Natalie Ramsey and Chase Webb are the third generation of the Bridges family to work at the venerated Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby. It’s definitely a Barbecue Bros fave and I’m glad that Kevin’s BBQ Joints interviewed them for the podcast since I don’t think they get a lot of recognition outside of the Piedmont of North Carolina.
In this episode I chat with Natalie Ramsey and Chase Webb from Red Bridges BBQ – Shelby, North Carolina. We discuss the long history of the restaurant which opened in 1946 in Cleveland County (called Dedmond’s Barbecue). In 1953, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was moved to their current location on Highway 74 in Shelby. One of the greatest things about Red Bridges BBQ is that while they have added items as demand grew for specific dishes (i.e. BBQ Nachos), they have stayed true to the old ways of cooking over wood, low and slow, and keeping the recipes for items such as slow the exact same as day one. You can tell the great passion Natalie and Chase have for their business and more importantly family. I guarantee they will treat you like family when you visit. Note they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Monk: Personally, I have been following the Jim Noble barbecue restaurant quest for just short of four years. The first article I ever linked that mentioned Jim getting into the barbecue business was from an August 2015 linkdown and I’ve been tracking them on the Charlotte Big Board ever since. Though of course, as has been well established, Jim’s been looking to open a barbecue restaurant for over two decades but wasn’t going to open one without the right location, which Speedy and I got a behind the scenes look at last month. Well, after a visit during their soft opening, I’m happy to report that Noble Smoke is finally here and its spectacular.
While the official grand opening of Noble Smoke is July 25, they officially opened for business for a nearly 2-week period of soft openings (dubbed “The Little Smoke”) on Friday, July 12 meaning the restaurant opens at 4, food is served at 5, and they close once they sell out of meat. On the first Friday, the reduced menu comprised of pork and brisket (served either in sandwich form or by the ¼, ½, or 1 lb) as well as a several slides and a “hand pie” dessert.
And of course, with their on-site partnership with Suffolk Punch Brewing (who hasn’t opened this second location yet), they have plenty of beer on tap in addition to wine and cocktails. They even have a beer called “Noble Toast” which is a Vienna lager (confirm) and was brewed in honor of their partnership with Noble Smoke. Once the brewery opens, it will surely cement its status as a destination barbecue restaurant.
I stopped in for a quick snack at the bar and am happy to report that they have hit the ground running at Noble Smoke. I ordered a ¼ each of pork and brisket as well as their Lexington-style red slaw. The pork is of course smoked in their custom brick pits fashioned with permission after the famous pits at Lexington Barbecue (Jim’s favorite barbecue joint along with Skylight Inn). I don’t believe they are serving it with the Lexington-style dip chopped in, instead allowing diners to add their choice of sauce. Adding a few dashes of the “Lex” sauce and mixing in the red slaw created the familiar taste of Lexington-style chopped barbecue. Next time I’ll try it on a sandwich. Also available is a sweeter “19” sauce and a mixture of the two, dubbed “Smoke.”
The brisket was what I was probably most interested in, having previously tried the pork at Suffolk Punch Brewing’s first location (then known as Hyde Brewing) for St. Patrick’s Day last year. As Speedy and I were shown a few weeks ago, Noble has 6 custom-built offset smokers that handle the brisket (and I’m guessing the rest of the forthcoming smoked meat items which I’m presuming will including chicken, sausage, pork ribs, and beef ribs). And what they put out is some seriously legit brisket. I was served both the flat and the point. The flat (or lean) had a great peppery bark and was not dry at all. The fatty cut from the point had well-rendered fat which melted in my mouth. Jim Noble’s focus has always been Lexington-style pork but (perhaps unsurprisingly) the man can make a mean brisket.
As I mentioned above, Noble Smoke has hit the ground running. The huge restaurant filled up quickly and had a line out the door by the time I left but I observed no major servicing hiccups. There was a little confusion at the bar as to when we were able to order but once ordered, the food came out promptly. Hospitality was great and all of the servers at the bar were friendly.
Once the soft opening period finishes later this month and the menu expands, I expect that Noble Smoke will be in serious conversation for best barbecue restaurant in Charlotte. It’s that good.
Santa Maria barbecue is not considered one of the four major styles of barbecue in the US, but it has its proponents. Zagat takes a deeper look.
The sight of grilling over an open flame and scent of red oak has made Santa Maria-stye barbecue a favorite for road trips. But what is it about beef tri-tips and garlic rubs that’s helped this alternative style of barbecue thrive? Zagat visited a selection of three Santa Maria area barbecue spots to hear from the men and women responsible for continuing the legacy of this west coast tradition.
Sam Jones is his usually charming self on the Effin B Radio podcast in a discussion that covers a lot of the ground from his recently-released book “Sam Jones: Whole Hog BBQ.”
Lindsay sits down with BBQ behemoth Sam Jones to talk preserving tradition while still evolving and what it’s like to be a third generation Whole Hog pit master. His brand new book Whole Hog is filled with beautiful stories and treasured recipes but the best part of the show might just be Sam reading a few excerpts from his unpublished collection of quotes that lives on his phone. He lovingly dubs these one-liners “Things You Hear Stand-in Around” and they’re prettyyyy hysterical.
Kevin’s BBQ Joints sits down with “barbecue man” Wyatt Dickson of Picnic in Durham. I actually went to elementary school with Wyatt back in Fayetteville, NC but haven’t spoken to him in probably 26 years. I’d like to make it back to Picnic again (my only visit was a bit of a mixed bag) but who knows if he’d remember me or not. In any case, another interesting conversation worth your time.
Name: Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que Address: 1427 Eutaw Rd, Holly Hill, SC 29059 Order: Barbecue sandwich with hash and rice and banana puddin’ (link to menu) Pricing: $
Monk: Holy crap, you guys. I mean, holy crap. Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que has been on my list for a few years now, considering how I tend to get to Charleston a couple times a year and Holly Hill is not super out of the way if you are willing to take the scenic route off I-26 just east of Columbia around Orangeburg. Based on my visit, its a detour well worth taking.
Sweatman’s has been around since 1977 and according to Grant’s story over at Marie, Let’s Eat! in 2016, the current owners Mark and Lynn Behr bought the restaurant from their friends and original owners Bub and Margie Sweatman in 2011. Thankfully, it appears they have continued the practice of cooking whole hogs over coals for 12-14 hours.
As this was going to be a late afternoon snack, I did not opt for the full buffet line, instead ordering a a sandwich with a side of hash and rice. The waitress obviously sensed a weakness for ‘naner pudding in me by suggesting I also get it, but it wasn’t too much of a stretch considering its only $1.50 with tax.
The main building of Sweatman’s appears to have had a larger dining room added onto it at some point over the years, and that thing was like stepping back into the 80’s in the south but in the best way.
I bit into my barbecue sandwich and darnit if it wasn’t a near transcendent bite of barbecue. The wood smoke shone through each bite and was accentuated by the sweet and tangy mustard barbecue sauce. This was different than almost every other midlands South Carolina mustard-based barbecue sandwich I’ve had where the shredded pork is drowning in the sauce. The sauce here still let the wood smoke be the star and was content to act as a supporting actor.
The hash and rice was the co-star, if my forced metaphor hasn’t begun to completely break down yet. I’ve only had one other “200 mile” hash and rice before and that was at True BBQ in West Columbia. This was on par with that. I still don’t have the vocabulary to properly describe hash and rice, but this savory-gravy-over-rice-dish is a must-order at Sweatman’s.
Briefly about that banana pudding – it was quite simply one of the best naner puddings I’ve had ever. I wish I had gotten at least 2 more for the rest of the weekend (slash the rest of my meal). What a capper to the meal.
Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que is absolutely worth the detour but be aware that its only open two days a week on Fridays and Saturdays. So be sure to plan your pilgrimage accordingly.
Monk: You may have been hearing about Dave Grohl’s barbecue obsession for the past year or so, but here’s an in-depth conversation between Grohl, Bon Appétit editor Adam Rapoport, and Joe House from The Ringer’s House of Carbs podcast. In it, he discusses how he got into barbecue through tasting eastern NC barbecue at a shack (he didn’t mention a name) near the Currituck Lighthouse after he bought a beach house in Nag’s Head in the early 90’s (13:40). He also calls out when he met Elliott Moss from Buxton Hall Barbecue, whom he called “a badass” (24:14) and Sam Jones, who he “treated like a Beatle” (24:35). Grohl also gets into his barbecue venture Backbeat BBQ that started from a single Lang smoker (35:02) and how he worked his way up to feeding nearly a thousand firefighters for free during last fall’s Camp Fire in southern California (39:40).
It’s one thing to read about Grohl’s passion for barbecue (or see him hanging out during the tailgate party that is Memphis in May), but it’s another to hear the passion in his voice when he talks about barbecue. Also, now we know that he likes to drink High Life when he smokes (49:55) but won’t turn down a Coors Light if the Rockies are blue. Pretty cool stuff.
Name: Central BBQ Date: 5/16/19 Address: 147 E Butler Ave, Memphis, TN 38103 Order: Rib combo with brisket, pork, collards, chips (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Monk: I should have listened to Speedy…
Speedy: …a lesson you can never learn often enough…
Monk: Actually, to be more precise, I should have consulted Speedy’s review of the original Central BBQ location to help figure out my order and that specifically I shouldn’t have ordered the brisket. To not bury the lede, I found the rest of the meal a bit underwhelming as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself….
This year for the Memphis in May Barbecue Championship (aka Barbecue Fest), I wanted to actually go to a Memphis barbecue restaurant (or two) outside of the festival. So first things first, as soon as we (our current neighbors and former Memphis residents, Mrs. Monk, and I) landed we headed to Central BBQ’s downtown location for a late lunch before checking into our our AirBnB. And by downtown, this Central BBQ is directly across the street from the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and where the National Civil Rights Museum is currently located.
We waited in a brief line to place an order and then proceeded to the open air patio. It was already a hot day in Memphis, but the indoor dining room was still pretty packed for lunch. Usually a good sign.
I’ll start with the ribs, the meat that Speedy gave 5 hogs in his review and called “without hesitation that these were the best ribs [he’s] ever had…These are ribs that I’m going to dream about.” So, clearly the highest of praise from a man who knows his way around a rib. I…did not find them to be anywhere near that good. They were the best of the 3 meats I tried, but definitely not among the best ribs I’ve ever had. Not even close, really. I went for the dry rub ribs and while they were tender enough, I found them to be a bit bland, taste-wise.
The pulled pork was a bit dry and a slight notch below the just average ribs. It absolutely needed sauce and I wondered if it could have been from the previous day.
Now, the brisket. Or rather, the thinly sliced, dry roast beef-like meat served instead of brisket. Had I read Speedy’s review, surely I would have heeded his advice: “It was dry and lacked flavor, so just don’t order it, k?” So reader, don’t be like Monk and order the brisket. Listen to your friend Speedy, he’s a cool dude.
The collards were disappointing to Mrs. Monk (the collards aficionado), and I couldn’t agree more. The chips were recommended by our neighbors but I wished we had gone with a more classic barbecue side than a standard house made crunchy chip.
Speedy: In talking to Monk about his experience, I was disappointed to hear it. I myself am still a frequent visitor to Central BBQ, usually focusing on the ribs and wings. I don’t think I’ve had an experience as bad as Monk describes, but I have noticed some variability among visits. I also have concerns that the expansion of the restaurant (now open in four locations, with another opening in Nashville this year) has allowed quality to suffer. That said, its the most common barbecue joint I visit in Memphis (partly due to location, but also because I’ve had good experiences more often than not).
Monk: I was quite disappointed with Central BBQ and unfortunately, this would be the only Memphis joint I got to this weekend. I know Memphis has great barbecue joints and someday I’ll get to more of them (looking at you, Payne’s!).