Monk’s Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2020

Monk: Our last piece of business before we close the door on 2020, here are my favorite barbecue meals of 2020. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d get to a full list of 10 like I did for 2019, but even with everything going on I still had some great meals.

10. Beef rib from Midwood Smokehouse

Midwood Smokehouse has a weekend beef rib special available every weekend for the (relatively) low price of $32 per bone. Midwood charges a flat fee and compared with what you’d pay if you had to pay by the pound, that’s a saving of at least $10-15.

9. “Bird is the word” smoked then fried chicken sandwich and smoked gulf shrimp from Leah and Louise (Charlotte)

“Bird is the Word” is a smoked then fried chicken sandwich topped with pickles and comeback sauce from Leah and Louise from James Beard-nominated chef Greg Collier and his wife Sabrina. It was also one of the best sandwiches I ate all year, even if it was technically not at a barbecue joint. The other smoked item I enjoyed on that visit was the “On My Way Home” which was “big a$$ smoked gulf shrimp” in a lemon, butter, and worcestershire sauce with cornmeal brioche.

If you are anywhere near Charlotte, get yourself too Leah and Louise at Camp Northend.

8. Smoked beef tenderloin from my backyard

My big Christmas smoke this year was both a smoked turkey breast but most importantly, a smoked beef tenderloin. I dry rubbed the tenderloin with kosher salt earlier that day before rubbing it with Billy Twang’s Old No. 3 Rub (review here) as I got my Oklahoma Joe’s offset up to temp. Two hours later, I had a perfectly medium tenderloin that sliced into perfect medallions. Yet another winner to file away for future smokes.

7. Chopped pork from Rick’s Smokehouse (review)

Rick’s was the favorite of my new Lexington discoveries as part of last year’s Lexington barbecue quest, landing just below my co-favorites Lexington Barbecue and Bar-B-Q Center and the re-review of Smiley’s (see below). Nonetheless, Rick’s is a winner that carries on the Lexington tradition for a relatively new restaurant (opened in 2009).

6. Tres Amigos platter (brisket, pork, and ribs) with smoked turkey and jalapeno cheddar sausage from The Smoke Pit

Mine and Speedy’s full review is forthcoming, but we enjoyed our visit to the newest location of the expanding local restaurant chain, which started in Concord and has grown to 4 locations. Charlotte-area folks: don’t sleep on The Smoke Pit.

5. Texas Trinity and beef rib from Prime BBQ (story)

At last February’s media event for Prime BBQ (in before times), after an extensive tour of the then-in construction Prime BBQ, the group was treated to a lovely meal of brisket, ribs, and sausage (aka the Texas Trinity) and a small beef rib. Eventually I will make it back to Knightdale for an official review, but this was quite the meal.

4. Pork belly burnt ends and sliced pork belly from my backyard (story)

While I still haven’t quite lived up to my promise that I would smoke pork belly again very soon, it is very much on my to-do list for upcoming backyard smokes in 2021. I still dream about those pork belly burnt ends from time to time.

3. Chopped barbecue sandwich with hush puppies and a Cheerwine from Smiley’s Lexington Barbecue (review)

Eight years after my first and only visit to Smiley’s, I wanted to get another visit end in case it truly does end up closing due to road expansion. And what I found was a 5 hog joint in limbo, unsure of the timing when it will be forced to close. Nevertheless, the sandwich I got on that day was the perfect Lexington barbecue sandwich.

2. Beef rib, brisket, ribs, and cheddar bossa sausage from Jon G’s Barbecue (review)

You guys all know how I feel about Jon G’s by now, so not too much more needs to be written here except that you should make the trip out to Peachland, particularly if they have a beef rib on special (but be prepared to pay for it). One of my barbecue new year’s resolution is to make the trip more often and continue to spread the word of Jon G’s.

1. Pork, ribs, and chicken from Southern Smoke BBQ (review)

Southern Smoke was my favorite barbecue at the midpoint of last year and that carried on through to the end of 2020. Matthew Register and team are doing great things in Garland, and I urge folks to make the trip like I did.

Charlotte Barbecue News from the Fourth Quarter of 2020

Monk: The Charlotte barbecue news seemingly slowed down in the last 3 months of 2020 as the restaurants that thankfully are still open continue to struggle through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we begin 2021, here’s hoping the news is more positive than negative. Fingers crossed!

October

10/12 Charlotte-based Bojangles briefly expanded to barbecue for National Pulled Pork Day on October 12th

10/13 – Midwood Smokehouse is one of the barbecue restaurants that politicians make a point to visit when in Charlotte

10/15 – Mac’s Speed Shop handed out free pulled pork for early voters in front of the Bojangles Entertainment Complex

November

11/9 – Midwood Smokehouse‘s brisket cheesesteak makes this list of the 6 “must-try” ones in Charlotte

11/23 – Perry’s Pig Pickin’ in Mint Hill is part of a small grocery store; the history of how this Perry brother didn’t get into the jewelry business in the Charlotte Ledger

11/28 The Smoke Pit celebrated 6 years open at its original Concord location

December

12/3 – Chef Jim Noble of Noble Smoke, his religiously conservative views, and how they fit in with today’s Charlotte

12/16 Sweet Lew’s BBQ introduces brisket tamales

12/22 Jon G’s Barbecue makes Charlotte Five’s list of best takeout meals in 2020

The Best Barbecue Shows on Streaming

Monk: This holiday while we’re all stuck at home bunkering down until the COVID-19 vaccine is widely distributed, why not watch some barbecue-focused TV shows to take your mind off things?

This will be our last post of the year, so we will see you in 2021!

Suggested Order of Viewing

  1. The American Barbecue Showdown (Netflix)
  2. BBQuest (Hulu)
  3. Chef’s Table: BBQ (Netflix)
  4. The Chef Show S1V1E8, S1V1E9 (Netflix)
  5. Cooked S1E1 (Netflix)

This post is updated as of December 2020

Netflix

New: The American Barbecue Showdown (8 episodes)

The American BBQ Showdown is more “Great British Bakeoff” than “Chopped” or “Top Chef,” with 8 amateur or competition barbecue pitmaster competing against each other in different meat competitions. Filmed outside of Atlanta in pre-pandemic times, it provided a welcome distraction for barbecue fans this past fall.

The Chef Show Season 1 – Volume 1 Episode 7 – “Franklin”; S1V1E8 – “Hot Luck”

Hollywood mega writer/director/producer/actor Jon Favreau and LA Food Truck godfather Roy Choi spend two episodes with Aaron Franklin at Franklin Barbecue, first learning about his approach to brisket (S1E7) before participating in Franklin’s inaugural Hot Luck Festival in 2017 (S1E8). Check out our AV Club recap here and here)

New: Chef’s Table: BBQ (4 episodes)

This barbecue and live-fire cooking edition of the Chef’s Table series profiles 4 pitmasters or live-fire cooking chefs, with the Tootsie Tomanetz of Snow’s Barbecue and Rodney Scott episodes being the highlight for American barbecue fans.

Cooked S1E1 – “Fire” (52 mins)

In this first episode of the miniseries on food, food author Michael Pollan goes in search of primordial cooking and finds it in eastern North Carolina and Ed Mitchell. The episode follows Ed and his son Ryan as they pick out a pig from the butcher shop, get the coals started, and then proceed to smoke a whole hog for a small gathering at the end of the episode. Michael and a couple of buddies even try to emulate it on their own in a small, backyard pit in California. Ed also tells a story of how he learned to cook pigs from his grandfather, a former slave. The barbecue section starts at approximately 26:00.

Queer Eye S3E3 – “Jones Bar-B-Q” (47 mins)

This episode of Queer Eye helped make the Jones Bar-B-Q sisters – Little and Shorty – international barbecue celebrities when it aired earlier in 2019, but they have been doing barbecue in Kansas City for decades. Their sauce with the redesigned label courtesy of the Queer Eye crew is now a huge seller, with the website prominently displaying a banner reading “Please allow a 7-10 day delay in shipping as we have been overwhelmed at the response and will send your order as soon as we can.” From the looks of the episode, it appears that the newly found fame is well-deserved.

Street Food: Asia S1E9 – “Cebu, Philippines” (31 mins)

In the Philippines lechon, or whole roasted pig, is the preferred form of barbecue in this nation of over 7,000 islands. In this food custom, a smaller suckling pig is tied around a pole and rotated over a live fire for hours. This episode covers lechon in addition to a few other food customs from the city of Cebu in southern Philippines.

Taco Chronicles S1E5 – “Barbacoa” (31 mins)

The Taco Chronicles is a Spanish-language food series where each episode focuses on a different type of taco. The “Barbacoa” episode focuses on the lamb/goat form of barbecue primarily located in Mexico and the southern border of Texas, which I’ve never tasted myself but is described on the episode as being “softer than the tortilla it is served on.”

Ugly Delicious S1E5 – “BBQ” (47 mins)

In episode 5 of season one of Chef David Chang’s Netflix series, he covered barbecue as well as other live fire customs across the world. Check out our AV club recap here.

Hulu

BBQuest (2 seasons)

Across two four-episode seasons of the travel show co-produced by the Texas Beef Council, host and native Texan Kelsey Pribilski criss-crosses Texas to meet with some of the best pitmasters in the state. She’s in search of the state’s best barbecue as well as secret barbecue menu items. The first season gets the large cities (Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth) out of the way, while season two is able to tackle more remote locales. Texas Monthly Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn even makes an appearance as Kelsey’s guide for the Big Bend episode (S2E1).

Eat, Sleep, BBQ (4 episodes)

Official Description: “Rashad Jones embarks on a road trip to meet people who share his
passion for barbecue.”

Prime Video

Bama-Q (3 seasons)

“Bama-Q” follows members of the Alabama Barbecue Association through competitions (similar to the first season of “BBQ Pitmasters”)

Faith, Hope and BBQ (57 mins)

Official Description: “Food for the belly, and food for the soul. A delightful, tasty and charming look at a small town, rural Florida, African American “Church built on BBQ”

Food Safari – Fire (10 episodes)

Host Maeve O’Meara dedicated an entire 10-episode season to exploring live-fire cooking traditions across the world

Primal Grill with Steve Raichlen S3 (13 episodes)

Grilling authority Steven Raichlen provides step-by-step instructions on a variety of barbecue dishes from across the world.

The Wood Whisperer Barbecue (4 episodes)

Official Description: “Renowed woodworker, Marc Spagnuolo uses his knowledge of wood to help him explore the world of barbecue and grilling. Spoiler, that knowledge doesn’t help at all”

Disney+

The World According to Jeff Goldblum S1E5 – “BBQ” (28 mins)

A rather superficial look into the world of barbecue from the ever-quirky Goldblum.

The Barbecue Bros Holiday Gift Guide 2020

Monk: Phew boy, 2020. It’s really been one, hasn’t it? Let’s just get through the rest of the holidays, regroup in January, and hope for the best for 2021. As with years past, here’s our Annual Gift Guide with some gift ideas for the barbecue lover in your life.

Am I missing something? Comment below or email me at barbecuebros@gmail.com

Note: items in bold are personally recommended

Charlotte Barbecue Gifts

(Shameless Plug) “Lexington Legends 2.0” t-shirt, logo koozie, keychain, combo packs (link)

The Great NC BBQ Map plus posters, gift packs, and swag from EDIA Maps (link)

Rub and Sauces from Fire of Coals (link)

T-shirts, hoodies, Matt’s Rub, sauces, and gift cards from Midwood Smokehouse (link)

Rub, sauce, gift cards, swag from Sweet Lew’s BBQ

North Carolina Barbecue Gifts

Books

Hats, T-Shirts, Apparel

Accessories, Stocking Stuffers, etc.

Non-Native Barbecue Gifts

Books

Cookbooks, from pitmasters and food writers alike

Food History, Cultural Writing, and Photography

Hats, T-Shirts, Apparel

Accessories, Stocking Stuffers, etc.

Happy Shopping!