Monk’s Top 10 Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2018

Monk: Last year I provided a ranking of my 10 favorite barbecue meals eaten in 2017 so trying to make it an annual thing by doing the same for 2018. Happy New Year!

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.

9. Barbecue tray from Smokey Joe’s (review)

8. Barbecue tray from Speedy Lohr’s (review)

I hope to one day make a comprehensive list of Lexington barbecue joints, but in early 2018 I was able to knock two off the list in Smokey Joe’s and Speedy Lohr’s, with neither tray disappointing.

7. Whole hog from NC State BBQ Camp (link)

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.

6. Chopped pork plate and brunswick stew from Stamey’s Barbecue (last review from 2013)

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.

2. Brisket, sausage, and chopped pork from Lewis Barbecue (review from 2017)

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.

Honorable Mentions: Q – Houston, TX (review), LeRoy & Lewis – Austin, TX (review)

The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC – Honorable Mentions

Monk: Last week I posted my list of the 10 best joints in western North Carolina. Here’s my list of honorable mentions.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

Johnson Family Barbecue – Durham (review)

Outside of my usual digging for barbecue joints I had never heard of Johnson Family Barbecue, so it was a pleasant surprise that the barbecue was as good as it was. The makeshift smokehouse shed around back only adds to the charm of the joint, which is connected to a gas station on Wake Forest Highway between Durham and Raleigh/Wake Forest. 5021 Wake Forest Hwy, Durham, NC 27703 johnsonfamilybbq.com

Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte (review)

As the story goes, if Frank Scibelli can’t get a certain food in Charlotte, he tends to open a restaurant to fill that gap. With Midwood Smokehouse, that gap was wood-smoked barbecue; primarily central Texas brisket and sausage but also but also pan-regional smoked meats such as eastern NC pulled-pork, burnt ends, and ribs. With the latest Park Road location in Charlotte, Midwood Smokehouse is now looking to fill in the gap for wood-smoked whole hog barbecue in Charlotte. various locations midwoodsmokehouse.com

Picnic – Durham (review)

As with Buxton Hall and Old Etowah Smokehouse, Picnic was part of a trend of new whole hog joints outside of eastern NC a few years back. While I found it to be a little on the pricey side, the whole hog was still quite good and worth a return visit whenever I get another chance. 1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705 picnicdurham.com

The Smoke Pit – Concord, Monroe, Salisbury (review)

What began as a combination butcher shop and barbecue joint has developed into a small chain with locations in Salisbury and as of earlier this year, Monroe. The Smoke Pit does serve pulled pork but is a good bet for the some of the best brisket from a restaurant in the Charlotte-area. various locations thesmokepitnc.com

Smokey Joe’s Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Speedy Lohr’s BBQ – Lexington (review)

Someday, I hope to be able to properly assess all of the 18 or so Lexington barbecue joints and create a comprehensive list. In the meantime, I will say that Smokey Joe’s Barbecue and Speedy Lohr’s BBQ are quite good and in my current top 5 for the small town of approximately 20,000. Smokey Joe’s Barbecue: 1101 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292 smokeyjoesbbqlexington.com; Speedy Lohr’s: 3664 NC-8, Lexington, NC 27292

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off on either this list or the 10 best list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.

The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC

Monk: I still need to work my way through the eastern part of the state (it’s been on my to-do list for 5 years and counting…) in order to be able to make a more comprehensive North Carolina-wide list, but in the meantime here’s my list of the best NC barbecue restaurants in the western part of the state.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

10. Old Etowah Smokehouse – Etowah (review); NOW CLOSED

A few years back Old Etowah Smokehouse was part of a trend of new whole hog joints opening up outside the eastern half of the state (more on that later). The trend may have cooled somewhat since – the amount of labor involved may have something to do with that – but Old Etowah is honoring the style properly in the shadows of the Nantahala National Forest hear Hendersonville. 6577 Brevard Rd, Etowah, NC 28729 facebook.com/oldetowahsmoke

9. Barbee’s Bar-B-Que – Peachland (review)

This was my biggest barbecue discovery of 2017, a classic highway barbecue joint off highway 74 where they are slinging near perfect Lexington-style barbecue. A true hidden gem in the small town of Peachland, which is outside of Marshville, which is outside of Monroe, which is outside of Charlotte. Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133 facebook.com/Barbee’s-Bar-B-Q

8. Backyard BBQ Pit – Durham (review)

Backyard BBQ Pit gets somewhat overlooked in the Research Triangle Park area, but they definitely shouldn’t be. Which is somewhat curious, considering they’ve gotten coverage on Food Network’s “Man vs. Food”. Don’t make the same mistake as everyone else, and check them out. 5122 NC Hwy 55, Durham, NC 27713 sweetribs.com

7. The Barbecue Center – Lexington (review)

This underrated joint in Lexington often lives in the shadow of Lexington Barbecue not 2 miles away but many locals claim it to be the best in the city. I don’t personally happen to agree with them, but they aren’t necessarily wrong. 900 N Main St, Lexington, NC 27292 bbqcenter.net

6. Allen & Son Bar-B-Que – Chapel Hill (review)

When Speedy and I checked out Allen & Son in 2012, we dinged them for their ribs instead of simply focusing on the pork. This was a mistake, and the hybrid of chopped pork shoulder with eastern sauce earned 5 hogs from us on that trip while the ribs knocked the overall rating down to 4 hogs. A return trip is surely in order to properly reassess Allen & Son (add it to the list…). 6203 Millhouse Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27516 facebook.com/Allen-Son-BBQ

5. Bar-B-Q King – Lincolnton (review)

Residents in the small town of Lincolnton (20 minutes north of Gastonia and 50 minutes from Charlotte) are lucky to have had a great barbecue joint such as Bar-B-Q King serving them for the past 46+ years. This is barbecue certainly worthy of a short detour if you are on driving in 321 in that part of the state.  2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092 barbqkingnc.com

4. Stamey’s Barbecue – Greensboro (review)

One irony of the #BrooklynBBQ controversy was that the following week the ACC Tournament was being hosted for the second year in a row in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center instead of in its spiritual home at the Greensboro Coliseum with Stamey’s just across the street. While I am still in the camp that there is good barbecue in Brooklyn, there just isn’t anything that approaches Stamey’s. 2206 W Gate City Blvd, Greensboro, NC 27403 stameys.com

3. Buxton Hall Barbecue – Asheville (review)

I’ve been thinking about the whole hog from Buxton Hall Barbecue for nearly two years and can’t wait to get back to Asheville. From what I can tell though, Elliot Moss and team continue to blow it out of the water in South Slope. 32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 buxtonhall.com

2. Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby (review)

I rarely make it through Shelby without finding a reason to stop at Bridges Barbecue Lodge. It might more accurately be described as more of a 1a for me behind my number 1 below, and it has yet to really let me down ever. 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28150 bridgesbbq.com

1. Lexington Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Lexington Barbecue aka Lexington #1 aka The Honeymonk is first, my last, my everything. 100 Smokehouse Ln, Lexington, NC 27295 lexbbq.com

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off my list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.

Monk’s 10 Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2017

Trying something new: a year-end list for my favorite barbecue meals of the year. I used to do this for music, film, and tv but in recent years that has fallen off. Perhaps this will stoke the coals of my list-making motivation in other areas, but at the very least its worth documenting the hobby which has taken up so much of my (and my poor wife’s) free time for the past 5.5 years. Come to think of it, the timeline of this blog lines up almost perfectly with my drop off in listmaking…

In any case, hope you enjoy. This will conclude our reviews and original content for 2017, but we will be back in 2018.

Monk

10. Swig & Swine – 4 hogs (review)

The Summerville location of Swig & Swine included a whole hog smoker (whereas their West Ashley location does not have enough space for one), following the popular trend of the past few years. The whole hog was quite good but their brisket and hash and rice wasn’t too bad either, 1990 Old Trolley Rd, Summerville, SC 29485 swigandswinebbq.com

9. Hill’s Lexington Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

Hill’s claims to be the original “Lexington Barbecue” in name (but definitely not first to serve in that style). They may be a notch below the better places in Lexington, but they are certainly not doing the style any disservice. 4005 Patterson Ave, Winston-Salem, NC 27105 

8. Barbee’s Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

This was truly a surprise for me. I kinda-sorta knew of this place and had passed by it many times , but I had no idea it would be (as I referred to it in my review) “the platonic ideal of the NC roadside barbecue shack”. A must visit, if only to step back in time a bit. Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133

7. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

In 2017, I am happy to say that I rediscovered Bill Spoon’s after a few years away. It’s about as close as we have to a barbecue institution in Charlotte (54 years and counting), and though they are an eastern NC joint and I’m a Lexington-style fanboy, I simply believe that I need to go more often. 5524 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217 spoonsbarbecue.com

6. Rodney Scott’s BBQ – 4 hogs (review)

While my expectations of the brand new Rodney Scott’s BBQ were sky high, I must say that the whole hog didn’t quite match the perfection of Scott’s BBQ back in Hemingway. Nevertheless, taking it for what it’s worth, we should all be glad that Rodney Scott has made his pork accessible without having to drive in the middle of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. 1011 King St, Charleston, SC 29403 rodneyscottsbbq.com

5. Bar-B-Q King – 4.5 hogs (review)

Bar-B-Q King is another NC barbecue institution, though I only discovered it in early 2017. They do seem to be a little underrated on the NC barbecue scene despite smoking over wood for the past 46 years. Hopefully this will change. 2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092 barbqkingnc.com

4. B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – 4.5 hogs (review)

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque was just named best restaurant in Atlanta by Eater (note no “barbecue” modifier), and for good reason. Bryan Furman is another one of the torch bearers of whole hog barbecue, but don’t sleep on his brisket or hash and rice. 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 bscracklinbbq.com

3. Jon G’s BBQ – 4.5 hogs (review)

It appears that Jon G’s has taken a well-deserved break due to the birth of Garren and his wife Kelly’s first child, but I can’t wait until they are back out there slinging some legit Texas-style brisket out of their recently-purchased food truck. Marshville, NC facebook.com/JonGsBBQ

2. Lewis Barbecue – 4.5 hogs (review)

Unlike Rudy and Speedy, I hadn’t really had a taste of true Central Texas barbecue since I sadly haven’t made it out there since the start of the blog. That recently changed earlier this year because John Lewis (formerly of La Barbecue) brought central Texas to Charleston and I tasted is sublime brisket. All hail the king, apparently. 464 N Nassau St, Charleston, SC 29403 lewisbarbecue.com

1. Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – 5 hogs (review)

In a year where I did not have a meal at Lexington Barbecue (my ride or die) Red Bridges is going to easily take the #1 spot on this list. Sadly, it had been nearly 4 years since my last visit but rest assured, it won’t be that long before my next. After 70+ years, they’ve still got it. 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28152 bridgesbbq.com

Honorable Mentions: The Smoke Pit – Salisbury, NC (review), DAS BBQ – Atlanta, GA (review)

Ten Underrated Barbecue Joints in North Carolina

(A version of this article was published last year on Tabelog here)

Everybody knows that North Carolina is one of the greatest states in the country to travel around eating barbecue, and there are some amazing, legendary restaurants around which have been open for decades and garnered a whole lot of press and attention, but they’re not the only ones. There are more than four hundred barbecue restaurants in the Tarheel State. Many of them are outstanding even if they fly under the media’s radar. Here are ten that should not be overlooked.

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Backyard BBQ Pit – Durham (link to review)
The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, or Triangle, is the DMZ between the two styles of Carolina barbecue. In that zone, you don’t find an easy boundary between eastern and western (or Lexington-style). Such is the case with Backyard BBQ Pit, whose approach is similar to the great Allen & Son in Chapel Hill in that they smoke pork shoulders (the Lexington-style cut) served with an eastern style sauce with red pepper flakes to give it a little kick. Having been previously featured on Travel Channel’s “Man vs Food” you would think that Backyard BBQ would be mentioned more in the conversation of best barbecue in the Triangle. For some reason its not, but it definitely should be.

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The Barbecue Center – Lexington (link to review)
The Barbecue Center is just two miles from Lexington #1 and doesn’t get nearly as much publicity despite the fact that its recently passed owner Sonny Conrad was the major force behind The Barbecue Festival, which draws crowds of 100,000 to the city on one Saturday each October. As for the food itself, it is a classic Lexington-style joint though its dip (table sauce) can be a little sweeter than I prefer. Having grown up on Lexington #1 I certainly have my bias, but many out-of-towners without such bias (as well as plenty of locals) have stated that The Barbecue Center is the best in town. Depending on the day, they might just have a rightful claim.

Pork, brisket, ribs, wings, brunswick stewBoone’s Bar-B-Q Kitchen – Charlotte (link to review)
Dan “Boone” Gibson has his own family traditions when it comes to barbecue that don’t strictly follow the eastern/Lexington taxonomy, but you’d be silly to dismiss his barbecue right off based on that. Having had a hand in starting two Charlotte-area barbecue chains, Boone tired of that life and struck out on his own in a food truck to serve his smoked wares (pork, brisket, sausage, and ribs) directly to the people. Look for him at various food truck festivals around the Charlotte area, and you won’t be disappointed.

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Fuller’s Old Fashion BBQ – Lumberton (link to review)
Heading towards the NC coast can be hit or miss when it comes to barbecue restaurants, but this buffet-style barbecue joint off I-95 is a nice find. While the buffet has salad and seafood as well as fried chicken, the wood smoked barbecue is the main feature and rightly so. Just don’t be surprised if you get there right as it opens and find a line of folks chomping at the bit to get in.

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Johnson Family BBQ – Durham (link to review)
When you are greeted by a sign that states “It’s All About the Wood” and a simple smoker covered by an aluminum shed at a barbecue joint, you know that’s a good start. And oh, did I mention the joint is connected to a gas station off a country highway between Raleigh and Durham? Thankfully, the barbecue follows through with well-smoked eastern style barbecue with a higher ratio of light meat to dark served in a modest dining room covered with red gingham table cloths.

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Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte (link to review)
Charlotte has been oft overlooked as a barbecue town (and usually for good reason), but Midwood Smokehouse is helping to change that perception with its focus on wood smoked meats from a variety of barbecue cuisines. While it does have an eastern carolina style pork as well as the Lexington style red slaw, Midwood draws from Central Texas in its brisket and sausages, from St. Louis in its ribs, as well as from Kansas City in its burnt ends. Throw in a full bar and you might be tempted to refer to it as “yuppie-que” but whatever you call it just know that the are serving some of the finest smoked meats in the region (the brisket is arguably the best in NC).

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Porkey’s Bar-B-Que – Mount Airy (link to review)
Similar to the coastal plans of NC, once you head west of the Piedmont of NC towards the mountains the barbecue becomes very hit or miss. Which is why stumbling across a Lexington-style joint like Porkey’s in Mount Airy was a nice surprise. It may not quite measure up to the best in Lexington, but if you are exploring the nearby wineries in the Yadkin Valley you can do a lot worse than the chopped pork at this wood smoking joint.

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Richard’s BBQ – Salisbury (link to review)
When it comes to barbecue, Salisbury is very much the little brother to Lexington. According to some, “Lexington style” barbecue – that is, chopped pork shoulders with a vinegar and ketchup-based sauce – may have even originated there. Richard’s is a wood smoking joint that serves coarsely chopped pork with plenty of bark mixed in. Add some nearly perfect hush puppies with the right mix of savory and sweet as well as a classic red slaw, and you’ve got a joint that competes with many of the better ones in Lexington.

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The Smoke Pit – Concord (link to review)
A relative newcomer, The Smoke Pit models its barbecue and presentation after Central Texas. Order a combo platter and you get a tray of meat and sides arranged like what you’d expect in just about any joint in Austin. But with the choice to drink it with a SunDrop (which along with Cheerwine is nearly the perfect drink for barbecue), it still retains some of that North Carolina charm. Much like Charlotte, Concord isn’t known for its barbecue but I’d recommend The Smoke Pit to just about anyone in the area.

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Troutman’s Bar-B-Que – Denton (link to review)
Troutman’s is the archetypal NC barbecue joint: a small, standalone wood shack off a country highway in a rural part of the state. There’s a wood pile out back, two modest dining rooms, and waitresses that take your order as soon as you find your seat. The pork is consistently moist and smokey and paired with the red slaw, hushpuppies, and a Cheerwine, it’s at a price that’s hard to beat.

What other underrated NC joints did we miss?