Ask a North Carolinian about their favorite BBQ, and you’re likely to incite a great debate. Everyone knows exactly where to find the “best” BBQ, and The Great NC BBQ Map will help you track down your favorite style around the state. But we believe that even the most ordinary things can be turned into an adventure with just the tiniest shift of perspective. Above all, that was the goal of our map. These top five highlight some of Charlotte’s most unique BBQ joints and are a reminder of our motto: “Every Day Is an Adventure.” #EDIA
– Snooks BBQ has reopened in Davie County as of last Thursday; its hours are 11-7 Thursday through Saturday
Name: 521 BBQ and Grill Date: 11/29/14 Address: 1135 Stonecrest Blvd, Suite 101, Tega Cay, SC 29708 Order: Pork and rib barbecue combo plate (link to menu) Price: ~$16
Last time I tried to use a Livingsocial coupon for 521 BBQ and Grill, Speedy and I ended up at the wrong location mostly – ok, completely – due to my lack of reading the small print. Well, on the day of expiration Mrs. Monk, the Monkette, and I made a trip back out to Fort Mill specifically to try the other, slightly closer location.
Of the two locations, I think I liked this building slightly more. What it lacks in traditional barbecue shack-iness – though the original is located at the end of a strip mall it looks the part of a shack (this one is also located in a strip mall but has more of a sports bar vibe) – it makes up for in beer and flat screen tv’s with sports (though I didn’t partake of any beer on this particular day).
And as it turns out, the other thing I liked slightly more at this location was the food. The pork had more smoke and some nice bark mixed in (again, for a gasserUpdate: they use a FEC 150 wood pellet smoker). It also wasn’t as dry as the other location, while still being a tad on the drier end of the spectrum. Similar to the other location, I added the vinegar-based sauce and that greatly helped its cause. I didn’t order the ribs last time around but did on this trip. I found that I mostly agreed with Speedy’s take on them – they were meaty and I liked the sauce, though I could take or leave the finishing of them on the grill.
The sides were more or less the same as the other location, with the scratch-made hush puppies again being the highlight. The crinkle cut fries were standard but solid, the beans seemed a little bit like an afterthought and may have been straight out of a can, and the red slaw still had too much ketchup that made it more sweet than tangy.
I didn’t mention it last time, but the combo plate gives you a ton of food, enough for a to-go box and a second meal the next day. So you definitely get a lot of food for the price.
At the Tega Cay location of 521 BBQ and Grill, the food is decent and the service was friendly but I don’t know if I would consider it worth the drive from NoDa. Though for options in Fort Mill, you could probably do a lot worse.
Name: 521 BBQ and Grill Date: 10/25/14 Address: 7580 Charlotte Hwy, Indian Land, SC 29707 Order: Monk: Combo plate with pork and sausage, fries, hush puppies, red slaw, and beans; Speedy: Rib tray with fries and hush puppies (link to menu) Price: Monk: $13.50; Speedy: $15-ish
Monk: At this point in our Charlotte barbecue journey, we are starting to run out of places in Charlotte proper to eat and rank. Even still, I didn’t think we’d have to go to a place that is at least 50 minutes away from my house. To be clear, Indian Land is just south of Fort Mill, which isn’t all that far from Charlotte. And we were in the area to go to a pumpkin patch with the Monkette. But realizing it was going to take upwards of an hour with traffic to get home when I meant to go to the other, closer location (to use a Livingsocial coupon before it expired) was a little disheartening. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So, 521 BBQ and Grill.
Speedy: Monk mentioned this trip to me earlier in the week. But I don’t have any mini-Speedies running around, so the pumpkin patch was out of the question. Fortunately, 521 BBQ and Grill is just down the road from the best whiskey store in the area! And I take any excuse I can to check out what new scotches they’ve stocked. So I was in!
Monk: 521 claims to rub and cook the pork butts nightly for 14 hours but unfortunately the pork lacked a significant amount of smoke (possibly signifying that it was cooked by a gasser? Update: or possibly they use a FEC 150 wood pellet smoker like the Tega Cay location?), though it was tender and moist. Adding the table sauce added some zip to the barbecue and would be my recommended way of eating.
Speedy: The ribs were big, meaty baby-back ribs, and they had decent flavor. I enjoyed the sauce that was served on the ribs, and the tenderness was right, but I do like a bit more smoke flavor and more presence of a rub on the meat. They were finished on the grill, which is not my preference, as I think the grill char takes away from the meat flavor. I also prefer ribs to be cooked without the membrane, which was not the case here. Overall, the ribs were fine, but I don’t think I’ll be making special trips down to Indian Land just for the ribs.
Monk: The sausage is also finished on the grill and is pretty good, but if I had to guess it is commercially bought instead of being made in house or from a local vendor. It was fine, but I wouldn’t consider it an essential order based on this visit.
Speedy: I also ordered some wings, which were fried, so not really barbecue. I ordered the hot wings, but got a mustardy sauce, which actually worked pretty well. If you’re a wing fan, they’re worth trying, but again, not worth a special trip.
Monk: Of the side items, the hush puppies were best and appeared to be scratch made. I liked them and wish we had a table basket of them instead of just a couple that came with my plate. 521 BBQ offers a choice of red or white slaw, but the red slaw was a little too ketchup-y and needed more vinegar.
Speedy: Overall, 521 BBQ and Grill is a decent meal. I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to check out, and it ended up being a pretty expensive trip for ole Speedy (not due to the barbecue, but rather the two bottles of scotch I ended up with on my way there). So next time, Monk, see if you can find a pumpkin patch a little closer to home.