Checking In: Sweet Lew’s Barbeque

Monk: While our official (and thus far only) review of Sweet Lew’s Barbeque is from 2018, between pop-ups with Bryan Furman, Patio Parties, and new specials, there is usually a good reason to check out Sweet Lew’s every couple of weeks or months.

Lewis Donald and team are constantly making improvements to the experience and lately have been focusing on the exterior of the building. From the addition of flags from the US, North Carolina, and Texas (reminiscent of Noble Smoke) to the new covered patio providing much needed shade to the murals outside and in, the Sweet Lew’s of today is much different from how it started off in December 2018.

The murals (pictured in header image above) in particular are worth highlighting. The artist, SHE Originals, received a grant from the NoDa Neighborhood association to paint the three exterior walls as well as the inside, highlighting the history of the Belmont neighborhood. Take a look in detail next time you’re there.

Then of course there’s the menu and food itself. Lewis brought many of the popular daily specials in to the everyday menu. Of note is his take on barbecue hash. Much different than a midlands South Carolina hash with its use of beef in addition to pork (with no liver or pig offal in sight), its the only place in Charlotte that is serving any version of it. For me, this is a must order every time I visit.

On my most recent visit, the ribs were also a highlight. Each rib provided the perfect bite and were well balanced in terms of flavor.

A few years back, Sweet Lew’s moved to making their sausage in-house (with some tips provided by Garren of Jon G’s), and the recent results were really great. As was both the turkey (which I hadn’t previously tasted), the brisket (much improved from my last time), and chicken wings (perfectly done).

In all aspects, Sweet Lew’s continues to improve. The experience and ambiance is better all around and the food that Lewis Donald is putting out continues to evolve for the better. If it’s been awhile since you checked out Sweet Lew’s Barbeque, do yourself and see what they are doing on Belmont Ave. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Checking In: Breakfast Tacos at Juan Luis

If you’re reading this, its unfortunately too late to grab a breakfast taco from the Juan Luis trailer in front of Lewis Barbecue in Charleston.

Before it changed over to “JLs” after August 2, Juan Luis served delicious breakfast tacos with homemade tortillas made in the trailer unlike anything I’ve had. Of course, Charlotte and NC doesn’t have the breakfast taco culture that Austin or the Southwest has.

I had both the migas (crispy corn tortillas strips, avocado, pico de Gallo, eggs, cheese) and the toro (green chile beef, pintos, onions, egg, cheese) on my one and only visit and these tacos were life-changing. Particularly the migas, which I still think about to this day.

After a quick refresh, JLs will serve green chile cheeseburgers, green chile cheese dogs, frozen custard sundaes and margaritas. I imagine it will be worth checking out.

The Juan Luis concept will be transferred to Rancho Lewis, which is coming soon to the former Workshop food hall at 1503 King St in Winter 2022. For me, it will be a must stop next time I’m in Charleston.

Checking In: Noble Smoke

Monk: It’s been over a year since I last got takeout from Noble Smoke and much longer since I had last dined in. Recently, I found myself in the neighborhood just down the street getting my second COVID vaccine shot, so beforehand I decided to treat myself to lunch on their patio on a nice Spring day.

As everything is a la carte at Noble Smoke, I ordered a Lexington-style chopped pork sandwich ($8), a 1/4 lb of smoked turkey ($5), and a side of Anson Mills hush puppies ($4).

Speedy is on record as proclaiming Noble Smoke’s sandwich the best pork sandwich outside of Lexington. And he’s not wrong. As has been well documented, the pork shoulders are smoked in a brick pit that was fabricated to mimic the pits of Lexington Barbecue (owner Jim Noble got permission from his friends the Monk family). Topped with a red slaw on a fresh baked bun, it’s quite a satisfying sandwich. I’d be tempted to go with getting just two of those next time instead.

Speedy and I have both been into trying smoked turkey at more places so I went with that as a side. Noble Smoked has a very good version of smoked turkey, smokey and not overly dry. The sandwich might be a good switch up order sometime in the future.

Noble Smoke’s hush puppies are made with cornmeal from Anson Mills in Columbia, South Carolina. I find them to be the best hush puppies in Charlotte, no doubt.

Noble Smoke has a daily rotation of fruit hand pies ($4), and on this day they had blueberry, which was fantastic.

Noble Smoke continues to knock it out of the park. On a nice day, their patio is a great setting, with their pallets of wood from Carolina Cookwood providing some separation to the parking lot in addition to setting some nice ambiance and the recent introduction of a beer shack for outdoor drink service. I hope to spend more Spring and Summer afternoons on that patio.