Bar-B-Q King – Lincolnton, NC (RE-REVIEW)

Name: Bar-B-Q King
Date: 12/27/19
Address: 2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092
Order: Chopped barbecue tray with hush puppies, slaw, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Sometimes there are places you wish you could get to more often but just can’t, whether its due to location or circumstance or something else. Bar-B-Q King in Lincolnton, NC (not to be confused with the Bar-B-Q King drive-in in Charlotte) is definitely one of those places for me. My first (and up until recently only) visit was nearly three years ago even though I thoroughly enjoyed that meal. But typically when heading west towards Asheville of the western part of the state, I drive out Highway 74 through Shelby (and Red Bridges) instead of cutting up Highway 321 from Gastonia to catch I-40, which is a route that would put me right by Lincolnton. This is where BBQ King has been doing their excellent version of Lexington-style barbecue for 48-plus years.

I recently stopped by after hiking at nearby South Mountain State Park for a late lunch and was pleased to find that the barbecue tray I got was full of freshly chopped and moist barbecue. A revelation at 3pm where at many other places I might get a tray of dried out barbecue that was chopped hours ago and sitting in a stream tray. Not the case at Bar-B-Q King.

The hush puppies were freshly fried and the onion rings were some of the best I’ve had in a while. In terms of sides, this year might be the year of the onion rings at barbecue joints (but also at non-barbecue restaurants).

I caught up briefly with Jordan Smith, second generation pitmaster and social media manager for BBQ King (among other things), afterwards and he said that the month of December is very busy for them between the caterings for holiday parties or factory shifts in and around Lincolnton and families looking to get out of the house after Christmas. That was certainly the case on this Friday, and I’m glad the locals continue to support BBQ King.

Though I had already written up my favorite barbecue meals of the year (which posted earlier in January), I definitely had to do some reshuffling to get Bar-B-Q King represented on the list as it was simply that good. Next time I’m heading to the mountains, I will be sure to take 321 so I can make another stop.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs

Bar-B-Q King Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pecan Lodge – Dallas, TX (Speedy’s Take)

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Name
: Pecan Lodge
Date: 7/21/18
Address: 2702 Main St, Dallas, TX 75226
Order: The Trough (1 beef rib, 1lb of pork ribs, 1lb brisket, 1/2 lb of pulled pork & 3 sausage links), ½ pound burnt ends, fried okra, collard greens (link to menu)
Price: $120-ish (for 3)

Speedy: On a recent work trip to Dallas, I experienced Divine Intervention. In town for only two days with full calendars both days, I was resigned to having to miss Pecan Lodge once again, and based on Rudy’s review, it’s a joint not to miss. I must have done something right over the past week, because a cancelled meeting left me a block of time between 10 and 2, enough time to head to Deep Ellum to try the ‘cue. I brought two co-workers in tow, which turned out to be a great decision.

Monk: The barbecue gods certainly work in mysterious ways…

Speedy: We arrived right at 11, which is right when Pecan Lodge opens. The line was already out the door, which is when coming with friends comes in handy. We went straight to the bulk order counter (minimum 5 pounds), which had no line (hence the great decision to bring back-ups), and we were on our way.

Our number was called after a short wait, and it was time to dig in. Obviously, we had more food than the three of us could eat, and everything looked and smelled incredible. I have a hard time knowing where to begin with this meal, so let’s just jump right in.

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The brisket was heavenly. Rich, flavorful, moist, peppery, and perfectly cooked. It is easily in the top 4 briskets I’ve ever had, joining La Barbecue, Franklin, and Killen’s, and frankly, nothing else even comes close. The brisket seemed to melt in your mouth.

Personally, my other top meat was the beef rib. It was incredibly tender, had an amazing bark, and pulled, but didn’t fall, right off the bone. Honestly, I’d take these two cuts of beef over even the finest steaks. Beef like this just doesn’t come around often.

The other beef dish we had was the burnt ends, which was a special of the day. My two co-workers rated this as their favorite meat, and I agree it was very good, but I thought it could have been slightly more tender and could have used a little heat on the sauce. This is nit-picking to the extreme, but it was a tier below the brisket and beef rib for me.

The pork was also a pleasant surprise. I have had very hit or miss experiences with pork in Texas, but you could have told me the Pecan Lodge pork was from Tennessee or North Carolina and I would have believed you and demanded to know where from. It was tender and had nice bark, and overall was really great.

Monk: Funny you should mention that. I recalled hearing at one point at there was a connection between Pecan Lodge and NC and lo and behold, Justin and Diane Fourton (the couple behind Pecan Lodge) both used to live in Charlotte and met at Selwyn Pub in 2000. So while they both are originally from Texas, they may have gotten some pork knowledge through osmosis during their time in NC.

Speedy: On Rudy’s trip to Pecan Lodge, he raved about the ribs. This was my least favorite meat by a wide margin. The ribs were still good, but I felt like they could have been a little meatier and the outside got a little charred to me. I’m not sure if it was just a sub-standard batch, but the ribs were forgettable, especially when compared to the rest of the meal.

Rudy: Maybe you got a bad batch or I got an overly great batch. You may have also had the benefit of having several different meat to compare it to, and I only had the brisket. I’m sorry that I missed out on the beef rib.

Speedy: Generally, I don’t pay too much attention to the sides when I have five pounds of barbecue in front of me, but it was a different story here. The fried okra was really, really good. Perfectly seasoned and fried. The collards were also amazing and very unique. While I’m used to having bacon bits or pieces or pulled pork (or at least chicken stock) in the collards, these were very sweet – my guess is brown sugar. The collards are not to be missed.

The next paragraph is going to be a little hard to write. As a North Carolinian, I will go to my grave saying that Lexington barbecue is the best single food item that one can eat and that it was bestowed upon man by God himself. All that said, the top four all around barbecue meals of my life all happened in Texas, and this was in that group. It’s just that good. If you get a chance to visit Pecan Lodge – just do it.

Monk: Who in the? What in the? How in the?

Rudy: I have always said that the ceiling on Texas barbecue is higher but so is the floor.  When it is done well, it is great, but it can also be done poorly. North Carolina barbecue is more consistent. I agree that Pecan Lodge is a must visit and if you have to order from the bulk window to avoid the lines, you will never be disappointed.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Beef rib – 5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Pecan Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby, NC (solo Monk review)

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Name: Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge
Date: 10/21/17
Address: 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28150
Order: Barbecue plate with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and baked beans, Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $11.50

Monk: With all apologies to Speedy (who loves this place just as much, if not more than me), our last visit and only review of Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was over 4 years ago and it was time. In late October, my wife and in-laws roped me into going to the Livermush Festival in downtown Shelby with the promise of Red Bridges for lunch beforehand. And boy, did that promise work on me like a charm.

Last time, Speedy and I thought our visit would yield a slam-dunk 5 hog review but found a few nits to pick and rated it just below. I wondered in the review if it was the start of a trend but I am happy to report that it was an indeed an anomaly and everything on this visit was as good as ever. The chopped pork tray didn’t have as coarse a chop as last time and the table dip had the right consistency. Even the fries, a worrying blunder last time around, were as you would expect.

I must spend a few sentences to opine on the glory of the hush puppies. These large oblong goodies come by the basket full and are top 3 hush puppies for me, ever. They have a perfect mix of sweet and savory and combined with the crunch when they are provided fresh out of the fryer, they are a religious experience.

On this Saturday, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was doing steady business between seated customers and takeout orders. At times, the waiting for a table left customers spilling out of the small waiting area and out the door as well. I imagine Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge had seen this scene on a regular basis in their 70+ years on highway 74 in Shelby. And why not – a short wait to get a table is a small price to pay to get pretty much the perfect meal.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs

Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Franklin Barbecue – Austin, TX (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Franklin Barbecue
Date: 7/21/17
Address: 900 E 11th, Austin, TX
Order: 2 pounds brisket, 1 pound ribs, 1 pound ribs, 1 pound sausage (link to menu)
Price: $120-ish

Speedy: Less than 24 hours after my excellent visit to La Barbecue, I was ready to get back at it, this time to the legendary Franklin Barbecue. Rudy dropped me off at 6 AM to get in line and went to take care of some things at work, re-joining me about 8. Getting there that early, I expected to be first in line, but in reality, there were three groups and about 12 people in front of me. Fortunately, I was still there in plenty of time to be shaded for my entire wait, which was hugely clutch. I spent most of the time sitting in a tailgate chair and sipping Lone Stars, so all-in-all, it was a pretty good morning.

Rudy: The shade part was the best by far. I don’t know how the people in the 2nd half of the line made it, I guess just more Lone Stars.  

Speedy: Around 9:00, someone came around to ask what we were ordering, in order to get a good idea when food was going to run out. You weren’t bound by the order, but it was a good way to understand how far the food would go.

Around 10:30 am, I went inside to hit the bathroom (which they opened up around 9:30), and I saw the Godfather himself – Aaron Franklin. I was a little bummed he didn’t recognize me as a Barbecue Bro (AARON – ARE YOU EVEN READING??), but it was pretty cool he was there.

Rudy: I’ll chalk it up to him just being intimidated by your presence. I am sure he scampered to the back to make sure everything was up to snuff. In all seriousness, I think it is great that they open the building early to people that need to use the bathroom or want to purchase drinks or merchandise. I feel like many places would keep the doors closed until they open for food. That was a nice touch.

Speedy: Eventually, the restaurant opened, and Rudy and I were to the front of the line pretty quickly. Like at La Barbecue, we were given a bit of brisket to much on, and it was every bit as good as the previous day, only this time I was expecting it. No matter – we placed our order, got our meat, and found a table to sit at and dig in.

I’ll start with the brisket since that’s what it’s known for and my God, it is incredible. The peppery bark was perfect, the meat was tender and flavorful, and it was simply divine. The previous day I had claimed I had eaten the best brisket I’d ever tasted, but this was every bit its equal. Just absolutely phenomenal.

Rudy: I agree, if barbecue places in Texas are judged primarily on brisket, you have to hit it out of the park to be listed as the best, and Franklin’s did. The bark was amazing, but the flavors ran all the way through the meat, so no matter what bite you got, it was great. We got moist brisket, and the fat was perfectly rendered as opposed to many other places where you end up with a huge glob of fat with drier meat around it.

Speedy: Rudy had been raving about the ribs, so they were what I tried next. I’ve eaten lots of awesome ribs in my day, but these ribs stacked right up there with the best of them. They were perfectly cooked – giving a clean bite every time. The flavor was amazing – with just the right amount of rub that had a touch of sweetness. The ribs were glazed, so neither wet nor dry, which worked perfectly. These may not have been the best ribs I’ve ever had, but I’d say they’re in the top 5. Overall, you’d be remiss to skip out on these at Franklin.

Rudy: Top 5?!?! I need to eat some of the places you’ve been eating! I love them because of the flavor, the fact that they are tender and moist without being wet ribs. They are my favorite by far.

Speedy: The pork was also a great showing. Tender and a little vinegary, it was everything you’d expect from a good pulled pork. In a normal setting, I’d write more to rave about the pork, but it was a distant third in this offering. Not to say it wasn’t very good, but brisket and ribs were the co-headliners.

The sausage was good – considerably better than La Barbecue, but I wouldn’t order it again. Stomach room at Franklin is too precious to waste on just an above average meat. At many barbecue places this would be the top offering, but at Franklin, the brisket and ribs rose to the top.

Rudy: The pork was a pleasant surprise for me because I had not had it before. What I’ve had other places is usually a peppery pulled pork (which this included) but the difference here was the slight taste of vinegar that you don’t get with most other Texas pulled pork. That gave it a distinct flavor compared to the other meats and also made it closer to NC pulled pork, which was a welcome bit of home for me. As far as the sausage, I agree, it was good but I could have done without it in lieu of more of the other 3 meats.

Speedy: The question that came up often after the trip was whether Franklin Barbecue was worth the 5 hour wait. It’s not something I’d do every weekend, but I think it was absolutely worth it. Overall, the wait was a rather enjoyable experience, and if I wasn’t already obsessed with barbecue, I’d call the meat life-changing. I can’t wait for my next trip to Franklin’s!

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – N/A
Overall – 5 hogs
Franklin Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato