Little Pigs BBQ – Asheville, NC

Name: Little Pigs BBQ
Date: 7/5/19
Address: 384 McDowell Street, Asheville, N.C. 28803
Order: Regular BBQ plate with slaw and beans, broasted chicken thigh (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Back in the 1960’s, the Memphis-based Little Pigs Barbecue of America chain of restaurants had nearly 100 franchises throughout the southeast. The corporation went bankrupt by 1967, but you can still find independently run locations still open here and there; in NC there are locations in Newton and Statesville and I know Columbia, SC still has one open that Marie, Let’s Eat! loved

And of course there’s this Asheville one. It wasn’t my original plan to try a new Asheville barbecue restaurant on this trip, but Buxton Hall was unexpectedly closed for lunch that day due to some hood system issues so I quickly changed our coordinates towards Little Pigs.

This Asheville location opened in 1963 (the only year that Little Pigs of America apparently turned a profit before shuttering) in an old gas station just north of the Biltmore Estate. It was owned by a husband and wife duo Joe and Peggy Swicegood (from my understanding, not related to Jess Swicegood who helped create the Lexington style of barbecue) until Joe’s death in 2014 at the age of 91. For more of a profile of them, I can’t recommend this Our State article from Jeremy Markovich enough.

With all that history at Little Pigs BBQ, it’s unfortunate that I found my barbecue to be fairly average. Behind the registers at the front counters sit old brick ovens that used to cook the meat but Little Pigs currently uses a gas-assisted wood smoker. You can still get some good product out of gassers, but I didn’t get a lot of smoke in the barbecue, or much flavor to honest. Until I mixed in some slaw and Texas Pete, I found my chopped pork to be quite bland. 

The broasted chicken thigh, on the other hand, was fantastic. If there is a next time, I’ll focus on more of that as opposed to the barbecue. For those curious (and because I just bothered to look it up), broasted chicken is essentially fried chicken that’s cooked in a pressured fryer.

The sides of mayo-based coleslaw, baked beans, and three hush puppies were all standard and not noteworthy in the least.

Little Pigs BBQ is by far the oldest barbecue restaurant in Asheville and for that, its worth a visit but only once you’ve eaten at Buxton Hall or 12 Bones or Luella’s. Try the barbecue but be prepared to get some broasted chicken.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Broasted Chicken – 4.5 hogs 
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Little Pigs BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Sam Jones: Whole Hog BBQ” by Sam Jones and Daniel Vaughn

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

Whole Hog BBQ: The Gospel of Carolina Barbecue with Recipes from Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ arrived on the same day as several other notable barbecue books – Matthew Register’s Southern Smoke, Ed Randolph’s Smoked, and Myron Mixon’s BBQ&A with Myron Mixon – but had to be the most anticipated for a large portion of the barbecue crowd due to Sam Jones as well as the involvement of Texas Monthly BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn. That was certainly the case for me, and the book delivered in spades.

This book is more than a typical cookbook, with chapters covering the history of his family and Skylight Inn, the story of starting Sam Jones BBQ with his best friend and business partner Michael Letchworth, and the resurrection of a family pit that had been sitting undiscovered for 70+ years. I don’t know how much Jones had written before or how much coaching or editing he got from Daniel Vaughn, but his writing is personal and engaging, particularly for a first-time author.

The other chapter covers in exhaustive detail how to host a whole hog party. In fact, I used it as my guide for the whole hog party Speedy and I hosted last month. In 40 or so pages, it walks the reader step-by-step through the process, from how much wood you need to how to construct the burn barrel and the cinder block pit to a detailed timeline of smoking the whole hog. For any first timer smoking a whole hog, I would point them to this book (and maybe our blog post). It gives you all you need.

Outside of the whole hog chapter, there are several recipes for eastern North Carolina dishes, sides, and desserts.

Whole Hog BBQ is full of beautiful photography and wonderfully personal writing from Sam Jones. It is a must-read not only for barbecue books released on May 7, but for any barbecue book released ever.

Friday Find: Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge on the Kevin’s BBQ Joints Podcast

Natalie Ramsey and Chase Webb are the third generation of the Bridges family to work at the venerated Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby. It’s definitely a Barbecue Bros fave and I’m glad that Kevin’s BBQ Joints interviewed them for the podcast since I don’t think they get a lot of recognition outside of the Piedmont of North Carolina.

In this episode I chat with Natalie Ramsey and Chase Webb from Red Bridges BBQ – Shelby, North Carolina. We discuss the long history of the restaurant which opened in 1946 in Cleveland County (called Dedmond’s Barbecue). In 1953, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was moved to their current location on Highway 74 in Shelby. One of the greatest things about Red Bridges BBQ is that while they have added items as demand grew for specific dishes (i.e. BBQ Nachos), they have stayed true to the old ways of cooking over wood, low and slow, and keeping the recipes for items such as slow the exact same as day one. You can tell the great passion Natalie and Chase have for their business and more importantly family. I guarantee they will treat you like family when you visit. Note they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

See all things Red Bridges BBQ here: http://www.bridgesbbq.com
Follow Red Bridges BBQ on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/red_bridges…
Check out Red Bridges BBQ on Facebook here: http://bit.ly/2LNJaUw

Linkdown: 7/17/19

Required reading from John T. in this month’s Garden & Gun

Former Charlotte Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis also weighs in on the best new barbecue joints

From this Charlotte Observer article on Noble Smoke’s opening, I found out the interesting tidbit that Joe Kindred (of Kindred and Hello, Sailor) used to work for Jim Noble

He started getting serious about opening a barbecue restaurant around 2008, but he kept getting delayed. Joe Kindred, a former intern for Noble who has since opened his own restaurants, remembers going all across the state with Noble and stopping at barbecue places along the way.

Daniel Vaughn says the best thing on the menu at Franklin Barbecue is the beef rib

A recap of last weekend’s Tex-Mex BBQ Block Party at Houston’s St. Arnold Brewing

L&L B&M incoming:

Howard Conyers on his recent visit to Jones Bar-B-Que in Marianna, Arkansas, which has been open since 1910

North Carolina barbecue is spreading to Orlando via New York-based restaurant, Brother Jimmy’s

An excerpt from Jim Auchmutey’s book Smoke Lore is up on BarbecueBible.com

Heads up, Denver:

The 11th Annual Bedford Blues & BBQ Festival will take place in Bedford, TX during Labor Day weekend 2019. For more information, please visit their site.

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Noble Smoke (Finally) Opens Its Doors

Monk: Personally, I have been following the Jim Noble barbecue restaurant quest for just short of four years. The first article I ever linked that mentioned Jim getting into the barbecue business was from an August 2015 linkdown and I’ve been tracking them on the Charlotte Big Board ever since. Though of course, as has been well established, Jim’s been looking to open a barbecue restaurant for over two decades but wasn’t going to open one without the right location, which Speedy and I got a behind the scenes look at last month. Well, after a visit during their soft opening, I’m happy to report that Noble Smoke is finally here and its spectacular.

While the official grand opening of Noble Smoke is July 25, they officially opened for business for a nearly 2-week period of soft openings (dubbed “The Little Smoke”) on Friday, July 12 meaning the restaurant opens at 4, food is served at 5, and they close once they sell out of meat. On the first Friday, the reduced menu comprised of pork and brisket (served either in sandwich form or by the ¼, ½, or 1 lb) as well as a several slides and a “hand pie” dessert.

And of course, with their on-site partnership with Suffolk Punch Brewing (who hasn’t opened this second location yet), they have plenty of beer on tap in addition to wine and cocktails. They even have a beer called “Noble Toast” which is a Vienna lager and was brewed in honor of their partnership with Noble Smoke. Once the brewery opens, it will surely cement its status as a destination barbecue restaurant.

I stopped in for a quick snack at the bar and am happy to report that they have hit the ground running at Noble Smoke. I ordered a ¼ each of pork and brisket as well as their Lexington-style red slaw. The pork is of course smoked in their custom brick pits fashioned with permission after the famous pits at Lexington Barbecue (Jim’s favorite barbecue joint along with Skylight Inn). I don’t believe they are serving it with the Lexington-style dip chopped in, instead allowing diners to add their choice of sauce. Adding a few dashes of the “Lex” sauce and mixing in the red slaw created the familiar taste of Lexington-style chopped barbecue. Next time I’ll try it on a sandwich. Also available is a sweeter “19” sauce and a mixture of the two, dubbed “Smoke.”

The brisket was what I was probably most interested in, having previously tried the pork at Suffolk Punch Brewing’s first location (then known as Hyde Brewing) for St. Patrick’s Day last year. As Speedy and I were shown a few weeks ago, Noble has 6 custom-built offset smokers that handle the brisket (and I’m guessing the rest of the forthcoming smoked meat items which I’m presuming will including chicken, sausage, pork ribs, and beef ribs). And what they put out is some seriously legit brisket. I was served both the flat and the point. The flat (or lean) had a great peppery bark and was not dry at all. The fatty cut from the point had well-rendered fat which melted in my mouth. Jim Noble’s focus has always been Lexington-style pork but (perhaps unsurprisingly) the man can make a mean brisket.

As I mentioned above, Noble Smoke has hit the ground running. The huge restaurant filled up quickly and had a line out the door by the time I left but I observed no major servicing hiccups. There was a little confusion at the bar as to when we were able to order but once ordered, the food came out promptly. Hospitality was great and all of the servers at the bar were friendly.

Once the soft opening period finishes later this month and the menu expands, I expect that Noble Smoke will be in serious contention for best barbecue restaurant in Charlotte. It’s that good.

Friday Find: Myron Mixon on Making Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

The “Winningest Man in Barbecue” helps out the wannabe backyard smoker who may only have Weber charcoal grill handy.

Four-time barbecue world champion Myron Mixon cooks up some St. Louis spareribs at the MUNCHIES Test Kitchen. He shows us how to make a homemade marinade, rub, and barbecue sauce to achieve barbecue perfection at home without an elaborate setup—all you need is a charcoal grill, no smoker required. Just grab your ingredients and a cold drink, light the grill, and follow along at home for the ultimate summer barbecue dish.

Check out the recipe here: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8x…

Linkdown: 7/10/19

Robert Moss drops rib knowledge in this well-researched article on the history of pork ribs

Chapel Hill’s TerraVita Food & Drink Festival will end this year but is going out with a bang in terms of barbecue; in addition to Sam Jones, [t]his year’s Hill Fire event will focus on North Carolina barbecue and bring together the state’s new generation of pitmasters, including Matthew Register of Southern Smoke, Chris Prieto of Prime Barbecue, Wyatt Dickson of Picnic in Durham, as well as other chefs who use smoke in their cooking.

Sauceman’s is relocating to Sugar Creek Brewing from its original location on West Boulevard

USA Today has their list of the country’s best regional barbecue joints but somehow includes Bill Spoon’s in Charlotte for North Carolina? Ok.

Southern Smoke by Matthew Register gets reviewed by the Triangle free paper

Where to Eat Barbecue Around D.C. according to Eater

A smoker fire has closed a downtown Atlanta joint

The Story of NC BBQ exhibit is currently showing at the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer

Jim Auchmutey on the south’s most overlooked barbecue states, Alabama and Georgia

More from Auchmutey on five myths regarding barbecue

Author D.G. Martin on what should replace the closed NC barbecue (and other roadside eatery) joints

A glowing profile of Matt Horn, “the future of Bay Area barbecue”

Ten Lessons Learned from Smoking Our First Whole Hog

Monk: Back on Father’s Day weekend, Speedy and I set out to do something I’ve been wanting to do for years. And you know what? We rocked it. But even using both the Sam Jones Whole Hog book (review forthcoming) and the Buxton Hall Book of Smoke as references, there were still a few speed bumps that we can learn from the next time we smoke another hog (and yes, there will definitely be another time).

Lesson #1 – If your barrel doesn’t have a bottom, don’t set it up on cinder blocks

Monk: The barrel I got, while free, already had both the bottom and top cut off. The top wasn’t needed, but I would have preferred the bottom attached so as to keep the coals in. I did get a tip that an aluminum water heater pan would fit perfectly, and it did. However, after just a couple of hours that pan started to disintegrate so Speedy and I had to figure out a way to get the burn barrel off the cinder blocks mid-burn. We managed to get it done, losing just a few coals in the process. Once we got it on the ground, it was smooth sailing…for at least a little bit.

Speedy: Monk may be underselling this a bit. Taking a hot burn barrel with an active fire off of cinder blocks could’ve ended badly, but the pig was the most important thing. To add to this, I’d say that if placing the barrel on the ground, put a solid sheet of metal that won’t burn through underneath, as it can be difficult shoveling the coals off the ground.

Lesson #2 – Be sure to allow enough time to let a solid bed of coals build up before you start to shovel into the pit

Speedy: What we found was that the cinder block pit we made was losing about 1 degree of temperature a minute, so we ended up dropping coals in every half hour. This shot the temperature back up 30 degrees quickly, but we had trouble keeping enough coals to shovel in (refer to lesson #5).

Monk: We were probably a little bit anxious in adding coals to the pit and should have let the fire go for at least an hour before we started shoveling them in.

Lesson #3 – Get fire proof gloves

Speedy: We were very, very fortunate that Monk’s neighbor had some fireproof grilling gloves that he brought over. These came in VERY handy (refer to Lesson 1), and I wouldn’t try this again without some.

Monk: Yes, these were definitely lifesavers.

Lesson #4 – Get at least a half cord of wood

Monk: In Sam Jones’ book, he says you might be able to get away with a quarter cord of wood, but he recommended at least a half cord because having leftover is far more preferable than running out. In our experience with a half cord, we burned through every last bit of firewood. Next time, I won’t consider ordering anything other than a half cord.

Lesson #5 – And definitely have a few bags of charcoal handy in case its needed (it will be needed)

Speedy: This was something Monk and I didn’t have handy, and we were struggling keeping temperature and weren’t making coals fast enough. Luckily, there was a 24 hour Walmart 10 minutes away, so I went to pick up a couple bags of charcoal while Monk manned the fire. This definitely did the trick, but it would have been nice to have them on-hand.

Lesson #6 – Be sure to have the right thermometer measuring your pit temperature

Monk: I initially used the wrong type of thermometer to measure pit temp (one used for measuring oil used for frying turkeys), and it wasn’t until a couple hours in that we realized we were probably 50 degrees below what we thought we were. Once I plugged in my Maverick Redi-chek thermometer, we were able to adjust our coals accordingly and get the pit temp up to where we needed it to be.

Lesson #7 – Working in shifts is definitely a good idea so that you can get some rest

Monk: We started at midnight to ensure enough time to get the hog done ahead of a 6pm party, and Speedy and I each ended up getting about 4 hours of sleep each. While some late night drinking and BS-ing by the burn barrel is fun and all, make sure you get enough sleep so that you aren’t a zombie the next day at your whole hog party.

Lesson #8 – You will be surprised how quickly the hog gets done

Speedy: Monk had told me the hog would be done in about 12 hours, and I thought no way that could be true. At the end of the day, I think we were cooking around 14 hours, but it definitely could have been done in 12 if we didn’t have temperature issues at the beginning. Lesson learned – never doubt Monk.

Monk: I have nothing else to add here other than to emphasize Speedy’s last point about never doubting me.

Lesson #9 – More is more when it comes to rebar, or consider using a grate

Speedy: To chop the hog, we first split it down the middle and then in quarters at the ribs. Unfortunately, when doing so, one quarter of the hog dropped through the rebar onto the ground. Some of the meat was salvageable, but we probably lost a good 8-10 pounds of meat. The good news is there was still plenty of our 126 pound hog to go around.

Lesson #10 – If you can swing it, smoke your first hog with your best friend

Monk: If Speedy wouldn’t have been able to make it, I would have been doing this solo. Besides the pure labor aspect of smoking a hog, there’s a definite sense of satisfaction of smoking your first hog with a good buddy. And remember – its Barbecue Bros, not Barbecue Bro.

Friday Find: Santa Maria BBQ: Why Garlic Rubs & Red Oak Make Great Flavor

Santa Maria barbecue is not considered one of the four major styles of barbecue in the US, but it has its proponents. Zagat takes a deeper look.

The sight of grilling over an open flame and scent of red oak has made Santa Maria-stye barbecue a favorite for road trips. But what is it about beef tri-tips and garlic rubs that’s helped this alternative style of barbecue thrive? Zagat visited a selection of three Santa Maria area barbecue spots to hear from the men and women responsible for continuing the legacy of this west coast tradition.