The folks at Redneck BBQ Lab in Benson, NC – Jerry Stephenson and his sister Roxanne Manley – don’t strictly adhere to eastern or western NC barbecue disciplines and instead pull from all barbecue cultures. Bob Garner visited for North Carolina Weekend on UNC-TV.
Name: The Sqweelin’ Pig
Address: 3206 US Hwy 70 W, Black Mountain, North Carolina 28711
Order: Three meat combo dinner with pork, ribs, brisket, hush puppies, green beans, mac and cheese
Monk: As I’ve encountered in travels in the mountains of Western NC, barbecue is very hit or miss once you go west of, say, Hickory or Shelby. For every Buxton Hall or even Luella’s, there are those places that may smoke over wood but aren’t all that good or those that don’t even bother with wood. It’s all a game of barbecue roulette, essentially.
The Sqweelin’ Pig started as a food truck that smoked solely over wood when now pitmaster Buddy Clemons lost his construction job in 2012 and decided to make a late career change to barbecue. It seems as though its working out pretty well for him and his wife (who then quit her own job to help him) as this Black Mountain location that opened earlier this year is the third location after Weaversville and Barnardsville northwest of Black Mountain. Here, a trailer is positioned just outside of the main restaurant with the woodpile stacked against the building.
The wood smoke did come through once the three meat combo platter of pork, ribs, and brisket was delivered to the table. For the most part, the wood smoke alone didn’t make for great barbecue. The pork and ribs were passable (the pork being a bit better when adding one of their sauces, including an interesting blackberry vinegar sauce) but the brisket was what you expect at most places in the mountains of NC – thin, dried out, and with a consistency more like roast beef than Texas brisket. I’d be curious if they are reheating yesterday’s brisket.
The sides are scratch made but weren’t particularly noteworthy. I will note that all beer bottles, including several local beers, were all $2.50. My wife and I each opted for beers from High Wire out of Asheville while my father-in-law went for Coors Light. Again, each of those beers were $2.50 so not bad at all.
Unfortunately, The Sqweelin’ Pig fell into the “smoke over wood but aren’t all that good” category of western NC mountain barbecue places. I’d recommend sticking with the pork if you make it, but I’d also mention that Buxton Hall is only about 30 minutes west of Black Mountain…
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
Here’s part one of our latest episode with Sam Jones and Michael Letchworth, owners of Sam Jones BBQ. The only thing better than their whole hog is their storytelling ability. Give it a listen!
— Tales From The Pits (@BBQpodcast) September 10, 2018
Sam Jones is as entertaining as ever, and its good to hear from his friend and business partner Michael Letchworth on how he got into the barbecue game.
Having grown up in a family whose history in barbecue could be traced back to the 1800’s, whole hog cooking was something that had always been a part of Sam Jones’ world. Despite being reluctant to make barbecue a career as young man, Sam returned to the business full time when his grandfather Pete Jones, founder of Skylight Inn, became ill.
Sam navigated Skylight Inn through tough times after Pete’s death and helped make the business thrive and prosper. Sam has a strong business mind and wanted to create a restaurant of his own, still focused on whole hog cooked the traditional way over wood burned down to coals, but something that would stand on its own and not be seen as a carbon copy of the now famous Skylight Inn.
Together with his longtime friend and business partner Michael Letchworth, they opened Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, North Carolina in the fall of 2015. Check out part one of our interview with Sam and Michael where we discuss the history of Skylight Inn and its unique way of cooking and serving whole hog, and how the mindset of not being afraid to ask questions and to learn lead to the eventual creation of better processes for running a successful business and brand.
We expected a lot of interesting stories when we sat down to record with Sam Jones and Michael Letchworth, but no way we could have predicted there would be #kekechallenge talk. Check out part two of our interview.
— Tales From The Pits (@BBQpodcast) September 11, 2018
— Tales From The Pits (@BBQpodcast) October 8, 2018
In which Bryan Furman reveals he only wants to open another 10 or so B’s Cracklin Barbeque locations in addition to the Savannah and Atlanta stores as well as the expansion into Philips Arena for Hawks basketball games. What’s the matter, Bryan – only 10?
Bryan Furman left a career as a welder with a goal in mind: to cook and serve whole hog barbecue. Whole hog cooking was a tradition Bryan grew up with, but when his father challenged him with the question of “What’s going to make your barbecue better than others?”, Bryan decided that serving the highest quality heritage pigs would set him apart from the competition.
Bryan and his wife Nikki opened the original B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque in Savannah, Georgian 2014. The critical acclaim would come in time, but the Furmans would soon be faced with adversity as their restaurant was badly damaged by a fire. They rebuilt and came back stronger than ever. An Atlanta location would follow, and the Furmans have big plans for further expansion in the future.
B’s Cracklin’ boasts a menu of chopped whole hog, ribs, brisket, and chicken along with family recipes of cracklin’ cornbread “hoe cakes” and a great family banana pudding recipe. Don’t skip the mustard sauce with Georgia peaches! With a commitment to the highest quality product combined with a dedication to tradition, B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque is one of the premier BBQ destinations in Georgia.
Catch B’s Cracklin at:
– This weekend is the Barbecue Festival in Lexington; here’s 10 things you may not have known about barbecue in Lexington
– Jim N Nick’s Bar-B-Q is one of several barbecue restaurants in Birmingham’s Restaurant Hall of Fame
— Jim N Nick’s Bar-B-Q (@jimnnicksbbq) October 23, 2018
– Next time you are in Atlanta:
Know your barbecue history? Take a break from obsessing about smoke ring and go learn stuff. https://t.co/bmnTjV1pfh
— David Landsel (@davidlandsel) October 18, 2018
– Dr. BBQ’s restaurant, Dr. BBQ, opened last week in Tampa
– Robert Stegall began smoking turkeys after he returned from WWI after serving with the 82nd Airborne and passed the family recipe to his kids, who run Rock Store Bar-B-Que and Stegall Smoked Turkey
This turkey recipe has been in the Stegall family since the 1940s. Drive out to Marshville to try it. https://t.co/IQN9RGPQNX
— Charlotte magazine (@CharlotteMag) October 19, 2018
– Great stuff as always from Kathleen Purvis on Greek immigrants who started restaurants in Charlotte, several of which were barbecue and none were Greek
“Which restaurant is your family? There’s one special story about Charlotte’s food that I’ve always wanted to tell. https://t.co/l961i4xVGx
— Kathleen Purvis (@kathleenpurvis) October 23, 2018
Name: Cook Out
Address: 10645 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28210
Order: Cookout tray with barbecue sandwich, tray pups, tray nus, and sweet tea (link to menu)
Monk: I was first introduce to Cook Out, a Greensboro-based fast food burgers and milkshakes chain, way back in 1993 when our family moved from Fayetteville, NC to High Point. Those milkshakes were legendary and any time I had them it was a big, big deal.
Then, I was introduced to Cook Out in a whole new light back in my college days in the early 2000’s, where the Western Blvd location was a favorite post-bar, late night destination. Not only did it stay open way past the bars (until 5am on the weekends) but the food was ridiculously cheap ($3.99 for a Cook Out Tray at the time). To say that it did the trick on many a late night my last couple of semesters would be an understatement, and I have the photos to prove it.
I mentioned the price – while it was $3.99 for a Cook Out Tray in the early 2000s, it will now run you $5.25. With it, you pick from about 10 main items including burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and even a barbecue sandwich. Then, you got to pick two sides – and in addition to the usual fries or onion rings, things like corn dogs, chicken nuggets, and quesadillas are considered sides. Top it off with a huge 32 oz sweet tea (or sub it out for one of their 40+awesome milk shakes) and you felt like you were stealing for the amount of food you were getting for around $5. To read more on the wonders of the Cook Out Tray, check out this Drew Magary piece in Deadspin from his visit to one in Durham in 2012. He does more justice to it than I ever could.
The Cook Out in Raleigh had a few picnic tables but is really more of a drive through or takeout place. While that is the predominant layout of most Cook Outs I’ve encountered, you will occasionally find those with an actual sit down restaurant with an order counter inside such as this one in south Charlotte near Pineville.
I knew what I was getting when I opted to review the barbecue sandwich here. It was not going to blow my socks off, but it did end up being a serviceable version of an eastern NC barbecue sandwich. It comes already topped with a mayo slaw and hot sauce and is surprisingly spicy. You don’t get really any smoke in the pork but it will definitely satisfy in a pinch.
I got my usual side order – hush puppies and chicken nuggets (or “tray pups and tray nugs” in Cook Out employee parlance) – and though they are clearly from frozen, again they will do in a pinch.
Which brings us to the point of Cook Out. It’s fast and cheap food that you shouldn’t think (or perhaps write in my case) too much about. Though when it comes to their barbecue, get it if you must but my recommendation would be instead of that, get one of their crazy good burgers (my recommendation would be Cheddar Style) and a shake. You’ll thank me later.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
Some barbecue mea culpas from @mossr in regards to a recent article on SC barbecue buffets as well as his Southern Living Top 50 BBQ list on this episode of @winnowpodcast from a few weeks back https://t.co/8WnVmcSzWe
— Barbecue Bros (@BarbecueBros) October 16, 2018
Monk: In the first half of this podcast, some barbecue talk from Robert Moss and Hanna Raskin regarding two of Robert’s recent articles: a piece in the Charleston Post and Courier on the death (or at least decline) of the South Carolina barbecue buffet and his recent published list of Southern Living Top 50 BBQ Joints.
For the barbecue buffet article, Moss incorrectly noted that after Bessinger’s Barbecue shutting down its buffet (while still remaining open as a restaurant) there were only two more buffets left in the lowcountry. Turns out, he was wrong – and apparently people let him know about all the places he missed such as Music Man’s Bar-B-Que in Monck’s Corner and Kelly’s Barbecue in Summerville. The barbecue buffet is something you mainly see in South Carolina and I have only been to a couple in NC: Fuller’s Old Fashion BBQ in Lumberton – which has since relocated to Fayetteville from Lumberton due to flooding as a result of Hurricane Matthew two years ago – and Duke’s Old South BBQ in Leland which has since closed. I suspect if there are more barbecue buffets out there, they are more likely in the coastal plain of eastern NC since we don’t really see them in the piedmont.
In regards to his Top 50 BBQ Joints list, Moss got some grief from Texans who just couldn’t believe that a non-Texas joint was #1 on his list (Scott’s Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, SC ) and that only 3 Texas joints were in the top 10. Apparently they went so far as to refer to his list as “garbage.” Seems a bit harsh, but perhaps not unexpected from Texans when it comes to barbecue – they take that ish seriously.
– Menu and pricing for the 89th annual Mallard Creek Barbecue coming up in a little more than 2 weeks on October 25, 2018
– Six names were recently added to the Barbecue Festival Wall of Fame
– A preview of some of the new barbecue foods at this year’s NC State Fair
One of the hottest items at the media luncheon was the Crack-n-Cheese in a Waffle Cone by Hickory Tree BBQ. The waffle cone was stuffed with mac-n-cheese and then topped with turkey barbecue, cole slaw, turkey cracklings and their signature barbecue sauce. While the combination might sound like too much, the end result was a blend of southern goodness.
Chick-N-Que, which also has a popular food truck, served up their Cluck Puppies. A twist on the traditional hush puppy, this dish contains chopped chicken barbecue.
– On Louisiana whole hog boucheries
“But two things are more important than anything else. The need to authentically preserve this tradition. And respect. We thank the pig for the sustenance he brings us.” https://t.co/IF7vdSEwcc
— Garden & Gun (@gardenandgun) September 27, 2018
– Georgia is getting in on the state barbecue trail website action through the work of Georgia College history professors Dr. Craig Pascoe and Dr. James “Trae” Wellborn
– So this recently happened at the original Plaza Midwood location of Midwood Smokehouse
Thanks for stopping by Bill! pic.twitter.com/UzxnEbnBDm
— Midwood Smokehouse (@MidwoodBBQ) October 2, 2018
I mean damn, look at that crispy pork skin:
On today’s episode of Halo Halo, Fran brought her mom along to check out Philippine Smoked BBQ & Grill and chat with the owners about being one of the only Filipino restaurants around and try out their lechon.
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: Bob Garner’s latest book, published in 2014, isn’t strictly a barbecue book per se. Instead it focuses on various favorite foods and drinks of North Carolina, though naturally barbecue is featured being that it is the state’s most popular food.
The barbecue chapter of the book covers the basics in terms of the history of barbecue in the state and how the two dominant styles of barbecue came to be. Where it does cover some new territory compared with previous barbecue books from Garner is the introduction of different styles of smokers into NC, comparing offset and rotisserie smokers imported from the midwest and Texas to the traditional NC brick barbecue pits with its direct heat method. Instead of an exhaustive list of all barbecue restaurants (which Garner previously covered in his Big Book of Barbecue), he instead showcases just four restaurants – one from the east (Skylight Inn), one from the piedmont (Lexington Barbecue), a new-style joint that serves beer while still smoking over wood (Hillsborough BBQ Company), and a regional chain (Smithfield’s Chicken and BBQ).
The book does contain recipes as well, and I particularly like that the recipe for “charcoal cooked pulled pork” is for a Lexington-style barbecue recipe smoked on a Weber charcoal grill.
The subsequent chapters of the book cover foods often eaten with barbecue like brunswick stew and collards as well as desserts such as banana pudding and peach cobbler. This is smartly done by Garner.
As for other barbecue-related items, the book also has later chapters on barbecue sauces found in stores, Texas Pete hot sauce, as well as soft drinks created in NC. Longtime readers and followers will note how much I love Cheerwine or Sun Drop with barbecue, and of course the history of those are featured.
“Foods That Make You Say Mmm-mmm” lovingly explores the food and drinks of North Carolina in a way that only a native North Carolinian can. It is very much a Bob Garner book – and that’s a very good thing.