Monk: Towards the end of this video, Daniel Castillo talks about how barbecue has given him a purpose in life and kept him out of trouble. And now, he has the first offset smoker that has been NSF certified in the state of California at Anaheim’s Heritage Barbecue. Check out he has fed the community and brought his spin on Texas barbecue classics to Orange County.
Description: When the pandemic hit, Heritage Barbecue pitmaster Daniel Castillo opened the “O.C. Smoke Kitchen”—a part of his restaurant dedicated to hosting events to serve hospitality workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. At this one specific event, he’ll make 800 smoked pulled pork tortas, and we’ll also see how he brought classic Central Texas barbecue dishes like brisket roulade, Texas bourbon smoked ham, red and green chorizo sausages to California.
Monk: Despite the generally bad outlook for restaurants, there was mostly positive news for our top ranked Charlotte barbecue restaurants. Noble Smoke and Sweet Lew’s both reopened with reduced capacity and social distancing measures in place and of course there is Jon G’s Barbecue which finally opened its long-awaited doors in Peachland.
Things were not so great for Queen City Q, which when we started the blog in 2012 was our second favorite barbecue restaurant in Charlotte at the time behind Midwood Smokehouse. And things seemed to be going pretty well in the mid-2010’s, with expansion to locations in Ballantyne, Matthews, and Concord. However, those quietly closed in recent years and the original location in Uptown Charlotte was apparently hanging on by a thread before it was forced to close as a result of the state’s pandemic response. It briefly opened in May as part of North Carolina’s phase 2 but then the final nail in the coffin came when it was forced to close again due to the threat of protests.
If I’m honest, Queen City Q had fallen off quite a bit from when it first opened. Our last visits were my solo trip to the Concord store in 2016 in which a poor experience prompted a re-review of the 6th Street location by Speedy and me a few weeks later. We left that visit disheartened and convinced that the drop in quality wasn’t an isolated incident. Neither of us had not been back since, and now they have shuttered their remaining location.
Monk: Bob visits Ken’s Grill and NC Bar-B-Q in La Grange, which serves his favorite eastern NC whole hog barbecue (only available on Wednesdays and Saturdays) even though it “has never been cooked over wood smoke” and Bob is admittedly a “wood smoked and live coals kind of guy.” Color me a bit skeptical.
Description: Bob Garner visits one of his all-time favorite BBQ spots, Ken’s Grill in La Grange.
Monk: On the first day of their soft opening dates, I made what is sure to be the first of many trips east to Peachland out to Jon G’s Barbecue. Assuming there was going to be a line for a 4pm start, I arrived at about 3:25 and found that indeed there was one. Once in line I confirmed that I was 12th in line (behind Adam and his wife of Apple City BBQ nonetheless!). I cracked open a beer with my (actual) brother Andy and friend of the blog Chris and happily began our wait in line.
For this first day at least, Jon G’s was just letting one group in at a time to order at the counter so the line moved a little slower than it ultimately will once things are normal (whenever that may be). No matter though if you’ve got a cooler full of beer, which I can’t recommend enough.
Once through the line, we headed out to the picnic tables with our food. On this warm day, some intrepid patrons ahead of us in line set up a tailgate tent over one of the tables and I was immediately jealous. The heat was not unbearable despite it being late June, and between the intermittent breeze and the cold beer we managed. Of course, the barbecue helped.
If you’ve been paying attention, you already know howIfeelabout Jon G’s Barbecue, so I won’t dwell too much on the food. But as expected, the Texas Trinity of brisket, ribs, and sausage each hit the mark. The mix of lean and moist brisket was buttery soft with a great pepper crust, the ribs are rapidly becoming my second favorite meat there, and the sausages (their signature Cheerwine hot link and a jalapeno cheddar) each had a nice kick with a great snap.
Kelly and Garren will be understandably focusing on the restaurant for the foreseeable future at the expense of the food truck so if you want to try the best barbecue in Charlotte, you’re just going to have to make the trip to Peachland to try Jon G’s Barbecue. I would recommend getting there early if you can, as the line had grown to upwards of 60-70 as I left. Regardless, make the trip, bring a cooler, and I promise you won’t be mad that you did.