Buddy’s Bar-B-Que – Belmont, NC

Name: Buddy’s Bar-B-Que
Date: 3/29/19
Address: 5945 Wilkinson Blvd, Belmont, NC 28012
Order: Pulled pork sandwich, hush puppies, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Buddy’s Bar-B-Que is an unheralded Monday-to-Friday, breakfast-and-lunch-only barbecue joint off Highway 74 in Belmont. I only stumbled upon it within the past year because my parents moved to Belmont, a small town 12 miles west of Charlotte across the Catawba River, about a year and a half ago. But based on its shack-like, no frills exterior, I had hopes that it could be a hidden gem.

Chances are, if you are going to Buddy’s you are going for takeout. They do have one small table inside but otherwise, the building is pretty much all order counter and kitchen. A small smokehouse sits out back, and promisingly has piles of wood littering the area around the building. Husband and wife co-owners Buddy and Debbie Cunningham also run a catering business when the restaurant isn’t open, and based on the army of mobile smokers in the parking lot, a seemingly successful one at that.

In terms of barbecue, Buddy’s only serves a couple items with the rest being burgers, dogs, breakfast as well as some regional specialties like chuckwagon or country ham. The large chopped pork sandwich comes with a choice of red or white slaw, which I always like to see, plus hush puppies. Buddy’s thankfully carries Cheerwine (as well as Sun Drop) so my decision was a pretty easy one to make. After a few minutes wait, I took my bag out to the parking lot and plopped it on my back trunk.

The sandwich was large and perhaps a bit too big as it fell apart under the weight of the red slaw and pork after a few bites. I ended up having to pick up the fallen chunks from the wrapper with my hands, but I shouldn’t complain too much about too much food. Still, what was left of the the intact sandwich was a pretty darn good one, with the wood smoke shining through in the pork. Next time, I’ll opt for the hopefully more manageable small sandwich and just get a second if I’m extra hungry.

I imagine the wait for my food was largely due to the freshly fried hush puppies, and that’s a wait I’ll gladly do again. They were still warm as I took them out of the bag, and there’s not too much better than a freshly fried, perfectly balanced hush puppy.

So after a little more than a year of trying to make it to Buddy’s Bar-B-Que, I ended up pretty satisfied with the meal I had. If you happen to find yourself in the small mill town of Belmont during the week for lunch, give them a try.

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

Buddy's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Field House Bar-B-Que – Kannapolis, NC

Name: Field House Bar-B-Que
Date: 12/18/18
Address: 1907 S Cannon Blvd, Kannapolis, NC 28083
Order: Chopped barbecue plate with slaw, fries, and hush puppies; Cheerwine

Monk: I first heard of Field House Bar-B-Que in Kannapolis in regards to a 2017 name change from its original name of Varsity BBQ & Ice Cream after being sued by The Varsity in Atlanta. How a one store NC barbecue restaurant in operation since 1998 could be confused with the classic burgers chain two states away baffles me, but nonetheless Field House opted to change the name rather than going through a lengthy legal process.

As for the food itself, as best I can tell Field House uses a gasser but manages to get some decent smoke on the pork. While I ordered the plate with fries, they do serve Lexington-style trays which you don’t see too often on the stretch of highway between Salisbury and Shelby. Next time I’ll try to avoid the temptation of fries and just get the tray with pork, slaw, and hush puppies on the side.

Speaking of slaw, they do offer a choice of red slaw as well as white slaw so you can keep your Lexington tray traditional. I appreciate that the hush puppies are scratch made and not some frozen nonsense.

As best I can tell, nothing really changed in fall 2017 when Varsity Bar-B-Que was renamed to Field House Bar-B-Que (the old sign is even still out back). For local Kannapolis-ians (Kannapolites?), that appears to be a good thing. The old name does live in on the back of each waitresses’ shirts, however, which are styled as jerseys with “Varsity Team” as the player name above a “98” as the block style jersey number. Nicely played, Field House. Nicely played.

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

Varsity Bar-B-Q & Creamery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charlie Vergos Rendezvous – Memphis, TN

Name: Charlie Vergos Rendezvous
Date: 12/18/18
Address: 52 S 2nd St, Memphis, TN
Order: Pork ribs and brisket combination (link to menu)

Speedy: I’ve been spending a lot of time in Memphis lately for work, working mostly with a local team. When my co-workers learned of this blog, they started peppering me with recommendations, but not once did a local tell me to visit Rendezvous. Apparently it is considered more of a tourist destination, but it is 1) super famous and 2) two blocks from my client site, so a visit seemed in order.

Monk: My neighbor here in Charlotte who used to live in Memphis confirmed that it is a bit of a tourist destination but that he always found their ribs to be pretty good, actually.

Speedy: The sign on Rendezvous advertises “charcoal ribs,” and walking up, it’s easy to smell the charcoal smoker throughout Rendezvous alley. As I went with a co-worker on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was fairly empty and we didn’t have to wait for a table. Upon entering Rendezvous, you descend into a basement and come to an old dinner-esque place. It doesn’t look like the decor has been updated a whole lot since it’s 1948 opening, but still, it’s spacious and comfortable.

The menu at Rendezvous is pretty simple. I knew I was getting ribs, but the waiter also recommended brisket, so I took him up on it. Standard sides are beans and slaw, and there’s not much else in terms of sides, so I just went with what was given.

The food came out super fast. The waiter told us that there was both spicy and normal sauce on the table, but advised we try the ribs dry first, which I obliged. I’ll say this right off – Rendezvous is not the best barbecue meal I’ve had in Memphis, but I don’t understand why it’s so shunned. The ribs were meaty, cooked well (maybe slightly undercooked) and had a nice, smoky flavor. They were fine without the sauce, but I did enjoy the spicy sauce as well.

Monk: It’s looking likely that I will be back for Memphis in May next year so if I’m wandering around downtown is it worth a stop?

Speedy: Well, there’s a Central BBQ downtown as well, so I’d recommend that first, but I wouldn’t steer you away from Rendezvous.

I didn’t expect much from the brisket (I never do outside of Texas), but it was actually decent. It had good tug and nice flavor. I could’ve used a little more bark and ended up using the spicy sauce on this as well, but I would order it again. Overall, a solid effort.

The one thing that surprised me was the slaw. Rendezvous’ slaw is mustard/vinegar based, and really is quite enjoyable.

Monk: Having not tasted it, it sounds like the slaw at Bill Spoon’s here in Charlotte. I’m curious if there is a Memphis connection there.

Speedy: I thought of Bill Spoon’s as well – it’s very similar.

Overall, if you’re expecting the best barbecue meal of your life at Rendezvous, you might be disappointed. But if you go in with realistic expectations, you’ll find it to be just fine.

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

Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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