Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que – Kansas City, KS (mail order)

Name: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Order: Ribs, Brisket, Burnt Ends Combo (1 slab pork spare ribs, sliced brisket – 1 pound, chopped burnt ends – 1 pound, 1 bottle of barbecue sauce)

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.

Ratings:
Experience – 2 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 3 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Kerley’s Barbecue – Lexington, NC

Name: Kerley’s Barbecue
Date: 1/21/20
Address: 5114 Old U.S. Hwy 52, Lexington, NC 27295
Order: Chopped barbecue tray with hush puppies, red slaw (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Down the road from Rick’s Smokehouse is another barbecue joint, Kerley’s Barbecue. Kerley’s opened in 1978 and certainly looks the part of a classic NC barbecue joint. Unfortunately, looks are deceiving in the case of Kerley’s as the brick pits in the back corner of the large brick building sit dormant, having long cooled.

And unfortunately, you can taste it in the barbecue that Kerley’s serves. Whatever gasser they use doesn’t impart a lot of smoke onto the chopped pork that came with my tray. As a side note, shouts to the the waitress who allowed me to order a smaller-sized kid’s tray even though she wouldn’t have realized I was on lunch #2. And this way, I didn’t have to feel nearly as bad if I were to not finish anything.

The red slaw was minced finer than I’d prefer and was on the sweeter side. A large tray of their small orb-shaped hush puppies was filled to the brim and those pups were the best ones I had that day. And the ramekin of sauce that came with the tray had a pronounced vinegar kick, even more so than a typical dip.

I’m not sure when Kerley’s Barbecue made the switch over to gas (or for what reasons), but as a North Carolina barbecue purist I certainly wish they hadn’t. When in Welcome, I’d recommend you head to Rick’s Smokehouse instead.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Arcadia Q – Lexington, NC

Name: Arcadia Q
Location: 8000 N, NC-150, Lexington, NC 27295
Order: Regular chopped tray with “extra brown” and red slaw
Pricing: $

Monk: Lexington, NC is mentioned in some circles as the “barbecue capital of the world” with its ratio of roughly 1 barbecue restaurant per 1,000 residents. However, up to this point I’ve mostly focused on Lexington Barbecue and more recently, the Bar-B-Que Center on my barbecue visits to the city. Recently, I’ve decided to expand my horizons to see what else the other 16 or so barbecue options in Lexington have to offer. On a Friday in November, I decided to take on three Lexington barbecue restaurants on what I have dubbed the “Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor:” Tarheel Q, Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro, and my first stop, Arcadia Q.

Arcadia Q was known until recently as Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia before owners Roger and Lisa Lohr retired earlier this year and reached out to Tarheel Q owners Leon and Becky Simmons to see if they’d be interested in opening a second location of their restaurant. Both Simmonses worked for the Lohrs approximately 25 years ago, and Tarheel Q is located just 9 miles southwest of Arcadia, just off Highway 64. The result is the now-renamed Arcadia Q.

For my tour of three barbecue joints on the Highway 150 Corridor of Barbecue, I decided to make the same order at each restaurant as a means of comparison: a regular chopped tray with extra brown, red slaw, and hush puppies. I did order a Cheerwine at Arcadia Q before deciding that would be the only soft drink order of the day because as much as I like Cheerwine, I didn’t want the empty calories along with all the food I’d be eating for lunch that day.

The hush puppies at Arcadia Q were a shape I hadn’t come across at a Lexington-style barbecue joint before. They were longer cylinders than the typical hush puppy, as if perhaps they were squirted out of an icing squeeze bag directly into the fryer (this is only my speculation). They are somewhat reminiscent of the shape of corn sticks in eastern North Carolina joints like Parker’s, though I don’t have any personal experience with those (yet). Regardless of the curiosity of the shape, these were my favorite hush puppies of the mini tour.

As for the barbecue, I didn’t get a lot of smoke on it and the temperature was slightly lukewarm. Unfortunately, the outside brown was chewy and tough and not until I dug into the tray below the top layer of outside brown did I start to enjoy the texture of the barbecue. Of all the red slaws I tried that day, none really stood out more than the other so I won’t be commenting too much on them other than the say that they did the job they were supposed to.

So my mini-tour on the “Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor” (it’s going to be a thing) was off to an inauspicious start at Arcadia Q. From here I would head southwest along the aforementioned Highway 150. Of my next two stops, one was a bit better and one was a bit worse. Which would be which? Tune in next Monday to see…

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Speedy Lohr's BBQ of Arcadia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Central BBQ – Memphis, TN (Downtown)

Name: Central BBQ
Date: 5/16/19
Address: 147 E Butler Ave, Memphis, TN 38103
Order: Rib combo with brisket, pork, collards, chips (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: I should have listened to Speedy…

Speedy: …a lesson you can never learn often enough…

Monk: Actually, to be more precise, I should have consulted Speedy’s review of the original Central BBQ location to help figure out my order and that specifically I shouldn’t have ordered the brisket. To not bury the lede, I found the rest of the meal a bit underwhelming as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself….

This year for the Memphis in May Barbecue Championship (aka Barbecue Fest), I wanted to actually go to a Memphis barbecue restaurant (or two) outside of the festival. So first things first, as soon as we (our current neighbors and former Memphis residents, Mrs. Monk, and I) landed we headed to Central BBQ’s downtown location for a late lunch before checking into our our AirBnB. And by downtown, this Central BBQ is directly across the street from the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and where the National Civil Rights Museum is currently located.

We waited in a brief line to place an order and then proceeded to the open air patio. It was already a hot day in Memphis, but the indoor dining room was still pretty packed for lunch. Usually a good sign.

I’ll start with the ribs, the meat that Speedy gave 5 hogs in his review and called “without hesitation that these were the best ribs [he’s]  ever had…These are ribs that I’m going to dream about.” So, clearly the highest of praise from a man who knows his way around a rib. I…did not find them to be anywhere near that good. They were the best of the 3 meats I tried, but definitely not among the best ribs I’ve ever had. Not even close, really. I went for the dry rub ribs and while they were tender enough, I found them to be a bit bland, taste-wise.

The pulled pork was a bit dry and a slight notch below the just average ribs. It absolutely needed sauce and I wondered if it could have been from the previous day.

Now, the brisket. Or rather, the thinly sliced, dry roast beef-like meat served instead of brisket. Had I read Speedy’s review, surely I would have heeded his advice: “It was dry and lacked flavor, so just don’t order it, k?” So reader, don’t be like Monk and order the brisket. Listen to your friend Speedy, he’s a cool dude.

The collards were disappointing to Mrs. Monk (the collards aficionado), and I couldn’t agree more. The chips were recommended by our neighbors but I wished we had gone with a more classic barbecue side than a standard house made crunchy chip.

Speedy: In talking to Monk about his experience, I was disappointed to hear it. I myself am still a frequent visitor to Central BBQ, usually focusing on the ribs and wings. I don’t think I’ve had an experience as bad as Monk describes, but I have noticed some variability among visits. I also have concerns that the expansion of the restaurant (now open in four locations, with another opening in Nashville this year) has allowed quality to suffer. That said, its the most common barbecue joint I visit in Memphis (partly due to location, but also because I’ve had good experiences more often than not).

Monk: I was quite disappointed with Central BBQ and unfortunately, this would be the only Memphis joint I got to this weekend. I know Memphis has great barbecue joints and someday I’ll get to more of them (looking at you, Payne’s!).

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Central BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato