Bar-B-Q – Atlanta, GA

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Name
: Fox Bros Bar-B-Q
Date: 8/27/16
Address: 1238 DeKalb Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307
Order: The Everything plate (pork, brisket, ribs, wings) with tater tots and collard greens, brisket egg rolls, jalapeno cheddar link, Frito pie, jalapeno corn bread, 5 beers (link to menu)
Price: ~$82

Speedy: It wasn’t long after my move to Atlanta that Monk and friend-of-the-blog-but-definitely-not-a-barbecue-bro Susong started planning a trip down to visit. I still don’t know too much about the city, but I knew for sure one thing would be on the agenda – barbecue. Fox Bros is probably the most famous place in town – a Texas-style joint with a little bit of everything on the menu. We went early on a Saturday to beat the crowd.

Monk: Acknowledging that Fox Bros definitely is not a “Georgia style” barbecue joint, next time through we’ll plan to visit a more regionally appropriate joint. For instance, Old Brick Pit Barbeque is actually not far from Speedy’s hood.

Speedy: The first thing to come out were the brisket egg rolls and boy were they good. It was an egg roll filled with brisket, onions, and a little bit of mustard sauce. A simple concept executed to perfection. It made me wonder – why don’t more things come in egg rolls? Another conversation for another time I guess.

Monk: You may recall that Speedy also really loved the southern egg rolls from The Pit in Raleigh. This guy just loves a good egg roll, darnit. Can’t say he’s wrong, though.

Speedy: We also had brisket as part of our combo platter, and ordered the fatty cut. Loyal readers of this blog know I’ve sworn off of North Carolina brisket. I’m happy to report I will not have to make the same proclamation in Georgia. It wasn’t the best brisket I ever had, but it was had a solid bark, good flavor and tenderness, and was just solid.

Monk: Solid, yes. But in Charlotte I’d actually put up the brisket from The Smoke Pit or Midwood Smokehouse against Fox Bros any day.

While the coarsely pulled pork had bark mixed it, I found it to be disappointingly dry and bland. Texas joints aren’t generally known for their pork, and that was certainly the case for Fox Bros.

Speedy: The ribs, on the other hand, were meaty and cooked to perfection. I was able to get a nice, clean bite and enjoyed the flavor. I do think there could have been a little more dry rub used, but overall a good rib. I was similarly impressed with the smoked wings, that came with a spicy bbq sauce. I’d consider them a must order for wing lovers.

Monk: The jalapeno cheddar link was a special on the day we were there, but being that it had cheddar Speedy was unable to partake. I liked it quite a bit, though I will say my sausage knowledge is still lacking. Having followed Fox Bros on Instagram for the past few years, one of my most anticipated items to try was the Frito Pie. Brisket chili, cheese, jalapenos, and sour cream mixed into a bag of Fritos. It was one of the best things I ate at that meal and if I can’t find it closer to home in NC, then I’m almost certainly going to have make my own version of it at home.

Speedy: The collards were quite good, and I’ll order them again, but they didn’t really make or break the meal. The tater tots were ordered were better than average, as they were seasoned nicely. Of course the big win was at the end of the meal when friend-of-the-blog-but-definitely-not-a-barbecue-bro Susong lost credit card roulette and picked up the tab. Thanks, buddy!

Monk: Oh right! Thanks for reminding me of my favorite part as well. I definitely won’t go as far as to say that I was disappointed with our meal at Fox Bros Bar-B-Q – the food was generally above average and the beer was cold. Whether the buildup in my head was fair is a valid question, but in any case I was hoping for just a little more.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Wings – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q

Friday Find: Zagat Goes to Kansas City

Zagat’s latest barbecue video takes them to Kansas City, Missouri, “one of America’s best barbecue towns”.

Kansas City is the epicenter of American barbecue culture. Zagat spoke with two of Kansas City’s beloved barbecue joints – as well as a member of the esteemed Kansas City Barbecue Society – to find out what made this midwestern city so famous for its smoked meats.

Monk