Friday Find: The Charlotte Podcast Explores “Is Charlotte a BBQ Town?”

Monk: Our State Magazine senior editor, podcaster, and writer (and former Charlottean) Jeremy Markovich joins Miller of The Charlotte Podcast to discuss NC barbecue in general before discussing specifically whether Charlotte is a barbecue town.

After a short intro, the barbecue talk starts at 5:17 with some open-ended questions about NC barbecue. Before shifting the conversation to Charlotte later in the episode, the conversation is a little unfocused (admittedly, Miller says he didn’t prep Jeremy for these questions) but covers the difference between east and west and what Jeremy’s idea of barbecue and a barbecue restaurant is.

Here’s a link to Jeremy’s fantastic story in Our State on spending 17 hours (he had planned to be there 24) at B’s Barbecue in Greenville that he begins mentioning at 14:15 when he starts discussing his top 5 barbecue places in NC; Red Bridges in Shelby, 12 Bones in Asheville (I do disagree with this pick), Skylight Inn, and Lexington Barbecue (aka the Honeymonk) all make his list as well.

While mentioning Skylight Inn (16:34), Miller discusses the idea of “porky goodness”. While I’m familiar with (and have tasted) their technique of chopping the crispy skin back into the pork, I must admit that I have never heard this term before. Granted, I have spent only a little time out east so I’m not discounting that it’s a real thing. Only that I’ve yet to come across it in my travels.

Kyle Fletcher’s in Gastonia gets a mention at 18:34. This place deserves a second chance for me, but I was somewhat unimpressed when I went a few years ago.

The Charlotte conversation begins at 21:25. I do disagree with Miller’s assertion that Midwood Smokehouse is a solid B in everything though (21:39) because I think their brisket and burnt ends are A’s and their pork and sausage is at least a B+ (I still need to try the whole hog on the new smoker at Park Road). So I think he may be undervaluing them just a little bit.

Miller brings up the idea of Charlotte as a “barbecue hub” as opposed to a “barbecue city” (22:36) due to its proximity to good barbecue in Lexington (agree), Shelby (agree), and Gastonia (huh?).  Jeremy comes back to Midwood Smokehouse at 25:26 (here’s the article he wrote for Our State) and how restaurateur Frank Scibelli has a habit of introducing foods to Charlotte. First with Mama Ricotta’s and authentic italian (including fresh mozzarella) in the early 2000’s and then Midwood Smokehouse and barbecue other than pork more recently in 2012.

While I couldn’t agree more with Jeremy’s assertion that you need to spell out “barbecue” (as opposed to say, “bbq” like they do in the podcast title) at 28:51, I can’t help but think naming a theoretical barbecue restaurant “Barbecue” is either insanely brilliant or just plain lazy. I still can’t decide.

Overall, I agree with both Jeremy and Miller that no, Charlotte is not a barbecue town but that you can find good barbecue here (I’ve certainly tried to do my homework). When I think on the question of whether Charlotte is a barbecue town, I inevitably go to a quote from Tom Hanchett, the former historian at Charlotte’s Levine Museum of the New South:

Charlotte is not really in either part of North Carolina, it’s a city of newcomers and we have other people’s barbecue.

Until Charlotte is no longer a city of “other people’s barbecue”, in my opinion it will never truly be a barbecue town.

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