The Five Best Barbecue Joints in Charlotte – September 2019

Monk: It’s been over two-and-a-half years since we’ve updated the Charlotte Big Board and as you might expect, there’s been a lot of changes in that time. Longtime readers may recall that finding the best barbecue restaurant in Charlotte was the mission statement when we first started this blog, so we certainly take this seriously. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (our previous #2) has rebranded as Gibson’s Family BBQ and is a shadow of its former self and fell way out of the top 5. Midwood Smokeshack (previously our #4) closed back in December of 2017 after unfortunately failing to find its footing in Matthews though thankfully pitmaster Michael Wagner is still lending his Texas expertise to the broader Midwood Smokehouse franchise. One thing that has not changed is that Jon G’s BBQ continues to hold down the top spot and always knocks it out of the park every time I am able to try them.

Starting last December, I believe we have entered a new phase in Charlotte barbecue that signals an upswing. That’s when Sweet Lew’s BBQ opened and hit the ground running out of their converted service station in the Belmont neighborhood just outside of uptown. And then of course, Noble Smoke finally opened a little over two months ago off of Freedom Drive and raised the bar even higher with their destination barbecue joint that is the cornerstone of the “Noble Smoke Campus” that will include Bossy Beulah’s Chicken Shack (also from Chef Noble) and the Suffolk Punch Blendery, their second location that will focus on Belgian lambics.

If Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque continues to pursue a Charlotte location (fingers crossed), that would certainly elevate the scene to a whole new level with his traditional whole hog barbecue (something currently missing from Charlotte), brisket, and hash. And who knows, perhaps a restaurant from a currently unknown contender is in the works and can come out of nowhere to challenge for the (queen’s) crown.

There’s no reason why Charlotte can’t mirror the barbecue scenes of Charleston or even Houston, each for different reasons. Charleston got an infusion of outside talent in the past few years in Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Lewis Barbecue, and Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in addition to the expansion of homegrown local chains in Swig & Swine and Home Team BBQ. As Charleston-based food writer/historian Robert Moss has recently noted, the Charleston barbecue scene in the past five years has gone from “minor outpost to acclaimed destination.” Seems like Charlotte is always playing second (or even third fiddle) when it comes to the Charleston food scene and in this case, its no different for barbecue. While that may be too much for fine dining, there’s no reason why Charlotte can’t match or better Charleston in barbecue.

From afar, the Houston barbecue scene is a little more homegrown but has proven that a barbecue scene can sizzle even in an urban setting (the Houston metro area is nearly 3 times larger than Charlotte). But even in that spread-out urban setting, the barbecue community seems tight knight and the competition appears to be mostly friendly (again, this is from afar as I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Houston yet). When I spoke with Matthew Berry and Michael Wagner from Midwood Smokehouse earlier this year, they cited the lack of community in Charlotte’s barbecue scene as an area for opportunity. Perhaps until that improves, Charlotte can’t become a true destination for barbecue.

For #6-43, check out the Charlotte Big Board here.

And now, on to the only Charlotte barbecue list that matters…

Honorable Mentions: The Smoke Pit, Buddy’s Bar-B-Que

5. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue (review)

The one truly old school NC barbecue joint on this list, Bill Spoon’s has been around since 1963 on what was then a country road south of Charlotte. Charlotte has a bad habit of losing what few institutions it has, whether due to neglect or development, but let’s hope that Bill Spoon’s doesn’t fall victim to that trend because they are still making some fine eastern NC barbecue.

4. Midwood Smokehouse (review)

While somehow our last official review was in 2015 (I plan to remedy this in the coming months), Midwood Smokehouse is still a regular stop for the Monk family and seemingly most of Charlotte, as it has expanded to 4 locations in the greater Charlotte area (as well as one down in Columbia, SC). Not to mention that it’s the go-to spot for any celebrities or figures of note that come into town; President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Murray, Justin Timberlake have all been patrons of Midwood in recent years. Regardless, I will continue to give credit to Frank Scibelli for bringing wood-smoked barbecue back to Charlotte in 2012, saving us from the gassers and faux ‘cue that had plagued the city for decades.

3. Sweet Lew’s BBQ (review)

Sweet Lew’s BBQ was recently named to Thrillist’s 33 Top Barbecue Restaurants in the US and Garden & Gun’s Best New Southern Barbecue Joints, and it couldn’t be more deserved for Lewis Donald (the “Lew” in “Sweet Lew’s”) and partner Laura Grice. The menu has been described as “unfussy” and that’s precisely the right adjective for this barbecue shack located in an old service station in the working-class neighborhood of Belmont.

But in addition to the worthy smoked meats and homemade sides (including the only hash and rice I’m aware of in the Piedmont of NC), I’d like to give props to their work in the neighborhood where Donald donates his time and food for block parties and even recently partnered with a local barber shop to give kids free back-to-school haircuts. Now that’s the type of barbecue joint that should be in every neighborhood.

2. Noble Smoke (review)

You may be a bit sick of reading about Noble Smoke on this blog lately, but it has truly given Charlotte a destination barbecue restaurant and raised the bar for the city’s barbecue. Let’s hope others follow suit. Read more from our review here.

1. Jon G’s Barbecue (review)

Jon G’s Barbecue has topped our Charlotte Big Board for 2+ years now, and doesn’t appear to be to be losing the crown anytime soon now that Garren Kirkman (the firekeeper behind Jon G’s) is no longer working full time and is fully in the barbecue game. For that, the greater Charlotte area should be thankful even though it’d be hard to imagine his Central Texas-style brisket getting too much better (in addition to his other meats and scratch made sides). I predict more big things to come from him and his wife Kelly. For any serious Charlotte barbecue fan: SEEK OUT JON G’S BARBECUE.

Charlotte Barbecue Joint Big Board – March 2017

We have a new #1! Jon G’s BBQ hosts a regular pop-up at Southern Range Brewing in Monroe and smokes some of the finest brisket in NC (the pork’s not so bad either), which lands it at the top spot in our latest update. Since our last big board in December 2015, we’ve added seven total new joints to the list, four of which landed in the top 7: the aforementioned Jon G’s BBQMidwood Smokeshack – the fast casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse, the Texas-style joint Big Tiny’s BBQ in Mooresville, and the year-old korean-southern barbecue fusion of Seoul Food Meat Co. 2017 should hopefully bring us the debut of Jim Noble’s barbecue restaurant, the Texas-and-maybe-Lexington-barbecue-influenced Noble Smoke (side note: our top 5 has a little too much Texas flavor to it for my liking). He’s done some events in Charlotte over the past few months on his new smoker, and I am hoping his brick and mortar restaurant opens soon (or at least I get a chance to taste his barbecue somewhere).

What other Charlotte area joints should we check out? Feel free to weigh in on your favorite in the comments and if you present a strong enough case we will try to head there next. I’ve checked out a few joints recently based on reader comments and feedback (including our new #1) and am always looking for more, whether in Charlotte or across the state.

-Monk

Note: “new” denotes reviewed since last big board update

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  1. Jon G’s BBQ new
    A recent revelation from Monroe. Check their Facebook and Instagram to figure out when Garren and Kelly will be smoking at Southern Range Brewing next because you won’t want to miss it.IMG_0196
  2. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (food truck)
    Some friends of the blog ordered some catering from Boone’s last summer and it was still pretty dang good. I hope to catch them out and about some time soon to see if Jon G’s really is the new best barbecue in town.IMG_1469
  3. Midwood SmokehouseBallantyne / Central Ave (original review)
    Midwood keeps doing their thing, and continue to expand with another Charlotte location expected to open with the next month or so.
    img_6577
  4. Midwood Smokeshack (Matthews) new
    Recently relocated Texas-born pitmaster Michael Wagner is doing some great things at the fast casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse.IMG_4457
  5. The Smoke Pit (Concord) (original review)
    Having recently tried the Salisbury location of The Smoke Pit, I was reminded just how good their smoked meats are.
  6. Big Tiny’s BBQ (Mooresville) new
  7. Seoul Food Meat Co new
  8. Sauceman’s (original review)
  9. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue (original review)
  10. Kyle Fletcher’s Barbecue & Catering
  11. Q2U (Lake Wylie) new
  12. The Improper Pig
  13. Killer Q
  14. Bar-B-Q King
  15. 521 BBQ and Grill: Tega Cay / Indian Land
  16. Mac’s Speed Shop: Steele Creek / South Blvd
  17. Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q (Concord) 
  18. The Q Shack
  19. Smoke & Go Bar-B-Que (food truck)
  20. Kid Cashew new 
  21. Treehouse Whiskey and Fork new
  22. Smoke Modern Barbeque (Huntersville)
  23. R&R Bar-B-Que (Concord)
  24. Queen City Q (original review)
  25. Lancaster’s BBQ: Huntersville / Mooresville
  26. Rock Store Bar-B-Q: Stallings / Mint Hill
  27. Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que: food truck / Matthews (original review)
  28. McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon
  29. Brooks’ Sandwich House
  30. Fort Mill BBQ Company (Fort Mill) new 
  31. Queen City Q (Concord) new
  32. Bubba’s Barbecue
  33. JJR’s BBQ Shack
  34. Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ
  35. The Dixie Pig (Rock Hill)
  36. City Smoke
  37. Bobbee-O’s BBQ (original review)
  38. OooWee BBQ (food truck)
  39. R.O.’s Bar-B-Que

Closed: Old Hickory House (April 2015), Elwood’s Barbecue & Burger Bar (September 2015), Carolina Ribs on the Run (Mooresville) (July 2014), Farmer’s BBQ (unknown)

Still to review: Dan the Pig Man (food truck), Bodrick’s BBQ, Glenn’s Again (Kannapolis), Slow Smokin’ BBQ (food truck), Smokey J’s BBQ (food truck), Smoke Modern Barbeque (Stonecrest), JB’s Lazy Pig BBQ and Ice Cream (Waxhaw), Unnamed Jim Noble barbecue restaurant (coming soon), Randy’s BBQ (Troutman), City Barbeque, Dan Good Que

Previous Big Boards: December 2015, January 2015May 2014December 2013July 2013

Charlotte Barbecue Joint Big Board – December 2015

Since our last big board in January, a few new notable joints have popped up (particularly The Smoke Pit at #4 and the second location of Midwood Smokehouse at #2), a few have closed (including  longtime north Charlotte joint Old Hickory House, #9 on our list), and we even debuted our Austin version of the list. In terms of future 2016 reviews, the trend appears to be towards food trucks and upscale barbecue restaurant concepts, save for maybe something like Glenn’s Again in Kannapolis.

What other Charlotte area joints should we check out? Feel free to weigh in on your favorite in the comments and if you present a strong enough case we will try to head there next. I recently checked out The Smoke Pit based on reader feedback and loved it, so we do try to take feedback seriously when we can.

-Monk

  1. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (food truck)
  2. Midwood Smokehouse (Ballantyne) new
  3. Midwood Smokehouse (original review)
  4. The Smoke Pit new
  5. Queen City Q
  6. Sauceman’s (original review)
  7. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue (original review)
  8. Kyle Fletcher’s Barbecue & Catering
  9. Old Hickory House CLOSED April 2015
  10. The Improper Pig
  11. Killer Q new
  12. Elwood’s Barbecue & Burger Bar CLOSED September 2015
  13. Bar-B-Q King
  14. 521 BBQ and Grill (Tega Cay)
  15. 521 BBQ and Grill (Indian Land)
  16. Mac’s Speed Shop (Steele Creek) new
  17. Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q (Concord) 
  18. The Q Shack new
  19. Smoke & Go Bar-B-Que (food truck)
  20. Smoke Modern Barbeque (Huntersville) new
  21. Mac’s Speed Shop
  22. R&R Bar-B-Que (Concord)
  23. Lancaster’s BBQ (Huntersville)
  24. Lancasters’s BBQ (Mooresville)
  25. Rock Store Bar-B-Q (Stallings)
  26. Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que (food truck) new
  27. Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que (original review)
  28. McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon
  29. Brooks’ Sandwich House
  30. Rock Store Bar-B-Q (Mint Hill)
  31. Bobbee-O’s BBQ
  32. Farmer’s BBQ
  33. Bubba’s Barbecue 
  34. JJR’s BBQ Shack
  35. Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ new
  36. The Dixie Pig (Rock Hill) new
  37. City Smoke
  38. OooWee BBQ (food truck)
  39. Carolina Ribs on the Run (Mooresville) CLOSED July 2014
  40. R.O.’s Bar-B-Que

Still to review: Dan the Pig Man (food truck), Q2U, Fort Mill BBQ Co, Bodrick’s BBQ, Glenn’s Again (Kannapolis), Slow Smokin’ BBQ (food truck), Smokey J’s BBQ (food truck), Treehouse Whiskey and Fork, Smoke Modern Barbeque (Stonecrest), Seoul Food Meat Market (coming soon), Unnamed Jim  Noble barbecue restaurant (coming soon), Midwood Shackhouse (coming soon), Unnamed Martin Sprock Mediterranean smokehouse (coming  soon)

Previous Big Boards: January 2015May 2014December 2013July 2013

Charlotte Barbecue Joint Big Board – January 2015

Last time around, I thought the best hope to shake up the Charlotte rankings was Kyle Fletcher’s in Gastonia. While the portions were huge, it only lands at #6 in our latest big board (though we will be visiting again in a few weeks). The Improper Pig recently opened in December and shows promise, but didn’t quite deliver on our first visit landing at #8, and Bar-B-Q King just made the top 10 due to its neat drive-in setting. Outside of those, the rest of the new reviews since last May were mainly disappointing. At this point, we are running out of new Charlotte-proper spots to try so we may be branching out into Gastonia, Concord, and Kannapolis more.

What other Charlotte area joints should we check out? Feel free to weigh in on your favorite in the comments and if you present a strong enough case we will try to head there next.

-Monk

  1. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (food truck)
  2. Midwood Smokehouse (original review)
  3. Queen City Q
  4. Sauceman’s
  5. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue
  6. Kyle Fletcher’s Barbecue & Catering new
  7. Old Hickory House
  8. The Improper Pig new
  9. Elwood’s Barbecue & Burger Bar
  10. Bar-B-Q King new
  11. 521 BBQ and Grill (Tega Cay) new
  12. 521 BBQ and Grill (Indian Land) new
  13. Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q (Concord) 
  14. Smoke & Go Bar-B-Que (food truck)
  15. Mac’s Speed Shop
  16. R&R Bar-B-Que
  17. Lancaster’s BBQ (Huntersville)
  18. Lancasters’s BBQ (Mooresville) new
  19. Rock Store Bar-B-Q
  20. Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que
  21. McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon
  22. Brooks’ Sandwich House new
  23. Rock Store Bar-B-Q (Mint Hill)
  24. Bobbee-O’s BBQ
  25. Farmer’s BBQ
  26. Bubba’s Barbecue 
  27. JJR’s BBQ Shack
  28. City Smoke
  29. OooWee BBQ (food truck)
  30. Carolina Ribs on the Run new
  31. R.O.’s Bar-B-Que new

Still to review: Dan the Pig Man (food truck), Q2U, Fort Mill BBQ Co, Bodrick’s BBQ

Previous Big Boards: May 2014December 2013July 2013

Charlotte Barbecue Joint Big Board – May 2014

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Big shakeup at the number one spot in our Charlotte leader board. We’ve added 5 reviews to the Charlotte rankings since December and Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen, a food truck run by a Dan “Boone” Gibson, who helped create the original Mac’s Speed Shop and Queen City Q, takes the top spot with it’s moist, tender, smokey barbecue with a perfect bark. It’s high quality brisket and sausage only help to solidify it’s ranking. Speedy and I will be revisiting Midwood Smokehouse soon for a proper re-review, and it will be interesting to see just how it stacks up on its second official review. The next best hope to challenge the top spot is Kyle Fletcher’s in Gastonia, which we have yet to review despite it winning the Charlotte Observer Barbecue Bracket in spring 2013.

What other Charlotte area joints should we check out? Feel free to weigh in on your favorite in the comments and if you present a strong enough case we will try to head there next.

-Monk

  1. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (food truck) new
  2. Midwood Smokehouse
  3. Queen City Q
  4. Sauceman’s
  5. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue
  6. Old Hickory House
  7. Elwood’s Barbecue & Burger Bar new
  8. Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q (Concord) new
  9. Smoke & Go Bar-B-Que (food truck)
  10. Mac’s Speed Shop
  11. R&R Bar-B-Que new
  12. Lancaster’s BBQ new
  13. Rock Store Bar-B-Q
  14. Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que
  15. McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon
  16. Rock Store Bar-B-Q (Mint Hill)
  17. Bobbee-O’s BBQ
  18. Farmer’s BBQ
  19. Bubba’s Barbecue 
  20. JJR’s BBQ Shack
  21. City Smoke
  22. OooWee BBQ (food truck)

Still to review: Kyle Fletcher’s, Bar-B-Q King, Dan the Pig Man (food truck), Q2U, Fort Mill BBQ Co, R.O.’s Bar-B-Que

Previous Big Boards: December 2013July 2013

Charlotte Barbecue Joint Big Board – December 2013

Since July, we’ve added 6 new joints to the Charlotte Big Board, with no real shake up at the top. In fact, the highest reviewed place since July went only as high as fifth – Old Hickory House. I can’t see much left out there in Charlotte to shake things up too much, but I am really curious about two places – The Que Stand out of a gas station in Harrisburg as well as Kyle Fletcher’s, the winner of the Observer bracket challenge last spring.

  1. Midwood Smokehouse
  2. Queen City Q
  3. Sauceman’s
  4. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue
  5. Old Hickory House
  6. Smoke & Go Bar-B-Que (food truck)
  7. Mac’s Speed Shop
  8. Rock Store Bar-B-Q
  9. Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que
  10. McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon
  11. Rock Store Bar-B-Q (Mint Hill)
  12. Bobbee-O’s BBQ
  13. Farmer’s BBQ
  14. Bubba’s Barbecue
  15. JJR’s BBQ Shack
  16. City Smoke
  17. OooWee BBQ (food truck)

Still to review: The Que Stand, Kyle Fletcher’s, Bar-B-Q King, Elwood’s BBQ Burger Bar, Lancaster’s BBQ, Dan the Pig Man (food truck)

Previously: July 2013 Leaderboard

What other Charlotte area joints should we check out? Feel free to weigh in on your favorite in the comments and if you present a strong enough case we will head there next.

Charlotte Barbecue Joint Leaderboard – July 2013

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You may or may not have noticed this, but we’ve been ranking our Charlotte area joints as we’ve been reviewing them. This won’t necessarily be a monthly feature or anything but we’ll check in periodically when it makes sense or there is a big shakeup.

  1. Midwood Smokehouse
  2. Queen City Q
  3. Sauceman’s
  4. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue
  5. Smoke & Go Bar-B-Que (Food Truck)
  6. Rock Store Bar-B-Q (Stallings) 
  7. Rock Store Bar-B-Q (Mint Hill)
  8. Mac’s Speed Shop
  9. Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que
  10. Bobbee-O’s BBQ
  11. City Smoke

Still to review: Bubba’s BBQ, Farmer’s, Ole Hickory House, The Que Stand, Sage Garden BBQ, Kyle Fletcher’s, Bar-B-Q King, Elwood’s BBQ Burger Bar, Lancaster’s BBQ, McKoy’s Smokehouse

What other Charlotte area joints should we check out? Feel free to weigh in on your favorite in the comments and if you present a strong enough case we will head there next.

-Monk