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.”
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…
Monk: The last (and only) time I had visited Richard’s Bar-B-Q in Salisbury was nearly 5 years ago and I mostly enjoyed my meal there, preferring it to the other Salisbury joint on the NC Barbecue Trail, Wink’s King of Barbeque.
Richard’s was the choice for a Monk family lunch meet up over the holidays, providing an in-between spot between Charlotte and Pittsboro.
Pulling in, the one thing that struck me was the spelling of “Bar-B-Q” on all of Richard’s signage. By my recollection, you tend to see “barbecue,” “bbq,” “barbeque,” “bar-b-que,” or “bar-b-cue” spellings more often, but even thought its clearly a valid spelling, I don’t recall really noticing “bar-b-q” in too many places in my travels. A minor thing for sure, but perhaps worth noting in the future.
As for the ‘cue itself, I found the barbecue to have the necessary smoke but lacking the tang and spice I noted on my previous visit. Ditto for the red slaw. Thankfully, the large hush puppies were just as good as I remembered and I ate them until I was well beyond stuffed. In any case, my family and I enjoyed our meal as we lamented the recent closing of Allen & Son in Chapel Hill – most of us, anyways. My aunt said she found that one subpar and preferred the Pittsboro location much more. Now, even though Chapel Hill is gone, I will have to investigate Pittsboro. In any case, back to Richard’s – I still chuckle at the use of large coffee filters as part of the serving apparatus for the trays. Hopefully they won’t fall victim to the recent trend of NC barbecue joint closings anytime soon.
“Little boy found in North Carolina, that is such happy news. But in a tragic twist, he will have to spend his life eating North Carolina barbecue…”
“I welcome your vinegar-stained letters you poor flavor-deprived bastards”Stephen Colbert
Governor Roy Cooper responded to the Colbert: “Y’all have a mustard problem”
The mayor of Lexington invited him to town for a tasting
The NC Pork Council reminded everyone of a declaration by former Governor Bob Scott
However, according to D.G. Martin, the real barbecue crisis is not Stephen Colbert slandering the good name of NC barbecue; its the closing of its classic joints
My 31-year-old son and I spent a muggy, buggy summer week driving the Tar Heel State’s highways and back roads to search out its most flavorful pork. Tucking in our napkins at seven spots in six days, we experienced a slice of Americana as thick as the smoke that infused the meat before us, rubbing shoulders with generations of barbecue royalty in the process.
However, if you do want to become a SC Barbecue Association judge, you can learn how this Saturday in Columbia
I think we already saw this but ok!
James Beard-award winning author Adrian Miller, whose forthcoming book Black Smoke will focus on African american contributions to barbecue culture, will be in Charlotte on 2/12
Three words that you don’t hear too often together: “true,” “Miami,” and “barbecue
Barbecue in Miami can be hard to grasp or define. Other than a few places, most of what one might call barbecue here is more a Georgia-style hybrid of grilling and smoking either baby-back ribs or whole chickens. The rare spots that give brisket or pork the dozen-plus hours of pure smoke that’s synonymous with Texas or Carolina barbecue are faithfully trying to replicate an established style. With their Jupiña mop sauce, black-as-night Malta barbecue sauce, and pork belly burnt ends ($10), Briceño and Honore have finally invented a style of barbecue synonymous with Miami.
In the spirit of the pioneers and innovators of our favorite style of barbecue, the Barbecue Bros are pleased to make available our first t-shirt featuring those men in the classic Helvetica list style. We hope that Lexington-style barbecue fans will purchase and wear this acknowledgement of history proudly. The shirts are $24.99 and ship for free if you have an Amazon Prime account.
- Lightweight, Classic fit, Double-needle sleeve and bottom hem
- Available in Men’s, Women, and Child sizes S-3XL
- Solid colors: 100% Cotton; Heather Grey: 90% Cotton, 10% Polyester; All Other Heathers: 50% Cotton, 50% Polyester
A brief history of Lexington-style Barbecue
In 1919, Sid Weaver set up a tent across the street from the Lexington courthouse and began selling what would later become “Lexington-style” barbecue. He was the first man to sell this style of barbecue.
Weaver later teamed up with Jess Swicegood and those two men perfected Lexington-style barbecue and helped spread the technique across the Piedmont of North Carolina. Lexington-style means pork shoulders are smoked as opposed to whole hogs because shoulders are fattier and more forgiving than the leaner hams and loins found in a whole hog and yield more barbecue. They took the vinegar-pepper sauce of the eastern part of the state and added ketchup to provide sweetness to balance it out while maintaining the tang of the vinegar.
In 1927, Warner Stamey began working under Weaver and Swicegood while in high school, and for me this is where things began to pick up. After a few years under the tutelage of Weaver and Swicegood, Stamey moved 100 miles southwest to Shelby, NC. There, he taught the Lexington-style technique to his brother-in-law Alston Bridges as well as Red Bridges (oddly enough, not related). They, of course, opened their own respective restaurants in 1956 and 1946 respectively, both of which still exist today.
Stamey moved back to Lexington in 1938 and bought Swicegood’s restaurant for $300. It was there that he taught the legendary barbecue man Wayne Monk, who went on to open Lexington Barbecue (aka “The Honeymonk”) in 1962, which just so happens to be the Barbecue Bros’ collective favorite barbecue restaurant ever. Stamey would of course go on to open Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro, where his grandson Chip Stamey still owns and operates to this day. Warner Stamey is also widely credited with bringing hush puppies to barbecue restaurants.
Much of the information above was taken from Robert Moss’s seminal book Barbecue: The History of an American Institution. If you want to read more on the history of our favorite food, I highly recommend it.
Name: The Honey Hog
Address: 4629 Fallston Rd, Lawndale, NC 28090
Order: Chopped pork combo platter with red slaw, fries and a sample of chopped beef brisket, appetizer of cheese curds
Monk: The Honey Hog is a farm-to-table restaurant in the tiny town of Fallston (about 20 minutes north of Shelby) that this past summer brought on Johnny Ray as a managing partner and pitmaster to add wood smoked barbecue to their menu on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Interestingly, Johnny is doing whole hog each of those days with pork ribs on Friday nights and central Texas-style brisket on Saturday nights.
The Honey Hog uses a thicker barbecue sauce that Johnny Ray has been selling in grocery store across the state and the chopped pork comes pre-sauced with it. It’s possible that I missed it, but I didn’t see this indicated on the menu and I don’t usually prefer my barbecue pre-sauced. This was no exception. In this case, it was hard to detect any smoke and I have to admit I was a little disappointed.
Well before central-Texas brisket made its way east of the Mississippi, chopped beef was something commonly found in the western part of NC heading towards the mountains. The Honey Hog didn’t have a combo on the menu so instead of ordering a full order of the chopped beef they were kind enough to provide me a sample with my meal. I could taste the smoke more on the beef, which did not come with the sauce, but it still wasn’t for me.
My sides of red slaw and fries were fine but the best part of the meal was the cheese curds I ordered as an appetizer. Those things were ridiculous and are apparently a big favorite of regular customers.
I didn’t love my lunch on this day but from what I can tell on social media The Honey Hog is probably be worth a second visit to try the ribs or brisket specials. And I’ll retry their whole hog, making sure to request the sauce on the side.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Chopped Beef – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
Name: Charlie Vergos Rendezvous
Address: 52 S 2nd St, Memphis, TN
Order: Pork ribs and brisket combination (link to menu)
Speedy: I’ve been spending a lot of time in Memphis lately for work, working mostly with a local team. When my co-workers learned of this blog, they started peppering me with recommendations, but not once did a local tell me to visit Rendezvous. Apparently it is considered more of a tourist destination, but it is 1) super famous and 2) two blocks from my client site, so a visit seemed in order.
Monk: My neighbor here in Charlotte who used to live in Memphis confirmed that it is a bit of a tourist destination but that he always found their ribs to be pretty good, actually.
Speedy: The sign on Rendezvous advertises “charcoal ribs,” and walking up, it’s easy to smell the charcoal smoker throughout Rendezvous alley. As I went with a co-worker on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was fairly empty and we didn’t have to wait for a table. Upon entering Rendezvous, you descend into a basement and come to an old dinner-esque place. It doesn’t look like the decor has been updated a whole lot since it’s 1948 opening, but still, it’s spacious and comfortable.
The menu at Rendezvous is pretty simple. I knew I was getting ribs, but the waiter also recommended brisket, so I took him up on it. Standard sides are beans and slaw, and there’s not much else in terms of sides, so I just went with what was given.
The food came out super fast. The waiter told us that there was both spicy and normal sauce on the table, but advised we try the ribs dry first, which I obliged. I’ll say this right off – Rendezvous is not the best barbecue meal I’ve had in Memphis, but I don’t understand why it’s so shunned. The ribs were meaty, cooked well (maybe slightly undercooked) and had a nice, smoky flavor. They were fine without the sauce, but I did enjoy the spicy sauce as well.
Monk: It’s looking likely that I will be back for Memphis in May next year so if I’m wandering around downtown is it worth a stop?
Speedy: Well, there’s a Central BBQ downtown as well, so I’d recommend that first, but I wouldn’t steer you away from Rendezvous.
I didn’t expect much from the brisket (I never do outside of Texas), but it was actually decent. It had good tug and nice flavor. I could’ve used a little more bark and ended up using the spicy sauce on this as well, but I would order it again. Overall, a solid effort.
The one thing that surprised me was the slaw. Rendezvous’ slaw is mustard/vinegar based, and really is quite enjoyable.
Monk: Having not tasted it, it sounds like the slaw at Bill Spoon’s here in Charlotte. I’m curious if there is a Memphis connection there.
Speedy: I thought of Bill Spoon’s as well – it’s very similar.
Overall, if you’re expecting the best barbecue meal of your life at Rendezvous, you might be disappointed. But if you go in with realistic expectations, you’ll find it to be just fine.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Dan the Pig Man is a York, South Carolina-based caterer specializing in outdoor feasts (which just so happens to be the name of his catering company) such as whole hog barbecues, oyster roasts, and shrimp boils utilizing custom-welded grilling and smoking rigs. Check out this video from a recent trip to Tuscaloosa, AL from the Food and Stuff YouTube Channel.
The time we decided to drive to Tuscaloosa, #Alabama to hang out with Dan the Pig Man! We had a lot of fun and can’t wait to hangout again and grill some awesome eats!
Kathleen Purvis is looking forward to Noble Smoke when it opens in a few months
Mac’s Speed Shop opening a store in Wilmington was the #2 food story for the Wilmington Business Journal in 2018
The Improper Pig opened a second store in Fort Mill just after the new year after unexpectedly finding a 100+ year original advertising mural during renovations
Daniel Vaughn’s best Texas barbecue bites from joints outside of the TMBBQ Top 50
Thrillist’s list of best barbecue joints in Kansas City
More Sweet Lew’s coverage, this time from new alt-weekly upstart QC Nerve
Justin Timberlake joins the ranks of Obama, Hillary, and Bill Murray as patrons of Midwood Smokehouse while in Charlotte. His reported order was burnt ends, collards and beans
While there is certainly good barbecue to be found in Charlotte, I wouldn’t quite say that it’s a barbecue city…yet. However, there are pitmasters out there doing great work, and I hope to spotlight that a little more in this series of posts called “Pitmasters of Charlotte.”
Our second profile (thus making it an actual series, woo hoo!) is Lewis Donald, who along with Laura Furman Grice opened up Sweet Lew’s BBQ in early December. Monk previewed them back in September as well as reviewed the restaurant, and is a big big fan.
How long have you lived in Charlotte and how did you get here?
I’ve been here 10 years. I came here to take a job at Charlotte Country Club, after I graduated the apprenticeship program at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.
How did you become a Pitmaster?
I don’t really use that term, not for myself. Those that came before me, those that learned the art through family generations, those that defined what we know as bbq today…they’re the pitmasters.
What is your favorite meat to smoke? What type of wood do you prefer?
I like the staples, skin-on-shoulder, ribs, chicken, and brisket. It takes being able to cook all of them to offer a good bbq experience to family, friends, and customers. I prefer [smoking over] hickory and pecan.
What are your barbecue influences?
Simplicity, scratch cooking, consistency
What is your favorite barbecue joint or style?
I like them all, true bbq spot and styles. But I’m not a big sauce guy.
What is your earliest memory of barbecue?
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, it was a gas grill with burgers and dogs. In 2003 is when I was introduced to bbq.
What is the best thing about Charlotte barbecue?
I think it’s great that it’s served in restaurants.
What is a weakness or opportunity of Charlotte barbecue?
There’s not much of it, so there’s room to grow it!
If you know of a pitmaster who we should feature next, let us know!