Monk: Nine years ago today, it all started with a discussion between Speedy and Monk about Charlotte’s best barbecue on our way to what turned out to be a disappointing visit to Bobbee-O’s, then the #1 joint in the city (at least according to Yelp). That then led to this tweet:
And then Rudy, who at the time lived in Austin, offered to be our beef correspondent:
And then it didn’t take too long to come up with the name:
All this happened in the span of less than an hour, and our first review was up later that afternoon. Shortly thereafter we picked our “noms de blog”: Monk, Speedy, and Rudy. Nine years and 294 reviews later here we are.
Thanks to all of our readers for following our barbecue journey. We’re not stopping anytime soon, and we hope to keep bringing you even more barbecue content.
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.
Monk: After nearly a year of various stages of lockdown and a big spike in COVID cases in January, the first quarter of 2021 had mostly positive news as restaurants managed through relaxed restrictions starting in March.
Here in Charlotte, restaurants are finding new and different ways to diversify their food offerings to attract customers and some are even in expansion mode. Let’s hope that trend continues into Q2.
3/12 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque announces a “Bootcamp and BBQ” event on April 17
3/19 Noble Smoke introduces “The Noble Smoke Pitmaster Experience” where you can learn from their pitmasters for the somewhat steep price of $500 a spot; the initial spots have since sold out
“We are offering an exclusive opportunity to learn the step-by-step process of smoking meat first-hand from our pitmasters, Stuart and Ed. You get to take home the meats of your labor which includes a whole brisket and pork butt (5 lbs each). But that’s not all! 3 sauces, a hat, a pitmaster t-shirt, lunch, and a post-smoke beer are also included.“
3/19 Charlotte-based Mac’s Hospitality Group, the parent company of Mac’s Speed Shop, eyes growth across the Southeast in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Florida under the leadership of recently-hired president Shang Skipper
3/19 Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ will open a location of its fast casual concept in Concord in the coming weeks
Monk: A lot (and I mean, a lot) has changed since the last time I did a “Best of Charlotte” series in 2016. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen and Queen City Q, both winners in several categories, are both no longer in business. Neither are Sauceman’s or Bill Spoon’s, who in 2016 placed in ribs and pork respectively.
The Smoke Pit had the best brisket at the time and since then Jon G’s, Sweet Lew’s, and Noble Smoke have all opened their doors with wood-smoked brisket that each edges out the offerings from The Smoke Pit.
Midwood Smokehouse didn’t top any one category in 2016 but still had a strong showing by being in the top three in each of the five categories: pork, brisket, ribs, sausage, and other. Thankfully, they are still around and are well represented on this list.
Now, onto our picks for the “Ultimate Charlotte Barbecue Plate.”
Pork – Noble Smoke
Jim Noble and team are carrying on the 100+ years-old legacy of Lexington-style barbecue at Noble Smoke in west Charlotte. Simply rubbed with salt and pepper and smoked directly over wood coals in their custom brick masonry pit (named “John”) whose design was borrowed with permission from family friends the Monk family of Lexington Barbecue, upon tasting the pork transports you an hour or so north up I-85.
Honorable Mention: Sweet Lew’s BBQ
Brisket – Jon G’s Barbecue
The meat that put Jon G’s on the map. Of their many spectacular smoked meats, the brisket is the one must order every time you go. Do it and you won’t be disappointed. Trust me.
Honorable Mention: Noble Smoke
Ribs – The Smoke Pit
This one was a surprise from a recent trip that Speedy and I took to the Gastonia location of the local mini-chain of restaurants in late 2020. On that visit, Speedy noted that the dry rub ribs had the perfect bite with just the right amount of spice. I couldn’t agree more and it was the standout meat of that meal.
Honorable Mention: Jon G’s
Sausage – Cheerwine Hot Link from Jon G’s
A truly unique sausage made in-house at Jon G’s, with Salisbury, NC-based Cheerwine taking the place of the water used in the sausage-making process. The end result isn’t overly sweet or “Cheerwine-y” but it does impart a slight sweetness to counteract the heat of the jalapeno.
Honorable Mention: Sweet Lew’s BBQ
Beef Rib – Midwood Smokehouse
The beef rib is a weekend special at Midwood Smokehouse and upon my last visit is available every week for a cut-rate price of $32, well below what you would pay if it were charged by the pound.
Honorable Mention: Jon G’s BBQ (not available all weekends)
Side – Hash and rice from Sweet Lew’s BBQ
Hash and rice isn’t something you find in Charlotte, much less North Carolina, as its almost strictly a South Carolina barbecue dish. Sweet Lew’s differs from what you would find at True BBQ in West Columbia or Sweatman’s in Holly Hill in that instead of the off parts of the pig it uses pork as well as brisket, but I just love that they now offer it fulltime on their menu whereas it used to be a Wednesday special only.
Honorable Mentions: Pork skins from Sweet Lew’s BBQ, Smoked Meatballs from Midwood Smokehouse, Smoked wings from Noble Smoke