Recap: BBQ Brawl S2E5 – “Competition ‘Cue”

Monk: In a bit of a change of pace, I’m going to try my hand at TV recapping for the second season of BBQ Brawl, which airs for *checks notes* 10 episodes *gulp* on Monday nights at 9pm ET on Food Network. 10 episodes? Well let’s see how this goes…

Well barbe-cuties, this episode kicks off the second half of the season and each team has lost at least one member with Team Eddie having lost two. Having done “hot and fast” barbecue so far this season, this week the episode jumps right in with a four meat “low and slow competition ‘cue” team challenge.

That means over the next seven hours each team am have to prepare four meats and two sides; the meats are Texas brisket, Carolina pork, Memphis ribs, and Kansas City…chicken(?). Kind of shoe-horning that KC-style with the chicken there, aren’t we? Maybe go Alabama-style even if that’s not one of the major four styles.

Right away, Christopher is visibly excited at this challenge due to his and Lu’s competition background, and his excitedness gets him into a little spat with his captain Eddie when they have a difference of opinion on the second side.

On Team Bobby, Taylor and Terry waste no time to start their bickering and Erica clutches her crucifix and says a quick prayer. Ara on Team Michael is a little concerned with just 7 hours for brisket, but thinks he can make it happen during that time.

After the longer cooks get going, we finally get to the advantage challenge which Bobby gets to pick after suffering his first defeat last week. With the contestants busy with their meats, Bobby challenges the captains to a 20 minute mac and cheese challenge. Twenty minutes isn’t the ideal time for mac and cheese, but in the end Michael’s homemade spaetzle beats out Bobby’s chorizo mac with okra crust and Eddie’s green chile mac and cheese. The advantage ends up being: the ability to use a captain from the other teams for 30 minutes which could either be used for grunt work or even used strategically to keep him from helping his team at a crucial time.

Team Bobby’s energy is visibly off, even from the judges porch, so Bobby brings the team together and helps them hash it out. Terry admits he started the trash talking, and the team elbow bumps into hopefully a better headspace. We’ll see if that can help Terry’s struggle-pork that had no rub, was cooking at a very low temp for a bit, and is getting the marinade a couple hours in. I’m not seeing how this could possibly be a winner for him.

Michael uses his advantage to get Bobby to shred some cheese and…not much else. He dismisses him early, so not much of an advantage.

Brittani’s chicken and collards are hits with three judges but Ara’s brisket is a little dry but has a good bark. David’s pork needs vinegar and his ribs are out of balance but mac and cheese ends up a winner after he smartly abandoned Michael’s waffle idea halfway through.

Terry’s open faced NC pulled pork is greasy and an affront to any NC barbecue fan. Erica’s brisket that was separated prior to cook and injected with Worcestershire sauce (“wooster) is well received, and her cuban beans are as well. Taylor’s chicken has a rubbery skin and her Memphis-style dry rub ribs are just that – a little dry. Once again, her dessert ends up saving her as the banana pudding is a hit.

Lu’s chicken pillows has one of her great sauces, a honey barbecue. Then comes the Christopher show: his pulled pork has no major dings, his brisket is smoked well but doesn’t quite have the bark, and his ribs aren’t as life-changing as he assumed they would be. Eddie focused on the sides and his collards and barbecue beans seem standard.

In the end, the 2+1 contestant Team Eddie gets the W and Team Michael is also safe. As may have been foreshadowed by all the earlier infighting, Team Bobby is on the chopping block. All the proteins had their issues, but Terry goes home for his greasy pork. Could have probably seen this coming, as he is the lone remaining non-competition contestant.

Bells for Terry, the trash talker-in-chief.

Christopher Prieto Watch: Christopher handles the bulk of the meats for the team with seemingly mixed results during judging, but helps get them to safety with the overall win. He continues to rub some folks the wrong way, and this week that includes his captain Eddie. In the end, he is a big part of his teams W despite the misstep on his bbq beans that Eddie had to step in and fix. He moves on to next week, though I do wonder if Lu will soon tire of his (over) confidence.

What was your favorite part of episode 5 of BBQ Brawl season 2? Leave your response in the comments and be sure to check back next week for a recap of episode 6.

Charlotte Barbecue News from the Second Quarter of 2021

Monk: In our first quarter wrap-up, I had optimism as things continued to move in a positive direction with vaccinations and the resulting re-opening of restaurants. That mostly continued, and while Charlotte lost a lot of its classic non-barbecue restaurants (Price’s Chicken Coop, Mr. K’s, Oakhurst Grill, Zack’s Hamburgers, etc), I only tracked one barbecue restaurant that closed during that time: the Tyvola Road location of the Sonny’s BBQ chain.

Charlotte barbecue even got some national attention, both of the good (Texas Monthly BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn visiting and loving Jon G’s) as well as notorious variety (Charlotte as the #3 best city for barbecue according to chefspencil.com).

While we may never know about the barbecue joints that weren’t started during the past year, hopefully a corner has been turned (and the Delta variant of COVID doesn’t wreak havoc here like it has in other countries; get vaccinated people!) and the Charlotte barbecue scene can experience new concepts as well as expansion and growth of its existing ones.

April

4/9 Smoke Show BBQ is a new Texas-style barbecue pop up in the Charlotte area from transplanted Texan chef Brandon Belfer who has worked at fine dining spots The Stanley, Crunkleton, The Asbury, Kindred, and Hello, Sailor

4/12 Charlotte-based Mac’s Speed Shop finds itself coming out of the pandemic in a strong position for growth

4/13 Roddey’s BBQ has changed their lunch hours in Rock Hill to Fridays only

4/19 Jon G’s Barbecue gets in the pit fabrication game

4/26 K&N BBQ makes Axios Charlotte’s list of best food trucks; and they recommend you try the pork and brisket

4/26 Adam Richman (of Man vs Food fame) visits Midwood Smokehouse

4/30 In what was (somewhat embarrassingly) one of the oldest barbecue restaurant’s in Charlotte, the Tyvola Rd. outpost of the Sonny’s BBQ chain closed

May

5/7 Daniel Vaughn ends his NC barbecue trip at Jon G’s Barbecue, where I was fortunate enough to meet both him and Kathleen Purvis and also share a meal with him

5/12 Charlotte is obviously the number 3 Top City for BBQ in the US. No objection here.

5/19 Jon G’s Barbecue gets the highest of praise from the BBQ Snob himself, Daniel Vaughn; Noble Smoke also gets a mention for their brisket

5/25 Phar Mill BBQ introduces itself to the world and will be using a Jon G’s offset smoker

June

6/3 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque announces its new food truck

6/3 Noble Smoke announces details on its 2 year anniversary

6/8 Mac’s Hospitality Group, parent company of Mac’s Speed Shop, adds Rare Roots alum Jay Spungin as Director of Operations

6/19 Congrats to Jon G’s Barbecue on one year open

6/26 Charlotte-based EDIA Maps, makers of The Great NC BBQ Map, ends operations

6/29 And the name of the Sweet Lew’s Barbeque food truck is…Sweet Lucille

Friday Find: The Best Ribs In Kansas Are Cooked And Served In A Gas Station

Monk: Food Insider’s Legendary Eats crew takes in the ribs at the gas-station-turned-barbecue-joint in Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Q. Surely a must-stop if you ever find yourself in Kansas City.

Description: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Q has been operating out of a gas station since 1996, but that doesn’t stop people from packing the crowded restaurant for lunch and dinner every day for their award-winning ribs. Come find out why you HAVE to eat here if you visit KC.

Recap: BBQ Brawl S2E4 – “Game Day BBQ”

Monk: In a bit of a change of pace, I’m going to try my hand at TV recapping for the second season of BBQ Brawl, which airs for *checks notes* 10 episodes *gulp* on Monday nights at 9pm ET on Food Network. 10 episodes? Well let’s see how this goes…

For the second week in a row as the previous week’s losing team, Eddie gets to choose the advantage challenge and goes with chicken wings, giving the contestants 30 minutes to produce their best versions. A lot of contestants go with some variation on the standard buffalo wing but a few stand out.

David on Team Michael actually owns a chicken wing business, and his fennel wings seem to intrigue the captains and judges. Ara uses his fine dining experience and decides to confit the wings in duck fat on the grill, which will keep the ducks juicy and prevent them from overcooking. Terry’s honey barbecue wings are also promising, and Lu actually goes with a cranberry sauce wing using the full wing. Lu actually owns her own sauce company that has her sauces in “over 700 stores nationwide” but in the end it’s her teammate Christopher and his “triple threat” wings that are smoked, fried, and then finished on the grill with an jalapeno apricot sauce is declared the winner which gives their team the advantage of Eddie being able to call timeouts on each of the other teams for 10 minutes.

For the team brawl challenge, the theme continues in the form of a Tailgate Feast where the teams have 3 hours to produce a gameday-themed meal. And of course, there is the looming advantage for Team Eddie hanging over the other two teams. Depending on how much of a stinker he wants to be, he could really screw one or both of those teams up with his timing.

Which of course, he does to Team Michael roughly an hour and a half in when he catches Terry with his racks of ribs on direct heat. This spells the end of those particular racks, but Terry does have one leftover that he can try to salvage in his remaining time. During the timeout, the bickering between Terry and Taylor that started at the beginning of the cook continues. Taylor asks Terry why his ribs were on direct heat to begin with (a perfectly valid question) before trying to brainstorm what to potentially do with ribs once they are out of timeout. Terry shuts down and doesn’t want any feedback from Taylor or the rest of his teammates, only worrying about his ribs.

Team Michael smartly learns from Terry’s mistake and wraps their meats in foil and gets them to a good place before their time out is called. David is a little peeved and worries about the bark on his ribs but in the end he and his teammates avoid disaster.

For Team Eddie’s “Rub You the Right Way Tailgate”, they smartly provide each judge a beer. Lu makes a smoked queso dip and chicken lollipops while Christopher makes bbq rice and ribs. Lu’s smoked queso dip is a little broken while her chicken lollipops look great but the skin that is wrapped down over the leg is a little chewy, getting into the way of the dark meat. Christopher has more success starting with the ribs glazed with a sauce from Lu, which Carson calls “life changing.” His bbq rice gets less praise but overall, the judges like their tailgate feast and calls the ribs some of the best food they’ve had thus far.

Team Bobby’s feast is dubbed “Don’t Call it a Comeback Tailgate.” Taylor makes mac and cheese balls but Brook finds that the goat cheese overpowers the rest of the cheese and Rodney prefers the crispy outside to the inside. Terry, whose ribs were the victims of the timeout, scrambles and collaborates with Bobby to get gochujang pork loins and the one remaining rack of ribs done in less than 1.5 hours. The pork loin turns out excellent but the ribs were cooked a little too quickly. Erica’s tostadas with ribeye suffer from a chewy tostada and too little steak while Brendan’s Texas Twinkie-stuffed quail, with a bacon-wrapped jalapeno stuffed inside a quail. The bacon loses its crispiness inside the quail, which itself was overcooked.

Team Michael’s “All Hands on Deck Tailgate” is all made to all be eaten with hands and is served with mojitos. David makes a roasted corn salsa and a St. Louis-style rib with harissa and ancho chiles, which the judges like the flavor of but find to be a bit overdone. Brittani’s baby back ribs have nutmeg in the rub and the judges generally like. The final rib is a beef rib from Ara that could use a little more flavor.

Team Eddie wins the challenge on the back of Christopher’s ribs glazed with Lu’s sauce while Team Michael is also safe. The means Bobby’s team is finally heading to the chopping block, and their team of 4 will be reduced to 3. In the end it seems that Erica’s ribeye tostadas and Brendan’s quail are the least successful dishes, and one of the will be eliminated. That ends up being Brendan, and he is ok with that decision because he is embarrassed at his dry quail. Erica and Terry are both visibly shaken at their first time on the bottom.

Bells for Brendan, the west Texas barbecue man who feels he is a better man because of the experience.

This episode marks the halfway point through the season, and it looks like next week looks to be more of a “low and slow” challenge that shifts (at least for one episode) from live fire cooking/grilling to more traditional barbecue. Hopefully that will continue past episode 6.

Christopher Prieto Watch: Christopher is called the MVP of the day between his winning wings and his fantastic ribs. While his cockiness gets called out by David and he gets into a little tit-a-tat with Bobby about “showing Bobby Flay a thing or two about chicken wings” and gets this reaction from him:

On this day at least Christopher backs it up. But it seems like his cockiness is rubbing some contestants the wrong way, so it’ll be worth tracking. Next week, Christopher seemingly gets some props from Rodney during next week’s “low and slow” challenge so his head may continue to balloon with confidence.

What was your favorite part of episode 4 of BBQ Brawl season 2? Leave your response in the comments and be sure to check back next week for a recap of episode 5.