Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ in Harrisburg Shows Promise

Name: Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ
Address: 105 Oakley Dr, Harrisburg, NC 28075
Order: 1/2 lb brisket, 1/2 lb pulled pork, and pork belly burnt ends
Pricing: $$

Monk: Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ recently joined the local barbecue scene after it expanded from a small craft brewery in Harrisburg to add barbecue smoked on a Jon G’s stick burner. The expansion has continued recently, having opened a second, larger location in downtown Concord in September a little more than a year after expanding to barbecue. I recently checked out the original Harrisburg location a few weeks back.

Long story short, Phar Mill shows some promise but is not quite there for me yet. For this visit, I ordered a half pound of brisket and pulled pork as well as an order of pork belly burnt ends.

The brisket came in a paper boat and was somewhat hacked into half slices. Underneath some more promising leans, a piece of fatty had stripes of un-rendered fat. Not sure what happened here, but not the most appetizing sight.

The pulled pork was smoky and had good flavor on the chunks of bark but I couldn’t tell how fresh it was since it was served on the cooler side. The pulled strands could have also used another chop or two in my opinion.

Continuing with the theme, the pork belly burnt ends had some good qualities but wasn’t quite there. The burnt ends were unevenly cut, cooked, and sauced but the flavor and smoke was there.

I want to really like Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ since they are smoking over all wood, and will definitely be giving it another chance (perhaps at their downtown Concord location) to try some of the other meats and beers. Speaking of beer, I tried the Enjoy Yourself American Lager on this visit but would like try some of their IPA and sour offerings. As for the barbecue, for now we’ll give it an “A” for effort.

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Pork belly burnt ends – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

Home Team BBQ – Greenville, SC

Name: Home Team BBQ
Date: 10/2/22
Address: 815 Laurens Rd, Greenville, SC 29607
Order: 2 meat combo (pulled pork and brisket), collards, hash and rice (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: While Speedy has previously reviewed both the Sullivan’s Island and West Ashley locations of Home Team BBQ, I have never actually eaten at a Home Team BBQ myself. I’ve had drinks at the Sullivan’s island location but prior to my visit had yet to actually taste their barbecue. Home Team has very much been in expansion mode, with an additional two locations in the Charleston area plus expanding out into South Carolina with locations in Columbia and most recently Greenville. Then of course there’s their Aspen, Colorado location!

The vibe of the newest Greenville location is “sports bar that happens to serve barbecue.” They had a good tap list and were rearing to play a full Sunday early afternoon slate of NFL games. We arrived just before it got busy for Sunday lunch but the food took a while to get out to us.

Having not tried their meats but with Mrs. Monk not looking to share a big platter, I settled for the two meat combo with pulled pork and brisket. The plain pulled pork had a little bit of smoke in the bits of bark but was clearly made to have one of the many sauces added to it as opposed to eating it plain. I predictably went with the pepper vinegar and it worked fairly well.

The brisket, on the other hand, was squarely average. It was sliced thinly and the fat could have used a bit more rendering. It was also a tad on the bland side.

As far as sides went, the vinegary collards were quite good and a meal highlight. The hash and rice was a nice surprise as a side.

After my first visit to a Home Team BBQ, I find it to be what Mac’s Speed Shop in Charlotte used to be circa 2005/2006: a fun spot to watch the game, have some beers, and eat some decent barbecue. While it wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice, I would certainly visit one again.

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs

Big Dan’s BBQ – Elizabethton, TN

Name: Big Dan’s BBQ
Date: 8/20/22
Address: 633 E Elk Ave, Elizabethton, TN 37643
Order: Barbecue sandwich with collard greens (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: In the past year, one of my brothers as well as my parents have moved to the Tri-Cities area of northeast Tennessee. For decent barbecue in the Volunteer State, I’ve always assumed I had to go at least as far west as Knoxville but probably more towards Nashville. For a quick visit to see my family, would Big Dan’s BBQ in the quaint downtown of Elizabethton hit the spot? It did win the Reader’s Choice for Best Barbecue in Carter County in recent years, after all.

Short answer: only kind of. Big Dan’s at least tries, using a Southern Pride behind the building under a shed with a woodpile stacked against it (reminiscent of Archers in Knoxville).

In terms of the barbecue, that Southern Pride put out cue with decent smoke but was a bit on the greasy side. The bun did not survive more than a few pickups before I started picking at it with a fork.

The collards were well balanced and more successful than the pork sandwich for sure.

Big Dan’s BBQ is located next to Riverside Taphouse, the only beer bar in downtown Elizabethton and is not far from the Doe River and the historic Elizabethton Covered Bridge. Transcendent barbecue this is not, but for a snack while having a beer while sitting on a patio in a pretty part of the country, you could do worse.

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 2.5 Hogs

Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q – Charlotte, NC

Name: Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q
Date: 7/9/22
Location: 5121 Trojan Drive, Charlotte, North Carolina 28278
Order: Bar-B-Q platter with hush puppies, cole slaw, and potato salad (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Living in Raleigh during my college years at NC State, whenever we headed east on I-40 towards the coast, we tended to hit up the Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q in Garner on the way out or back home. However, I moved to Charlotte in early 2005 so the last time I had actually gone to any Smithfield’s was likely in fall 2004; it had been quite some time. Smithfield’s (not related to Smithfield Foods, the Chinese-owned pork producer and food-processing company out of Virginia) has been around for 40 years and since those days in the early 2000’s it has grown to 40 franchise stores and has expanded slightly west into North Carolina’s Piedmont. And I do mean slightly – their sole location in southwest Charlotte near the outlet malls is their farthest store west by a good bit with their nearest Piedmont location in Greensboro or Rockingham.

I recently visited that location headed west towards the mountains on my way out of town. While I was tempted by the titular fried chicken, I went with a bar-b-q platter and kept it simple with their standard order: hush puppies, cole slaw, and potato salad.

And you know what? The barbecue, while surely mass-produced on a huge scale, did the trick. Sure, it doesn’t have a ton of smoke, but it tasted fresh and was chopped nicely. Adding the vinegar sauce and/or Texas Pete enhances it but isn’t necessary.

The hush puppies were some of the better fast casual hush puppies, and I felt bad tossing some in the trash after I filled up (though I did briefly consider bringing them in the car with me, though that would have meant throwing them away an hour down the road). While I didn’t regret going with potato salad over French fries, after a few bites I had my fill.

In a pinch, stopping at one of many Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q across the state will certainly do, and is probably your best bet for chain barbecue ahead of Cook Out or Jim ‘N Nick’s. Oddly, I probably received the most feedback of any post on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter so people seem to feel strongly about them (good or bad) for whatever reason. Next time though, I’ll probably go for a fried chicken thigh in addition to the barbecue.

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs