Schwartz’s Deli – Montreal, Quebec

Name: Schwartz’s Deli
Date: 9/20/19
Location: 3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Montreal, Quebec
Order: 3 large smoked meat plates, slaw, fries, pou (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: For this year’s edition of our annual guys trip, the guys and Speedy and I headed to Montreal to get our fill of jet boating and poutine (well, not so much Speedy on the poutine). Speedy used to spend a decent amount of time in Montreal for work and had a pretty good meal here. Seven years later, Schwartz’s was a must-stop for our group that weekend per Speedy. 

Speedy: Smoked meat is a staple of Montreal cuisine – it’s served almost everywhere. And there’s no smoked meat joint more famous than Schwartz’s. Our group was lucky enough to get seated immediately upon arriving on a Friday just before 11:30 (the line was out the door when we left), and our waiter told us stories of all the famous people he’d served (which was a pretty extensive list including several celebrities).

Monk: Montreal smoked meat is actually a brisket that is pickle juice-brined for 10 days before being smoked for 8 hours. It’s similar to pastrami except that the mix of seasonings it’s cured in contains less (or almost no) sugar and more savory seasonings like cracked peppercorns, coriander, garlic, and mustard seeds. Fun fact: Montreal steak seasoning was modeled on the spice mixture used for Schwartz’s smoked meat. The briskets are kept whole and sliced to order when large groups such as ours order such outrageous quantities of meat…

1 of 3 large platters

Speedy: Which we did. Based on the advice of our waiter, we ordered 3 large plates, and (spoiler alert) had enough leftovers for late night snacks (and add-ons to our Montreal bagels next morning).

Monk: Ah, Montreal-style bagels – man, those were good. Back to the meal…

I threw together my first sandwich with the seedless rye slices plus the mustard and slaw, and it was fantastic. More jewish deli than barbecue, but there’s a reason why Schwartz’s is a Montreal institution that was purchased by Celine Dion for $10 million so that it wouldn’t be torn down. I ended up making two more sandwiches of the delicious smoked meat.

Speedy: Agree, Monk. The meat is tender and flavorful, and really makes a great sandwich. It’s an absolute must in Montreal. And bonus – the slaw is vinegar based! The slaw was crunchy and tangy and was a perfect complement – either on the sandwich or a side. 

Monk: I was excited to try all of the poutine during our stay in Montreal that weekend. For the uninitiated, poutine is Montreal’s signature dish that is comprised of fries topped with cheese curds and a meat gravy containing bits of the smoked meat from the slicing block. Schwartz’s was the first of 4 poutine orders I had that weekend, and it was very solid.

Speedy: Overall, there’s a reason Schwartz’s Deli is a staple, and it’s a must-eat in Montreal. On this trip, this was the only smoked meat our group had, but after this meal, no other was really needed.

For more reviews, check out:
Marie, Let’s Eat! (2011)
Speedy’s review from 2012

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Smoked Meat – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jon G’s Barbecue (Speedy’s take)

Name: Jon G’s Barbecue (Speedy’s Take)
Date: 9/26/19
Order: ½ lb brisket, ½ lb pork, 1 Cheerwine sausage link
Pricing: $$

Speedy: For a couple years now, Monk has been raving about (and rubbing in) his times eating Jon G’s Barbecue. So when I was in Charlotte on an evening when Jon G was parked outside The Chamber by Wooden Robot in NoDa, I knew I had to go. Hat tip to Monk for the heads up. 

Monk: While Jon G’s has been making inroads into Charlotte more and more, a mid-week pop-up was a rare occurrence. With Speedy in town for a wedding, luckily the timing worked out nicely. 

Speedy: I arrived a little late to the party, and Monk had already left, but fortunately for me, he had let pitmaster Garren know I was coming. I learned very quickly the Garren is a smart man, as he offered me a bite of brisket before I ordered. Like I had done at La Barbecue and Franklin before that, I graciously accepted the bite and was immediately in heaven. It didn’t change my order, but it did let me know I was in for a treat. Knowing I had to try everything, I ordered a half pound of brisket, the same amount of pork, and 1 (the last!) Cheerwine hot link. Slap on a side of baked beans and we were ready to roll.

My name was called a few minutes later and it was go time. We have to start with the brisket. I later told Garren that I had previously refused to order brisket in the Carolinas, but John Lewis and Jim Noble changed that for me. And I think Jon G’s one upped both of them. The peppery moist goodness of the brisket (I ordered a mix of the fatty and lean) was top notch. This brisket was 99% as good as what I’d had at the top Texas joints, and on a good day could equal that. Garren had given me a sample of all of their sauces to try, but I didn’t dare use any on this brisket, because there was no improvement needed.

Monk: I haven’t been as fortunate as Speedy when it comes to trying brisket at the top places in Texas, so while I was high on Garren’s brisket I simply had no true baseline. I do know that Garren has traveled to Texas a lot for research, so its nice to get some agreement from Speedy here.  

Speedy: The pork was next on the list, and, while it made me happy, it took a back seat to the brisket. I found it to have a nice smoky flavor, but I did need to add a bit of the vinegar sauce to get the full effect. 

Monk: Pork can be a bit of an afterthought in Texas, but that’s certainly not the case here. I always get the pork and do agree that a bit of the vinegar sauce sets it off. Maybe we can get some big Texas Pete bottles in the future, Garren?!?

Speedy: Huge applause to Garren and team for making their own sausage – a Cheerwine hot link (which eventually ran out during service due to popularity). The link had great flavor and consistency and I definitely recommend it. It stayed together unlike some scratch made sausages I’ve had. My only complaint (with the whole meal) is that I’d like a little more snap when biting in, but it’s hard to find anything else that can be improved. 

Monk: I was waiting to order until Speedy got there so when he was held up and then I had to leave before he got there, so sadly I still have not tasted the magical, mysterious Cheerwine hot link. Per Garren, it seems as if this sausage may lead to some partnering opportunities with Cheerwine in the future, so it sounds as if its here to stay. I can’t wait to eventually try it.

Speedy: With all that meat, I was only able to eat a couple bites of baked beans, which we good, but very sweet. I’m more a savory guy, so I found myself focusing my attention back to the brisket.

Monk has labelled Jon G’s Barbecue the best in Charlotte, and I’m here to confirm that he’s right. Everything about this platter was perfect, and I can’t wait to see Garren and team again.

Ratings:
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 Hogs

Skull Camp Smokehouse, Brewery & Wine Loft – Elkin, NC

Name: Skull Camp Brewing
Date: 9/27/19
Address: 2000 N. Bridge Street, Elkin, NC 28621
Order: Brisket platter with collards and cole slaw plus side of pulled pork and smoked wings (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: A few years ago when Mrs. Monk and I took a short self-guided winery tour of the Yadkin Valley wine region of NC, I encountered Skull Camp Brewing beers (and in particular, one named “Mahgeetah” after the My Morning Jacket song) at Round Peak Winery and learned that at that point they were in the process of opening a taproom and smokehouse in the small town of Elkin (pop. 4001). My interest has remained piqued over the years, and on the way to another Y Guides Longhouse weekend with the elder Monkette in the mountains of NC I finally got a chance 6 years later to try.

Unfortunately, what I did try was a bit lackluster when it comes to the smoked meats. The smoked wings were flavorful but lacked a lot of smoke. This would be a sign of things to come, unfortunately.

The pork and chopped brisket were both dry and fairly flavorless, with the main difference being that the brisket was covered in a thick, sweet barbecue sauce. The menu states that the meats are smoked using “local hard woods” but again, I didn’t detect even the faintest of smoke in either meat. Come to mention it, I didn’t see any stacks of wood or chimneys, which would lead me to believe that at best, they were using a gasser that possibly had some wood fed.

I did get to try a rib from a fellow dad at my table, and it was obviously hiding its lacks of smoke by being slathered in a thick, sweet sauce.

The sides were a mixed bag, with the mayo-drenched cole slaw being my least favorite. The collards were topped with bits of bacon but lacked vinegar. A pleasant surprise was the hard biscuit that came with each platter, a passable starch.

Skull Camp Smokehouse, Brewery & Wine Loft has a great setting with its multiple patios and outdoor fire pit and cornhole space out back. Unfortunately when it comes to barbecue, it has plenty of other foods on the menu that you should check out instead.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 1.5 hogs
Wings – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs

Revenge BBQ – Irvington, NY

Name: Revenge BBQ
Date: 9/19/19
Address: 48 Main St, Irvington, NY 10533
Order: Lone Star Sampler (1 lb brisket/pork/ribs, mac and cheese, custard corncake), jalapeno cheddar sausage (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: While the Hudson Valley barbecue scene is apparently burgeoning, it’s still a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to quality according to Eater food critic Robert Sietsema. One hidden gem he found a few years back was Revenge BBQ in the town of Irvington, and having the occasion to pass through the Hudson Valley last week, it was the obvious target for me.

Revenge BBQ is a Texas-focused barbecue joint a few blocks from the Hudson River in downtown Irvington that’s been in operation since 2017. They import sausages from Kreuz Market in Lockhart, they smoke dinosaur beef ribs on the weekend, and feature both a “Lonestar Sampler” platter for 1-2 people as well as an even bigger “Texas Trinity Feast.” So yes, Texas is the main concern at Revenge. Co-owner Jacob Styburski (a former senior director of design at PayPal and one half of the husband and wife owner duo along with his wife Catherine) has even done his time in Texas, both at Texas A&M’s Camp Brisket as well as interning under Russell Roegels of Roegel’s Barbecue in Houston.

That work and research shows through in the meats I tried that day, all of which are smoked in an onsite Ole Hickory smoker. The brisket (both lean and fatty) had a proper peppery bark, with both cuts of meat maintaining their moisture. The pork ribs were nice and peppery and adhering to Texas tradition thankfully avoided being sauced.

As I mentioned above, Revenge BBQ imports their sausages from Kreuz and the jalapeno cheddar ring sausage was properly spicy and one of the best I’ve had. Keeping with Texas tradition, the pulled pork was perhaps a bit of an afterthought and thus the least successful of the meats. Not bad, but nothing comparable to NC barbecue (which would be a tall task).

The creamy mac and cheese was good but the real star of the show was the custard corncake, a new and different version of cornmeal from the hush puppies, cornbread, or cornsticks found in NC. I won’t stay that it topped hush puppies for me, but it came pretty close. I loved the sweet and creamy custard texture and will be thinking of that side for a while.

Revenge BBQ (named after their son’s middle name) is located on Main Street on an idyllic town on the Hudson River and is well worth the detour if you are looking for above average Texas barbecue.

For more, check out:
Pig Trip
Westchester Magazine

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Noble Smoke – Charlotte, NC

Name: Noble Smoke
Date: 8/24/19
Address: 2216 Freedom Dr, Charlotte, NC 28208
Order: The Miss Mary Platter (1 lb brisket, 1 lb pork, 1 rack ribs, 1 lb turkey, red slaw, coleslaw, pickled veggies), 12 wings, hush puppies (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$ 

Monk: In 1919, the first Lexington-style barbecue stand was set up across the street from the courthouse in Lexington, NC by Sid Weaver. Shortly after, Jess Swicegood set up his own stand and both businesses thrived to the point of building permanent restaurants. Eventually, they would go on to train Warner Stamey in the ways of Lexington-style barbecue, and he continued to spread that gospel all over the Piedmont of North Carolina to owners who would go on to open such famed joints as Bridges Barbecue Lodge, Alston Bridges Barbecue, Lexington Barbecue, and Stamey’s own namesake restaurant, Stamey’s Barbecue

Exactly 100 years later and 60 miles to the south in Charlotte, Chef Jim Noble has finally opened up his passion project restaurant in the form of Noble Smoke, continuing the Lexington-style barbecue tradition (though he does offer a variety of smoke meats). Everyone knows Noble as the chef and restaurateur behind higher-end restaurants like Noble Grill, Rooster’s, and King’s Kitchen, but a Lexington-style barbecue restaurant has been 25 years in the making.

Speedy: Monk and I got to spend a couple hours with Noble before the restaurant opened and, though we didn’t get a chance to sample anything, I left that meeting confident that the man knew his ‘cue and had a true passion for it, so I was more than excited to sample the goods. The space Noble built is fantastic – rustic but refined, with ample seating, a large bar, a nice outdoor space, and a brewery joining next door. 

Monk: For our group of 5, the Miss Mary Platter was the perfect order as it gave us a chance to try just about all of the meats and in the right quantity. At the time of our visit, Noble Smoke still hadn’t fired up the brick masonry pits that were styled after Lexington Barbecue, so our pork was smoked in one of the six large offset smokers occupying the smoke room. As he is doing across the board, Noble is using high-quality ingredients (which you pay for, as the platter was $88) and in this case its Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork. On this day, the pork wasn’t quite the crowd favorite while still being very good. I can’t wait to try them now that they’ve fired up those brick pits.

Speedy: Noble clearly studied up on the Texas brisket he was trying to emulate. And I’ll say, he did a nice job. The prime brisket was moist, peppery, and flavorful. I had previously sworn off ordering brisket in the Carolinas, but Noble Smoke is joining Lewis Barbecue on the exception list. I rank it just a tad behind Lewis, but still a top ten brisket I’ve had in my life. I think any Texan would be impressed.

Monk: I couldn’t agree more, and also think that any Texan would also be impressed with the ribs that Noble Smoke is slinging. Rubbed generously with salt and pepper, I was relieved that Noble avoided the temptation to offer a saucy, sweet rib and instead something far more nuanced. North Carolina isn’t known for ribs and they can often be an afterthought, but these were more Texas Trinity than KC Masterpiece. By far, these were the favorite meats on the table in our group that day.

Speedy: I’m on record saying I don’t know why anyone would order smoked turkey at a barbecue restaurant given the choice of other delectable meats from our hooved friends. Well, I’m man enough to admit it – I was wrong. The turkey at Noble Smoke was probably the best I’ve had. Like the brisket, it was seasoned with just salt and (plenty of) pepper, but that was enough to tease out an incredible amount of flavor, all while retaining moisture. This is a hard thing to do with turkey, so hats off to Jim Noble for this. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite thing I had that day (that goes to the ribs), but it was the biggest surprise for me.

Monk: Like everything else, the wings from were delicious and well smoked, even if they were a bit on the small side. Noble gets his heritage chicken from Winston-Salem-based Joyce Farms, which is nice to see them source from a North Carolina operation. 

We ordered a side of the hush puppies made with Anson Mills heirloom grain corn (again, note the high quality ingredients) and the table gobbled them up pretty quickly. The Miss Mary’s Platter came with small sides of both eastern and western (red) slaw as well as pickled veggies in the form of onions, pickles, and beets. The beets were definitely different.

Speedy: Sometimes new restaurants take a few months to get up to speed and everything rolling, but Chef Jim Noble is clearly a pro and the meal we had at Noble Smoke was one of my top barbecue meals all year. Noble Smoke was designed to be a destination barbecue joint, and I think it will be just that. I’m certainly adding it to the list for every time I visit Charlotte. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Wings – 4 hogs
Turkey – 4.5 hogs 
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q – Pembroke, NC

Name: Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q
Date: 8/10/19
Address: 100 E 3rd St, Pembroke, NC 28372
Order: Lunch buffet (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Barbecue buffets are typically found in the eastern part of North Carolina as well as in the midlands of South Carolina but not very many other places in the US other than that. Personally, I am not opposed to the idea of buffets in general like some *cough*Mrs. Monk*cough* and have had some decent experiences. One of which being at the now-closed store of Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ in Lumberton that was shuttered a few years ago due to Hurricane damage. With their Pembroke location on our route to Ocean Isle Beach for the week, a quick stop for lunch was a fairly easy decision.

Before I get to the barbecue, I want to pause briefly on the fried chicken. While not technically a barbecue item, you will tend to find it on the menu at a lot of barbecue joints in North Carolina (both old and new), and its usually not simply an afterthought. That’s certainly the case at Fuller’s, and while the pork is good, the fried chicken is arguably the main attraction. It’s that good.

Onto the barbecue, which is an eastern-style chopped pork smoked over wood. It’s flavorful and smokey, and a little squirt of the vinegar table sauce doesn’t hurt one bit.

The hush puppies are orb-shaped and smaller than your average hush puppy, so you may mistake them for fried okra. They stay pretty fresh under the heating lamps and I went back for seconds. The other sides of coleslaw, mac and cheese, and collards that I chose from the huge buffet were all good but pretty standard fare.

But onto the dessert, where you have a choice of red jello, chocolate-iced 5-layer yellow cake, strawberry shortcake, chocolate pudding, and some bomb-ass banana pudding. I’m far from a ‘naner pudding connoisseur but I know what I like and I quite liked the version at Fuller’s. I definitely went back for seconds.

Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ also has two stores in Fayetteville and are hoping to open another store back in Lumberton (although not at the same location, which was damaged too much). Owner Eric Locklear (as well as his parents Fuller and Delora before they passed) has been operating their barbecue/seafood/soul food buffets for more than 30 years and offer good food for a cheap price (as low as $8.99 for a lunch buffet during the week). It’s certainly worth a stop if you are in Cumberland or Robeson Counties in the southeastern part of the state.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Owlbear Barbecue – Denver, CO

Name: Owlbear Barbecue
Date: 8/2/19
Address: 2826 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
Order: 1¼ lbs brisket, 1 lb ribs, ½ lb pork, ½ lb pork belly, medium coleslaw, small pinto beans, small cucumber salad, 3 bags Frito Lays
Pricing: $$

Monk: Last time our heroes found themselves in Denver looking for barbecue, they were a bit underwhelmed despite the above average rating we gave to Boney’s Smokehouse. Has barbecue in Denver drastically changed for the better in the past six years, or should we expect more of the same? Fortunately, a week before mine and Speedy’s sojourn to Red Rocks for a My Morning Jacket show (alongside friends of the blog Boomsauce and Leor), Daniel Vaughn the BBQ Snob himself was in Denver for a speaking event with James Beard award-winning author Adrian Miller and did the legwork for us in terms of scouting out the current Denver barbecue scene. From the looks of it, Denver had a lot more legit barbecue joints than they used to but the one that stood out to him was Owlbear Barbecue in the RiNo (River North) neighborhood of Denver, whose pitmaster Karl Fallenius previously worked at Franklin Barbecue. With that, our Friday afternoon late lunch before the first night at Red Rocks was planned.

Speedy: Admittedly, one does not think of barbecue when travelling to Denver, but the photos of Owlbear had my mouth watering. Owlbear is in the corner of a small shopping center next to Our Mutual Friend Brewing, and is a small joint with two large offset smokers outside and limited seating – just the kind of no frills joint that I like. Our order was easy – a bit of everything, including brisket, pork belly, ribs and pulled pork.

Monk: I’ll start with the weakest of the meats, which was the pulled pork. I was actually a little higher on this than Speedy as it somewhat reminded me of eastern NC barbecue with red pepper flakes in the pork even though it was pulled instead of a finely chopped. It was plenty smoky and moist, but still, was the weakest of the smoked meats on this day.

Speedy: While the pork was just above average, the brisket was phenomenal. Peppery goodness abound, with lots of bark and tender, juicy meat, it hit the spot. We ordered a mix of the lean and fatty, and both were incredible. This ranks with Lewis Barbecue as the best brisket I’ve ever tasted outside the state of Texas (and frankly, there’s not been a whole lot that’s been that close). I don’t quite put it in my top 4 (Franklin, La Barbecue, Pecan Lodge, Killen’s), but it’s right on the edge. 

Monk: The pork belly was something special. If I’m not mistaken, it had the same peppery rub as the brisket (which includes coffee grounds). Was it perhaps the best smoked pork belly I’ve ever tried? No perhaps about it – it absolutely was. 

Speedy: The ribs were also quite good. The rub was different than the brisket – I could taste paprika and maybe some cumin – which complimented the pork nicely. They were cooked nicely, allowing for a nice, clean bite, and no sauce was necessary. Overall, a fine showing and worth ordering.

Monk: I made a mistake in ordering as many sides as I did, and perhaps in ordering any sides at all; perhaps I should have gone full Texas and gone just with a tray of meat. I did not care for the asian slaw and felt like it didn’t go with the meats, though I do wonder how it would work topping a pulled pork sandwich. The cucumber salad was a basic side which I’m guessing was an easy way to get them something green on the menu with little fuss, but it didn’t particularly strike me as a successful barbecue side. The pinto beans were the best of the group we ordered, but were not essential. Mac and cheese and potato salad were both 86’d by the time we got there, and of those two, I’d be curious how the mac and cheese was. Regardless, just meats may be the way to go.

Speedy: The other thing worth mentioning is that though the meats did not need any sauces, it was provided. I ended up tasting it, but not using it as I didn’t particularly care for it. It tasted like mediocre steak sauce to me, so the meats are better off without it.

That said, I’m not sure I could have been more pleased overall. Owlbear Barbecue is proof that great ‘cue can be found anywhere – even in Denver. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Pork Belly – 5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Pig Beach – Brooklyn, NY

Name: Pig Beach
Date: 7/21/19
Address: 480 Union St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Order: Sampler platter with ¼ rack of ribs, ¼ lb of pork shoulder, brisket, and turkey each; 2 links of Yankee red hot sausages (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: To say I’ve had a mixed history with Brooklyn barbecue would be an understatement. On one hand there was my introduction to Brooklyn barbecue at the now-closed The Smoke Joint in Fort Greene, which may be the single worst barbecue restaurant I’ve ever been to. Then, there’s the ridiculously good, 4.5 hog Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook, expertly run by Billy Durney. If those are the two ends of the spectrum, just where would Pig Beach in Gowanus fall?

Despite the fact that the weekend that Mrs. Monk, the eldest Monkette, and I were in New York was during a heatwave, we opted to go to the beer garden locale of Pig Beach because in addition to having a decent reputation for barbecue it looked like a cool spot and surely there would be some shade right? The restaurant is located just off the Gowanus Canal, but thankfully we didn’t have any issues with any smells from the canal wafting into the beer garden area. In the back corner of the property behind an outdoor bar was a smokehouse comprised of a number of Ole Hickorys, which are gas-assisted wood smokers.

What we got from those Ole Hickory pits was a bit of a mixed bag. The two best meats on this day by a good margin were the brisket, which had a nice peppery bark and was well-smoked, and the “Yankee Red Hot Sausage” which is stuffed with the unique combination of provolone and hot cherry peppers. I’m no sausage expert but I definitely had not seen provolone in a sausage before. Unorthodox or not, it worked for me.

A notch below was the smoked turkey, a meat I don’t usually order at barbecue restaurants. I probably won’t start ordering it on the regular but if other restaurant’s turkey is smokey and moist along the same lines of Pig Beach, then that’s a decent option. 

The pork was bland and forgettable and the rIbs may have been holdovers from the previous day based on how chewy I found them. Both were very forgettable on this day.

For sides we picked coleslaw, mac and cheese (dusted with goldfish crumbs nonetheless), and cucumber salad. All were well executed and above average.

Pig Beach has a great setting that would have been even more pleasant had it not been in the middle of a heat wave in late July. They’ve also got no shortage of drink options from local beers to cocktails, so you can definitely stick around for awhile after you finish your meal. On the Brooklyn Barbecue Spectrum (trademark pending), they are definitely more Hometown than Smoke Joint for sure. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 1.5 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Turkey – 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

Pig Beach Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Little Pigs BBQ – Asheville, NC

Name: Little Pigs BBQ
Date: 7/5/19
Address: 384 McDowell Street, Asheville, N.C. 28803
Order: Regular BBQ plate with slaw and beans, broasted chicken thigh (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Back in the 1960’s, the Memphis-based Little Pigs Barbecue of America chain of restaurants had nearly 100 franchises throughout the southeast. The corporation went bankrupt by 1967, but you can still find independently run locations still open here and there; in NC there are locations in Newton and Statesville and I know Columbia, SC still has one open that Marie, Let’s Eat! loved

And of course there’s this Asheville one. It wasn’t my original plan to try a new Asheville barbecue restaurant on this trip, but Buxton Hall was unexpectedly closed for lunch that day due to some hood system issues so I quickly changed our coordinates towards Little Pigs.

This Asheville location opened in 1963 (the only year that Little Pigs of America apparently turned a profit before shuttering) in an old gas station just north of the Biltmore Estate. It was owned by a husband and wife duo Joe and Peggy Swicegood (from my understanding, not related to Jess Swicegood who helped create the Lexington style of barbecue) until Joe’s death in 2014 at the age of 91. For more of a profile of them, I can’t recommend this Our State article from Jeremy Markovich enough.

With all that history at Little Pigs BBQ, it’s unfortunate that I found my barbecue to be fairly average. Behind the registers at the front counters sit old brick ovens that used to cook the meat but Little Pigs currently uses a gas-assisted wood smoker. You can still get some good product out of gassers, but I didn’t get a lot of smoke in the barbecue, or much flavor to honest. Until I mixed in some slaw and Texas Pete, I found my chopped pork to be quite bland. 

The broasted chicken thigh, on the other hand, was fantastic. If there is a next time, I’ll focus on more of that as opposed to the barbecue. For those curious (and because I just bothered to look it up), broasted chicken is essentially fried chicken that’s cooked in a pressured fryer.

The sides of mayo-based coleslaw, baked beans, and three hush puppies were all standard and not noteworthy in the least.

Little Pigs BBQ is by far the oldest barbecue restaurant in Asheville and for that, its worth a visit but only once you’ve eaten at Buxton Hall or 12 Bones or Luella’s. Try the barbecue but be prepared to get some broasted chicken.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Broasted Chicken – 4.5 hogs 
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Little Pigs BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Apple City BBQ – Taylorsville, NC

Name: Apple City BBQ
Date: 6/24/19
Address: 3490 NC Hwy 16 South, Taylorsville, NC 28681
Order: 3-meat combo with pork, ribs, and brisket; corn nuggets and red slaw (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Sometimes the barbecue joint on a road trip finds you. On a trip with my daughter to a YMCA camp in the foothills of North Carolina, I was aware that one of many potential routes could take me near Apple City BBQ. But after being re-routed a few times due to Charlotte Friday rush hour traffic, I had no idea that it was actually on the route I was on until I literally drove right by it just south of the town of Taylorsville. After a quick check with the other passengers in my car, we turned around and by the grace of the barbecue gods, I was going to have barbecue for dinner that night.

Apple City occupies a small brick building right on NC-16 and on a Friday night, it was packed with locals. We happened to get lucky with a booth immediately available but by the end of our dinner the line had grown out the door.

I’ve been keeping up with Apple City via Instagram through recommendation from Garren of Jon G’s Barbecue. As it turns out, they previously had a non-barbecue working connection way back when and but now occasionally work with each other now in a barbecue-related capacity. Everything on Instagram looked promising but as any experienced barbecue traveller will vouch, looks can be deceiving. However, I had no idea just what I was in for.

Seeing as how I wasn’t sure when the next time I’d be passing through Taylorsville, I went ahead and ordered the three meat combo of pork, ribs, and brisket. I would normally start with the pork at a NC barbecue restaurant, but this time I’ll start with the ribs which were my favorite of the three meats. I don’t tend to favor ribs but these dry ribs had a nice salty-sweet rub and were perfectly tender. The three meat combo comes with a quarter rack and I would have gladly taken at least another half rack.

The pork (and all meats, for that matter) is smoked over a mixture of hickory and apple woods, and the smoke certainly shone through in each meat. The tender, smokey pork more than stood up on its own but a few dollops of the red slaw enhanced the meat as it should.

The slice of brisket on first glance appeared a little dry but in reality it was simply just an above average slice of lean with plenty of flavor in the peppery bark. With a three meat platter you are of course going to get smaller portions of each, but as was the case with the ribs I would have gladly at least a few more slices of brisket. 

In addition to the red slaw, my other side was corn nuggets, a dish I had neither had the pleasure of trying nor heard of before. Turns out, they are deep fried morsels of creamed corn and they are redonkulous. I knew these wouldn’t last the trip so I tried to each as much of it as I could stand. 

Apple City BBQ is a family-owned barbecue joint that is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. They’ve been open since 2016 and are located on NC-16 south of Taylorsville and 17 miles northeast of Hickory. I wouldn’t consider that location to be the most convenient for most NC travelers as its not too close to any major highways. Regardless, all serious barbecue enthusiasts should make it a point to stop by for some great barbecue.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs