Smoke Show BBQ – Charlotte, NC

Name: Smoke Show BBQ (pop-up at Crown Station)
Order: 1/2 lb brisket, 4 St. Louis cut rib, 1/4 chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, mac and cheese, baked, beans, banana pudding (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: Ever keeping my eye on new barbecue restaurants or pop-ups in Charlotte, I was caught off guard by a recent Charlotte Magazine article listing 4 pop-ups to know including one Smoke Show BBQ. The pop-up is owned and run by Brandon Belfer, a chef who attended Johnson & Wales culinary school in Charlotte and who according to that article has worked for a lot of great chefs and kitchens in Charlotte including The Stanley with Paul Verica, The Crunkleton, The Asbury under former chef Matthew Krenz and current chef Mike Long, and Kindred and Hello, Sailor under Joe Kindred and Craig Diehl.

Belfer is originally from the town of Pleasanton outside San Antonio, so he grew up around Texas barbecue and that is his focus for Smoke Show. Every 2 weeks or so, he runs his pop-up from a literal pop-up tailgating tent in the parking lot at Crown Station in NoDa (just around the corner from the former Monk residence).

And Belfer’s barbecue shows some promise but did have some issues on this day. The Creekstone brisket had a nice bark but had some issues with consistency and texture and could have used a little more trimming of the fat cap. Brandon eventually introduced himself and mentioned he was breaking in a new smoker. On top of that, for this cook he was delivered larger-than-expected briskets (16 pounds vs. his normal 12 pounders). I could tell those variables affected this particular cook but as I mentioned earlier, there is promise.

The St. Louis cut ribs were best part of the meal and had some real nice flavor, even if the ribs weren’t the meatiest. The smoked chicken was a solid option as well but probably could have benefitted from some direct heat to crisp up the skin (I’m assuming it was smoked on an offset like the rest of the meats but could be mistaken there). Beef ribs were a special, and while I didn’t order on this go round I’ll get to it eventually.

All of the sides were well made and showed off the culinary skill of Belfer; this day we got mac and cheese, potato salad, baked beans, and cole slaw. And to top off the meal, the banana pudding with some sort of caramelized crumble topping was awesome. I’ll be ordering that ‘naner pudding every time I come back.

Smoke Show BBQ is well worth keeping an eye on as a new player in the Charlotte barbecue scene, and I look forward to giving them another shot in a few months.

Ratings:
Brisket – 3 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Chicken – 3 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

Pinehurst Brewing Company – Pinehurst, NC

Name: Pinehurst Brewing Company & Smokehouse
Address: 300 Magnolia Road, Pinehurst, NC 28374
Order: Smokehouse sampler with hush puppies, mac and cheese, and collards (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

In 2019 as part of Pinehurst’s efforts to maintain and improve upon their courses and resort offerings, Pinehurst Brewing Company opened in the brick building that housed the town’s former steam plant that had powered the resort since 1895. On the beer side, they recruited the head brewer Eric Mitchell from the well-regarded Heist Brewing in Charlotte. As for food, smoked meats plays a huge part in the menu and head smoker Chris Dowd also originally came from the Queen City (though he moved to Laurinburg in 1989). He quit his office job about 20 years ago for barbecue and eventually made his way to Pinehurst Brewing when they opened in 2019.

Inside the historic brick building, they have certainly played up the heritage of the old plant. Weathered photos cover the walls, In the sunroom where we were seated, all tables were made from a single tree that was on the property including the two large high top tables that each can seat 10-12. Underneath the naturally-edged table, the legs are comprised of old pipes, valves, tanks, dials and fittings.

The menu states that the meats from the smokehouse are smoked on “high quality local oak and hickory woods” and while I wasn’t able to lay eyes on the smoker itself, this interview with Dowd claims they are using a stick burner.

As is standard, I went with the sampler to try a bit of everything on the menu. The chopped pork was a large large portion that had some rub sprinkled on top but unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of smoke and found it to be just average. There are four sauces to choose from including an eastern NC vinegar sauce, which gave the barbecue the tang I was looking for.

Brisket came in just one thin slide and had good bark and flavor. The sausage was a bit overdone; charred on the outside, but paired well with the IPA beer mustard sauce. The smoked chicken was well smoked and they managed to make the skin crispy, not rubbery

The sides were strong at Pinehurst Brewing. The sampler comes with two sides and we added another; we went with mac and cheese, collards, and hush puppies. All were well executed and Mrs. Monk gave the collards praise, which isn’t always a given considering how seriously she takes her collards.

Pinehurst Brewing Company will be part of the recently announced Pinehurst Barbecue Festival in September, and they have a good thing going in less than two years up and running. On a warmer day, they have a great beer garden and outdoor bar which would be a nice way to enjoy a beer after a round of golf or after a meal.

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

Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace – Pioneertown, CA

Name: Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace
Address: 53688 Pioneertown Rd, Pioneertown, CA 92268
Order: Tri-tip and half rack of baby back ribs, red rice, pinto beans (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$

Monk: Last month, Mrs. Monk and I found ourselves in southern California spending time in Temecula Wine Country and Palm Springs for our 10th wedding anniversary. This being a big anniversary, my gift to her was going to be not forcing her to go to a barbecue restaurant. I’m kind of a romantic that way.

After spending a few nights in Temecula’s wonderful wineries, we set off to spend a day hiking in Joshua Tree National Park. Looking for a lunch spot nearby, we were recommended Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown by my cousin who lives in the area. I do want to make it clear that I only asked my cousin for a food recommendation and she was the one who brought up barbecue. So I still (technically) kept my promise. Thankfully, Mrs. Monk obliged and we set our GPS coordinates to Pioneertown. She’s a keeper, that one.

Pioneertown has an interesting history since its inception in 1946 as a living old western movie set, with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry being some of they initial investors. During normal times, Pappy & Harriet’s is a live music and dance hall that since its opening in 1982 has hosted the likes of Victoria Williams and Robert Plant to nowadays more indie rock bands such as Vampire Weekend or Jenny Lewis. The original owners sold it in 2003 and it was then taken over by two New Yorkers who seem to have largely kept the original vibe while making it sightly more hipster.

In addition to the live music, P&H also grills their meats over mesquite wood in a Santa Maria-style wood-fired grill. I focused in on the tri-tip and the baby back ribs on the menu, but there was no combo plate listed. Thankfully, the waitress helpfully let me know that it could be done for a price, of course. The tri-tip came cooked medium with a slight pink on the inside for the middle slices but was a little cool to the touch by the time in arrived. It had good flavor, though I could have used a little more pepper. It also came with a ramekin of thin barbecue sauce for dipping.

The ribs were sauced with a savory-and-not-too-sweet sauce but were well cooked. I should note here that neither meat was overly smoky with mesquite smoke, a concern of mine going in.

The sides of rice and beans were bland and a little forgettable but the chili fries we ordered as our appetizer hit the spot after our morning hike.

Pappy & Harriet’s is a fun spot in a cool setting in a historic town. The weather was nice enough (if a bit chilly in the shade) to sit outside and enjoy the food with mesquite smoke wafting in the air. And the food isn’t too bad, either (if not a bit pricey). It was well worth our trip into Pioneertown.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 5 hogs
Tri-tip – 3 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

Honeyfire BBQ – Nashville, TN

Name: Honeyfire BBQ
Date: 11/13/20
Address: 8127 Sawyer Brown Rd #304, Nashville, TN 37221
Order: Three meat combo – brisket, pork, ribs, baked apples, fries (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Speedy: I recently heard about Honeyfire BBQ when talking to a friend about restaurants with good whiskey selections. Honeyfire sits in the Bellevue neighborhood, which is in the western part of the city. I don’t frequent this part of town too often, but I found myself with a leisurely Friday afternoon and decided to bring back one of my favorite work traditions – long lunch Friday.

Honeyfire sits in a pretty sizable shopping center, which is a bit of a red flag for me from a barbecue perspective (where do they do the smoking???), but seeing a sizable woodpile walking in made me feel better.

Monk: But is the wood pile for show or for realsies? If its all the way in the front of the restaurant then surely its not the wood they are using for smoking. My guess is they are probably using a Southern Pride (or similar gasser) and throwing in a stick or two occasionally from a similar wood stack in the back to get a little wood smoke on the meats.

Speedy: The restaurant is sleek and clean, so I walked up to the counter and placed my order. I was asked wet or dry ribs (dry, duh) and fatty, lean, or mixed brisket (mix), which I also consider to be a good sign. 

The food was brought out quickly and it was time to dig in. I’ll start with the ribs. The three bones that came were St. Louis style cut, dry with visible rub sprinkled on. They were meaty and cooked well (maybe slightly overdone), but the rub was a little challenging to me. This will be a theme of the review, but the rub was just very sweet. It seemed to be brown sugar based and mixed decently with the flavor of the ribs, but the sweetness was just too much to handle. The pulled pork was a similar story, as it was finished with a dusting of the same rub. The pork was tender, had some good bark mixed in, but was just too sweet for my liking. There was a sauce provided on the side, so I thought maybe some good vinegar sauce would offset the sweetness. Well one taste and I learned this was no vinegar sauce – it was actually a honey barbecue sauce. So what started as a little too sweet became way too sweet. 

Monk: Wonder if the folks behind Honeyfire have a competition background, where the winning flavor profile tends to be on the sweeter side. Sounds like they could stand to add a vinegar sauce alternative.

Speedy: The brisket was a different story. Rubbed with just salt and peppery, there was (thankfully) no sweetness. The bark on the brisket was tasty and the overall flavor was good. The brisket, like the ribs, was slightly overcooked, so just a touch dry, but overall, it was a pretty nice effort.

As far as sides go, mine were fine. However, one reason I like to get baked apples with barbecue meals is to have a little sweetness to go along with savory meat. In this instance, the meat gave me all the sweetness I could handle, so the apples remained unfinished.

Overall, Honeyfire BBQ is a tough one to rate. I think they actually do a pretty good job hitting the flavor profile that they want to – it’s just not the right profile for me. However, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs (.5 point deduction for the sauce)
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs