Name: City Smoke
Location: 100 N. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC, 28202
Order: ‘Cue Combo (brisket, pulled pork, Memphis, Kansas City, and Texas dry rubbed ribs
Speedy: Well Monk, I hate to say I told you so, but I definitely told you so.
Monk: Speedy – you LOVE saying I told you so. This is the one time it happens to be true.
Speedy: So this past Friday night, Monk and I decided it was time to try a new barbecue restaurant, as it had been a while. Monk had never been to City Smoke, the latest of several modern, trendy barbecue restaurants to open in Charlotte. As the restaurant is in the bottom of the building I work in, I actually did check it out for lunch one day the first week it was open, which was about six months ago. My experience wasn’t good then, but I thought six months probation was enough.
Monk: Well Speedy – apparently you thought wrong. Before we even ordered any barbecue, I was at least struck by the impressive whiskey list (well over 50) which included bourbon, Tennessee, craft rye, Irish, and Scotch. And for the beer lovers, there was a good sized craft beer list on tap.
Speedy: Now all of our readers may be thinking,“Hey, that all sounds pretty good. Why are you guys dumping on this place so much?” Well, I’ll tell you. It’s because of the food.
Monk: Which we always say is a pretty crucial element when judging a restaurant. As is our M.O., we ordered the sampler which had pulled pork, brisket, and three types of ribs as well as your choice of two sides. We’ll start with the pork. You may be wondering how they got a smoker at the bottom of the tallest building between Atlanta and Philadelphia. Well wonder no more, because based on the lack of smokiness in the meat they definitely didn’t. The pork lacked any discernible smoke or flavor. We tried each of the three sauces on the table (one of which basically tasted like A1 steak sauce), but ultimately we didn’t even bother finishing our portion.
Speedy: And the brisket was even worse than the pork! It was rubbery and tasted like it had been reheated. Honestly, it reminded me of grocery store pre-packaged roast beef.
Monk: The ribs were at least better than either the pork or brisket. We got three types of ribs as part of the sampler – Memphis, Kansas City, and Texas Dry. They were tender enough and the saucing and flavor was actually pretty decent. However, once again there was no smoke. Also, we did get shafted by only getting one bone of the Texas dry flavor as opposed to two.
Speedy: I will say this. The sides we had were pretty good. I thought the slaw was great. It was legitimate Lexington-style red slaw. Probably the best I’ve had outside of the great city of Lexington. The collards were good as well. They had bacon bits in them, but the bacon flavor (unfortunately) wasn’t noticeable. City Smoke does have a bin of free peanuts that you can get while you order – probably the only thing in the restaurant worth what you spend on it.
Monk: As you can gather, we were not fans of City Smoke whatsoever (and apparently not a lot of other people are either since it was more or less empty on a Friday night). When the best things about the meal were the sides and the free peanuts, that is never a good thing.
Actually, since we were still hungry we decided to finish our beer and walk a few blocks for some actual good smoked meat in the form of the chipotle apricot wings from Queen City Q. And that’s all you really need to know about our City Smoke experience – we finished our meal at another barbecue restaurant. In fact, City Smoke was so bad that I feel confident in saying that the only reason I can see myself ever returning to City Smoke will not be because of the barbecue but instead to drink some bourbon at the bar.
Atmosphere/Ambiance: 3 hogs
Pork – 1.5 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Ribs – 2 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 1.5 hogs