Barbecue Bros Book Club: “The Prophets of Smoked Meat” by Daniel Vaughn

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

Monk: Before Daniel Vaughn was BBQ Editor of Texas Monthly (but not before he was the BBQ Snob), he took a series of long range barbecue roadtrips across Texas spiraling out from his homebase of Dallas. Those trips, along with some profiles of notable pitmasters, form the narrative structure of this book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat, which was released in 2013 on Anthony Bourdain’s Ecco imprint.

Vaughn had been writing on his old Blogspot blog, Full Custom Gospel BBQ, going back to 2008 so was well versed in many of the great and not-so-great joints across Texas. Oddly enough, for a book that celebrates the best in Texas barbecue, for several long stretches of this book (particularly the Panhandle and East Texas trips) Vaughn experienced some quite severe barbecue droughts accompanied by photographer and friend Nicholas McWhirter and a rotating cast of friends and family. Based on this book alone, one might even come away with the impression that outside of a few truly transcendent joints (Snow’s, Franklin Barbecue, Louie Mueller, etc), there’s quite a lot of bad or mediocre barbecue in Texas. I can’t speak from personal experience, but it was interesting to this Texas barbecue novice nonetheless.

Vaughn’s writing has improved from years of full-time barbecue writing but his style here is informal and easy to read – about what you’d expect from a blogger-turned-author. I get a bit of a Hunter S. Thompson vibe in reading Vaughn’s pursuit of vices – in this case the Texas trinity – brisket, sausage, and pork ribs – as well as alcohol (but definitely not mescaline).

In addition to the barbecue roadtrips, there are 20 or so short profiles with recipes of notable pitmasters such as Tootsie Tomanetz of Snow’s BBQ, Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller, Roy Perez of Kreuz Market, Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ, and of course Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue.

An unexpected (for me, anyways) side effect of the book was the descriptions of the vast landscape and terrain of Texas, from the vastness of western plains to the Llano Estacado to the Hill Country to the bayou of east Texas. My Texas experience is limited primarily to the big cities, but this makes me want to spend a week driving in the remote areas of Texas.

The Prophets of Smoked Meat is essential reading for anyone interested in barbecue in 2019, not only because of Vaughn’s position as a BBQ Editor (perhaps still the only such full-time position in the US) but because of the dominance of Texas in American barbecue. As a NC barbecue fanboy, similar to how I felt after reading “Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown,” there needs to be one of these books for NC barbecue. Again, I’d happily volunteer my services for such a gig.

Available anywhere you buy books. Official description:

The debut title in the Anthony Bourdain Books line, The Prophets of Smoked Meat by “Barbecue Snob” Daniel Vaughn, author of the enormously popular blog Full Custom Gospel BBQ, is a rollicking journey through the heart of Texas Barbecue.

From brisket to ribs, beef to pork, mesquite to oak, this fully illustrated, comprehensive guide to Texas barbecue includes pit masters’ recipes, tales of the road—from country meat markets to roadside stands, sumptuous photography, and a panoramic look at the Lone Star State, where smoked meat is sacred.

R&R Bar-B-Que – Concord, NC (RE-REVIEW)

Name: R&R Bar- B-Que
Date: 3/1/19
Address: 755 Pitts School Rd NW, Concord, North Carolina 28027
Order: Small Brakeman’s BBQ tray with red slaw and hush puppies, small brisket sandwich (no bread), Cheerwine (link to menu)

Monk: There are really only a handful of “old school” style barbecue joints in the Charlotte area. And by that, I’m not talking about anything with a full-service bar or that doubles as a diner or even open for a certain number of years. When you think about an old-school feel, Bill Spoon’s Barbecue and Bubba’s BBQ are two restaurants that have history and fit the bill. As does R&R Bar-B-Que, a train-themed barbecue restaurant in Concord. Curiously, all three serve eastern NC-style barbecue, as I had noted in my previous review.

On a rainy Friday, I checked out R&R for the second time since my only visit a little over 5 years ago. This time, I liked it a bit more. I speculated that they smoked with some sort of gas or electric smoker not aided by wood (a la an Ole Hickory or Southern Pride), and according to the NC BBQ Map that appears to be the case. No surprise, since there wasn’t any smoke wafting around the parking lot on either of my lunchtime visits. Still, the barbecue that was presented was nicely chopped and moist. A few dashes of the hot vinegar sauce didn’t hurt, either.

The beef brisket, a Tuesday and Friday special, was another story. I ordered only out of morbid curiosity and not because I expected it to be any good. My concerns were validated a couple of bites in so I didn’t feel the need to finish my portion.

R&R does nail their red slaw, a pretty perfect representation of a Lexington vinegar-based slaw. It had the right balance of sweetness to tang and was served properly chilled. The hush puppies tilted more to the savory end of the savory-sweet spectrum but were still solid. Finally, they offer Cheerwine from the fountain, as every proper barbecue joint should (unless they have it in bottles, of course).

So R&R Bar-B-Que is still not essential barbecue, but for Charlotte its not bad and ably fills the niche of an old school barbecue joint.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Jon G’s Barbecue pitmaster Garren Kirkman on what’s next

If you’ve been following our current favorite barbecue purveyor in Charlotte, Jon G’s Barbecue, on Facebook or Instagram then you would have seen that the pitmaster behind it has made a big decision and will be devoting more time to his craft as of March 15th. I reached out to Garren Kirkman to get some more information and see what his plans are now.

First off, congrats! How excited are you?
I am stoked to see what the future has in store, but it’s bittersweet for this chapter of my life to (somewhat) close. It was my first job out of college, I bought my first house, I met my wife, my son was born and so many other milestones in life happened while I was employed at CMC… Carolinas Healthcare…ehrrr I mean what is now called Atrium Health-Union.

Can you help our readers understand what exactly the plan is as of 3/15, your last day full-time at Atrium Health in your current role?
The plan for now is to get more sleep! Until now I have worked 40 hours a week to come home Friday and stay up all night stoking a fire and seeing the whole process through until the service is over the next day. Make rub, trim brisket, season meat and so on and so forth, you name it, start to finish (meat wise) that’s me. 

Until now, we have done zero marketing besides a few Facebook promotions. Our biggest goal is to get our story out there, promote our brand and grow, grow, grow! 

Who was the 98-year old man that you quoted? Did he influence your barbecue dream  at all?
I can honestly say I don’t know who he is. I don’t know his name or his face, but I will never forget those words for as long as I live. In a roundabout way he most certainly spurred my dreams, even if the discussion wasn’t directly about barbecue. 

So why now?
Around 2010, hospitals were becoming a productivity driven environment and my 40 hour work week was being cut to around 20 hours some weeks due to the number of patients we were seeing. Sometimes I would unexpectedly have half of a normal paycheck. Even though I had half of a paycheck, the bills stayed the same. That being said, all those years ago when I was given the advice to not work for “The Man” it set into motion a vision that I had for my life. I didn’t know where it would lead me, but it led me to barbecue.

Jon G’s has grown beyond what we ever imagined it could with the time we allowed for it. We are booked solid every weekend until June and when we started turning down jobs that seemed to be my cue to take the opportunity that’s presenting itself.

Where do you want to take Jon G’s Barbecue in the next six months? One year? Five years?
Six months will look very similar to what we have been doing, a few pop ups and our scheduled catering gigs.

One year we hope to still be growing exponentially. We want to market ourselves and hope to get into some corporate catering during the week. Although we do believe in quality over quantity, we have a ton of room to spread the brisket gospel far and wide!

In 5 years we hope to still be in business…maybe in a brick and mortar?! We shall see!

What are your upcoming pop-ups or services? Where will folks be able to get their hands on your tasty brisket and barbecue?
You can find our schedule on our Instagram page @jongsbbq. We have plenty of dates between Monroe and Statesville, NC for people to come out and get some great food. Not to mention the breweries we are at have fantastic beer to compliment like Southern Range Brewing and Fourth Creek Brewing

Anything else?
I do want to say that when you come to one of our events it isn’t just me or my wife, Kelly that make it happen. We have amazing friends and family that allow us to create the Jon G’s experience.  We could NOT do it alone and I pray my son has a family business to step into one day. 

Thankful doesn’t seem like a big enough word to describe how we feel when people come give us a chance. Thank you all for helping our dreams become a reality! 

Thanks to Garren for his time. In the meantime, check out this mouthwatering video of his brisket in action.

Friday Find: Barbecue Photographer Wyatt McSpadden on the Tales from the Pit Podcast

Wyatt McSpadden, whose excellent book “Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown” (our review here) came out last fall, recently joined the Tales from the Pits podcast to discuss how he came into his job of photographing so many barbecue joints for Texas Monthly and why he came out with another Texas BBQ photograph book less than 10 years after his first one was published in 2009.

Wyatt McSpadden’s love of Texas barbecue stretches back even further in time than his celebrated photography career which spans five decades. Growing up in a meat market family in Amarillo some of Wyatt’s earliest memories involve barbecue. As a young man his hobby of photography began growing into a passion that evolved into a profession.

In our interview with Wyatt we cover his early days photographing the construction of the famous Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, the beginnings of his BBQ photography, up to present day with the release of his latest book, Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown, and all points in between. Wyatt has witnessed historic moments in Texas barbecue firsthand including the splitting of the Kreuz/Smitty’s businesses in Lockhart, and his career has seen the advancements in both the meat quality of the barbecue produced and the many advancements in technology that have changed the photography world. Like the transition of film to digital, the Texas Barbecue scene has evolved.

Both of Wyatt’s books are must-own items for barbecue lovers and are available at all major retailers. Wyatt’s portraits of both the food and the people that cook it are beautifully laid out in these books designed by Nancy McMillan

Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Texas BBQ: From Small Town to Downtown” by Wyatt McSpadden

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

Texas photographer Wyatt McSpadden released a barbecue photo book just 9 years before this book, in 2009. So why a new book now? Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, a lot has happened in the world of barbecue in the past 10 years, particularly in Texas. In 2013, Texas Monthly hired a full-time barbecue editor in Daniel Vaughn (who lends McSpadden an essay for this book). Also, a little joint opened up in Austin just months after that first book’s release, and it changed everything. You may have heard of it – Franklin Barbecue. So yeah, there is quite a bit more ground to cover.

Now I haven’t yet read the first book (though its now at the top of my shortlist of barbecue books), but I get the impression that its very similar in nature. In “Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown,” Wyatt’s fantastic photography is front and center, of course and beautifully laid out by his wife Nancy McMillan.

Wyatt does write about a handful of joints that mean a great deal to him, from joints that remind him of the joints he went to growing up in Amarillo (like Prause Meat Market in xxx) to legendary places where he tasted his first transcendent bites of barbecue (Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor).

Wyatt’s passion is evident in those words as well as his gorgeous photography. He was there to document the rise of Aaron Franklin and Franklin Barbecue (Franklin provides the foreword, pictured above) and more than most, has criss-crossed the state for nearly 30 years, documenting every weathered nook and smoke-encrusted cranny.
“Texas BBQ: From Small Town to Downtown” is an essential barbecue book to add to your collection. I will say, North Carolina barbecue needs it’s own iteration of this book, and what a dream job that would be.

Available wherever you buy books. Official description:

In Texas BBQ, Wyatt McSpadden immortalized the barbecue joints of rural Texas in richly authentic photographs that made the people and places in his images appear as timeless as barbecue itself. The book found a wide, appreciative audience as barbecue surged to national popularity with the success of young urban pitmasters such as Austin’s Aaron Franklin, whose Franklin Barbecue has become the most-talked-about BBQ joint on the planet. Succulent, wood-smoked “old school” barbecue is now as easy to find in Dallas as in DeSoto, in Houston as in Hallettsville. In Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown, Wyatt McSpadden pays homage to this new urban barbecue scene, as well as to top-rated country joints, such as Snow’s in Lexington, that were under the radar or off the map when Texas BBQwas published.

Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown presents crave-inducing images of both the new—and the old—barbecue universe in almost every corner of the state, featuring some two dozen joints not included in the first book. In addition to Franklin and Snow’s, which have both occupied the top spot in Texas Monthly’s barbecue ratings, McSpadden portrays urban joints such as Dallas’s Pecan Lodge and Cattleack Barbecue and small-town favorites such as Whup’s Boomerang Bar-B-Que in Marlin. Accompanying his images are barbecue reflections by James Beard Award–winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin and Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn. Their words and McSpadden’s photographs underscore how much has changed—and how much remains the same—since Texas BBQrevealed just how much good, old-fashioned ’cue there is in Texas.

Friday Find: David Dawei NC BBQ Tour: Parker’s Barbecue

We’ve previously featured David Dawei’s NC barbecue videos from B’s Barbecue and Skylight Inn. Here’s his third stop from his barbecue tour from 2017.

This is my Third stop in North Carolina along the BBQ Tour. Parkers’ BBQ is located in Wilson. If you are in the vicinity, definitely stop by. Their family style is the best way to go, so bring lots of friends and a big appetite.

The Pork (as served) was fantastic – 9/10

The Vinegar BBQ Sauces weren’t needed IMO – 7/10

The Cole Slaw was very nice; loved the zing the mustard provided- 9/10

The Potatoes were OK, but I don’t care for Boiled potatoes- 6/10

The Corn Sticks – I did not care for these – 5/10

The Hush Puppies tasted like a plain donut/dessert =8/10

Overall Value = 9.9/10

Linkdown 2/20/19

Author Adrian Miller made his way through NC, SC, GA, and FL last week doing research for his forthcoming book “Black Smoke” and made a stop at Grady’s BBQ

The new Rodney Scott’s BBQ has opened in Birmingham and is one of three new spots to check out

While back in Charleston, Rodney flew back in town to meet with presidential candidate Kamala Harris at the Charleston store

South Carolina Tourism is breaking records in part due to the Barbecue Trail

RIP Rick Schmidt of Kreuz Market

Last weekend’s Whole Hog Summit in Kinston was a “great success”

According to Travel Channel, Memphis is a the hottest southern destination to visit in 2019, partially due to barbecue

In Memphis, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most finger-licking delicious barbecue joints in the country. Whether you prefer brisket, pulled pork, or a slab of baby back ribs, more than 100 barbecue joints across town are ready to wow you (mostly with pork since that’s what Memphis-style is all about). The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest each May draws more than 75,000 barbeque-loving attendees. While in town, sign up for a class with Memphis Barbecue Supply, including free classes on how to cook competition-quality pulled pork and pork ribs. Yum.

Meatfest: NM style

Friday Find: Kevin Pang interviews Ed Mitchell during BBQ Road Trip ’10

The last of the videos from Kevin Pang’s BBQ Road Trip ’10 (Keith Allen here, Wilber Shirley here), here’s a short conversation from Ed Mitchell back when he was still part of The Pit in Raleigh.

And while Wilber Shirley didn’t take Kevin’s bait on eastern vs Lexington-style, Ed Mitchell answers the question by claiming that smoking a whole hog is the “true heart of barbecue,” albeit after diplomatically saying he’s “never had bad barbecue.”

Linkdown: 2/13/19

Our State Magazine’s February issue has a big write up on 26 Essential NC Barbecue Joints

Vote once a day between now and February 25

Steve Raichlen’s upcoming book on brisket comes out in April; here’s a book review

Speaking of Texas barbecue, Daniel Vaughn’s list of the best sausage wraps in Texas (aka #roadsausage)

J.C. Reid on the rise of vertical smokers where space is a little more limited

Relevant Instagram tips for some…