LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue – Austin, TX (mini-review)


IMG_5801Name
: LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue
Date: 4/8/18
Address: 121 Pickle Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Order: “Pulled pit ham from peaceful pork” sandwich with smoked sweet potato (link to menu)
Price: $16

Monk: On the Sunday of mine and Mrs. Monk’s weekend in Austin, my third (and last) barbecue stop was LeRoy and Lewis’s food truck at the Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden. While they certainly have their central Texas staples, in the relatively short time they’ve been open, LeRoy and Lewis have stood out from other barbecue restaurants for creativity in their menu. On this Sunday, the menu was limited to a pulled pork sandwich and pit smoked sweet potatoes. 

The creativity that I was expecting was evident in the beet bbq sauce that topped the pork sandwich along with some collards. For the last bit of meat before selling out on a Sunday afternoon, the generously portioned sandwich was still fairly tasty.

The pit smoked sweet potato was a nice change of pace for a side than what I usually had. Would get again.

It’s a shame that I couldn’t judge LeRoy and Lewis on their full menu, but on this trip Sunday was the day to check them out for me. The Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden is a really fun setting and a nice way to enjoy the barbecue, and perhaps one day I’ll make it back to try more of what LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue are all about.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Louie Mueller Barbecue – Taylor, TX (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Louie Mueller Barbecue
Date: 4/7/18
Address: 206 W. Second Street, Taylor, TX 76574
Order: Monk: ¼ lb mixed brisket, 2 original sausage links,1 pork rib, potato salad, pinto beans, Big Red; Rudy: 1 beef rib, ½ lb brisket, 1 sausages, 2 slices of turkey, potato salad, 2 waters
Price: Monk: $33.15 (for two); Rudy: $70.32 (for two)

Monk: Since the last time I visited Austin (in 2012, about a month before we started this blog), Speedy has made at least two trips there to visit Rudy and rubbed it in my face each time. Well now, it was my turn…suck it, Speedy!

Rudy: Speedy and I had explored some Lockhart and also some of the better places within Austin, so I decided to take you north and to the Granddaddy of Central Texas Barbecue. Louie Mueller is always ranked as one of the best places in the state (#5 in the latest Texas Monthly Top 50) and has been the inspiration for all of the other best barbecue places throughout the state. It’s one of my favorites, so I figured it was a no-brainer destination.  It is 45 minutes outside of Austin, but when you consider there usually is not much of a line, the time to drive there and back is still shorter than the wait at some of the elite places within Austin.

Monk: Louie Mueller is just the type of joint you don’t often see in North Carolina. The open kitchen smoker has built up a layer of soot on the walls over the past 59 or so years at the current location, which is housed in an old gymnasium. The walls are lined with neon beer lights even though they don’t serve alcohol (but don’t frown if you bring in a cooler of beer). And the air is filled with the smell of smoked wood.

In a way, the one NC joint that it does remind me of is Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville which is much younger (by about 55 years) but itself is in an old skating rink with the smoker sitting in the open kitchen with little separation from the dining room.

Rudy: Louie Mueller’s is best known for their beef ribs. While I usually shy away from these because of the cost and the amount of meat, I couldn’t resist. And I’m super glad that I couldn’t because it was the best thing that I had that day. My rib was an end rib, so 3 of 4 sides was covered in pepper and had a great crust. There was a good amount of fat on the rib (not too much) that was perfectly rendered and provided the rich moistness to compliment the crunch of the outside crust.

Monk: I had a taste of Rudy’s rib and while I am definitely a newbie when it comes to beef ribs, it was darn good.

To say I was expecting great things from Louie Mueller’s brisket would be an understatement. I got a mixture of moist and lean so I could try each out and while the peppery bark was exactly as I was hoping the brisket was a little…dry? Could this really be? Rudy and I watched the guy pull out a new brisket and slice it in front of us. This was definitely not expected.

Rudy: I agree, the brisket was at best, average. I ordered the fatty cut and it was as dry as you might expect a piece of lean. I have eaten here two other times and each time been blown away by the brisket, so to say I was underwhelmed and a bit disappointed is also an understatement. I am hoping that this was an anomaly and not a sign that they’ve lost their fast ball. I also got the jalapeno sausage (which has also been a staple of my orders here) and it was just as good as it has been in the past. Great snap to the case and great flavor without too much heat. So maybe the brisket today was just off.

Monk: I agree that the sausage was a highlight and had just the right amount of heat. I also got a single pork rib since Mrs. Monk is not a rib gal – technically I ordered a ¼ lb but that’s just the one rib. It had good flavor but to be honest was a little overdone. The meat slipped right off the bone after the first bite.

Now, I feel like I should address my choice of drink (besides the Shiner we brought in). Rudy is on record multiple times in stating that he is no fan of Big Red, which he considers to be a poor substitute for the Cheerwine we grew up on in the Piedmont of NC. Having my first taste of Big Red here at Louie Mueller, I have to say that I…completely agree. It’s way too sweet and I finished it only out of obligation. Give me Cheerwine any day of the week over Big Red.

Rudy: Give me anything other than Big Red any day of the week! I was hoping that the Big Red was going to be the only disappointing thing of this trip. Unfortunately the brisket did not live up to the hype or the drive. It’s still one of my favorite places because of the atmosphere and history, but I’m not sure I’ll be going out of my way too often, or at least will temper expectations in the future.

Monk: Listen, I’m definitely not mad that Rudy drove us to Louie Mueller Barbecue 45 minutes away in Taylor. It’s a classic Texas joint that I’m glad to have crossed off my list. I may have caught them on an off day but no doubts that they are legit. If I ever make it back, I’m sure they will prove that to be true.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Beef Rib – 4.5 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Louie Mueller Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Q – Houston, TX

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Name
: Q
Date: 4/6/18
Address: Terminal E International Departures (Upper Level), Houston, TX 77032
Order: Smoked Sausage and Brisket combo with coleslaw (link to menu)
Price: $17

MonkIdeally, my first taste of barbecue on a Texas trip wouldn’t be airport barbecue. But the newish Q, a Texas BBQ Smokehouse collaboration with famed Houston pitmaster Greg Gatlin, is far more authentic than your average airport barbecue restaurant. Instead of smoking offsite and trucking it in daily, they have two onsite Oyler smokers with a fancy ventilation system that they are able to keep going 24 hours a day.

Now, I know what you might be thinking – did Monk route his flight to Austin through Houston just for barbecue? While I appreciate that you might have thought that, it wasn’t so pre-planned as that. While Mrs. Monk’s flight was paid for by her job (the impetus for this trip), I went a cheaper route which included a layover and it just so happened to have a stop in Houston. I honestly didn’t realize what was where I was passing through until the morning of my flight, but luckily my 2 ½ layover would allow me plenty of time to check it out once I got to Houston.

If you are not ordering your ‘cue to take back to your gate or onto your plane to taunt your fellow travelers, there is both bar seating and some high top tables around the backside of the to-go counter and kitchen. This being a fancy OTG restaurant, I ordered via iPad at the bar and the food was brought out shortly after.

And my first taste of brisket in Texas in nearly 6 years at an airport joint was…not actually bad at all! The smaller brisket slices (the two meats totaled ½ lb total) had the peppery bark I would expect and was not the least bit dried out. Guess they have started to get the hang of those Oylers.

The all beef sausage passed muster as well, and had a nice little kick to it due to jalapeños. I’m sure there are better sausages out there, but this wasn’t half bad at all. In trying to keep it light, I opted for just one side and ordered the coleslaw which was standard.

When passing through Houston, you could do a lot worse than finding yourself at Q near gate 2 at Terminal E (just follow your nose to smell of smoke). Despite my first barbecue meal of this trip being in an airport, my Texas trip was off to a good start.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Cook’s BBQ – Lexington, NC

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Name
: Cook’s BBQ
Date: 11/25/17
Address: 366 Valiant Dr, Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Monk: Three meat combo plate (chopped pork, sausage, ribs) with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and Cheerwine; Speedy: Three meat combo plate (coarse chopped pork, brisket, ribs) with red slaw, hush puppies, tater tots, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: ~$17 each

Speedy: Monk and I were both embarking on a post-Thanksgiving drive from High Point to Charlotte (albeit in different vehicles), so we planned on a noon rendezvous at Cook’s BBQ in Lexington. As I was driving up, I thought that I might be entering a scene from Deliverance, and that possibly Monk was trying to kill me. Good news – he wasn’t, and Cook’s BBQ is real.

Monk: It is a bit of a weird location for a barbecue restaurant but I would never “Deliverance” you, Speedy. Off of 85, you go drive down Highway 8 south of Lexington proper and take a few turns on country roads. Then you drive past a few houses before happening on Cook’s in a dead-end at the end of a residential street.

The restaurant has been around since 1969 (though the current owners took over in 1984) so they must be doing something right, even if I feel it’s hardly ever mentioned along with the other Lexington joints. To add to its bona fides, it was also included along with Lexington Barbecue, Skylight Inn, Allen & Son’s, and other NC barbecue heavy hitters in this 2012 Washington Post primer on NC barbecue ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. I had been wanting to stop in for years, particularly once I realized they were open on Sundays – a rarity for most family-owned barbecue joints.

Speedy: One thing that’s a little different about Cook’s from most Lexington style joints is the variety of meats. In addition to pork, they have brisket, ribs, and sausage. As Monk and I do when we see lots of meat, we ordered it all. I opted to go with coarse chopped pork (for a change of pace), the ribs, and the brisket. Monk had the same order, but subbed sausage instead of brisket. We both had red slaw and some form of fried potatoes (tots or fries).

Monk: The table agreed that the sausage was the best meat that we tasted that day, though I don’t know where Cook’s gets its sausage from or whether its house made (I suspect its not). In any case, it’s good.

Speedy: Agree, and I will order it should I go back. The brisket surprised me. NC brisket is generally plain bad (I’ve sworn it off a time or two myself), but this stuff was decent. Not on par with anything I’ve had in Texas, but it was definitely passable.

Monk: I did read afterwards that its one of only two places in Lexington that even serves brisket, so its definitely an anomaly. The ribs were a bit overcooked and fell apart as soon as I attempted to pick up the rack. Not to mention they were overly slathered in a thick, sweet sauce. I would avoid.

Speedy: I didn’t care for the coarse pork. It was a mistake to order it that way. Monk enjoyed the fine chopped better. The sides were all good – particularly the hush puppies.

Monk: I had higher hopes for Cook’s being a hidden gem that might sneak into my personal best of NC list but perhaps my expectations were too high. While Speedy and I agreed that the meats were mostly above average, I don’t know that either of us will be going out of our way to make a special trip out to Cook’s Barbecue anytime soon, threat of Deliverance or not.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Cook's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hard Eight BBQ – Coppell, TX

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Name
: Hard Eight BBQ
Date: 7/17/17
Address: 688 Freeport Pkwy, Coppell, TX 75019
Order: Brisket, pork ribs, sausage, fries, corn bread pie (link to menu)
Price: Can’t remember, maybe ~$36?

Speedy: Recently, I had a short work trip to Dallas, which I turned into a more extended trip to visit Rudy in Austin. With a busy work schedule and a couple of planned trips to ‘cue joints in Austin, I only stepped away for one ‘cue meal in Dallas. Hard Eight was the most conveniently located and was recommended by the client, so there we went.

Monk: Dang, another Texas visit that Speedy makes that I didn’t get to go on. What is this, the third time?

Speedy: It is, indeed. Some of us are just more dedicated to the readers than others…

Entering the parking lot, you could see stacks and stacks of wood, and a large outdoor smokehouse with a roof. Smartly, Hard Eight keeps all the meat in a stone oven-esque thing right in front of the cash register, forcing you to order 3x more meat than you can possibly eat.

Monk: Is this the Instagram that inexplicably led to exactly 300 likes as of this writing? Which is by far the most ‘Gram likes any photo of ours has ever had by at least 200?

Speedy: Yes, it is. Except that it’s totally explicable. The followers – they love me. It sucks being second, doesn’t it, Monk.

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That said, I ordered the brisket, sausage, and pork ribs even though I was with co-workers. When it comes to barbecue, I have no shame. The meat is cut and weighed in front of you and you pay by the pound. You then proceed to a cafeteria style line for sides, which I’m told is not uncommon in Texas. You then pay at the end. I don’t know how much my meal specifically cost, but the total for three people was $60. Judging by volume, mine was at least 60% of that.

The interior was large, with plenty of seating, and there was also a good sized covered porch. This day was too hot to eat outside, so we sat at an inside high top and dug in.

Since this joint is in Texas, I’ll start with the brisket. I was very pleased with the brisket. It had decent (not great) bark, good flavor, and a nice tug. It was only slightly dry, but overall didn’t need sauce. At the time, I thought I was having fairly top notch brisket, but (spoiler alert) after a couple of briskets in Austin, I had to re-adjust my internal scale and bump this brisket down a bit. Still, I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Monk: This is true. After this visit, Speedy was raving about Hard Eight. After his subsequent trip to Austin, a little less so.

Speedy: The sausage also was good – it had a nice flavor and held together well. The sausage was sliced at the front and not served in links, and I have no idea if it was made in-house, but it has nice smoke and was cooked well. I would have preferred a little more spice, but overall, a good offering.

The ribs were nice and meaty and had good flavor. They were not dry, but I did end up adding a little sauce. They were cooked well – offering a clean bite without falling off the bone. I would have enjoyed a little more rub, but an enjoyable, if unspectacular rib.

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Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Hard Eight BBQ. I feel like had I written this review immediately, it would have scored higher, but a couple of experiences later in the week just overshadowed it. That said, I wouldn’t complain about a return trip.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Hard Eight BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

City Barbeque – Charlotte, NC

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Name: City Barbeque
Date: 5/6/17
Address: 11212 Providence Rd W, Charlotte, NC 28277
Order: Judge’s Sampler (pulled pork, brisket, 1/2 slab ribs, and 1/4 chicken) with mac and cheese, collard greens, hush puppies, and two beers (link to menu)
Price: $12 (the $26.99 judges platter was covered but did not affect my review in any way)

Monk: City Barbeque is an Ohio-based chain that in the past 2 years has begun to make inroads into NC and even more recently, Charlotte. The Ballantyne location was the first in the area to open in 2016, and since then a Matthews location has opened with a University location on the way later this year. Speedy had previously checked out the Cary location a few years back and came away fairly impressed, so I knew to expect a fast casual set up with decent barbecue from a gas-assisted wood smoker and scratch made sides. 

For the first Charlotte location, I was invited to check it out and provided a gift card for a free Judge’s Sampler which allowed me to check out 4 of the meats. Mrs. Monk and I got an extra side of hush puppies and a couple of beers on top of it, plus a kids meal for the Monk-ette. All in all, the amount of food we got ended up providing more than enough for 3 total adult meals, so the portion sizes are nice.

The pork and brisket were in small portions next to each other on the tray and were so hard to distinguish between each other that at first glance to the point where I wasn’t sure that we had gotten any brisket at all (we were initially missing our order of hush puppies so it wasn’t too far fetched). Though I will say the folks at City Barbeque were nice enough to provide us extra brisket even though clearly it was a mistake on our end. As for the meat, both were decently smokey. The pork was moist and was nicely accentuated by the spicy vinegar sauce on the table. The brisket was haphazardly sliced and came across as chopped in texture – which led to our mistake in the first place – but was tasty nonetheless.

I found the half slab of ribs to be the best meat of the meal. The heavily-applied rub created a dark, flavorful bark on the ribs and the meat pulled away from the bone nicely. I would go for these ribs here again for sure.

Chicken is not a smoked meat I normally go for (and I didn’t think to substitute it out on this visit) but I will say that it was pretty good. You could do a lot worse if that is the meat you prefer at a barbecue restaurant.

Mrs. Monk was disappointed that the mac and cheese was not baked (she’s a bit of a snob that way) and while I didn’t mind that fact as much as she did, I could see her point. The collards had plenty of pulled pork and were pretty good. The corn bread and Texas toast that came with the sampler were actually quite good but the hush puppies were the best sides we had. Needless to say, we were fine on carbs for the rest of the day (and weekend for that matter).

When it opens, the University location will be pretty convenient to my work and I wouldn’t have to be convinced too hard to go there for lunch. In terms of chains I’ve had, City Barbeque are on par with Jim ‘N Nick’s and way above Moe’s Bar-B-Que.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Chicken – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Seoul Food Meat Co – Charlotte, NC

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Name
: Seoul Food Meat Co
Date: 2/10/17
Address: 1400 S Church St, Charlotte, NC 28203
Order: Small pulled pork, small Crispy Pork Belly, small Bulgogi Sausage, ramen mac ’n cheese, soy pickled deviled eggs (link to menu)
Price: $41.75 (for two)

Monk: When Seoul Food Meat Co opened about a year ago in Charlotte’s booming South End neighborhood, my hopes were that it would be Charlotte’s version of the fantastic Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta. That may be an easy comparison to make since both are doing a fusion of Korean flavors with southern barbecue, but after finally checking out Seoul Food Meat Co I’d say that Heirloom has the edge in smoked meats while Seoul Food has the edge in the fusion of Korean flavors in its side dishes.

Seoul Food Meat Co is one of many recent additions to the South End bar, brewery, and restaurant scene and has a nice patio with garage doors that open up on warmer days. Based on the plans we’ve seen of its expansion, it’s only going to get better with dedicated karaoke rooms as well as an outdoor bar and  “adult playground” out back. Despite the warm winter, this particular Friday was on the colder side so we had no such luck to experience the patio.

The generous portion of pulled pork comes pre-sauced with a thick tangy Korean barbecue sauce. By itself, the pork is not the smokiest and perhaps lacks a little flavor while being on the dry side. I will say, it’s better with the sauce.

The crispy pork belly is exactly like its name implies. I didn’t detect a lot of smoke on them, so I believe this was more of a fried item – particularly with the crispy skin which I found myself continuing to nosh on long after I decided I was finished with my meal. 

The bulgogi sausage was perhaps a little on the dry side (as can be the case with sausage) but was pretty flavorful nonetheless and my favorite meat of the meal. Mrs. Monk preferred to dip it in the sauce and that was my preference as well. Next time I’d be interested to try their spicier smoked kimchi sausage.

The Korean influence was particularly evident in the sides at Seoul Food. I quite liked the ramen mac n’ cheese with its small pieces of cracklin’ on top to give it a nice texture. The soy pickled deviled eggs threw off the wife at first with its brown coloring of the egg itself, but in the end had a fairly classic taste just with that slight Asian spin. Looking at the menu, there are a handful more Korean-Southern sides that I hope to get around to trying eventually – sriracha cracklins, kimchi vinegar slaw, and choiang broccoli.

So its not quite Heirloom Market but all in all, the southern-dishes-with-a-Korean-spin were mostly successful. While a little on the pricey side, the portions do seem to be quite generous – we could have ordered one less meat (say the pork belly at $13) and have been more than full. I look forward to checking out Seoul Food Meat Co again during the warmer months and checking out more of their meats (particularly that beef rib) and sides.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Pork Belly – 3 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
Seoul Food Meat Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Seoul Food Meat Co

Full Service BBQ – Knoxville, TN

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Name: Full Service BBQ
Date: 10/20/16
Address: 104 Cedar Ln, Knoxville, TN 37912
Order: Big Boy Box (pork, brisket, ribs, sausage, chicken) with fries and beans (link to menu)
Price: $18

Monk: On this year’s annual guys trip, Speedy and I (no Rudy this year, unfort) and the crew coming up from Atlanta were passing through Knoxville around lunchtime, so I solicited the advice from Grant of Marie, Let’s Eat!, the perfect man to ask for barbecue recommendations around the southeast (seriously, he knows his stuff). His first choice, Sweet P’s Barbeque and Soul House, was too far south and out of the way, so we went with his #2 in Full Service BBQ with their Knoxville location being perfect for us just off I-75 on our way to Lexington for a weekend of the bourbon trail and horse racing.

Speedy: And let me tell you – if we didn’t know we were in Tennessee before we got to Full Service, we sure as heck knew it when we got there. There’s no inside seating at Full Service – just places to park your car, picnic tables (complete with napkin logs), and a walk up order window. I thought I was in heaven. That is until I found out that we had just missed smoked wing day (Wednesdays) and were a little too early for burnt end day (Fridays). So while that was a bummer, I was still pumped to try the aptly named Big Boy Box, which I split with Monk, since we’re only medium sized.

Monk: You know I always like a good napkin log. Instead of going meat by meat and offering up our critique, let’s focus on the best meat at Full Service. That ok with you, Speedy?

Speedy: I like it when you spice up our relationship, Monk. So the best meat at Full Service is the brisket.

Monk: By a country mile.

Speedy: By a Tennessee mile. Or maybe a Texas mile is more appropriate. We didn’t get offered a choice of fatty or lean briskets, but what we got seemed like the flat, or lean side. Even so, it was moist, flavorful, and cooked nearly perfectly. It had the tug that you want, the peppery bark, and the juices flowing throughout. All in all, a great brisket, especially from outside of Rudy’s hood.

Monk: It was pretty clear to us from speaking with the person who took our order that the brisket is what they take the most pride in at Full Service. Maybe “after thought” is too harsh for the other meats, but in descending order they ranked ribs, chicken, pork, sausage. And all far, far below the brisket. As for the sides, the fries were fresh with a nice seasoning salt and the beans were solid.

Speedy: Totally agree. I actually thought the sausage and pork weren’t even passable. Had we only tried those two meats, this would rank as one of the lowest we’ve reviewed. But you know what they say, Monk – it only takes one good meat to make a good barbecue restaurant.

Monk: Who says that, exactly?

Speedy: We do, Monk. We do.

Monk: Fair point…Speedy recalled that Full Service BBQ had been mentioned in Johnny Fugitt’s book The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America, listed as part of the other 75 (though he, like Grant, went to the Maryville location). And when I went back to the book, I realized that the brisket was #3 on his list of “10 Best Briskets Outside of Texas (better than 99% in Texas)” (FYI Midwood Smokehouse which was #6 on the list). That might be a bit high for me, but it was a good brisket nonetheless.

Speedy: Overall, I would go back to Full Service BBQ for one reason and one reason only: brisket. And to try the burnt ends. So, maybe two reasons. But I’d recommend that anyone get the chance head through to try that beef.

(For another review, check out Marie, Let’s Eat!)

Ratings: 
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 1 hog
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Chicken – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Full Service BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Full Service BBQ

The Pik-N-Pig (NC State Fair Stall) – Raleigh, NC

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Name: The Pik-N-Pig (NC State Fair stall)
Date: 10/16/16
Address: NC State Fair, 1025 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607
Order: Pork plate with slaw and beans (link to menu)
Price: $12

Monk: The State Fair is usually home to various deep-fried “delights”, but on a Sunday morning on an unusually warm October day I wasn’t feeling anything of the sort – not even the “deep fried bbq” I spotted at another stall.

On my way into the fair, I saw a truck for Big Al’s BBQ and was planning to find that location but once it came time to actually eat, I spotted a stall for the Pik-n-Pig first. The original location of The Pik-n-Pig is at a small airport in Carthage, NC and coincidentally a good friend had posted some Instagram photos earlier that week from flying in from High Point.

Several bags of wood lump charcoal lined the outside of the stall, which resembled a log cabin. And I could taste the smokiness from it in the pork with large pieces of bark mixed in. Though the coarsely pulled strands were a little bigger than I prefer, the eastern sauce helped with some of the dryness in the larger pieces.

The vinegary white slaw was good and had a distinct flavor that I couldn’t quite place my finger on – and neither could Mrs. Monk. Despite the inability to place the secret ingredient, I liked the slaw quite a bit. The baked beans were pretty standard.

We passed the location for Big Al’s on the way out, which was heavily shaded and had tons of picnic tables. It might have been a better setting but I’m thinking I probably came out ahead in the barbecue department at The Pik-n-Pig. Though I hope to make it to the original location someday – preferably by air, of course.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 2.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Picnic – Durham, NC

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Name
: Picnic
Date: 9/5/16
Address: 1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705
Order: Pulled pork plate with pimento mac & cheese, bacon braised collards (link to menu)
Price: $13.95

Monk: In the recent (and very welcome) trend of new whole hog barbecue joints opening in North Carolina in the past year, Picnic is one of the newest alongside Old Etowah Smokehouse (opened June 2016), Sam Jones BBQ (November 2015), and Buxton Hall Barbecue (August 2015), having opened earlier this year in February. Despite being at the end of a long weekend, I convinced the Mrs. Monk to stop at Picnic in Durham for lunch on our way back from Atlantic Beach over Labor Day weekend.

Picnic is located in a fairly picturesque setting amongst tall pine trees in a Durham neighborhood not far off of I-85. The building itself has an average sized dining room with a bar as well as 5-6 outdoor tables. An open kitchen overlooks the new south decor dining area, and the rattle of food preparation is audible but not distracting.

My pulled pork was overall moist and smokey and served unsauced, choosing to let the smoke shine in each silky pork strand. Each table does have a very tasty mixed eastern and western-style Pig Whistle sauce (named for barbecue man Wyatt Dickson’s original pig catering outfit) on the table. I’ve read that the whole hog pork at Picnic can sometimes be on the dry side but that was not my experience. In any case, I alternated between using sauce and not. While I didn’t buy sauce this time, I would consider it next time around .

I generally liked the sides less than the pork. We were fairly hungry from the 3+ hour drive, so we ordered fried green tomatoes as a starter that were more breading than tomato. Each plate comes with hush puppies and slaw in addition to 2 sides. The house-made hush puppies were a little disappointing and not as sweet as I prefer though clearly not frozen as they were of various sizes and shapes. The slaw was not too noteworthy. Of my other two sides, the pimento mac and cheese had good flavor but was very rich (to the point where I decided not to finish it) and the collards were a little bland and needed salt or ideally more vinegar.

Overall, the whole hog pork at Picnic was great but I found the sides to be more of a mixed bag. I also thought it was a bit pricey for what it was – a common complaint from other friends who had previously eaten there. For lunch with Mrs Monk and the Monkette, our tab ran $50 before tip with two plates, a kid’s meal, an appetizer, and a beer. If I do make it back (and I would definitely go again), next time I’ll probably go for their version of a tray with just pork, slaw, and hush puppies.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Picnic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato