Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom – Durham, NC

: Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom
Date: 2/24/18
Address: 900 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701
Order: 2 meat combo with brisket and smoked jalapeno cheddar sausage with hush puppies, collards, and cole slaw (link to menu)
Price: $16

Monk: Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom opened in September in a space in downtown Durham that formerly housed Alivia’s Durham Bistro for 10 years. The owners of Alivia’s closed that concept and opened Maverick’s with a menu with an “international house of barbecue” bent to it – which in this case means pulling from Memphis and Texas in addition to North Carolina barbecue traditions.  

One thing that was apparently kept from Alivia’s was the outdoor patio which was perfect on an unusually warm February day. That, however, was the last of anything positive when it came to this lunch.

The first strike of the meal was a warm beer (curiously, Maverick’s had a special on non-NC draft beer which I don’t think I’ve seen at a NC restaurant – it’s usually the other way around). My speculation was that it was served in a pint glass that may have come straight out of the dishwasher but regardless, it was still an oversight. You just simply don’t want a warm-ish Shiner on a patio.

The next strike came when the platters of food came out. Mrs Monk and I got a two meat combo of brisket and sausage – for pork I was gong to sample some of it from our friend’s platter. The brisket and sausage both came out cool to the touch. The bark on the brisket was flavorful, but in addition to being cold it was fairly dried out. To me, it seemed liked it was likely leftover from the day before. I don’t know where the sausage came from but it had the texture of a slightly warmed hot dog – albeit with pieces of jalapeno and cheddar in it. The pork was a little better in terms of temperature but was quite greasy – my buddy didn’t finish his rather small portion of it.

Finally, on this day the sides weren’t going to save the meal. While the hush puppies and fried okra (also sampled from our friend’s plate) were freshly fried and actually decent, the collards could have use some more stewing and the mayo-based cole slaw was lukewarm. Temperature in general seems to need more focus at Maverick’s.

A charitable way to look at Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom is that they are still figuring things out. Let’s hope that is the case and that they do figure it out soon. If not, it seems unlikely that they will make it to 10 years like Alivia’s did in the same space before them.

Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Sausage – 1 hog
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs

Hillsborough BBQ Company – Hillsborough, NC

: Hillsborough BBQ Company
Date: 11/22/16
Address: 236 South Nash Street, Hillsborough, NC 27278
Order: ¼ lb BBQ plate with mustard slaw and collards; ¼ lb brisket plate with red slaw and mac and cheese (link to menu)
Price: ~$25 (for two)

Monk: As long as we’ve been writing on this blog (4.5 years and counting!), Hillsborough BBQ Company has been at or near the top of my list of NC joints to check out. After finally getting the chance last weekend, I must report back that I left pretty darn disappointed.

It’s a cozier space than I imagined, nestled in the middle of a row of businesses off Nash Street in Hillsborough but despite a table of 10 being seated right before us, the Monk clan was able to snag 3 spots at the bar. There, we decided that the Mrs and I would each split a plate of different meats.

Mrs. Monk ordered the pork and I found I to be flavorful but on the dry side. Once the eastern sauce was added, it was much better. But still, nothing spectacular.

Brisket is available Wednesday to Sunday but mine did not appear freshly smoked; perhaps it was from a day or two back. It came out barely warm to start and the bark was decently peppery but once the meat cooled the fat congealed into a not-so-appetizing sight. Disappointing.

Between our two slaws, the mustard was the better of the two. The mac and cheese was not baked and seemed very basic – almost easy mac-ish. Mrs Monk didn’t think much of the bland collards either.

Across the board, the theme seemed to be that the ideas were ok but the execution was lacking. Service even fell off as a travelling soccer team and their parents filled the restaurant and our bartender completely disappeared, leaving the manager to have to step in just to take our check. Nonetheless, the food is what I’m judging Hillsborough BBQ Company on and in that respect, I must reiterate that after years of wanting to check it out, I was very very disappointed.

Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 1.5 hogs
Sides – 1.5 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs
Hillsborough BBQ Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Green River Bar-B-Q – Saluda, NC

: Green River Bar-B-Q
Date: 6/18/16
Address: 131 US-176, Saluda, NC 28773
Order: Pulled pork and brisket combo plate with collards, bbq slaw, and Green Man IPA (link to menu)
Price: $20

Monk: On the trip from Asheville to Charlotte, the place to stop for barbecue is Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby, one of mine and Speedy’s favorite places ever (the readers of Garden and Gun Magazine and Thrillist also  agree). While I certainly would never get sick of stopping there, in the interest of expanding my barbecue horizons I pinpointed a wood smoking joint in Saluda, NC not far off the I-26 on my latest trip. Side note: Mrs. Monk is a G-D saint for going along with a quick barbecue and brewery tour this past Father’s Day, and I am a lucky, lucky man.

First off, downtown Saluda is a charming mountain town on the banks of the Green River near the NC/SC border and though we didn’t get to spend any time walking around it looked quite lovely. Green River Bar-B-Q is just outside of the main strip not a half mile away. On a beautiful late spring day in the mountains, you could do worse than spending some time on their patio.

There is an off-menu pork and brisket combo plate (the one on the menu says pork and chicken I believe) for $14.99 and that’s what I went with. We were seated right behind parties of 6 and 10 but thankfully the wait to get our food wasn’t too too bad. I will say that our server was great and had an unmistakable laugh that came out a few times during our lunch. So a pleasant day in the mountains drinking a local beer on the patio with good service – can’t get too much better than that. Then the food came out.

While both the pork and brisket had a whiff of wood smoke to them, they were both dry to the point that I didn’t finish them. When it came to the pork, I tried out the table sauces and none really helped all that much. The brisket was bland, dry, and beyond saving.

The bbq slaw was passable, but Mrs. Monk didn’t think the collards had been stewed long enough (they were edible but I agree with her). There was nothing special about the hushpuppies either.

While it has a lovely location and setting to it, I just can’t recommend going out of your way for Green River Barbeque.

Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs
Green River Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

‘Cue Barbecue – Alpharetta, GA

: ‘Cue Barbecue
Date: 6/17/16
Address: 13700 GA-9, Alpharetta, GA 30004
Order: Combo plate with sliced brisket and chopped pork, collards and fries (link to menu)
Price: $14

Speedy: Well boys – I’m checking in with my first review as a Georgia resident. I hadn’t planned on going to ‘Cue Barbecue, but I randomly drove by it on a Friday night and thought some ‘cue sounded good. So here I was.

Monk: I guess this is as good a time as any to mention that unfortunately, Speedy has relocated to Atlanta. On the bright side, that means the Barbecue Bros have expanded to Georgia!  

Speedy: Walking in, I really liked the ‘Cue atmosphere. It had old time decor with wood everywhere, including a decorative barn door, which was a nice touch. There was also a bar and an acoustic guitar player, and overall, it’s just a pretty cool place. I saddled up to the bar and ordered a local beer – Dry County IPA – and a combo plate with pork and brisket. The beer was solid, which was more than I could say about the food.

Monk: And it was off to such a good start, too…

Speedy: The pork was just OK. It had lots of bark, which was nice, but the bark lacked flavor, so I’m not sure the meat was properly rubbed before cooking. The pork was also dry, so it required some of the vinegar based sauce provided. One I liberally applied the dip, the pork was better, but still mediocre. The brisket, however, was plain bad. The slices I was given were served without sauce, but were incredibly dry. I could taste a bit of pepper in the bark, but it also needed more seasoning. After dousing it with some sweet sauce on the table it become edible, but I still didn’t finish my portion.

I don’t have much to say about the sides. The collards were bland and the fries were good, but there was nothing here to salvage the meal.

Overall, my first barbecue meal as a Georgia resident was very disappointing and definitely had me missing North Carolina.

Monk: I hate that this wasn’t a better first barbecue experience for you, but at least there’s plenty of good barbecue in Georgia for you to explore.

Speedy: Well it can only go up from here…

(For another review of ‘Cue Barbecue, check out Marie, Let’s Eat!)

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs
'Cue Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Cue Barbecue