John Brown Smokehouse – Long Island City, NY

Name: John Brown Smokehouse
Address: 10-43 44th Dr, Long Island City, NY 11101
Order: 1/2 lb of burnt ends, 1/2 lb pork belly, and 1/2 lb pulled pork with corn bread and collards (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

A quick work trip to New York City allowed me to accomplish a couple of barbecue-related things while in town (after finishing up my day job requirements, of course): try another New York barbecue joint to see how its barbecue scene continues to develop and also meet up with Sean Ludwig of NYC BBQ and The Smoke Sheet.

Regarding the latter, I had met up with Ryan Cooper (aka BBQ Tourist), the other half of The Smoke Sheet, last year in Charlotte so meeting Sean would complete my Smoke Sheet punch card. Turns out, Sean is also a great guy and I enjoyed “talking shop” regarding all things barbecue and how they run The Smoke Sheet. Sean is a thoughtful guy and gave me a lot of great things to think about when it comes to Barbecue Bros.

In terms of barbecue, I knew I would be limited when it comes to barbecue options after 8pm on a Monday night. Consulting with Sean ahead of time, we settled on John Brown Smokehouse in Long Island City since it’s open until 10 and was convenient to both my midtown hotel and Sean’s apartment. John Brown’s is a Kansas City-style barbecue joint that opened in 2012 and its co-owner and pitmaster Josh Bowen has also opened the Texas-themed Mothership Meat Company a few miles away, but that appears to be more of a warm weather patio spot.

Thankfully, John Brown Smokehouse was able to mostly deliver when it came to barbecue though some meats were understandably out by the time we get there (which is of course always preferable to serving old or not-up-to-par meats). Sean took the lead in terms of the order and we settled on a 1/2 lb each of burnt ends, pork belly, and pulled pork.

I’ll get the pulled pork out of the way since it was my least favorite of the three meats. John Brown Smokehouse served a coarsely chopped pulled pork that had good bark that surprisingly lacked much flavor.

The brisket is apparently not the order at John Brown and instead Sean recommended that we should go for the burnt ends. According to Sean, the brisket is sliced too thin while the burnt ends are taken from the fatty point of the brisket so you should just order them instead. Curiously, the burnt ends were not sauced as you might expect from a Kansas City joint but regardless, they were moist and flavorful.

I’m not sure if pork belly is typical at Kansas City barbecue restaurants or if this was a case of just wanting to have a variety of meats on John Brown’s menu, but it was yet another case of a successful protein available past 9. Similar to the other meats, it came sauceless but the well-rendered fattiness of the pork belly didn’t require any sauce.

Speaking of sauces, be sure to taste test your sauce bottles if you do go for sauce, as the highly spicy variant of the barbecue was mistakenly labeled and could have led to unexpected results had I been overly aggressive with the sauce.

In terms of sides, the cornbread is a must order at John Brown Smokehouse. Though its not a traditional cornbread cake, instead having a texture of a corn pudding. Moist and sweet, their version of cornbread was a different twist on cornmeal I hadn’t seen before that more than made up for their lackluster collards.

John Brown Smokehouse would have been forgiven for mediocre meats at a less-than-optimal time of day. Thankfully, they more than delivered a great meal on a rainy, nasty Monday night and I can imagine earlier in the day it would have been even better.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Burnt Ends – 3.5 hogs
Pork Belly – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Tarheel Q – Lexington, NC

Name: Tarheel Q
Location: 6835 West, US-64, Lexington, NC 27295
Order: Regular chopped tray with “extra brown” and red slaw
Pricing: $

The second stop on the “Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor” (it’s going to be a thing) was Tarheel Q, just 9 miles away from Arcadia Q (although more directly on Old Highway 64) and also owned by Leon and Becky Simmons. Based on this visit, Tarheel Q definitely has its own set of customers, as indicated by a packed dining full of workers, locals, and maybe a few out-of-towners like me.

On that day, I wasn’t yet aware that Arcadia Q and Tarheel Q were owned by the same husband and wife duo (though looking back there were definitely clues in the logos of each as well as the use of a #GR8BBQ4U hashtag), but I also never would have guessed based on the barbecue. Tarheel Q’s barbecue was fresher and tastier than the tray that I had just had at Arcadia Q. The smoke flavor was more intense, and I preferred this pork by far. I’m curious if the barbecue at Arcadia Q is smoked on site or is perhaps trucked in from Tarheel Q (my experience that day might suggest just that, but this would be me speculating).

The hush puppies, however, were a different story. I preferred the hush puppies at Arcadia Q, though the ones at Tarheel were still above average, with the shape being more typical. As was the case at Arcadia, the red slaw was fine.

As I was leaving, the smokestacks were going full bore as more wood and pork was being added to the brick masonry pits out back. Any experienced barbecue traveler know this is a welcome scene, in the middle of the day and on this day, Tarheel Q definitely had the upper hand of the first two places I tried on the Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor.

Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor Rankings (so far)

Barbecue
1 – Tarheel Q
2 – Arcadia Q

Hush Puppies
1 – Arcadia Q
2 – Tarheel Q

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Tar Heel Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Revenge BBQ – Irvington, NY

Name: Revenge BBQ
Date: 9/19/19
Address: 48 Main St, Irvington, NY 10533
Order: Lone Star Sampler (1 lb brisket/pork/ribs, mac and cheese, custard corncake), jalapeno cheddar sausage (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: While the Hudson Valley barbecue scene is apparently burgeoning, it’s still a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to quality according to Eater food critic Robert Sietsema. One hidden gem he found a few years back was Revenge BBQ in the town of Irvington, and having the occasion to pass through the Hudson Valley last week, it was the obvious target for me.

Revenge BBQ is a Texas-focused barbecue joint a few blocks from the Hudson River in downtown Irvington that’s been in operation since 2017. They import sausages from Kreuz Market in Lockhart, they smoke dinosaur beef ribs on the weekend, and feature both a “Lonestar Sampler” platter for 1-2 people as well as an even bigger “Texas Trinity Feast.” So yes, Texas is the main concern at Revenge. Co-owner Jacob Styburski (a former senior director of design at PayPal and one half of the husband and wife owner duo along with his wife Catherine) has even done his time in Texas, both at Texas A&M’s Camp Brisket as well as interning under Russell Roegels of Roegel’s Barbecue in Houston.

That work and research shows through in the meats I tried that day, all of which are smoked in an onsite Ole Hickory smoker. The brisket (both lean and fatty) had a proper peppery bark, with both cuts of meat maintaining their moisture. The pork ribs were nice and peppery and adhering to Texas tradition thankfully avoided being sauced.

As I mentioned above, Revenge BBQ imports their sausages from Kreuz and the jalapeno cheddar ring sausage was properly spicy and one of the best I’ve had. Keeping with Texas tradition, the pulled pork was perhaps a bit of an afterthought and thus the least successful of the meats. Not bad, but nothing comparable to NC barbecue (which would be a tall task).

The creamy mac and cheese was good but the real star of the show was the custard corncake, a new and different version of cornmeal from the hush puppies, cornbread, or cornsticks found in NC. I won’t stay that it topped hush puppies for me, but it came pretty close. I loved the sweet and creamy custard texture and will be thinking of that side for a while.

Revenge BBQ (named after their son’s middle name) is located on Main Street on an idyllic town on the Hudson River and is well worth the detour if you are looking for above average Texas barbecue.

For more, check out:
Pig Trip
Westchester Magazine

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q – Pembroke, NC

Name: Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q
Date: 8/10/19
Address: 100 E 3rd St, Pembroke, NC 28372
Order: Lunch buffet (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Barbecue buffets are typically found in the eastern part of North Carolina as well as in the midlands of South Carolina but not very many other places in the US other than that. Personally, I am not opposed to the idea of buffets in general like some *cough*Mrs. Monk*cough* and have had some decent experiences. One of which being at the now-closed store of Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ in Lumberton that was shuttered a few years ago due to Hurricane damage. With their Pembroke location on our route to Ocean Isle Beach for the week, a quick stop for lunch was a fairly easy decision.

Before I get to the barbecue, I want to pause briefly on the fried chicken. While not technically a barbecue item, you will tend to find it on the menu at a lot of barbecue joints in North Carolina (both old and new), and its usually not simply an afterthought. That’s certainly the case at Fuller’s, and while the pork is good, the fried chicken is arguably the main attraction. It’s that good.

Onto the barbecue, which is an eastern-style chopped pork smoked over wood. It’s flavorful and smokey, and a little squirt of the vinegar table sauce doesn’t hurt one bit.

The hush puppies are orb-shaped and smaller than your average hush puppy, so you may mistake them for fried okra. They stay pretty fresh under the heating lamps and I went back for seconds. The other sides of coleslaw, mac and cheese, and collards that I chose from the huge buffet were all good but pretty standard fare.

But onto the dessert, where you have a choice of red jello, chocolate-iced 5-layer yellow cake, strawberry shortcake, chocolate pudding, and some bomb-ass banana pudding. I’m far from a ‘naner pudding connoisseur but I know what I like and I quite liked the version at Fuller’s. I definitely went back for seconds.

Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ also has two stores in Fayetteville and are hoping to open another store back in Lumberton (although not at the same location, which was damaged too much). Owner Eric Locklear (as well as his parents Fuller and Delora before they passed) has been operating their barbecue/seafood/soul food buffets for more than 30 years and offer good food for a cheap price (as low as $8.99 for a lunch buffet during the week). It’s certainly worth a stop if you are in Cumberland or Robeson Counties in the southeastern part of the state.

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