Name: Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q
Address: 7791 Gateway Ln NW, Concord, NC 28027
Order: Mr Jim’s Deluxe Combo with Carolina-style pork, beef brisket, and baby back ribs with slow-cooked collards, cole slaw, and sweet tea (link to menu)
Monk: In the reader comments to our December Big Board, a reader had a couple of Charlotte-area suggestions including Jim ‘N Nick’s (albeit the Steele Creek location instead of the Concord Mills location I visited). While we don’t do a lot of chains here on Barbecue Bros, on the first Friday after the holidays I decided to throw caution into the holiday weight gain wind and give it a try.
Jim ‘N Nick’s is a pretty well-respected barbecue chain restaurant out of Birmingham, Alabama with approximately 30 locations in 7 states. Owner Nick Pihakis, a James Beard nominated restaurateur for 4 years straight, is a member of the Fatback Collective, “a group of entrepreneurs and scholars who champion heritage ingredients and cooking techniques” and has also put his money where his mouth by creating a “pork-farming pipeline” of cross-bred heritage pigs with the mission to create a better quality product for their customers. Recently, their Charleston, SC location supported Rodney Scott on the first stop on his In Exile tour.
If you want a particular type of barbecue, chances are Jim ‘N Nick’s serves it. In the past, I’ve been criticized by my fellow Barbecue Bros for not trying enough when I visit a restaurant, so on this day I went for it with the three meat combo platter with Carolina-style pork, beef brisket, and baby back ribs. As for other meats, “classic pulled pork,” hot links, smoked ham, chicken, turkey breast, and spare ribs are also available.
The pork and beef came pre-sauced and topped with a pickle (weird and not ideal for me) but were plenty moist on their own. The “Carolina-style” pork was “chopped with a vinegar-pepper sauce,” however the eastern North Carolina flavor didn’t come through. The brisket was chopped and the larger pieces had a decent tug but overall it wasn’t particularly smokey and the bark lacked flavor. The three baby back ribs were slightly pinker than I’d prefer but were brushed nicely with a sweet/tangy sauce. The two table sauces were an “original concoction” as well as a “hot & spicy” sauce. Of the two, I preferred the hot & spicy used sparingly with the pork.
JNN claims all of their sides (or “trimmings” as they are referred on the menu) are made daily with fresh ingredients, and I could tell based on my meal. The table gets a complimentary basket of cheese corn muffins, which were really good and had a nice sweetness to them. Unfortunately, these muffins appeared to be in lieu of hush puppies, which are not on the menu and thus not cool with me. The slow-cooked collards had chunks of pork and certainly did not taste like they came out of the can. The slaw had a mayo/vinegar base, was sprinkled with fresh pepper, and had a nice crispness to it. Both of my sides were fantastic.
Speedy: I’ve been to Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q twice – once for lunch while working in Fort Mill, SC in 2010 and once for dinner in Birmingham, AL in 2008. Unfortunately, I don’t have any documentation around my meal, as this was BBB (Before Barbecue Bros), but the fact that I was willing to go back means I didn’t hate it. However, I don’t feel a specific need to revisit. Incidentally, I did visit Dreamland BBQ while in Birmingham and found it to be severely overrated. Bring on the hate.
Monk: For chain barbecue (with a drive-thru no less), I haven’t had too many places better than Jim ‘N Nick’s, who by the way also had excellent service. That being said, Jim ‘N Nick’s is still a chain which means they cook their barbecue in a gas smoker. They may use hickory wood during the smoking process (which did create a nice waft of smoke in the parking lot as I exited my car), but ultimately it’s still roast pork (and beef). It’s also a bit pricey – their prices could be cut by about 20-25% (maybe more) – and it won’t make you forget about real pit barbecue, but it’ll definitely do in a pinch.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs