It all started with a discussion between Speedy and Monk about Charlotte’s best barbecue on our way to what was then the #1 joint in the city according to Yelp, Bobbee-O’s. That then led to this tweet:
And then our buddy Rudy, who lives in Austin, offered to be our beef correspondent:
And then it didn’t take too long to come up with the name:
All this happened in less than an hour, and then had our first review up later that afternoon and then shortly thereafter decided on our ‘noms de blog’ (Monk, Speedy, and Rudy) and two years later here we are, 67 reviews later and counting. Here’s to at least 67 reviews more.
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Name: Jack Cobb & Son Barbecue Place Date: 6/23/13 Location: 3883 South Main Street, Farmville, NC Order: Combo plate with chopped barbecue, chicken leg, slaw, collards, and hush puppies Bill: $10.75
Speedy: So the whole extended Speedy clan decided to go out to the Outer Banks for a week of vacation, giving me a great excuse to visit the eastern part of NC and check out some eastern NC barbecue. I used the NC Barbecue Trail as my guide to help me pick where to eat.
Monk: Good call…we have to get to our goal of reviewing every stop on the trail before the end of 2013 somehow.
Speedy: First off, let me say this – Farmville is in the middle of nowhere.
Monk: Wait, you’re telling me a town called “Farmville” isn’t in the middle of a bustling urban metropolis? Shocking.
Speedy: And Jack Cobb and Son fits the bill of a place you’d expect to see in the middle of nowhere. The building is on a large plot of land and appears a bit run down. You can see the smokehouse in the back, which didn’t appear to be running when I arrived (around 1 pm). Walking in to the building, I got sort of a school cafeteria feel. You place your order at the counter and your meal is spooned from large vats of pork/slaw/etc. I imagine the food was prepared early that morning, but I don’t have anything to base that off of. As I said, the smokehouse was not going when I was there.
Monk: Based on the speed with how most barbecue joints serve up their food, I imagine this happens behind the scenes in the kitchen but its a little odd for it to be right in front of you.
Speedy: The first thing I noticed when driving up and walking in is that there’s nowhere to eat. Despite being on a decent size plot of land and in a big building, Jack Cobb is strictly take out. As I was a few hours from my destination – this posed a problem. I initially tried to eat on a tree stump in front of the building, but when it started raining, I ended up eating in my car. I don’t understand why a few tables couldn’t be set up inside or some picnic tables set up outside. This bothered me greatly – probably more than it should have.
Monk: I can understand why you were annoyed since the situations combined to kind of put you out, but are you seriously going to ding a take-out only place for being what it probably always has been? Wait, I know the answer to this…
Speedy: Monk, it’s my review and I’ll rate how I want to. Anyhow, I decided to get a combo plate so I could sample both the pork and the chicken. It came with hushpuppies and two sides, which I chose slaw and collards. Normally, I wouldn’t bother with ordering chicken as well, but the combo plate gives you a choice of breast or leg (I chose leg), so I was more intrigued than if it were just pulled or chopped chicken.
Monk: Bold strategy, Speedy. I think this is the first time I can remember either of us ordering chicken from a barbecue joint in North Carolina that wasn’t chicken wings. Let’s see if it pays off…
Speedy: The food was served quickly, in large portions, and very reasonably priced (note: the barbecue sandwich is only $3). I first dug into the pork, which was very good. It was eastern style, chopped well, was tender, moist, and with good flavor. Definitely the highlight of the meal. The plate came with a small side of extra vinegar based sauce, but I didn’t really need it.
Monk: So far, so good…
Speedy: The chicken was incredibly tender – maybe even too much so. When I picked up the chicken leg, all of the meat literally came off the bone. I was a little disappointed in the flavor. The chicken didn’t seem flavored at all and was just OK. Definitely could’ve used some seasoning or rub. The slaw was vinegary, but lacked the tang that I like and the collards were somewhat flavorless.
Monk: And there it is…this kind of reinforces my thought to just plainly avoid ordering barbecue chicken whatsoever.
Speedy: All in all, I enjoyed the pork, but not really the rest of the food or the experience. And while the pork was very good, it still lacked behind Lexington #1 or Allen & Son. Based on the location, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to Jack Cobb.
Ratings: Atmosphere/Ambiance – 0 hogs (yes – 0 hogs!) Pork – 4 hogs Chicken – 2 hogs Sides – 2 hogs Overall– 3 hogs (all because of the pork)
Monk: In Super Bowl parties past, the electric smoker that Speedy owns and is now permanently kept at my upstairs patio has served us quite well. We’ve smoked ribs and/or wings for the past couple of years, and our guests have chimed in how much they have enjoyed them. This year, we decided to step things up a bit and do both pork butts and wings. However, the kicker this year was that it would be a SUPER BOWL SUPER SMOKE OFF between the two of us – Speedy and his electric smoker versus me and my Weber charcoal grill. Winner gets Barbecue Bros ultimate bragging rights and buys the other dinner at the next barbecue restaurant. So yea, pretty high stakes.
Speedy: We decided we’d have everyone at the party vote on their favorite wings/pork. To avoid any bias, the voters wouldn’t know which of us prepared which meat. We prepped our meats at Monk’s house the night before. For my rub (MADE FROM SCRATCH – WHAT!), I used a paprika base and added equal parts sugar, brown sugar, ground cumin, chili powder, and a black/red pepper mixture. I then added a bit of cayenne pepper for a little heat. For my wings, I used a spicy teriyaki marinade (not made from scratch) with the idea that I would sprinkle on some of the red/black pepper mixture (note: this is made by McCormick’s at is called Hot Shot and I use it on almost everything) the next day before cooking.
Monk: For my pork butt, I started with a rub I bought at a farmer’s market in Charlotte about 5 years ago and has served me well in past barbecues. I stirred in some brown sugar, ground mustard, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Similar to Speedy, I rubbed the pork butt the night before and kept it wrapped in the fridge overnight. With the wings, I opted to go for a dry rub as opposed to Speedy’s marinade. Not having a lot of experience with wings, I simply searched for and found a rub on the internet and it called for black pepper, onion powder, chili powder, garlic powder and seasoned salt. After mixing the rub, I added it to a Ziploc bag with the wings, spread it as evenly as I could and also set it in the fridge overnight.
Speedy: I arrived back at Monk’s early the next day with Bojangles biscuits in hand for breakfast.
Monk: Talk about clutch!
Speedy: I wanted to show my sportsmanship so Monk wouldn’t take the defeat so hard. Monk had graciously already taken the pork butts out of the fridge, so I went upstairs and turned the smoker on to 250. I want to point out here that of course I’d prefer to have/use a charcoal or wood burner, but the electric smoker actually does a decent job and is super convenient. However, once I move to a place with a yard, a ceramic charcoal smoker will be among my first purchases. Anyway, I used cherry and white oak wood chips to create my smoke and after heating up, my pork was ready to cook.
Monk: The tricky part for me was that while I had used my charcoal grill plenty of times, I had never set it up it as an indirect cooker for smoking. Thankfully, a quick Google search brought me upon this great Instructables site that detailed step-by-step (with pictures) how to set it up and cook. This was my bible for the day. Unfortunately, getting the charcoal briquettes lighted was a bit of an adventure and while I had bought a charcoal chimney, I didn’t have any newspaper to get the fire started (noted for next time). With Speedy’s help, we ghetto-rigged a fire and got the coals lit. Once I had that, I added apple wood chips to get the smoke going. Alright, game on (albeit a good 30 minutes after Speedy flipped the switch on his cooker).
Speedy: On the electric smoker, the cook is pretty easy. It’s really just a matter of adding wood chips every hour or so to keep the smoke going. Otherwise, I try to keep the door closed so as to not let out any heat.
Monk: Whereas the hard part for me throughout the day was regulating the temperature of the Weber grill. The site I mentioned above said to simply adjust the vent at the top to regulate the temperate (closing to cool, opening to heat), but this was a little hit or miss for me and the temperature swing between 225 and 315 (I was aiming for around 250). I ended up playing with the bottom vents (which I hadn’t expected to touch at all) and adding some coals and that helped, though the temperature wasn’t as stable as I would have preferred. However, outside of adding wood chips and checking the temp on an hourly basis, I was mostly on cruise control. Speedy and I cracked our first beers of the day (Deviant Dale’s in a can) at 10:48. God I love smoking meat.
Speedy: About three hours in, it came time to baste the butt. I used apple juice with a bit of added sugar, as I wanted it to caramelize on the meat a bit in order to get some nice outside brown. I used a turkey baster to apply it. Additionally, with about 2.5 hours to go on the cook, it came time to put in the wings. Both Monk and I used the electric smoker for the wings. They also don’t require much attention – it’s really just a matter of letting them cook for a couple hours.
Monk: For my mop sauce, I just simply applied apple juice with a basting brush on the hour for the final 3 hours of the cook. Nothing fancy, but I just wanted to keep the meat from drying out while complementing the smoke from the apple wood chips and also getting a nice bark on the outside. After about an hour-and-a-half, I took the wings out of the smoker and dredged them in a mixture of honey, barbecue sauce, and apple juice from this recipe. I was going for the sweet-with-heat approach, and that recipe seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. I then put the wings back in the electric smoker for the final 30 minutes.
Speedy: With about an hour to go in the cook, it came time to make the dip. My dip recipe is (I think) the actual Lexington #1 dip recipe, which consists of water, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, sugar, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. As Lexington BBQ is the best on Earth, I thought this dip would cruise me to an easy victory. Unfortunately, Monk had similar ideas.
Monk: For my dip, I just simply made the Piedmont-Lexington style dip found on the NC Barbecue Society website, which ended up being more or less the same recipe as Speedy. Clearly, this wouldn’t be a distinguishing factor in our barbecue.
Speedy: My pork was ready to come off the smoker a little sooner than Monk’s. So I took it downstairs in a aluminum bin and started chopping. First, I cut out any pieces of fat that didn’t render into the meat. Initially, I was going to chop, but since I didn’t have a proper chopping board, I really ended up pulling the meat. I was really happy with the tenderness and flavor of my pork. Again, using the turkey baster, I basted on my still piping hot dip, though I’m not sure I used enough in the end. The wings were simply brought down and placed on a tray to serve.
Monk: I was definitely feeling the heat with Speedy already being done and guests starting to arrive. This must be exactly what the cooks experience on BBQ Pitmasters as the clock runs down. I chopped and shredded the pork in an aluminum bin (although not as finely as I would have liked), added in the dip and finally, we were ready to serve to our guests and get the voting going. One thing that I would have done differently is that I took the dip off the burner and let it cool so when I added it to the barbecue it cooled the meat off more than I would have liked. Next time, I will keep it on a low simmer right up until I add it to the pork.
Speedy: We each named our meats using Super Bowl themed names and had everyone pick their favorite of both wings and pork by placing cards into a ballot box.
Monk: In a tight vote, I ended up winning both wings and barbecue by a count of 6-4. I tasted Speedy’s barbecue and it was very good, as all of our pork butts had been in the past on the electric smoker. I probably could have used maybe another hour for the meat to increase the tenderness, but as was it was cooked through and still tender. And I liked his wings, though I can see how maybe they were a little too spicy for some folks. In any case, I was very fortunate to win against damn fine meat.
Speedy: I also tasted Monk’s food and have to say it was quite good. I knew my wings were in trouble once I tasted his, but I thought my pork was still going to win. I had a little more time on the cooker and (I thought) was a bit more tender, but I suppose people at the party did not agree. People have asked me – Speedy, are you disappointed? Of course. Speedy, are you bitter? Extremely. Speedy, do you think you should have allowed amateurs to judge the contest? No. Speedy, do you think you should have allowed Monk’s wife to tally the votes? Definitely no. Speedy, will you be able to bring yourself to cook again? Yes – and it will be better than ever.
Congratulations, Monk, on winning the first (but not last) Barbecue Bros smoke-off.
Name: Schwartz’s Hebrew Deli Date: 8/15/12 Location: 3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Montreal, Quebec Order: Large smoked meat plate, slaw, fries (link to menu) Bill: $19.75 CAD
Recently, I spent a week up in Montreal for work. As I was asking some of my co-workers (who are local) where I should eat, I was told by my co-worker Richard that I absolutely must go try Schwartz’s. I have previously taken Richard to Henry’s in Greenville on one of his trips to the States, so he knew about my obsession with barbecue. Apparently, Montreal is famous for smoked meat. After a little research (ahem, wikipedia), I learned that smoked meat is actually beef brisket cured in a manner similar to pastrami or corned beef.
Richard explained some of the Schwartz’s backstory to me: it’s a famous restaurant that’s been around since the 20’s, and it’s a bit of a hole in the wall. (It already sounds like my kind of place.) It sits in a very popular section of town where real-estate is pretty pricey. Earlier this year, Celine Dion bought the restaurant (for an alleged $10M), apparently to make sure no one tore it down to put in a more lucrative restaurant. After hearing all this, I was definitely excited to go check it out.
Our group went directly after work in order to avoid a line, which apparently forms nearly every evening. When we arrived, we were seated immediately, and a server came to take our order instantly. Schwartz’s has an atmosphere of an old-time diner, albeit with a large meat case upfront. The menu basically consists of steak or smoked meat, and everyone in our group ordered the smoked meat. When ordering, you are given the choice of fatty meat, lean, or medium. Based on Richard’s recommendation, we all went with the medium meat. Being bold as I am, I ordered the large plate, which came with bread as well. I was told it would make about 2.5 sandwiches, but that turned out to be a very conservative estimate. Others in our group ordered either the small plate or a sandwich. I also ordered slaw and fries to accompany my meal. (The joys of being on an expense account means no skimping on dinner.)
The food came out promptly and I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of food. My meal alone could have easily fed two and maybe three. I first sampled the meat without any type of sauce, and I was pretty impressed. It was tender and tasty, but definitely tasted more of corned beef than a traditional texas beef brisket. Still, it was very tasty and great in sandwiches. There was a barbecue sauce on the table, which was actually kind of similar to A1, and I thought it went well with the meat. Overall, I was very pleased with the smoked meat.
What made me even happier, however, was the slaw. I ordered slaw three times when I was in Montreal, and each time, I was delivered vinegar based slaw. Schwartz’s was the best slaw I had, and definitely reminded me of eastern NC barbecue slaw. Definitely a fantastic surprise on the trip.
Due to the volume of food I was given, I was unable to finish my meal. When I declined a to-go box, the server asked if I was sure and informed me that the meat was good for two days without refrigeration; I suppose due to the curing process. I declined anyway since I was flying home the next day, but it’s nice to know the option was available.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend going to Schwartz’s for a good meal, and I think I will probably go back next time I’m in the city. I certainly wouldn’t call it barbecue, but it was the closest thing I saw in Montreal. I do think it’s a little bit overpriced, but c’est la vie in Montreal.