Linkdown: 9/25/19

Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque at Sweet Lew’s this Sunday!

Corky’s Bar-B-Q was the final sandwich of John Tanner’s Great Memphis Region Barbecue Sandwich Tour

Robert Moss on Boston butts

The Barbecue Festival adds two new sporting events to the weekend’s festivities: the BBQ Hardwood Classic and the Pig Pickin’ Throwdown

How the Northeast did at American Royal

The Athletic takes on Alabama barbecue

Jon G’s Midweek Charlotte Pop-up: THIS IS NOT A DRILL

Revenge BBQ – Irvington, NY

Name: Revenge BBQ
Date: 9/19/19
Address: 48 Main St, Irvington, NY 10533
Order: Lone Star Sampler (1 lb brisket/pork/ribs, mac and cheese, custard corncake), jalapeno cheddar sausage (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: While the Hudson Valley barbecue scene is apparently burgeoning, it’s still a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to quality according to Eater food critic Robert Sietsema. One hidden gem he found a few years back was Revenge BBQ in the town of Irvington, and having the occasion to pass through the Hudson Valley last week, it was the obvious target for me.

Revenge BBQ is a Texas-focused barbecue joint a few blocks from the Hudson River in downtown Irvington that’s been in operation since 2017. They import sausages from Kreuz Market in Lockhart, they smoke dinosaur beef ribs on the weekend, and feature both a “Lonestar Sampler” platter for 1-2 people as well as an even bigger “Texas Trinity Feast.” So yes, Texas is the main concern at Revenge. Co-owner Jacob Styburski (a former senior director of design at PayPal and one half of the husband and wife owner duo along with his wife Catherine) has even done his time in Texas, both at Texas A&M’s Camp Brisket as well as interning under Russell Roegels of Roegel’s Barbecue in Houston.

That work and research shows through in the meats I tried that day, all of which are smoked in an onsite Ole Hickory smoker. The brisket (both lean and fatty) had a proper peppery bark, with both cuts of meat maintaining their moisture. The pork ribs were nice and peppery and adhering to Texas tradition thankfully avoided being sauced.

As I mentioned above, Revenge BBQ imports their sausages from Kreuz and the jalapeno cheddar ring sausage was properly spicy and one of the best I’ve had. Keeping with Texas tradition, the pulled pork was perhaps a bit of an afterthought and thus the least successful of the meats. Not bad, but nothing comparable to NC barbecue (which would be a tall task).

The creamy mac and cheese was good but the real star of the show was the custard corncake, a new and different version of cornmeal from the hush puppies, cornbread, or cornsticks found in NC. I won’t stay that it topped hush puppies for me, but it came pretty close. I loved the sweet and creamy custard texture and will be thinking of that side for a while.

Revenge BBQ (named after their son’s middle name) is located on Main Street on an idyllic town on the Hudson River and is well worth the detour if you are looking for above average Texas barbecue.

For more, check out:
Pig Trip
Westchester Magazine

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

The Five Best Barbecue Joints in Charlotte – September 2019

Monk: It’s been over two-and-a-half years since we’ve updated the Charlotte Big Board and as you might expect, there’s been a lot of changes in that time. Longtime readers may recall that finding the best barbecue restaurant in Charlotte was the mission statement when we first started this blog, so we certainly take this seriously. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (our previous #2) has rebranded as Gibson’s Family BBQ and is a shadow of its former self and fell way out of the top 5. Midwood Smokeshack (previously our #4) closed back in December of 2017 after unfortunately failing to find its footing in Matthews though thankfully pitmaster Michael Wagner is still lending his Texas expertise to the broader Midwood Smokehouse franchise. One thing that has not changed is that Jon G’s BBQ continues to hold down the top spot and always knocks it out of the park every time I am able to try them.

Starting last December, I believe we have entered a new phase in Charlotte barbecue that signals an upswing. That’s when Sweet Lew’s BBQ opened and hit the ground running out of their converted service station in the Belmont neighborhood just outside of uptown. And then of course, Noble Smoke finally opened a little over two months ago off of Freedom Drive and raised the bar even higher with their destination barbecue joint that is the cornerstone of the “Noble Smoke Campus” that will include Bossy Beulah’s Chicken Shack (also from Chef Noble) and the Suffolk Punch Blendery, their second location that will focus on Belgian lambics.

If Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque continues to pursue a Charlotte location (fingers crossed), that would certainly elevate the scene to a whole new level with his traditional whole hog barbecue (something currently missing from Charlotte), brisket, and hash. And who knows, perhaps a restaurant from a currently unknown contender is in the works and can come out of nowhere to challenge for the (queen’s) crown.

There’s no reason why Charlotte can’t mirror the barbecue scenes of Charleston or even Houston, each for different reasons. Charleston got an infusion of outside talent in the past few years in Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Lewis Barbecue, and Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in addition to the expansion of homegrown local chains in Swig & Swine and Home Team BBQ. As Charleston-based food writer/historian Robert Moss has recently noted, the Charleston barbecue scene in the past five years has gone from “minor outpost to acclaimed destination.” Seems like Charlotte is always playing second (or even third fiddle) when it comes to the Charleston food scene and in this case, its no different for barbecue. While that may be too much for fine dining, there’s no reason why Charlotte can’t match or better Charleston in barbecue.

From afar, the Houston barbecue scene is a little more homegrown but has proven that a barbecue scene can sizzle even in an urban setting (the Houston metro area is nearly 3 times larger than Charlotte). But even in that spread-out urban setting, the barbecue community seems tight knight and the competition appears to be mostly friendly (again, this is from afar as I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Houston yet). When I spoke with Matthew Berry and Michael Wagner from Midwood Smokehouse earlier this year, they cited the lack of community in Charlotte’s barbecue scene as an area for opportunity. Perhaps until that improves, Charlotte can’t become a true destination for barbecue.

For #6-43, check out the Charlotte Big Board here.

And now, on to the only Charlotte barbecue list that matters…

Honorable Mentions: The Smoke Pit, Buddy’s Bar-B-Que

5. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue (review)

The one truly old school NC barbecue joint on this list, Bill Spoon’s has been around since 1963 on what was then a country road south of Charlotte. Charlotte has a bad habit of losing what few institutions it has, whether due to neglect or development, but let’s hope that Bill Spoon’s doesn’t fall victim to that trend because they are still making some fine eastern NC barbecue.

4. Midwood Smokehouse (review)

While somehow our last official review was in 2015 (I plan to remedy this in the coming months), Midwood Smokehouse is still a regular stop for the Monk family and seemingly most of Charlotte, as it has expanded to 4 locations in the greater Charlotte area (as well as one down in Columbia, SC). Not to mention that it’s the go-to spot for any celebrities or figures of note that come into town; President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Murray, Justin Timberlake have all been patrons of Midwood in recent years. Regardless, I will continue to give credit to Frank Scibelli for bringing wood-smoked barbecue back to Charlotte in 2012, saving us from the gassers and faux ‘cue that had plagued the city for decades.

3. Sweet Lew’s BBQ (review)

Sweet Lew’s BBQ was recently named to Thrillist’s 33 Top Barbecue Restaurants in the US and Garden & Gun’s Best New Southern Barbecue Joints, and it couldn’t be more deserved for Lewis Donald (the “Lew” in “Sweet Lew’s”) and partner Laura Grice. The menu has been described as “unfussy” and that’s precisely the right adjective for this barbecue shack located in an old service station in the working-class neighborhood of Belmont.

But in addition to the worthy smoked meats and homemade sides (including the only hash and rice I’m aware of in the Piedmont of NC), I’d like to give props to their work in the neighborhood where Donald donates his time and food for block parties and even recently partnered with a local barber shop to give kids free back-to-school haircuts. Now that’s the type of barbecue joint that should be in every neighborhood.

2. Noble Smoke (review)

You may be a bit sick of reading about Noble Smoke on this blog lately, but it has truly given Charlotte a destination barbecue restaurant and raised the bar for the city’s barbecue. Let’s hope others follow suit. Read more from our review here.

1. Jon G’s Barbecue (review)

Jon G’s Barbecue has topped our Charlotte Big Board for 2+ years now, and doesn’t appear to be to be losing the crown anytime soon now that Garren Kirkman (the firekeeper behind Jon G’s) is no longer working full time and is fully in the barbecue game. For that, the greater Charlotte area should be thankful even though it’d be hard to imagine his Central Texas-style brisket getting too much better (in addition to his other meats and scratch made sides). I predict more big things to come from him and his wife Kelly. For any serious Charlotte barbecue fan: SEEK OUT JON G’S BARBECUE.

Friday Find: Longleaf Swine on The NC F&B Podcast

Link to podcast

Monk: Marc Russell and Adam Cunningham are the guys behind Longleaf Swine, the Raleigh food truck that will be opening a brick and mortar store at Transfer Co Food Hall. The NC F&B podcast hosts Max Trujillo and Matthew Weiss get the origin story of how and why Marc and Adam got into barbecue and also get some details on their upcoming food stall, including what the bar will likely look like (think shots and PBR).

Description: Raleigh is up in smoke! Esquites (Mexican street corn) on the side of a classic double patty burger done on a flat top with American cheese and dill pickles all on a potato bun. Hungry yet? I haven’t even talked about BBQ yet. Adam Cunningham and Marc Russel are fusing Eastern North Carolina, Texas and Kansas City BBQ’s all in one. As if melding different BBQ cultures wasn’t enough, these mad-bbq geniuses introduce latin flavors (barbacoa) into their whole hogs, smoked meats and sides. We nerd out on BBQ, why you have to use a flat top to cook burgers, how to use smokers inside. You can listen to this now and go experience it all soon at Longleaf Swine BBQ inside the Transfer CO food hall!

Friday Find: Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ on the Scallionpancake Podcast

Link to Podcast

Monk: Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ joins the Charlotte food podcast Scallionpancake to discuss a lot of similar ground from his appearance on order/fire in terms of how he got to Charlotte and his culinary background before Sweet Lew’s.

The lively discussion continues from there and here is some new information in a typical week for Lewis as well as information on his new-ish Saturday sausage special, which is made of half Neese’s hot sausage, half Creekstone ground beef, spices, and then marinated in Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale. Outside of the restaurant, we also get a sense of Lewis’s favorite places to eat in Charlotte.

Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q – Pembroke, NC

Name: Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q
Date: 8/10/19
Address: 100 E 3rd St, Pembroke, NC 28372
Order: Lunch buffet (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Barbecue buffets are typically found in the eastern part of North Carolina as well as in the midlands of South Carolina but not very many other places in the US other than that. Personally, I am not opposed to the idea of buffets in general like some *cough*Mrs. Monk*cough* and have had some decent experiences. One of which being at the now-closed store of Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ in Lumberton that was shuttered a few years ago due to Hurricane damage. With their Pembroke location on our route to Ocean Isle Beach for the week, a quick stop for lunch was a fairly easy decision.

Before I get to the barbecue, I want to pause briefly on the fried chicken. While not technically a barbecue item, you will tend to find it on the menu at a lot of barbecue joints in North Carolina (both old and new), and its usually not simply an afterthought. That’s certainly the case at Fuller’s, and while the pork is good, the fried chicken is arguably the main attraction. It’s that good.

Onto the barbecue, which is an eastern-style chopped pork smoked over wood. It’s flavorful and smokey, and a little squirt of the vinegar table sauce doesn’t hurt one bit.

The hush puppies are orb-shaped and smaller than your average hush puppy, so you may mistake them for fried okra. They stay pretty fresh under the heating lamps and I went back for seconds. The other sides of coleslaw, mac and cheese, and collards that I chose from the huge buffet were all good but pretty standard fare.

But onto the dessert, where you have a choice of red jello, chocolate-iced 5-layer yellow cake, strawberry shortcake, chocolate pudding, and some bomb-ass banana pudding. I’m far from a ‘naner pudding connoisseur but I know what I like and I quite liked the version at Fuller’s. I definitely went back for seconds.

Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ also has two stores in Fayetteville and are hoping to open another store back in Lumberton (although not at the same location, which was damaged too much). Owner Eric Locklear (as well as his parents Fuller and Delora before they passed) has been operating their barbecue/seafood/soul food buffets for more than 30 years and offer good food for a cheap price (as low as $8.99 for a lunch buffet during the week). It’s certainly worth a stop if you are in Cumberland or Robeson Counties in the southeastern part of the state.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Friday Find: Hugh Acheson Interviews Sam Jones on his podcast

As part of Sam Jones’ publicity tour for his book earlier this year, he stopped by Hugh Acheson Stirs the Pot while in town for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. A lot of familiar ground is covered if you’ve heard other Sam Jones interviews, but Acheson does offer a chef’s perspective as well.

Description: North Carolina chef Sam Jones stops by Empire State South to talk about his new book ‘Whole Hog BBQ’ and how much different writing about barbecue is than cooking it.

Linkdown: 8/28/19

Robert Moss’s annual top 50 barbecue list for Southern Living is always worth a read, and this year is no different because of Moss’ inclusion of “not the usual” suspects

Coverage of the list: a SC restaurant topped the list, 8 total SC restaurants (and 3 Midlands) made the list. two Houston restaurants, only one Dallas restaurant

If Moss wasn’t busy enough, he’s got 3 recent barbecue books worth checking out from Sam Jones, Matthew Register, and Jim Auchmutey

More new Charlotte barbecue incoming:

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint’s Charleston location (its 10th) has hit the ground running according to the Charleston City Paper

It’s official: Matt Horn is opening a brick and mortar in the bay area

A “Black Tie BBQ” event is a more budget-friendly barbecue event worth checking out at next year’s Charleston Wine and Food Festival with Rodney Scott, John Lewis, Aaron Siegel, Taylor Garrigan, and Anthony DiBernardo, as well as out-of-towners Amy Mills and Matthew Register

A short article on Lexington Barbecue from the local Fox affiliate

There’s a new brisket option in the lowcountry of SC in Malone Barbecue

Rodney Scott is officially coming to Atlanta

Barbecue on Netflix Streaming (Updated August 2019)

NOTE: This is an updated version of a post that was last updated in October 2017.

Monk: By no means is this an exhaustive list but here are the barbecue shows and episodes that I’ve found on Netflix streaming. What have I missed? Feel free to comment below and I will update the post.

New(ish) to Netflix

Queer Eye S3E3 – “Jones Bar-B-Q” (47 mins)

This episode of Queer Eye helped make the Jones Bar-B-Q sisters – Little and Shorty – international barbecue celebrities when it aired earlier in 2019, but they have been doing barbecue in Kansas City for decades. Their sauce with the redesigned label courtesy of the Queer Eye crew is now a huge seller, with the website prominently displaying a banner reading “Please allow a 7-10 day delay in shipping as we have been overwhelmed at the response and will send your order as soon as we can.” From the looks of the episode, it appears that the newly found fame is well-deserved.

Ugly Delicious S1E5 – “BBQ” (47 mins)

Chef David Chang’s Netflix series will return for a second season soon but episode 5 in season one covered barbecue as well as other live fire customs across the world. I recapped it for the film club here.

Street Food S1E – “Cebu, Philippines” (31 mins)

In the Philippines lechon, or whole roasted pig, is the preferred form of barbecue in this nation of over 7,000 islands. In this food custom, a smaller suckling pig is tied around a pole and rotated over a live fire for hours. This episode covers lechon in addition to a few other food customs from the city of Cebu in southern Philippines.

Taco Chronicles S1E5 – “Barbacoa” (31 mins)

The Taco Chronicles is a Spanish-language food series where each episode focuses on a different type of taco. The “Barbacoa” episode focuses on the lamb/goat form of barbecue primarily located in Mexico and the southern border of Texas, which I’ve never tasted myself but is described on the episode as being “softer than the tortilla it is served on.”

Still on Netflix

Barbecue (101 mins)

I recapped this full-length film about live fire cooking across the world in our Barbecue Bros Film club series here.

Cooked S1E1 – “Fire” (52 mins)

In this first episode of the miniseries on food, food author Michael Pollan goes in search of primordial cooking and finds it in eastern North Carolina and Ed Mitchell. The episode follows Ed and his son Ryan as they pick out a pig from the butcher shop, get the coals started, and then proceed to smoke a whole hog for a small gathering at the end of the episode. Michael and a couple of buddies even try to emulate it on their own in a small, backyard pit in California. Ed also tells a story of how he learned to cook pigs from his grandfather, a former slave. The barbecue section starts at approximately 26:00.

The Mind of the Chef S1E15 – “Smoke” (23 mins)

This series’ first season follows chef David Chang and his culinary experiences around the globe. This particular episode deals with the idea of “smoke” and in addition to short segments on barbecue styles, this episode includes ones on Allen Benton’s bacon, as well as a visit by David Chang and Sean Brock to the Louisville Slugger factory to get personalized bats made.

The North Carolina barbecue segment visited Raleigh’s The Pit back when pit master Ed Mitchell was still there and showcases whole hog barbecue. The Texas segment interviews Joe Capello, the pitmaster from City Market in Luling while in Kansas City they talk with the Doug Worgul, the marketing director of Oklahoma Joe’s. Pretty basic stuff, but well shot and produced by ZPZ Productions (known for previous work with Anthony Bourdain).

The Mind of the Chef S2E7 – “Low Country BBQ” (23 mins)

Whereas season 1 followed David Chang on his culinary adventures (see above), season 2 of The Mind of a Chef follows noted Charleston Chef Sean Brock. In the seventh episode, he smokes a whole hog with friend Rodney Scott in South Carolina’s lowcountry for a small gathering despite less than optimal conditions. Sean also prepares a couple of lowcountry sides with guest chefs. Anthony Bourdain narrates.

Click through to see more episodes no longer available on Netflix

Friday Find: Frank Scibelli on Order/Fire

Frank Scibelli is the restaurateur behind Midwood Smokehouse, which I would argue brought back “True Cue” barbecue to Charlotte when it opened in 2012. That is, barbecue smoked over wood with no gas or electric assistance. Midwood has grown from it’s Central Avenue location to a small regional chain with 3 locations in Charlotte, another in Huntersville, and one in Columbia, SC.

In this episode of the Charlotte-based web series Order/Fire, host Marc Jacksina sits down with Frank to discuss his restaurant history in Charlotte. It’s not exclusively about barbecue and Midwood, but it’s a worthy view nonetheless. The barbecue-specific section starts at 13:38 and lasts until 16:45.