Four words: Pig. In. A. Pup.
– The Port City Ribfest moves from Wilmington to Carolina Beach this November
– It’s no surprise that barbecue is North Carolina’s iconic dish according to Flavored Nation; Missouri is the only other state they list with barbecue as its iconic dish
– Charleston is one of the best food towns in the south, in part because of their barbecue restaurants
– A Washington Post travelogue to Chapel Hill includes a visit to The Pig for lunch
Gail goes with a nifty riff on North Carolina-style barbecue, a salad topped with tender chunks of Vietnamese pork cheek and crispy, dried shrimp. Ewan has a more traditional heaping plate of Eastern Carolina-style pulled pork with cider-vinegar sauce. On counsel of the affable guy behind the counter, I order a fried Bologna sandwich, which has about as much in common with my childhood memories of this luncheon meat as Spam does with chateaubriand.
– A review of Daddy Bob’s Barbeque, a promising-sounding truck in Raleigh that smokes shoulders over a mix of hickory, apple, and pecan and serves with an eastern vinegar sauce
– A group of Sampsonians will be trying to save Lewis Barbecue, which closed Labor Day weekend
– Art’s Barbecue & Deli gets a short profile in Charlotte Five
– Just a reminder:
— Our State Magazine (@ourstatemag) September 17, 2017
Name: Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
Address: 714 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Order: Bar-B-Que Combo (chopped pork, brisket, and sausage) with jalapeno mac and cheese and coleslaw (link to menu)
Monk: While our last barbecue stop on the Monk family vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee was a bit of a bust for reasons other than barbecue we got another opportunity a couple days later while we were playing tourist in downtown Gatlinburg. Across the street from the aerial tram Ober Gatlinburg (our main plans for the day), just happened to be Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que and made the decision easy for us.
I know from the review of the Pigeon Forge store from Marie, Let’s Eat! that I was to expect fine-but-not-exceptional barbecue and guess what? Grant was right. The pork was perfectly acceptable but Bennett’s seemed to be very proud of their four sauces found on the table. None of them made a huge difference in the again, perfectly acceptable pork.
The brisket was dry and below average while the best of the three meats that day was the sliced sausage. A little of the table mustard sauce accentuated it nicely. This was the favorite meat of both myself and Mrs. Monk.
Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que is part of the locally-owned Johnson Family chain of restaurants that includes pizza, southern, and ice cream with locations in nearby Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. To their credit, they could serve below-average barbecue to tourists simply because they know that they’ll continue to make money regardless but thankfully that’s not the case. While they are a tourist destination that happens to serve halfway decent barbecue, it won’t blow your mind.
For more reviews, check out:
Marie, Let’s Eat
– RIP to the original Riverside location of 12 Bones; it is survived by the Arden location and a new Riverside location down the street coming in January 2018
– Operation BBQ Relief has been helping out for weeks for Harvey and is now live for Irma
– I’ve never been here but its unfortunate when a joint open this long closes: Lewis’ Barbecue (not to be confused with the Texas joint in Charleston by John Lewis), a 70 year old barbecue restaurant in Clinton has closed
– Shots fired at NC barbecue from a San Antonio journalist
Several years ago, a free afternoon during a work-related trip to North Carolina called for an obvious mission: Seek out the finest examples of the barbecue the locals hailed as the world’s best, and gorge accordingly.
But upon completion of this task, which unfortunately involved the ingestion of sad piles of shredded pork doused in a sauce consisting primarily of vinegar, one question lingered over the entire experience.
How can a state love something so much and yet still be so bad at it?
– Per Stacy Franklin, Franklin Barbecue is “hoping to open in the next two weeks” from a Texas BBQ Posse post from 9/7
– More Texas: Goode Co. BBQ in Houston (a joint that helped influence the Charlotte restaurant Midwood Smokehouse) celebrated 40 years of being open recently
– Matthew Odam recently unearthed a series of barbecue reviews from 1978 from recently passed Austin columnist John Kelso
– Always good to refresh the ol’ knowledge tank
— Whole Hog Barbecue (@wholehogbbqnc) September 6, 2017
Name: Okie Dokies Smokehouse
Address: 2375 US Hwy 70, Swannanoa, NC 28778
Order: Big Combo (chopped pork, chopped beef, and ribs) with collards and red slaw (link to menu)
Monk: In the Asheville area, there had been still a couple of places in the surrounding towns that have caught my eye to check out when I’m in the area. I thought a much needed dinner break on the way to Gatlinburg, Tennessee would be a great opportunity to knock one off my list – Okie Dokies Smokehouse in Swannanoa . In the end, we made the stop but it turned out to be an abbreviated one to the small joint off US-70 15 minutes east of Asheville.
As Mrs. Monk and the Monkette got some air, I took the liberty of ordering a Big Combo with three of the meats and two sides to share with the missus. Little did I know, we would eventually be taking that order to go and the meal would be evaluated in the car 30 minutes down the road.
The chopped pork was moist and had some decent wood smoke but didn’t knock my socks off. I will say that I do appreciate that Okie Dokies cooks over wood and that you can taste it in the meat.
Chopped beef is not something you see much in NC – I can think of maybe two other places I’ve been to that serve that style – and let me be clear that we definitely aren’t talking chopped brisket like they do in Central and East Texas. This beef was served pulled and chopped in a similar manner to the pork. While moist enough, I think this meat illustrated why you don’t see it more often in these parts – it just doesn’t do anything exciting for the eater.
The ribs were a bit overdone, pulling away from the bone really easily. The rub and sauce had some decent taste to it though.
There’s not too much to say about the sides except that the hush puppies were freaking excellent.
I wish could say more about the atmosphere and the building itself or even had more photos to share but sometimes life (and in this case, the Monkette) intervenes. If it is any indication, next time through, I would stop in again at Okie Dokies Smokehouse on my way to or from Asheville without hesitation though. I liked what I saw for the most part.
– Per their Instagram, Midwood Smokehouse is donating $1 from each pulled pork sandwich sold this week to Hurricane Harvey relief
– This past week New Bern hosted the first Piggin’ and Grinnin’ Festival for folks to enjoy barbecue and bluegrass
– Currituck BBQ Company is a recommended stop on NC 158
— Our State Magazine (@ourstatemag) August 27, 2017
– The latest accolades for Lexington Barbecue are from food and travel site Rave, which compiles data from Eater, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, and The Daily Meal
– They are doing some inventive things with barbecue at LeRoy & Lewis Barbecue in Austin
– An oldie from last summer
There are those who would argue that if it doesn’t come from a pig, it ain’t true barbecue https://t.co/Sgj4j0Qz13
— Eater (@Eater) September 4, 2017
– Thinking of Houston in the wake of Harvey
Even if you are far from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, there are ways to contribute. https://t.co/GNuzKpKGMj
— Texas Monthly (@TexasMonthly) August 27, 2017
– In drier times (hopefully coming soon), could whole hog barbecue succeed in Houston?
– Glad to hear that the smokers at Franklin Barbecue made it through the smokehouse fire
— Texas Monthly (@TexasMonthly) August 28, 2017
– Art’s Barbecue and Deli and Bar-B-Q King make Charlotte Five’s list of 10 classic Charlotte restaurants you must try
– A barbecue-focused episode of House of Carbs this week talks Texas barbecue and Charleston as a barbecue capital
– Buxton Hall evening pitmaster David Phelps gets a mention in this article on third shift workers in Asheville
After coming in around 10 p.m., he spends the first two hours prepping the next day’s sauces and green beans. As he chops and mixes, Phelps is also building the fire up to the required temperature (225 degrees), in order to cook the two pigs nightly. By sunrise, he generally has around 350 to 400 pounds of pulled pork ready for the day crew.
– Buxton Hall’s also got great fried chicken too
— Buxton Hall Barbecue (@buxtonhall) August 28, 2017
— Jeremy Markovich (@deftlyinane) August 28, 2017
Name: Franklin Barbecue
Address: 900 E 11th, Austin, TX
Order: 2 pounds brisket, 1 pound ribs, 1 pound ribs, 1 pound sausage (link to menu)
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!
Why Franklin will never open a second barbecue restaurant:
“There aren’t enough cows,” Franklin says. It takes 53 cows per day to keep up with current operations, and these are a special kind of cow. “I even struggle now to get enough [brisket],” he adds. The market is so small that when fast-food chain Arby’s hopped on the brisket trend, it drove up the cost of brisket for Franklin by $2. “We don’t use commodity brisket at all,” he explains. “But once the commodity supply runs out, then people start trying to upgrade, and that’s where we got into trouble.”
Additionally, this podcast was the first I had heard about the way that Franklin is branching out – and that’s in the custom-built barbecue pits for the backyard barbecue enthusiast. He has hired 2 fulltime welders in Austin (and may be hiring up to 2 more as of the time this podcast was recorded) who are helping to fabricate the pits made of high quality steel and weighing in the range of about 600 pounds. Right now you can sign up for the newsletter at franklinbbqpits.com and they will go on sale next Spring/Summer.
Read more on the conversation and podcast here
Name: Das BBQ
Location: 1203 Collier Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: 2 Meat Plate with Brisket and Sausage, Side of collard greens and Mac & Cheese. Separate order of ½ pound of pulled pork. (link to menu)
Rudy: I knew that Monk had already reviewed Das BBQ on a trip to Atlanta, but when I went to visit family they told me they wanted to take me to their new favorite barbecue restaurant. Who was I to complain? I didn’t recall how the place had rated, so it was good to go in without any preconceived ideas of what to expect.
Like Monk said, they have a Texas-style feel to them. That’s evident from the menu and also from the decor around the place. I noticed some photos of some of Lockhart’s most famous joints. It is also has a Texas-style menu (meats by the pound), however when I asked them for a single piece of chicken or quarter pound of pork (feeding Rudy Jr) they looked at me like I had two heads. Most places in Texas you can order almost any increment of weight (even ask for a single slice of brisket, turkey, etc.). From what I heard, the owners spent some time in Texas learning the tricks to the trade before opening their venture in Atlanta.
The time that they spent learning about Texas-style barbecue, specifically in relation to the brisket, was time well spent. I got a piece of moist brisket and it was fantastic. The smoke was not too overwhelming and it had a great mixture of salt and pepper in the bark. I tend to have low expectations for brisket outside of Texas because of my past experiences, but I was pleasantly pleased with the offering from Das.
Monk: Couldn’t agree more about the brisket. They are putting those Franklin-spec offset smokers to good use.
Rudy: I opted for the spicy sausage, which I thought was fine but not one that I was in love with. I didn’t notice that much of a spice from it, more just pepper flavor. The other thing, and this is purely a personal preference, I tend to like jalapeno and cheddar sausage over just jalapeno sausage. I feel like the creaminess from the cheese compliments the spice. I know I shouldn’t count off for that because they weren’t even offering that type of sausage, but these are my arbitrary rankings, so I’m counting off.
Monk: Loyal readers may recall that the sausage is imported from Meyer’s Smokehouse in Elgin, TX so its legit authentic. Although come to think of it, I don’t know that I’ve had a jalapeno cheddar sausage before (we know Speedy definitely hasn’t) but that’s now officially on my list to try.
Rudy: The pork was moist and flavorful. Nothing too special about it, but still very good. I liked it more than the sausage and Rudy Jr definitely did. He opted to eat a decent amount of it before turning his attention to the mac & cheese (priorities).
As far as the sides, they were serviceable. Mac & cheese was standard offering. The collard greens were good, but definitely on the spicy side. I did not mind that, but others with my group were not expecting that and were not fans. One side that I did not order, but tried from another person’s order, was the cream corn. I thought it was by far the best tasting side and also the most unique. It was not just a standard side, but had lots of flavor and spice to it. That would be my recommendation for someone getting a side.
Monk: While you hadn’t checked out my review before checking it out, turns out we ended with pretty close ratings both overall and by meat. I’d say that’s a continued good sign for the quality of Das on two independent visits over 3 months apart.
Rudy: Overall, I was very pleased with Das BBQ and enjoyed getting some barbecue that tasted very similar to back home while I was out of town. I can definitely tell that they have done lots of studying to make sure that their barbecue tastes as close to genuine Texas standards, which is something that many places don’t do when they are that far from the state. Next time I am looking for barbecue in Atlanta, I definitely will head back to Das BBQ.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Pulled Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs