The co-founder of True Cue joins the Kevin’s BBQ Joints podcast to give a “city guide” for the entire state of NC.
John Shelton Reed, sociologist and essayist, author or editor of twenty books, most of them dealing with the contemporary American South, guides us through North Carolina for BBQ spots in the major cities as well as way off the beaten path for incredible finds.
Name: Field House Bar-B-Que Date: 12/18/18 Address: 1907 S Cannon Blvd, Kannapolis, NC 28083 Order: Chopped barbecue plate with slaw, fries, and hush puppies; Cheerwine
Monk: I first heard of Field House Bar-B-Que in Kannapolis in regards to a 2017 name change from its original name of Varsity BBQ & Ice Cream after being sued by The Varsity in Atlanta. How a one store NC barbecue restaurant in operation since 1998 could be confused with the classic burgers chain two states away baffles me, but nonetheless Field House opted to change the name rather than going through a lengthy legal process.
As for the food itself, as best I can tell Field House uses a gasser but manages to get some decent smoke on the pork. While I ordered the plate with fries, they do serve Lexington-style trays which you don’t see too often on the stretch of highway between Salisbury and Shelby. Next time I’ll try to avoid the temptation of fries and just get the tray with pork, slaw, and hush puppies on the side.
Speaking of slaw, they do offer a choice of red slaw as well as white slaw so you can keep your Lexington tray traditional. I appreciate that the hush puppies are scratch made and not some frozen nonsense.
As best I can tell, nothing really changed in fall 2017 when Varsity Bar-B-Que was renamed to Field House Bar-B-Que (the old sign is even still out back). For local Kannapolis-ians (Kannapolites?), that appears to be a good thing. The old name does live in on the back of each waitresses’ shirts, however, which are styled as jerseys with “Varsity Team” as the player name above a “98” as the block style jersey number. Nicely played, Field House. Nicely played.
The two co-founders of The Smokesheet, BBQ Tourist and NYC BBQ, joined the Man Meat BBQ podcast to discuss their origin story with barbecue and also assemble their perfect plate of barbecue out of their favorite barbecue bites from across the US.
There is a little bit of cussing at the top, so be warned. Also be warned that the host Mike could have used a cough button. Still, a pretty good conversation between three barbecue enthusiasts.
Name: Charlie Vergos Rendezvous Date: 12/18/18 Address: 52 S 2nd St, Memphis, TN Order: Pork ribs and brisket combination (link to menu)
Speedy: I’ve been spending a lot of time in Memphis lately for work, working mostly with a local team. When my co-workers learned of this blog, they started peppering me with recommendations, but not once did a local tell me to visit Rendezvous. Apparently it is considered more of a tourist destination, but it is 1) super famous and 2) two blocks from my client site, so a visit seemed in order.
Monk: My neighbor here in Charlotte who used to live in Memphis confirmed that it is a bit of a tourist destination but that he always found their ribs to be pretty good, actually.
Speedy: The sign on Rendezvous advertises “charcoal ribs,” and walking up, it’s easy to smell the charcoal smoker throughout Rendezvous alley. As I went with a co-worker on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was fairly empty and we didn’t have to wait for a table. Upon entering Rendezvous, you descend into a basement and come to an old dinner-esque place. It doesn’t look like the decor has been updated a whole lot since it’s 1948 opening, but still, it’s spacious and comfortable.
The menu at Rendezvous is pretty simple. I knew I was getting ribs, but the waiter also recommended brisket, so I took him up on it. Standard sides are beans and slaw, and there’s not much else in terms of sides, so I just went with what was given.
The food came out super fast. The waiter told us that there was both spicy and normal sauce on the table, but advised we try the ribs dry first, which I obliged. I’ll say this right off – Rendezvous is not the best barbecue meal I’ve had in Memphis, but I don’t understand why it’s so shunned. The ribs were meaty, cooked well (maybe slightly undercooked) and had a nice, smoky flavor. They were fine without the sauce, but I did enjoy the spicy sauce as well.
Monk: It’s looking likely that I will be back for Memphis in May next year so if I’m wandering around downtown is it worth a stop?
Speedy: Well, there’s a Central BBQ downtown as well, so I’d recommend that first, but I wouldn’t steer you away from Rendezvous.
I didn’t expect much from the brisket (I never do outside of Texas), but it was actually decent. It had good tug and nice flavor. I could’ve used a little more bark and ended up using the spicy sauce on this as well, but I would order it again. Overall, a solid effort.
The one thing that surprised me was the slaw. Rendezvous’ slaw is mustard/vinegar based, and really is quite enjoyable.
Monk: Having not tasted it, it sounds like the slaw at Bill Spoon’s here in Charlotte. I’m curious if there is a Memphis connection there.
Speedy: I thought of Bill Spoon’s as well – it’s very similar.
Overall, if you’re expecting the best barbecue meal of your life at Rendezvous, you might be disappointed. But if you go in with realistic expectations, you’ll find it to be just fine.
Dan the Pig Man is a York, South Carolina-based caterer specializing in outdoor feasts (which just so happens to be the name of his catering company) such as whole hog barbecues, oyster roasts, and shrimp boils utilizing custom-welded grilling and smoking rigs. Check out this video from a recent trip to Tuscaloosa, AL from the Food and Stuff YouTube Channel.
The time we decided to drive to Tuscaloosa, #Alabama to hang out with Dan the Pig Man! We had a lot of fun and can’t wait to hangout again and grill some awesome eats!
10. Brisket, sausage, pork ribs and a taste of the beef rib from Louie Mueller Barbecue (review)
I was a little let down by the brisket at Louie Mueller’s (as was Rudy) but I’ll chalk that up to a bad day. However, the beef rib and sausage more than made up for it. Plus, the number of of legendary Texas joints I’ve visited is quite low so I was glad to visit one of the OG’s.
At the NC State BBQ Camp, I was honored to be a guest panelist for a barbecue roundtable led by none other than Bob Garner. After that chat, the campers and panelists all partook in a whole hog pig pickin’ with some dang fine whole hog. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch who did the smoking but whoever you are, well done.
My takeout meal the day after Thanksgiving of pulled pork and brunswick stew only proves that I need to make it a point to get to Stamey’s more often.
5. Chopped pork and brisket from Sweet Lew’s BBQ (review)
There are certainly big things coming for Sweet Lew’s BBQ which only opened in early December. I look forward to many more meals here over the coming months and years.
4. Big Poppa Sampler (Full Rack Ribs, 12oz Pork, 12oz Brisket, ½ Chicken) and 6 Memphis dry rub wings from Martin’s BBQ Joint (review)
I couldn’t have been more impressed with everything on our visit to the downtown Nashville location of Martin’s in late summer – from the space itself to the open air beer garden to each and every delicious meat. Speedy is quite lucky to have Martin’s as his local joint.
3. Whole hog platter with barbecue hash from Buxton Hall Barbecue (review from 2016)
A visit to Buxton Hall once every two years simply isn’t gonna cut it for me. With the consistently amazing whole hog, the fantastic barbecue hash, and at least a couple other items I haven’t even tried such as fried catfish and smoked fried chicken, it should be at least a twice per year affair for me.
As confirmed by the #hogtripping crew of the Tales from the Pits podcast as well as The Smoking Ho during their travels in late August, Lewis truly is legit Texas barbecue in the lowcountry. The Carolinas and in particular the lowcountry should count itself very lucky.
1. Brisket, chopped pork, Porky Brewster sandwich, and taco from Jon G’s Barbecue (review)
My only complaint with Jon G’s Barbecue is that lately they’ve focused more on catering gigs instead of public servings. In any case, Garren and Kelly continue to kill it.
While there is certainly good barbecue to be found in Charlotte, I wouldn’t quite say that it’s a barbecue city…yet. However, there are pitmasters out there doing great work, and I hope to spotlight that a little more in this series of posts called “Pitmasters of Charlotte.”
Our second profile (thus making it an actual series, woo hoo!) is Lewis Donald, who along with Laura Furman Grice opened up Sweet Lew’s BBQ in early December. Monk previewed them back in September as well as reviewed the restaurant, and is a big big fan.
How long have you lived in Charlotte and how did you get here? I’ve been here 10 years. I came here to take a job at Charlotte Country Club, after I graduated the apprenticeship program at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.
How did you become a Pitmaster? I don’t really use that term, not for myself. Those that came before me, those that learned the art through family generations, those that defined what we know as bbq today…they’re the pitmasters.
What is your favorite meat to smoke? What type of wood do you prefer? I like the staples, skin-on-shoulder, ribs, chicken, and brisket. It takes being able to cook all of them to offer a good bbq experience to family, friends, and customers. I prefer [smoking over] hickory and pecan.
What are your barbecue influences? Simplicity, scratch cooking, consistency
What is your favorite barbecue joint or style? I like them all, true bbq spot and styles. But I’m not a big sauce guy.
What is your earliest memory of barbecue? Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, it was a gas grill with burgers and dogs. In 2003 is when I was introduced to bbq.
What is the best thing about Charlotte barbecue? I think it’s great that it’s served in restaurants.
What is a weakness or opportunity of Charlotte barbecue? There’s not much of it, so there’s room to grow it!