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

La Barbecue – Austin, TX (Speedy’s take)

IMG_1608Name: La Barbecue
Date: 7/20/17
Address: 1906 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702
Order: ½ lb brisket, ¼ lb pork, 1 sausage link (link to menu)
Price: $19

Speedy: After a quick work trip to Dallas, I thought it would be a good idea to pop over to Austin to visit Rudy. We both had to work my first day there, but I was able to get away for lunch and head over to La Barbecue, which Rudy previously raved about.

I got there about 11:30, and there was already a decent line. A guy behind me in line asked how long the wait was from the end – he was told 15, but the reality was 40. After 15 minutes, his order was taken (but no one else’s), so as to not make the worker “a liar.” Also, there was no free beer as there was on Rudy’s visit. Combine this with the hot weather and the business casual attire, and I was a little annoyed. The lack of urgency from the staff to serve people added to my annoyance.

Monk: I know the answer to this question, but you were mad because it was hot in July in Texas and they didn’t offer you free beer, something they aren’t obligated to do? Really?

Rudy: I believe that the free beer is only on Saturdays. You were actually able to visit La Barbecue on one of their last days as a food truck because they have since moved into a brick and mortar location. So while the wait might not be less time, but it could possibly be inside.

Speedy: At long last, I got to the front of the line, ordered ¼ pound brisket, ¼ pork, and a sausage link. Before cutting, the homie cutting the meat handed me a small chunk of brisket, which I popped into my mouth. Every annoyance, and truly every care I had immediately went away. The bit was so peppery and moist and simply divine. I quickly upped my order to ½ pound of brisket, got my food, paid, and went to find a shady spot to sit.

Rudy: They got me with the taste test too. Works every time.

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Speedy: Every bite of brisket was just as the first. This was, without a doubt, the best brisket I had ever tasted. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. It was absolutely perfect. There’s nothing I would change about it. I’m not an eloquent enough write to justly write about this brisket, so I’ll just say if you ever get a chance, get it.

Monk: I had similar thoughts when I tried Lewis Barbecue in Charleston earlier this year, which we all know is the joint that former La Barbecue pitmaster John Lewis opened about a year ago. I’d be curious how Lewis stacks up to La.

Speedy: Being a North Carolina boy, I didn’t have high expectations with the pulled pork, but digging in, I was blown away. It was tender, smoky, and tangy. I don’t know what was on it, but there was vinegar involved. It also came with pickled onions, which was a perfect pairing. Overall, this was in the top echelon of pulled pork I’ve ever had. I was shocked. If you ever get a chance, get it.

The sausage was disappointing. The flavor was fine, but it was a little dry and fell apart pretty easily. It wasn’t by any means bad – in fact, in a vacuum, i’d probably call it good. But compared to the brisket and the pork, it’s not worth ordering.

I didn’t order sides – I didn’t feel the need to.

In thinking about La Barbecue, my biggest regret is not getting a beef rib (in addition to, not instead of the other things). Yes, it’s expensive, and there’s no way I could eat it all, but damn it looked good.

Overall, my meal at La Barbecue was incredible. The next day, Rudy and I had plans to hit up Franklin’s, so I was pumped to be able to compare the two. Leaving La Barbecue, my only thought was that I had a hard time understanding how it would equal or exceed what I had just eaten.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs (bumped down due to heat, lack of free beer, and slow service)
Brisket – 5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sausage – 3 hog
Sides – N/A
Overall – 5 Hogs (the brisket and pork were good enough that nothing else mattered)
La Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que – Atlanta, GA (Speedy’s take) 

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Name
: Heirloom Market BBQ
Date: 6/14/17
Address: 2243 Akers Mill Rd., Atlanta, GA 30339
Order: Spicy Korean pork, brisket, collards, fries (link to menu)
Price: $16

Speedy: I sent Monk a simple text on Friday evening. It just said, “Wow wow wow. Heirloom market.”

Monk: It’s true; I can confirm this happened. I wondered why it took so long but was glad Speedy finally made it out there before moving.

Speedy: I have lived in Atlanta for almost a year before checking out Heirloom Market. In my defense, I have to get on 285 (aka the busiest road in America) to get there, but shame on me. This place is incredible.

Heirloom Market doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s connected to a convenience store, is tiny inside, and just has an outside patio with a half dozen tall tables (and no chairs) if you want to dine-in. However, it has a great reputation, which is well deserved.

Monk: Indeed. A few years back when I was coming into Atlanta, Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat! urged me to go here instead of, say, Fox Bros if I was only picking one joint in Atlanta that weekend. And I was so glad I did, especially years later when I finally tried Fox Bros (which was fine). But Heirloom Market is special.

Speedy: I ordered the combo plate, eschewing the traditional pulled pork for the spicy Korean pork, along with the brisket. The pork is served chunked with a spicy sauce and some kimchi (I think) mixed in. Let me tell you, dear reader, it’s absolutely incredible. The pork is smoked perfectly and the sauce adds just the right amount of spice, along with incredible flavor. In addition to my love of barbecue, I’m a huge fan of all Asian food, so this meat was right up my alley. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Monk: My first taste of that spicy, Korean-influenced pork was one of the best bites of barbecue I’ve ever had – definitely top 5.

Speedy: The brisket is also fantastic. It was the right combination of lean and fatty, had lots of bark, and was not dried out at all. The bark was nice and peppery, and no sauce was needed. This was in the upper echelon of briskets that I’ve enjoyed.

Monk: While not Korean-influenced, I agree that Heirloom Market’s is just a damn good brisket.

Speedy: The collards were great – definitely cooked in some sort of meat stock (I’d guess chicken, but not positive) – giving a nice flavor. And the seasoned fries were also excellent.

My meal was too big for one person – I got a second full meal the next day. All this stuff even tasted great re-heated.

Overall, this meal at Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que was perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. The only thing I regret is not getting there sooner.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Spicy Korean Pork – 5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Heirloom Market BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Heirloom Market BBQ