Photo Gallery: Quick stop in Lexington, NC

Monk: Mrs. Monk was bringing a good friend of ours a quart of Lexington Barbecue on the way from Charlotte to High Point. However, we arrived in town 15 minutes before it opened, so to kill time I had her stop by Barbecue Center first. Speedy and I had previously checked out (and dug) Barbecue Center almost 4 years ago but I hadn’t had the opportunity to go back since.

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This is the first of three different signs that The Barbecue Center (or Bar-B-Q Center) has on its property.

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This is sign #2 with the classic Coca-Cola signage. Note the different spelling of “barbecue”.

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And finally, the iconic sign off Main Street that is the most well known of the 3. Perhaps one day I’ll devote a post to barbecue signage in and around Lexington.

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The Barbecue Center is True ‘Cue certified and has the sticker to prove it. I was surprised to see that they also accepted both Apple Pay and Android Pay.

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Sonny Conrad was a barbecue icon who owned the Barbecue Center and was one of the creators of the Barbecue Festival. Every year, he would present the first barbecue sandwich of the festival to the mayor of Lexington. Here are some festival posters throughout the years.

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Sonny Conrad passed away in 2013 and a plaque in his memory is near the register. It is now run by his sons and his entire family works there.

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I got a chopped barbecue sandwich for breakfast and it was fantastic and just as good as I remembered. As you can see, the meat-to-bun ratio is very favorable towards the meat.

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Then, it was onto Lexington Barbecue to pick up that quart of barbecue and side of red slaw we had promised our friends.

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The smokestacks were going full throttle at 10am on a Saturday morning, which is always a good sign.

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I stepped away from the parking lot because I had never taken a photo of the street sign on the way to Lexington Barbecue and snapped this photo on the way out.

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Finally, here’s my photo of Smokehouse Lane. Then, it was onto High Point.

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Until next time, Lexington!

Linkdown: 4/19/17

READ THIS NOW: This doozy of an article in this week’s New Yorker from James Beard-nominated writer Lauren Collins explores America’s most political food; it was based on a Charlotte Observer article from the awesome Kathleen Purvis on Maurice’s Piggy Park from last December

In 1964, Maurice Bessinger was the president of the National Association for the Preservation of White People. On August 12th of that year, Anne Newman and a friend drove to the West Columbia Piggie Park. They stopped outside the lot for curbside service. A waitress emerged and, seeing that they were black, returned to the building without speaking to them. Then a man with a pad approached the car but refused to take their order, even though white customers were being served. In Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., the district court asserted that “the fact that Piggie Park at all six of its eating places denies full and equal service to Negroes because of their race is uncontested and completely established by evidence,” but it concluded that the restaurants, because they were principally drive-ins, weren’t subject to the public-accommodation provision of the Civil Rights Act. When a higher court reversed the ruling, Bessinger appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming that being forced to serve black people violated his religious principles. He lost, in a unanimous decision.

– The Atlanta Journal Constitution reviews Texas-style Das BBQ; our review to come in a couple of weeks

– A sneak peek at the Juan Luis menu from John Lewis; the Tex-Mex spinoff will open in downtown Charleston later this spring

– A McRib-style sandwich made with actual smoked rib meat

– Grant tries some decent chopped beef at Hwy 58 BBQ in Ooltewah, TN

– Eater: 17 Essential Dallas-Fort Worth Barbecue Destinations

– Chef Vivian Howard’s favorite barbecue restaurants include B’s Barbecue and Skylight Inn

– Confirmation that Chef Jim Noble’s barbecue restaurant has gone mobile

– Fuller’s Old Fashioned Barbecue has reopened in Fayetteville after the original Lumberton location closed due to damage from Hurricane Matthew

– EDIA Maps is selling a NC BBQ and Beer Map combo pack

 

Photo Gallery: A Free Range Pig Pickin’ with Sam Jones

For the second year running, Free Range Brewing and Order/Fire combined powers to host a premiere screening of an episode of the web series with a pig pickin’ to follow. While last year’s episode featured four NC breweries (Burial Beer Co., Fonta Flora Brewery, Fullsteam Brewery, and Free Range Brewing), this year’s episode was on Sam Jones and Skylight Inn. Sam joined the festivities and smoked a 230 pound hog the night before for the pig pickin’. The whole shindig and its $10 suggested donation for the barbecue benefited the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, so there was an abundance of reasons to make it out to Free Range on a Sunday afternoon.

The 40 or so minute episode of Order/Fire was primarily a discussion between Sam and host Mark Jacksina that took place at Skylight Inn with topics ranging from the history of Sam’s family and barbecue to his first experiences gaining exposure outside of Ayden and his involvement with the Fatback Collective. It was a casual conversation between the two, with Sam peppering in his usual mix of one-liners and idioms. The packed house enjoyed the screening and you can view it here once it is made available online.

Now the first time I tasted Sam Jones’s barbecue, it was at when he smoked a whole hog at Midwood Smokehouse’s Southern ‘Cue Supper in 2013 and the whole hog literally (actually figuratively) blew my mind. I had not yet tasted cracklin’ skin mixed in with whole hog barbecue and absolutely loved that texture. The whole thing was a “revelatory experience” I hadn’t been able to try in the 3.5 years since. That is, until this day, and it definitely did not disappoint in the slightest. I’m still thinking about that pork as I type this, as a matter of fact.

Afterwards, I made a resolution: I will visit Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ in 2017. Mark it down.

 

Central BBQ – Memphis, TN

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Name
: Central BBQ
Date: 3/30/17
Address: 2249 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38104
Order: Rib combo (half wet/half dry) with brisket, pork, collards, fries (link to menu)
Price: $25

Speedy: I’m writing this blog post from a Starbucks in Memphis. I had to fly in town for a client meeting, so naturally, I had to fly in early in order to sample some Memphis ‘cue for lunch. The client site wasn’t too far from Central BBQ, so I decided I would just knock out the big dog first thing and head that way for lunch.

Monk: I like the dedication. In fact, I’m thinking about naming you our new senior Tennessee correspondent.

Speedy: Thanks, Monk. It’s a position I’ll take seriously. So much so that I think a move to Nashville is in order. But more on that another time.

Walking in, Central BBQ is everything you could ever want from a ‘cue joint. You order at the counter and take a number, then go sit either inside or at their ample outdoor seating. I wasn’t overly hungry, but since I don’t travel to Memphis often, I had to go ahead and order the ribs, pork and brisket. When asked wet or dry ribs, I was also offered the choice of half and half. I went with it, despite the fact that this was before my client meeting and I was wearing a suit. That’s true commitment to you, dear reader.

Monk: Again, digging the dedication. Longtime readers know that I don’t necessarily always try all of the meats when I review a joint, only the most well-known (tiny tummy syndrome). And then to risk a suit on top of it? Well done, Speedy. Well done.

Speedy: The food was delivered shortly and I was ready to dig in.

I’ll start with the brisket, because that was the only disappointment. It was dry and lacked flavor, so just don’t order it, k?

Monk: I guess there’s a reason why Memphis isn’t known for their brisket.

Speedy: The pork was considerably better. It came unsauced, but was cooked well and perfectly tender. There was a bit of bark in it, but I wish it came with some dip on it. I did add some vinegar sauce, which was good, though I could’ve used a bit more tang. I guess that’s the Carolina boy in me. Overall, a solid offering.

The ribs, though, my god. I’ve never had ribs so good. The ribs were big and meaty, heavily rubbed, and cooked to perfection. I got an absolutely perfect bite every time, and loved the rub. You hear people talk about sweet heat with barbecue rubs all the time, but this is the first one I’ve had that really pulled it off. The sauce was also really good and balanced with the rib perfectly. If I had to choose, I’d say I preferred the dry ribs, but it’s really personal preference. I can say without hesitation that these were the best ribs I ever had, and the only thing I finished on my massive plate of food. These are ribs that I’m going to dream about.

Monk: This might be the first time we’ve reviewed truly great pork ribs for the blog and I gotta say, they sound amazing.

Speedy: I had a little bit of a tough time rating this overall, as I had one good meat, one amazing meat, and one bad meat. It kind of reminds me of Allen & Son in Chapel Hill, which had some of the best pork I’ve ever had but bad ribs. Overall, I think it’s best to (mostly) ignore what a joint does poorly if it has a bread and butter (or rather, a rib and sauce?) to make up for it. And that’s the case here.

So the moral of the story is – if you make it to Memphis, go to Central BBQ and order the ribs. You won’t regret it.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 1.5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs
Central BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Central BBQ

Rocky Top BBQ Co (food truck) – Charlotte, NC

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Name
: Rocky Top BBQ Company
Date: 3/24/17
Order: Pulled pork and brisket plate with bacon jalapeno mac n cheese and rocky top slaw
Price: $11

MonkSince the last time I tried Rocky Top BBQ Co at the 2014 Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship they’ve started a food truck and have been making the rounds at the usual food truck rallies around Charlotte. The Monk clan and I checked out the new family-friendly Cotswold Food Truck Rally on a recent Friday night which afforded a good opportunity to check out the truck to see how it compared to the sandwich I had in a festival environment last time around.

Rocky Top graciously allowed me to get a plate of both brisket and pork, which wasn’t on the menu. The pulled pork was moist and somewhat smokey but nothing spectacular. Rocky Top BBQ Company has their own line of sauce that is sweet and vinegar-based, and it works pretty well with the pork.

As for the brisket, it was rather disappointing. In my two slices, the fat was not rendered all the way and outside of the first bite the rest were tough and unpleasant.

The lady taking my order said they were “kind of known for” their bacon jalapeno mac n cheese, and to her credit it was the best part of the meal. The mayo-based slaw was just fine but nothing more than that.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with Rocky Top BBQ Company on this night.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – N/A
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs

Barbecue Bros Book Club: The One True Barbecue by Rien Fertel

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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.

IMG_8196A collection of profiles on whole hog pitmasters throughout the southeast, “The One True Barbecue” by Rien Fertel is an enjoyable if not somewhat controversial read. In particular, Fertel ruffled feathers with his chapters on Wilber Shirley and Ed Mitchell. He portrayed the former’s restaurant as a joint with a racial division of labor between the front of the house and the back and the latter as a marketing gimmick in overalls that cooks hogs in a non-traditional manner (hot and fast rather than the traditional low and slow). However fair Fertel’s representation may or may not be (and he is but one man with his opinion), the fact that he spoke with neither for the purposes of this book only added more embers to the burn barrel.

Fertel ties the profiles together through narrative, following his path from New Orleans to the Carolinas and back, with even a stop in Bushwick to visit Arrogant Swine. Each chapter not only explores the pitmaster(s) themselves but in some cases the history of an entire town with Ayden, NC and its two joints Skylight Inn and Bum’s. He particularly favors Scott’s-Parker’s Barbecue in Lexington, TN, visiting with pitmaster Ricky Parker in the first chapter and then his sons after his death in the last chapter. In between, Fertel visits 12 other whole hog joints in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and the aforementioned Arrogant Swine in NY.

I enjoyed Fertel’s writing and found this to be a quick read that I devoured over just a few sittings. Fertel cut his teeth writing oral histories for The Southern Foodways Alliance, and his experience writing on southern food showed. A small complaint would be that the only color photographs are confined to a section at the center of the book – I would have loved to see them throughout as opposed to the smaller black and white ones within the chapters. In any case, I can’t recommend “The One True Barbecue” enough.

Monk

Linkdown: 3/22/17

– Will Bigham and Christopher Soto of The Improper Pig in Charlotte are doing great work feeding 400 homeless while The Salvation Army’s kitchen undergoes renovations

– Congrats to Luella’s  Bar-B-Que in Asheville for 10 years of being open

Luella’s has teamed with Asheville’s Hi-Wire Brewing Co. to create Pig on a Wire Anniversary Ale, an amber honey-wheat ale that goes well with barbecue.

– Elliott Moss is one of Zagat’s 9 southern chefs to watch this year

– Speaking of Buxton Hall, they make the list of Garden & Gun’s fried chicken bucket list for NC

– TMBBQ on Barbecue (the film)

– John Lewis joined CBS This Morning and brought some recipes for his upcoming Tex-Mex restaurant in Charleston, Juan Luis

– Great sign at Chubby’s Bar-B-Q in Chattanooga. The barbecue? According to Marie, Let’s Eat!: ehhhhh

– A short video on Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro from The Southern Weekend

– If you don’t know, now you know:

Barbecue Bros Book Club: Buxton Hall BBQ Book of Smoke by Elliott Moss

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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.

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“Buxton Hall BBQ Book of Smoke” is a book of recipes from Chef Elliott Moss, the head chef and pitmaster of, you guessed it, Buxton Hall Barbecue. It also functions as a coffee table book of sorts with its beautiful color photography. Finally, it also contains narrative from Moss; among other things, he explains the history of how Buxton Hall came to be, his own family history of barbecue, inspiration for the restaurant, and his philosophy when it comes to barbecue and food.

In terms of the recipes, Moss divides the book between pit smoking techniques and meats, favorite foods found at Buxton Hall, sides, and desserts. While this section of the book is heavy on the recipes themselves, Moss still gives a couple paragraphs introduction on each dish so his voice continues throughout the book past those initial pages.

This was a quick read but I enjoyed reading Elliott Moss’s writing on barbecue (his passion is quite evident) and particularly the food porn-y full color photography (something I wish more barbecue books would have). “Buxton Hall BBQ Book of Smoke” will sit on my shelf as a beautifully laid out reference book that I will go back to try some of the recipes and techniques in the future (hello, cinder block pit and burn barrel).

Monk

Friday Find: Rien Fertel on his “feud” with Ed Mitchell

I recently finished the excellent “The One True Barbecue” by Rien Fertel, where he travels the Carolinas and Tennessee and profiles the men, families, and towns behind whole hog barbecue. Part of the chapter “Will Success Spoil Rodney Scott?” covers Ed Mitchell and his previous two restaurants in Wilson and in Durham, though not in a very flattering light. Some of the controversy comes from the fact that Fertel didn’t actually interview Mitchell for the book and instead relied on his 2012 interview of the man plus additional research. Per the News & Observer:

He presents a rocky picture, and Mitchell comes across as an image-crafting marketing pro and a barbecue rogue who cooks his hogs hot and fast. Fertel compares the way Mitchell presents himself, with his bushy white beard and well-worn overalls, as the sort of hyper-Southern gimmick one would find in a Cracker Barrel dining room.

Here’s some footage taken by the excellent Gene Galin (who also does some great work for the Chatham Journal photographing NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, and Duke football) at a book reading at Flyleaf Book Store in Chapel Hill last year where he defends his portrayal of Mitchell and hopes he can speak with him at the then-upcoming Big Apple Barbecue last summer. No word if anything ever came of it.