Prime Barbecue – Knightdale, NC

Name: Prime Barbecue
Date: 7/28/22
Address: 900 Park Offices Dr Suite 120, Durham, NC 27703
Order: 3 meat sampler with pork, brisket, and ribs, deviled egg potato salad (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Speedy: A quick work trip afforded me an opportunity I’d been looking forward to for a long time – a visit to Prime Barbecue. Monk first clued me in to Prime Barbecue in early 2020, when he was invited to tour the not yet open facility and sample some of the planned menu. Reading his description of Texas style ‘cue in NC got me interested, and pitmaster Christopher Prieto’s time on “BBQ Brawl” season 2 only made me that much more determined to make it out to Knightdale to sample the goods. However, due to various scheduling challenges and a bit of a pandemic, it took me over two years to make it happen. Let me tell you, dear readers, it was worth the wait.

Monk: I haven’t yet made it back out to Knightdale for an official review, but was thrilled to see Speedy was going to check it out for himself while back in NC recently.

Speedy: Walking up on this hot Thursday around 12:30 in the afternoon, I saw a large outdoor space, complete with a play area for kids and covered picnic style seating. On this day, the outdoor area was pretty sparse (did I mention it was hot?), but walking in, the space was buzzing. The large dining room was nearly full, and there was a line of about a dozen customers ahead of me. The line moved quickly until it was time for me to place my order.

The main reason I like dining with Monk is not the company he provides…

Monk: …hey, wait a minute…

Speedy: …but rather the addition of another eater that allows me to order everything on the menu. Alas, on this day, I was dining solo, so I had to make some tough choices.

Monk: Longtime readers know that I feel your pain here.

Speedy: Of course I opted for the three meat platter – selecting brisket, ribs, and turkey (along with sides of barbecue rice and green beans). The pulled pork and sausage will have to wait for my next trip (and there will be a next trip).

Let’s start from the top – the brisket. Generally, I order a mix of fatty/lean, but today it all looked very moist, so I stuck with the lean. I didn’t sample the fatty, but the lean was nearly perfect. Great bark, moist, peppery, and flavorful with just the right amount of tug. Prime Barbecue struck a perfect balance of enough seasoning to penetrate the meat fully without over-seasoning the outside. That kept every bite flavorful. This was a top ten brisket-gasm of my life.

Next up – the ribs. Prime serves pork spare ribs, that to my taste were perfectly seasoned and cooked. I was able to get a good, clean bite, but also pull meat from the bone easily. The ribs were glazed enough to add some sweetness without being too sticky. I have no improvements to offer here either.

Monk: While the brisket was really good during the aforementioned media preview in 2020, the ribs were the star of the show for me. Seems like that is still the case here.

Speedy: I’m on record lately as to really enjoying smoked turkey, so I was excited to try my final meat – the sliced turkey breast. For me, this was the only meat I didn’t love. While cooked perfectly and not at all dry (the usual culprit for imperfect turkey), I found the turkey to be a bit on the buttery side. My presumption is the turkey is wrapped in foil with butter at some point in the smoke process, and while it definitely kept the meat moist, I felt like the turkey and smoke flavors got overpowered. If you are a fan of buttery meat, I still think you will love this dish, but it wasn’t for me.

I was pretty full from the feast above, but did still have room for a couple of bites of each ordered side. The green beans were solid, and worth ordering. The barbecue rice (complete with bits of sausage) was like no other rice I’d had before and will be something I’ll order again. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I washed it all down with Cheerwine from the soda fountain – just an extra cherry on top of a great meal.

Since we started our blogging over ten (!) years ago, the Barbecue Bros have seen the proliferation of Texas-style barbecue all over the country. I’m happy to say that Prime Barbecue takes this style (along with a few twists) and not only does justice, but serves up one of the best meals you can find anywhere. Five hogs.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Turkey – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs

Jon G’s Barbecue – Peachland, NC (Speedy’s take)

Name: Jon G’s Barbecue
Address: 116 Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133
Order: 1.5 lbs brisket, 0.5 lbs pork, 0.5 lbs bacon burnt ends, 1lb rib, 2 Cheerwine hot links, jalapeno cheese grits, apple crisp (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Speedy: Finally, I was in the Charlotte area on a Saturday and able to make it to the Jon G’s Barbecue brick and mortar location, after Monk’s continual praise and an impressive experience with the food truck a few years back. As a non-NC resident, I am only able to pop in and out of Charlotte a few times a year, and Saturday’s are not always convenient times for a trip over to Peachland, so I have one plea: give the people what they want! More barbecue! But I digress.

Monk: I’m pretty sure Speedy gets it now, but even though they are only open Saturdays it’s not like Garren and Kelly are sitting around the rest of the week between prep, catering gigs, and the food truck. Plus, the Saturday only aspect makes it more of an experience. 

Speedy: After loading up from Charlotte around 9:15 AM, we arrived at a small building off highway 74 with a picnic shelter out back around 10:00 and found our place in line for the 11:00 opening. Even an hour early, we were about 10th in line, but we didn’t mind the wait, as we were greeted with a cooler full of (free) Burial beer. A nice touch.

Monk: You know I love free beer and the fact that it’s one of my favorite breweries (NC or otherwise) only adds to it. We each grabbed and beer and joined in on the tailgating atmosphere. This is the one thing I try to convey when convincing anyone to make a trip to Peachland – it’s an experience that’s worth the trip. After all, Saturdays are for the boys!

Speedy: Let’s start with the brisket and not bury the lede. Similar to my experience with Jon G’s food truck a couple years ago, the brisket was fantastic. With apologies to both Jim Noble and John Lewis, this is the best brisket I’ve had in the Carolinas, and rivals Owlbear for the best outside of Texas. The peppery goodness pleased me greatly. I was actually a little worried about the brisket when I saw that Jon G’s uses a rotisserie smoker instead of the Texas standard barrel offset, but it worked out just fine.

For some reason, Jon G’s brisket is still ever so slightly behind my personal Holy Quadrumvirate of brisket (Franklin’s, La Barbecue, Pecan Lodge, Killen’s) but maybe because there’s just something different about eating brisket in Texas.

Monk: Of course that rotisserie smoker is an Oyler from Texas-based J&R Manufacturing, but I get Speedy’s concern when it’s not coming from an army of offset smokers made from old propane tanks (like the original Jon G’s smoker). 

I don’t always get the pork at Jon G’s, but that’s not to say they don’t do a good job with it. And on this visit, it was up to par even if it’s not what we were there for. 

Speedy: As you loyal readers know, I’m very much a rib man. When I visited the food truck ribs were not on the menu, so I had been salivating thinking about ribs the whole drive over. The dry ribs served at Jon G’s were seasoned well and cooked nearly perfectly. I don’t think I’d change a thing and would consider this a must order meat.

Monk: Man, those ribs are so good and I couldn’t agree more. They might even merit a revisit to my Ultimate Charlotte Barbecue Plate in the not-too-distant future.

I think they’ve really dialed in their Cheerwine hot link but I know Garren is really high on their newish Cheesy-Tex sausage made with cheese from Brown Creek Creamery in nearby Polkton So I’ll have to try that next time around when I’m not around Speedy, who is unyielding in his lack of tolerance for lactose.

Speedy: The bacon burnt ends were a special of the day. They had great flavor, as expected, but weren’t totally consistent. There were a couple pieces in our order that were a little dry. Overall, I’d still order again, but in a near perfect meal, this was my nit to pick. 

Monk: My experience with smoking my own bacon burnt ends is that the variance in cubing leads to some getting overdone while they larger ones cook through. Unavoidable but understandable. 

The jalapeno cheddar grits had a little more heat than usual on this visit, which was not unwelcome. Speedy ordered the apple crisp which I’m not sure I’ve ever had from them. It’s a simple but delicious way to end the meal. 

Speedy: Like all Texas-style Barbecue, it’s not something I can eat every day, as I was left with a bit of a gut bomb later in the day. So maybe Jon G’s has it right with the Saturday only thing. But overall, Jon G’s Barbecue is ridiculous. One of the best barbecue meals you’ll get anywhere. If you get the chance, don’t just stop by; make a plan to get there early and spend a Saturday morning out there. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Sausage – 4.5 hogs
Bacon Burnt Ends – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs

Smiley’s Lexington BBQ – Lexington, NC

Name: Smiley’s Lexington BBQ
Date: 10/1/20
Address: 917 Winston Rd, Lexington, NC 27295
Order: Chopped barbecue sandwich with hush puppies and a Cheerwine (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Smiley’s Lexington BBQ was an early stop on our barbecue journey, about 5 months into the blog and back when our photos were extremely filtered photos from Instagram. However, both Speedy and I really liked the barbecue and ranked Smiley’s as 4 hogs at the time. As I have been working my way through the Lexington barbecue restaurants for my own rankings, it was almost certainly worth a revisit 8 years later. 

Then, word came a little over a year ago that Highway 8 which Smiley’s and Speedy’s both sit on was slated to be widened by the NC DOT and they both would be among the casualties lost (John Tanner certainly had some thoughts). The initial timing I had heard was summer 2020 but with the pandemic throwing a wrinkle in many things, it seems as if Smiley’s has received a temporary stay of execution. I hope it ends up being more permanent but regardless I wanted to make one more stop while I still could.

And I’m so glad I did, because Smiley’s provided an excellent late morning breakfast in my chopped sandwich, hush puppies, and a Cheerwine. The chopped barbecue was fresh, smoky, and topped with a tangy, crunchy red slaw. Just perfectly executed Lexington-style barbecue, with my only complaint was that the sandwich fell apart a bit easily and made for a quick and messy eating experience.

The basket of hush puppies was piping hot and my only regret was that I only had a couple of them and left more than half to waste. I wish that I could have somehow gifted these to someone without making it weird.

As I paid my bill, I asked the waitress if there was any update on the highway widening and she nodded her head side to side, saying that they hadn’t heard anything recently. “We’re just living day to day.”

Make it a point to get to Smiley’s Lexington BBQ while you can.

For more on Smiley’s Lexington BBQ:
BBQ Jew
Marie, Let’s Eat
John Tanner’s Barbecue Blog

Ratings: 
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 5 hogs 
Overall – 5 hogs

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

Jon G’s Barbecue – Peachland, NC

Name: Jon G’s Barbecue
Address: 116 Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133
Order: 1 pound brisket, 1/2 lb ribs, 1 Cheerwine hot link, 1 jalapeno cheddar, cheddar grits, baked beans, cole slaw (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: On the first day of their soft opening dates, I made what is sure to be the first of many trips east to Peachland out to Jon G’s Barbecue. Assuming there was going to be a line for a 4pm start, I arrived at about 3:25 and found that indeed there was one. Once in line I confirmed that I was 12th in line (behind Adam and his wife of Apple City BBQ nonetheless!). I cracked open a beer with my (actual) brother Andy and friend of the blog Chris and happily began our wait in line.

For this first day at least, Jon G’s was just letting one group in at a time to order at the counter so the line moved a little slower than it ultimately will once things are normal (whenever that may be). No matter though if you’ve got a cooler full of beer, which I can’t recommend enough.

Once through the line, we headed out to the picnic tables with our food. On this warm day, some intrepid patrons ahead of us in line set up a tailgate tent over one of the tables and I was immediately jealous. The heat was not unbearable despite it being late June, and between the intermittent breeze and the cold beer we managed. Of course, the barbecue helped.

If you’ve been paying attention, you already know how I feel about Jon G’s Barbecue, so I won’t dwell too much on the food. But as expected, the Texas Trinity of brisket, ribs, and sausage each hit the mark. The mix of lean and moist brisket was buttery soft with a great pepper crust, the ribs are rapidly becoming my second favorite meat there, and the sausages (their signature Cheerwine hot link and a jalapeno cheddar) each had a nice kick with a great snap.

Kelly and Garren will be understandably focusing on the restaurant for the foreseeable future at the expense of the food truck so if you want to try the best barbecue in Charlotte, you’re just going to have to make the trip to Peachland to try Jon G’s Barbecue. I would recommend getting there early if you can, as the line had grown to upwards of 60-70 as I left. Regardless, make the trip, bring a cooler, and I promise you won’t be mad that you did.

Ratings:
Brisket – 5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Sausage – 5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 5 Hogs