Name: The Cheef Order: Brisket wrap, sausage wrap (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Monk: After a day hiking or tubing on the river in the mountains of NC, a wood smoked barbecue food trailer parked outside the local outfitter is quite a welcome site. On a recent trip to Brevard , The Cheef was that welcome site parked outside of Headwaters Outfitters on the North Fork French Broad River.
The Cheef serves Tex-Mex barbecue from a food truck that makes the rounds in the town of Brevard and nearby Rosman. I actually spotted it twice on Fourth of July weekend, once here and the very next day at The HUB Pisgah Tavern at the doorstep of the Pisgah National Forest.
Actually, “food truck” would be a little misleading, as the meat is smoked on a reverse flow offset Lang Smoker mounted in the bed of the heavy duty pickup truck that also hauls a food trailer. Based on Instagram posts, the menu seems to regularly consist of a variety of smoked meats including smoked pork, sausages, brisket, and chuck roast. Though I didn’t have it that day, chuck roast is smart as its a cheaper cut of beef than brisket that I can personally attest makes great tacos. Well played, The Cheef (or is it just Cheef?).
Other than the El Guapo (a pork taco topped with roasted tomatillo salsa, onions, and cilantro) or the loaded baked potato, the menu is largely made of smoked meats presented simply with either Texas toast or a large flour tortilla. I opted for brisket and smoked sausage at $13 and $6 respectively.
The brisket looked to be moist and perfectly smoked, and that was mostly the case. My only minor complaint was that it could have used a little more flavor, though that was ultimately achieved by pouring some of the sauce that came on the side over the brisket before folding it in the tortilla as a wrap. It proved to be a pretty satisfying mid-afternoon snack, even though it was a little pricey for what you get.
The smoked sausage was a little less successful for me, with the kielbasa-style sausage plenty smokey but not exactly what I was looking for in my order. Admittedly, I was hoping for more of a Texas-style link such as a the ever-present jalapeno cheddar. However, at $6 it was less than half the price of the brisket and offers a good beef alternative at a much lower price point.
A Tex-Mex barbecue truck is a bit of a rarity for North Carolina, much less in the mountains. Not to mention one smoking with a legit smoker such as a Lang. When in the Brevard area, definitely be on the look out for The Cheef while having a beer after your outdoor adventures.
Monk: On the first day of their soft opening dates, I made what is sure to be the first of many trips east to Peachland out to Jon G’s Barbecue. Assuming there was going to be a line for a 4pm start, I arrived at about 3:25 and found that indeed there was one. Once in line I confirmed that I was 12th in line (behind Adam and his wife of Apple City BBQ nonetheless!). I cracked open a beer with my (actual) brother Andy and friend of the blog Chris and happily began our wait in line.
For this first day at least, Jon G’s was just letting one group in at a time to order at the counter so the line moved a little slower than it ultimately will once things are normal (whenever that may be). No matter though if you’ve got a cooler full of beer, which I can’t recommend enough.
Once through the line, we headed out to the picnic tables with our food. On this warm day, some intrepid patrons ahead of us in line set up a tailgate tent over one of the tables and I was immediately jealous. The heat was not unbearable despite it being late June, and between the intermittent breeze and the cold beer we managed. Of course, the barbecue helped.
If you’ve been paying attention, you already know howIfeelabout Jon G’s Barbecue, so I won’t dwell too much on the food. But as expected, the Texas Trinity of brisket, ribs, and sausage each hit the mark. The mix of lean and moist brisket was buttery soft with a great pepper crust, the ribs are rapidly becoming my second favorite meat there, and the sausages (their signature Cheerwine hot link and a jalapeno cheddar) each had a nice kick with a great snap.
Kelly and Garren will be understandably focusing on the restaurant for the foreseeable future at the expense of the food truck so if you want to try the best barbecue in Charlotte, you’re just going to have to make the trip to Peachland to try Jon G’s Barbecue. I would recommend getting there early if you can, as the line had grown to upwards of 60-70 as I left. Regardless, make the trip, bring a cooler, and I promise you won’t be mad that you did.
Speedy: After a successful mail order from Black’s Barbecue, and considering I was still sheltering in place, it seemed like a good idea to order some more ‘cue. After some serious Googling, I decided on Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. Like Black’s, the order came super quick, and packed very well, and took several sittings to eat. The meat came with a detailed instruction book that recommended warming the brisket and burnt ends in boiling water, while using the oven for the ribs. I went first with the brisket, which came pre-sliced in pretty thin slices.
After warming the package in boiling water (as directed, while still in the packaging), I cut open the package and got a good smell of smokey ‘cue. I tasted first without the sauce, and it was just OK for me. With such thin slices, there was no bark, and it missed that peppery seasoning. While the taste was good, it felt like more high-end deli roast beef, as the thin slices made it seem like it was made for sandwiches, and not sliced thickly as proper brisket should be. Everyone knows that bark can make or break a brisket, and without it, the brisket was lacking. Adding the sauce helped with the flavor, but having to do that tells you all you need to know.
Monk: From my experience at the Kansas City-style barbecue at John Brown Smokehouse with native Kansas Citizen (City-an? City-ite?) Sean Ludwig of NYC BBQ and The Smoke Sheet, his guidance (for at least that place) was to stay away from the thinly-sliced brisket and go for the burnt ends if you wanted brisket. Guess the whole thinly-sliced deal for brisket is kind of a Kansas City thing based on this admittedly small sample size.
Speedy: I had a similar experience with the ribs, finding them underseasoned. These were warmed in the oven, which gave me the opportunity to add seasoning myself, I ended up not doing that, which was a mistake. While cooked well and tender, I just wanted more flavor. Overall, I didn’t find these to be any better than store bought pre-cooked ribs.
This leaves us with the Kansas City staple – burnt ends. Going in, I was most excited for the burnt ends, a meat I don’t often get a chance to eat. Reheating the burnt ends in boiling water worked well, leading to piping hot meat, which was tender, but also lacked the bold flavor I was hoping for. The sauce complimented the burnt ends very nicely, but in the end, I still found them to just be average. By no means am I a connoisseur of burnt ends, but I certainly expected more.
Monk: I was going to order the same package from Joe’s KC but a week after Speedy since I already had ordered bulk barbecue from Jon G’s Barbecue for pick up here in Charlotte for the weekend. However, after his experience Speedy went ahead and let me know that I could probably skip them and spend my money elsewhere. Which is a shame because I too was looking forward to the burnt ends. In any case, thanks for the heads up, bro.
Speedy: At the end of the day, my second experiment with mail order ‘cue didn’t go off quite so well. I just felt there was an overall lack of seasoning, leading to a bland product. I’d be interested in visiting Joe’s KC Bar-Be-Que in person, but I won’t order from them again.
Name: Black’s Barbecue Order: Black’s Sampler (2 lbs lean brisket, 2 lbs ribs, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage – Jalapeno and Cheese, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage – Garlic) Pricing: $$
Speedy: Like most of you, Monk and I are sheltered in place (right?! right?!), so unable to visit our favorite ‘cue joints for more than takeout. But despite this, the blog must go on. What better time to try something I’ve never had before: mail order barbecue? I know many of the more famous joints (and some perhaps not so famous) offer this, and I’ve always been curious. So if I can’t make it to Texas, let’s bring Texas to Tennessee. Rudy and I had ventured to Black’s back in 2014, and loved it, so that seemed like an appropriate order.
Monk: Though I unfortunately didn’t make it on that trip with you and Rudy, from the report it sounded great (particularly the brisket). So yes, I was in on this idea because as Chip Douglas told Steven Kovacs “necessity is the mother of invention,” Speedy.
We each placed our separate orders earlier in the week but the barbecue is not overnight shipped from Black’s in Lockhart until Wednesday. Open the styrofoam box and each meat is vacuum packed separately with dry ice that evaporates as it warms. And wow, is there ever a ton of smoked meat in that box.
…turned into all this…
Speedy: With all this meat, it took me three sittings to eat the brisket, two on the ribs, and one for each type of sausage. I started the place you should start with at any Texas joint – the brisket. Living in an 800 square foot apartment with all communal space shut down, I had no choice but to heat the brisket in an oven. So I wrapped that 2 pound brisket in foil, added some Worcestershire to retain moisture, sprinkled on a little extra pepper, and let it heat for 45 min. I was very concerned with what the product was going to taste like, given it was lean brisket (I generally prefer fatty) and reheated in an oven, but holy hell was it good.
The brisket was plenty moist and had amazing flavor and good bark. I was immediately transported to Texas and can say this was better than any brisket I’ve had in Tennessee and rivals what you get straight off the smoker most places. I could not have been happier with this. I ended up chopping leftovers for sandwiches the next day (lunch and dinner), and the brisket remained very good. Overall, a great experience.
Monk: I definitely was a little wary of lean brisket shipped frozen overnight and then reheated in an oven (I have access to my smoker but still went the oven route for ease). Worst case, I imagined it would end up dry no matter how well I reheated it and I’d have to chop it up and add sauce for chopped brisket sandwiches as Speedy did. I didn’t add anything into the foil wrap like but what came out was plenty moist and had that same peppery bark described above. I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of brisket that Black’s delivered.
As far as the ribs, I took the same approach as the brisket and simply wrapped them in foil unadorned and they also came out solid. While I like ribs, I don’t like them as much as Speedy and also don’t have a preference between dry and wet. My first time I ate them dry and found them to be flavorful and smoky and not too dry. My second time a few days later, I added sauce and while I personally didn’t find it necessary, it worked well. All in all, I believe I ended up liking the ribs more than Speedy.
Speedy: I did the ribs in two sittings. The first one I didn’t add anything to the foil to reheat. I thought the flavor was good, but the ribs were under-seasoned. The second time, I added sauce before heating, and I thought that served the ribs much better. Even reheating, I could taste the smokiness and recognize the quality, but I think adding the sauce was necessary.
At the time of writing, I had only tasted the garlic sausage. I thought the flavor of the sausage was really good, but I didn’t get the much desired snap from the casing. I blame this on the oven reheat, as I don’t feel sausage is made for that as opposed to the grill. But I was still happy with the sausage.
Monk: I thought each of the three sausages had good flavor, particularly the jalapeño cheddar. My major complaint about the sausage was that it was perhaps a little greasy and crumbled apart when I sliced. For me, it was my least favorite of the meats. Upon reheating in the microwave on subsequent eatings, the casing was rubbery and almost inedible. Perhaps some pan frying or grilling is in order to crisp up the skin for the remaining links.
Speedy: Overall, I was pretty impressed with the order from Black’s. It was fairly pricey ($95 including shipping), but there was A LOT of food there – probably enough protein for 8-10 meals. I definitely prefer the experience of going to a restaurant more, but if we’re stuck in quarantine much longer, I may end up a repeat customer.
Monk: Even with the slightly different experiences in reheating between Speedy and me, I would also consider ordering from Black’s Barbecue again, even though shipping was even pricier for me in NC than it was to Speedy in Tennessee. Speaking of which, may I propose we try White Swan or Morris Barbecue or Parker’s for our next mail order review to give NC barbecue equal time? After all, it does indeed look like we’ll be in this circumstance for a bit longer.