Log Cabin BBQ – Albemarle, NC

Name: Log Cabin BBQ
Address: 2322 US-52, Albemarle, NC 28001
Order: Chopped pork tray with red slaw, hush puppies, Cheerwine (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Albemarle, NC is a small town of less than 16,000 about an hour east of Charlotte on the Pee Dee River and bordering the Uwharrie National Forest. It’s also home to two well-regarded classic NC barbecue joints, each one stemming from the same family.

Lonnie Doby opened Whispering Pines in 1945 and later married Lavada Galloway. Lavada’s sister Edith and brother Darrell worked at Whispering Pines for some time before Edith and Darrell left to open Darrell’s BBQ in nearby Rockwell. Eventually, Edith purchased the building for Wink’s Barbecue in 1991 with one of her sons and renamed it to Log Cabin Bar-B-Que. We’ll get to Whispering Pines soon, but we’ll start with Log Cabin BBQ this week.

Log Cabin is not just a clever name, and dark wood lines the interior of the restaurant which is more or less your classic NC barbecue restaurant setup with waitress-serviced tables where you pay up front.

What wasn’t clear was whether or not Log Cabin was a classic NC joint that still smoked with wood. True ‘Cue lists Log Cabin as an all wood-smoked joint but The Great NC BBQ Map says its a wood-assisted gasser. Out back is a big enclosed smokehouse, however I wasn’t able to place eyes on their setup to confirm which source had their information right. After some digging, it appears that The Great NC BBQ Map had it right (I believe they called each restaurant to confirm cooking method, so makes sense) and Log Cabin uses what looks to be a Southern Pride rotisserie based on the smoker photos I could find.

Nevertheless, the chopped pork that came out had decent smoke and with some dashes of the table vinegar sauce it really sang.

Log Cabin offers both a red and a white slaw though their red slaw curiously came with bits of diced green peppers, something I hadn’t seen before. The freshly-fried hush puppies came in larger orbs and only 3 per tray but were quite good.

While Log Cabin BBQ may not be carrying on the tradition of wood-smoked North Carolina barbecue, they do serve some great pork. Plus, it’s part of a great story of a family’s barbecue legacy that isn’t too widely known from what I can see.

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

Rock Store Bar-B-Q – Stallings, NC (Re-review)

Name: Rock Store Bar-B-Q
Location: 3116 Old Monroe Rd, Stallings, NC
Order: Sandwich combo – pulled pork sandwich, red slaw, cornbread
Pricing: $

Monk: After spending most of my energy the past two year on the Lexington Big Board, I figured it was time to start revisiting some Charlotte joints where it’s been awhile. Case in point: my second visit to Rock Store Bar-B-Q was nearly 9 years after my first. On that visit, I wondered if this might become a regular lunch spot for me due to its proximity to my client at the time. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

Prices have gone up slightly but my sandwich combo was still a reasonable $7.25 including tax compared to $6 in 2012. Much the same as my last visit, I found that the pork was tender while not having much smoke to it. Through the Great NC BBQ Map, it has been confirmed that they smoke in a gasser with wood added in, which is obviously a little different than the “wood smoked” they advertise on their sign. The sandwich absolutely needed red slaw and their vinegar sauce plus a few dashes of Texas Pete. Once that was done, it was very satisfying.

I chose corn bread as my side and they instantly pulled out a foiled brick from some sort of warming container. Which brings me to one point in regards to the speed of fulfilling the order. Once I placed my order, they pulled out a pre-made sandwich wrapped in foil, a small plastic container of red slaw, and this brick of corn bread within a matter of seconds. Everything was the right temperature and I was eating within a minute or so of ordering, so I don’t really have any complaints but this is obviously a different approach than most places.

As for the corn bread it was definitely on the sweeter side and I like that it was warm. The red slaw was their spin on a barbecue slaw and the cabbage was chopped a little coarser than I’d prefer but it did the trick to complement the chopped pork.

I was happy with my second visit to the Stallings Rock Store Bar-B-Q. It’s not a destination barbecue joint but for a quick and cheap lunch it does a good job. They seem to be doing steady business as well as they were churning out the lunch orders while I was there. I can see them getting a slight bump on the Charlotte Big Board.

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

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