Recently, friend of the blog John Tanner (of John Tanner’s Barbecue Blog) ate his way across the piedmont of North Carolina while making stops on the NC Historic Barbecue Trail in honor of the late Jim Early. Early was the founder of the North Carolina Barbecue Society and driving force behind the NC Historic Barbecue Trail.
Notably, he makes a stop at our friends at Bar-B-Q King in Lincolnton where he delights in the “hollerin’ orders” system and has a great meal. Follow John’s journey below.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s BBQ Bowl Week
Has Texas Brisket Peaked?
Speaking of brisket, Tales from the Pits unveils their top 5 barbecue spots in Texas
Now, with our most recent trip being to Siesta Key, Florida for some deep sea fishing, I didn’t have high hopes for barbecue. But by chance while killing time with friend-of-the-blog Boomsauce at a nearby beer garden waiting for the rest of the crew to fly in, Brick’s Smoked Meats in downtown Sarasota came onto my radar. A little research yielded the fact that despite sitting on the ground level of a parking deck they use “a fire-engine red J&R Oyler Pit smoker that stands almost two stories tall” and that sealed the deal. Next thing you know it, post-airport pickup we’re standing at the door supposedly to a place “where Texas ‘cue meets Florida flair.” We’ll see about that.
Speedy: Brick’s Smoked Meats was on the ground level of the State Street parking garage and had a big dining room and large bar. Our party of seven easily fit at a long table just by the bar, and a server was quickly by to take our order (which was pretty much a little bit of everything). We ordered some beers (including a fave barbecue pairing in Shiner Bock), and we were off and rolling.
As appetizers, the wings and bacon burnt ends came out first. The wings were good, but didn’t get as much smoke on them as I like. We got them tossed in both spicy and sweet barbecue sauce, but I couldn’t tell the difference. So while I’ve had better smoked wings, this was still a pretty good start.
The bacon burnt ends were great. They were melt in your mouth pork belly slathered in a sweet barbecue sauce that perfectly complemented the savory, salty meat. Honestly, we should have saved these for dessert. This is a must order item if you visit Brick’s.
Rudy: Once the main course trays came, I made sure to scout out the different meats and grab a bite of the good stuff before it was taken by others. I always want to make sure to get a piece of the brisket because, for me, it’s the easiest way to determine if a barbecue place knows what they are doing or not. The brisket to me was average at best. It was clear to me that it had been made much earlier and was reheated upon ordering. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t anything memorable either. With all of the other meats to choose from, I would lean away from the brisket.
I also made sure to try a rib, which was much better. The meat was very tender, had a good flavor, and didn’t need sauce to go with it (but they did offer 3 different sauces at the table in case you wanted to add to the flavor. As far as a side order, I really enjoyed the collard greens. They were cooked with bacon and had plenty of flavor and tasted like greens that I used to get at ‘meat and three’ restaurants in North Carolina.
Monk: The house sausage on that day was a jalapeno cheddar link so obviously Speedy was out. I assume they were shipped in and not made in house but were a solid meat on that meal, just a notch above the middle of the road pork.Their slaw looked to be a pre-chopped combo of cabbage and carrots and while it was not offensive in taste, it seemed an afterthought. Quick shoutout to the mini cornbread muffins that came with the combo platters.
Speedy: Loyal readers of the blog know that Monk and I have recently changed our tune and favored ordering smoked turkey. I don’t think Rudy’s there yet, but maybe Brick’s turkey would change his tune. The flavor of the turkey slice was good, and I got the smoke taste, but I found it just a touch overcooked and wanted a little more pepper. Not sure it was good enough to convert Rudy, but I’d order it again.
From a sides standpoint, the standout to me was the roasted brussels. I don’t often see these on the menu at ‘cue joints, but they’re just baby cabbages, so they fit a good barbecue meal. The flavor on the brussels was exceptional, and they were roasted to perfection. Again, something I’d highly recommend ordering.
Rudy: I’m going to have to take your word for it because with a menu full of that many good options, there’s no way I’m fitting turkey onto my plate.
We’ve had mixed results in the quality of barbecue on our trips so it’s hard to know what to expect. I was not anticipating getting any barbecue on this trip, so it was quite the pleasant surprise when Monk told us he found this place. Overall, I was impressed with the overall quality of the ‘cue and the depth of their menu. I would not have pegged Sarasota for having the quality that Brick’s had. Was it the best barbecue we’ve ever had? No. But I really liked it and would make sure to return if I was in the area again. And when you combine barbecue with the good company that we had with us, you can’t go wrong.
Monk: Charlotte-based vlogger Brian Weathersbee reviews Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ in Austin, Texas, where he enjoys their fusion of barbecue and Mexican food and even gets a chance to chat with pitmaster Miguel Vidal.
Description: This experience was 10/10. Valentina’s brisket, ribs, chopped beef and pork was amazing. Then infused with a Mexican flair was even better. Miguel and I got the opportunity to talk for 15/20 minutes, I was honored and will cherish this experience. This won’t be our last visit.
The Barbecue Festival in Lexington announces its 2022 date: October 22, 2022. For the second year in a row, it was cancelled due to staff shortages and safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In normal times, The Barbecue Festival is the region’s largest one-day street festival and draws near 100,000 people every year.
The Mallard Creek Barbecue, which usually takes place the Thursday before The Barbecue Festival, also cancelled for the second year in a row earlier this year. It 91st edition will hopefully take place the fourth Thursday of October in 2022.
Other festivals are able to take place, such as euphoria Greenville last weekend and the inaugural Holy Smokes Barbecue Festival in November. Just a reminder that while things are in some ways better than 2020, we may still be between 6-12 months away from true normalcy.
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