Monk’s Favorite Barbecue of 2021

Monk: While my hunch is that I had roughly as much barbecue as last year, I suspect the ratio of mediocre barbecue to great barbecue was higher than in past years. There’s always highlights to pick out, but let’s hope next year is a more favorable ratio.

In alphabetical order:

Jon G’s remains the gold standard for the Charlotte area. And it seems that the rest of the southeast is starting to catch on with Eater Carolinas naming them “Barbecue Restaurant of the Year” and Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn raving about them in an article from mid 2021. The future for Garren and Kelly remain bright.

Chopped pork sandwich from Noble Smoke – Charlotte, NC

Some of the meats at Noble Smoke can be a little hit or miss for me, but the Lexington-style chopped barbecue sandwich is ever reliable.

Speedy has said he often thinks the ribs at Peg Leg Porker are the best in the state of Tennessee, and who am I to argue? The full wings are also a must-order.

Randy’s ribs are a sub-regional variety with a sauce that I understand is found primarily in the Savannah area. It expanded my framework as to what barbecue is in different parts of the US.

Life-changing whole hog. So far I’ve only made it to Sam Jones’ outpost in Raleigh but I can’t wait to try this same tray at Skylight Inn this spring.

Sausage, wings, hash and rice, ribs, brisket, and turkey from Sweet Lew’s BBQ – Charlotte, NC (link to post)

Between the house-made sausage, the barbecue hash, and Lewis Donald’s ever-constant tweaking of his main meats, Sweet Lew’s continues to evolve, and I’m here for the the journey.

It’s a shame that Whispering Pines was takeout only but I’ll make the hour drive to Albemarle again I’m sure. Great Lexington-style barbecue.

See you in 2022!

Monk: The Barbecue Bros are going to take the rest of 2021 off to come back strong in 2022. As we close the book on the rollercoaster that was 2021, let’s first look back at the past year.

We posted 21 new reviews across 6 states, most of them predictably in the southeast. Maybe 2022 will allow for more barbecue travels, and I’m in particular looking forward to finally spending some time in eastern NC in spring 2022.

The breakdown of reviews by state were as follows:

  • 12 North Carolina
  • 3 South Carolina
  • 2 Georgia
  • 2 Tennessee
  • 1 Florida
  • 1 Missouri

In addition to our usual cadence of restaurant reviews, linkdowns, and Friday Finds, I tried to branch out when to came to original content.

Notably, over the summer I took a break from collecting news for the weekly linkdowns to instead do weekly recaps of “BBQ Brawl” Season 2 from June until August, complete with screencaps. After that experience, I gotta say I don’t envy those that have to recap TV for a living but it was a fun diversion from the usual. I might even consider doing again if there’s a season 3.

Additionally, we had some great original content:

I hope to continue scratching some different itches next year, and I welcome any requests or suggestions in the comments.

See you in 2022!

Friday Find: Brandon and Elizabeth Shepard of Shepard Barbecue on The NC F&B Podcast

Monk: From what I’m seeing on Instagram, Shepard’s Barbecue looks to serve destination-worthy barbecue on Emerald Isle. And based on this podcast with the NC F&B Podcast from last month, he seems to be a thoughtful guy about where he fits in the current barbecue landscape and how he might be able to affect some change for future barbecue entrepreneurs. And it sounds like they are finding success in Emerald Isle, with a move to a bigger space in the near future as of the recording of this conversation along with a new concept in their current, smaller space once they move out.

Description: Brandon Bnice Shepard has discovered his culinary identity and its lucky for the citizens of the Emerald Isle, NC! Despite the grind of making world class BBQ, Brandon partners with his wife Elizabeth to run the front of the house and they stay close to their little girl by bringing her to work to stoke the fire! 

Listen in to hear Brandon talk about what it means to him to connect with his cultural roots to make BBQ. Also, learn about some of Shepard’s culinary heroes like, Helen TurnerSteve Grady and more. It’s a tasty episode!