Friday Find: “The Honey Hog: A Farm & Table Restaurant”

The Honey Hog in Fallston, NC (about 12 miles north of Shelby) released a documentary film about the origins of the restaurant on their Facebook page a few weeks ago. Tyler “Bones” Jones is the farmer and Johnny Ray is the pitmaster, and this short documentary shows how they got their starts individually before their partnership started at The Honey Hog.

The second half of the short film features two of their local suppliers in Guernsey Girl Creamery and Honey Tree Farm. Ashley from Guernsey Girl Creamery in nearby Shelby is a 4th generation dairy farmer who provides the cheese curds for The Honey Hog’s best selling appetizer, fried cheese curds. Casey from Honey Tree Farms in Conover provides them with their greens and vegetables through their organic “market gardening” processes.

“The Honey Hog” is a 27 minute short film available only on Facebook.

Description: When a community chooses to represent their local farmers, we all eat better. A food revolution has started in Western, North Carolina. Where in the middle of no where, folks have chosen to come from everywhere. This is The Honey Hog.

The Bryan Furman “BBQ Takeover” at Sweet Lew’s Brought Together Some of Charlotte’s Best Pitmasters

Monk: Bryan Furman, pitmaster of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque and a 2019 Food & Wine Best New Chef, was back in Charlotte last weekend though it was not to continue scouting Charlotte for locations for expansion as far as I’m aware (unfortunately). It was, however, for a “BBQ Takeover” at Sweet Lew’s BBQ – think a tap takeover at a bar, but for barbecue. That Sunday, DJ Smitty was providing tunes on the patio, Birdsong Brewing was serving beer outside, smoked oysters were a special on the menu, and the line may have been slightly longer than normal but other than that it was more or less business as usual, just with Furman’s very good barbecue instead of Sweet Lew’s also very good barbecue.

The real boon for Charlotte’s burgeoning barbecue community didn’t take place that day but instead the night before, and I was sad to be out of town and unable to experience first hand. There, in the parking lot of Sweet Lew’s, some of Charlotte’s best pitmasters hung out, sampled each other’s barbecue, and assisted Furman in the smoking of several whole hogs. Garren Kirkman from Jon G’s Barbecue brought his brisket and Cheerwine hot links, Michael Wagner and Matthew Berry from Midwood Smokehouse brought their mobile BQ smoker to help smoke hogs, and of course Lewis Donald was there as the gracious host.

I have spoken separately with Midwood Smokehouse’s Wagner and Berry and Garren from Jon G’s about the lack of a cohesive Charlotte barbecue community, and this is certainly a step in the right direction to say the least. FS Food Group (the parent company of Midwood Smokehouse) Brand Director Rémy Thurston has recently mentioned to me that they want to be on the forefront of making Charlotte a true barbecue city, and some things may be in the works to bring these pitmasters (and perhaps more) back together sooner rather than later. All of this makes me hopeful that Charlotte barbecue is on the upswing and I truly believe that the best things are yet to come. World, you are on notice.

Friday Find: BBQ Tourist joins Kevin’s BBQ Joints to discuss his recent Texas trip

Monk: Friend of the blog and co-founder of The Smoke Sheet Ryan Cooper (aka BBQ Tourist) chats with Kevin in this podcast about his recent Texas trip to Austin for Robert Jacob Lerma’s huge barbecue party and then his exploration of the Fort Worth barbecue scene.

Description:
In this special episode I chat with Ryan Cooper(@BBQTourist: https://www.instagram.com/bbqtourist) who by day works for the National Park Service, but by night(and off hours) is co-founder of The Smoke Sheet(https://www.bbqnewsletter.com) and travels the country searching out incredible barbecue. We talk about his recent 10 day trip to Texas (from Nebraska where he lives) where he visited 20 BBQ joints and went to what is possibly the best BBQ party of the year (Robert Jacob Lerma’s Summer BBQ Bash).

The journey begins when he picks up Chris Bengston from Common Descent Provisions (https://www.commondescentprovisions.com) and ends with a through visit to all of the latest BBQ spots opening in Fort Worth and Arlington. For reference, here’s a list of his stops:
1. Boss Hog’s BBQ and Bail Bonds: https://bit.ly/2lfUWMh
2. Brothertons Black Iron BBQ: https://www.facebook.com/PFTXBBQ/
3. Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ: https://www.valentinastexmexbbq.com/
4. Interstellar: https://www.facebook.com/Interstellarbbq
5. The Switch: https://www.theswitchdripping.com
6. Smitty’s Market: http://smittysmarket.com
7. Kreuz Market: https://kreuzmarket.com
8. City Market Luling: http://www.lulingcitymarket.com
9. Brett’s Backyard Bar-B-Que: https://www.brettsbackyardbarbque.com
10. Louie Mueller BBQ: https://www.louiemuellerbarbecue.com
11.Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden: https://www.bangersaustin.com
12. Panther City BBQ: http://www.panthercitybbq.com
13. Flores Barbecue: https://www.facebook.com/FloresBarbecue
14. Smoke-A-Holics BBQ: https://www.smoke-a-holicsbbq.com
15. Derek Allan’s Texas BBQ: https://derekallansbbq.com
16. Hurtado Barbecue: http://hurtadobbq.com
17. Zavala’s Barbecue: http://www.zavalasbarbecue.com
18. Lillian’s Barbecue: https://www.facebook.com/lilliansbbq
19. Dayne’s Craft Barbecue: https://daynescraftbarbecue.com
20. Goldee’s Barbecue: https://www.facebook.com/goldeesbbq/

Linkdown: 9/25/19

Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque at Sweet Lew’s this Sunday!

Corky’s Bar-B-Q was the final sandwich of John Tanner’s Great Memphis Region Barbecue Sandwich Tour

Robert Moss on Boston butts

The Barbecue Festival adds two new sporting events to the weekend’s festivities: the BBQ Hardwood Classic and the Pig Pickin’ Throwdown

How the Northeast did at American Royal

The Athletic takes on Alabama barbecue

Jon G’s Midweek Charlotte Pop-up: THIS IS NOT A DRILL

Revenge BBQ – Irvington, NY

Name: Revenge BBQ
Date: 9/19/19
Address: 48 Main St, Irvington, NY 10533
Order: Lone Star Sampler (1 lb brisket/pork/ribs, mac and cheese, custard corncake), jalapeno cheddar sausage (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: While the Hudson Valley barbecue scene is apparently burgeoning, it’s still a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to quality according to Eater food critic Robert Sietsema. One hidden gem he found a few years back was Revenge BBQ in the town of Irvington, and having the occasion to pass through the Hudson Valley last week, it was the obvious target for me.

Revenge BBQ is a Texas-focused barbecue joint a few blocks from the Hudson River in downtown Irvington that’s been in operation since 2017. They import sausages from Kreuz Market in Lockhart, they smoke dinosaur beef ribs on the weekend, and feature both a “Lonestar Sampler” platter for 1-2 people as well as an even bigger “Texas Trinity Feast.” So yes, Texas is the main concern at Revenge. Co-owner Jacob Styburski (a former senior director of design at PayPal and one half of the husband and wife owner duo along with his wife Catherine) has even done his time in Texas, both at Texas A&M’s Camp Brisket as well as interning under Russell Roegels of Roegel’s Barbecue in Houston.

That work and research shows through in the meats I tried that day, all of which are smoked in an onsite Ole Hickory smoker. The brisket (both lean and fatty) had a proper peppery bark, with both cuts of meat maintaining their moisture. The pork ribs were nice and peppery and adhering to Texas tradition thankfully avoided being sauced.

As I mentioned above, Revenge BBQ imports their sausages from Kreuz and the jalapeno cheddar ring sausage was properly spicy and one of the best I’ve had. Keeping with Texas tradition, the pulled pork was perhaps a bit of an afterthought and thus the least successful of the meats. Not bad, but nothing comparable to NC barbecue (which would be a tall task).

The creamy mac and cheese was good but the real star of the show was the custard corncake, a new and different version of cornmeal from the hush puppies, cornbread, or cornsticks found in NC. I won’t stay that it topped hush puppies for me, but it came pretty close. I loved the sweet and creamy custard texture and will be thinking of that side for a while.

Revenge BBQ (named after their son’s middle name) is located on Main Street on an idyllic town on the Hudson River and is well worth the detour if you are looking for above average Texas barbecue.

For more, check out:
Pig Trip
Westchester Magazine

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

The Five Best Barbecue Joints in Charlotte – September 2019

Monk: It’s been over two-and-a-half years since we’ve updated the Charlotte Big Board and as you might expect, there’s been a lot of changes in that time. Longtime readers may recall that finding the best barbecue restaurant in Charlotte was the mission statement when we first started this blog, so we certainly take this seriously. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (our previous #2) has rebranded as Gibson’s Family BBQ and is a shadow of its former self and fell way out of the top 5. Midwood Smokeshack (previously our #4) closed back in December of 2017 after unfortunately failing to find its footing in Matthews though thankfully pitmaster Michael Wagner is still lending his Texas expertise to the broader Midwood Smokehouse franchise. One thing that has not changed is that Jon G’s BBQ continues to hold down the top spot and always knocks it out of the park every time I am able to try them.

Starting last December, I believe we have entered a new phase in Charlotte barbecue that signals an upswing. That’s when Sweet Lew’s BBQ opened and hit the ground running out of their converted service station in the Belmont neighborhood just outside of uptown. And then of course, Noble Smoke finally opened a little over two months ago off of Freedom Drive and raised the bar even higher with their destination barbecue joint that is the cornerstone of the “Noble Smoke Campus” that will include Bossy Beulah’s Chicken Shack (also from Chef Noble) and the Suffolk Punch Blendery, their second location that will focus on Belgian lambics.

If Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque continues to pursue a Charlotte location (fingers crossed), that would certainly elevate the scene to a whole new level with his traditional whole hog barbecue (something currently missing from Charlotte), brisket, and hash. And who knows, perhaps a restaurant from a currently unknown contender is in the works and can come out of nowhere to challenge for the (queen’s) crown.

There’s no reason why Charlotte can’t mirror the barbecue scenes of Charleston or even Houston, each for different reasons. Charleston got an infusion of outside talent in the past few years in Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Lewis Barbecue, and Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in addition to the expansion of homegrown local chains in Swig & Swine and Home Team BBQ. As Charleston-based food writer/historian Robert Moss has recently noted, the Charleston barbecue scene in the past five years has gone from “minor outpost to acclaimed destination.” Seems like Charlotte is always playing second (or even third fiddle) when it comes to the Charleston food scene and in this case, its no different for barbecue. While that may be too much for fine dining, there’s no reason why Charlotte can’t match or better Charleston in barbecue.

From afar, the Houston barbecue scene is a little more homegrown but has proven that a barbecue scene can sizzle even in an urban setting (the Houston metro area is nearly 3 times larger than Charlotte). But even in that spread-out urban setting, the barbecue community seems tight knight and the competition appears to be mostly friendly (again, this is from afar as I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Houston yet). When I spoke with Matthew Berry and Michael Wagner from Midwood Smokehouse earlier this year, they cited the lack of community in Charlotte’s barbecue scene as an area for opportunity. Perhaps until that improves, Charlotte can’t become a true destination for barbecue.

For #6-43, check out the Charlotte Big Board here.

And now, on to the only Charlotte barbecue list that matters…

Honorable Mentions: The Smoke Pit, Buddy’s Bar-B-Que

5. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue (review)

The one truly old school NC barbecue joint on this list, Bill Spoon’s has been around since 1963 on what was then a country road south of Charlotte. Charlotte has a bad habit of losing what few institutions it has, whether due to neglect or development, but let’s hope that Bill Spoon’s doesn’t fall victim to that trend because they are still making some fine eastern NC barbecue.

4. Midwood Smokehouse (review)

While somehow our last official review was in 2015 (I plan to remedy this in the coming months), Midwood Smokehouse is still a regular stop for the Monk family and seemingly most of Charlotte, as it has expanded to 4 locations in the greater Charlotte area (as well as one down in Columbia, SC). Not to mention that it’s the go-to spot for any celebrities or figures of note that come into town; President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Murray, Justin Timberlake have all been patrons of Midwood in recent years. Regardless, I will continue to give credit to Frank Scibelli for bringing wood-smoked barbecue back to Charlotte in 2012, saving us from the gassers and faux ‘cue that had plagued the city for decades.

3. Sweet Lew’s BBQ (review)

Sweet Lew’s BBQ was recently named to Thrillist’s 33 Top Barbecue Restaurants in the US and Garden & Gun’s Best New Southern Barbecue Joints, and it couldn’t be more deserved for Lewis Donald (the “Lew” in “Sweet Lew’s”) and partner Laura Grice. The menu has been described as “unfussy” and that’s precisely the right adjective for this barbecue shack located in an old service station in the working-class neighborhood of Belmont.

But in addition to the worthy smoked meats and homemade sides (including the only hash and rice I’m aware of in the Piedmont of NC), I’d like to give props to their work in the neighborhood where Donald donates his time and food for block parties and even recently partnered with a local barber shop to give kids free back-to-school haircuts. Now that’s the type of barbecue joint that should be in every neighborhood.

2. Noble Smoke (review)

You may be a bit sick of reading about Noble Smoke on this blog lately, but it has truly given Charlotte a destination barbecue restaurant and raised the bar for the city’s barbecue. Let’s hope others follow suit. Read more from our review here.

1. Jon G’s Barbecue (review)

Jon G’s Barbecue has topped our Charlotte Big Board for 2+ years now, and doesn’t appear to be to be losing the crown anytime soon now that Garren Kirkman (the firekeeper behind Jon G’s) is no longer working full time and is fully in the barbecue game. For that, the greater Charlotte area should be thankful even though it’d be hard to imagine his Central Texas-style brisket getting too much better (in addition to his other meats and scratch made sides). I predict more big things to come from him and his wife Kelly. For any serious Charlotte barbecue fan: SEEK OUT JON G’S BARBECUE.

Friday Find: Longleaf Swine on The NC F&B Podcast

Link to podcast

Monk: Marc Russell and Adam Cunningham are the guys behind Longleaf Swine, the Raleigh food truck that will be opening a brick and mortar store at Transfer Co Food Hall. The NC F&B podcast hosts Max Trujillo and Matthew Weiss get the origin story of how and why Marc and Adam got into barbecue and also get some details on their upcoming food stall, including what the bar will likely look like (think shots and PBR).

Description: Raleigh is up in smoke! Esquites (Mexican street corn) on the side of a classic double patty burger done on a flat top with American cheese and dill pickles all on a potato bun. Hungry yet? I haven’t even talked about BBQ yet. Adam Cunningham and Marc Russel are fusing Eastern North Carolina, Texas and Kansas City BBQ’s all in one. As if melding different BBQ cultures wasn’t enough, these mad-bbq geniuses introduce latin flavors (barbacoa) into their whole hogs, smoked meats and sides. We nerd out on BBQ, why you have to use a flat top to cook burgers, how to use smokers inside. You can listen to this now and go experience it all soon at Longleaf Swine BBQ inside the Transfer CO food hall!

Friday Find: Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ on the Scallionpancake Podcast

Link to Podcast

Monk: Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ joins the Charlotte food podcast Scallionpancake to discuss a lot of similar ground from his appearance on order/fire in terms of how he got to Charlotte and his culinary background before Sweet Lew’s.

The lively discussion continues from there and here is some new information in a typical week for Lewis as well as information on his new-ish Saturday sausage special, which is made of half Neese’s hot sausage, half Creekstone ground beef, spices, and then marinated in Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale. Outside of the restaurant, we also get a sense of Lewis’s favorite places to eat in Charlotte.

Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q – Pembroke, NC

Name: Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q
Date: 8/10/19
Address: 100 E 3rd St, Pembroke, NC 28372
Order: Lunch buffet (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Barbecue buffets are typically found in the eastern part of North Carolina as well as in the midlands of South Carolina but not very many other places in the US other than that. Personally, I am not opposed to the idea of buffets in general like some *cough*Mrs. Monk*cough* and have had some decent experiences. One of which being at the now-closed store of Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ in Lumberton that was shuttered a few years ago due to Hurricane damage. With their Pembroke location on our route to Ocean Isle Beach for the week, a quick stop for lunch was a fairly easy decision.

Before I get to the barbecue, I want to pause briefly on the fried chicken. While not technically a barbecue item, you will tend to find it on the menu at a lot of barbecue joints in North Carolina (both old and new), and its usually not simply an afterthought. That’s certainly the case at Fuller’s, and while the pork is good, the fried chicken is arguably the main attraction. It’s that good.

Onto the barbecue, which is an eastern-style chopped pork smoked over wood. It’s flavorful and smokey, and a little squirt of the vinegar table sauce doesn’t hurt one bit.

The hush puppies are orb-shaped and smaller than your average hush puppy, so you may mistake them for fried okra. They stay pretty fresh under the heating lamps and I went back for seconds. The other sides of coleslaw, mac and cheese, and collards that I chose from the huge buffet were all good but pretty standard fare.

But onto the dessert, where you have a choice of red jello, chocolate-iced 5-layer yellow cake, strawberry shortcake, chocolate pudding, and some bomb-ass banana pudding. I’m far from a ‘naner pudding connoisseur but I know what I like and I quite liked the version at Fuller’s. I definitely went back for seconds.

Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ also has two stores in Fayetteville and are hoping to open another store back in Lumberton (although not at the same location, which was damaged too much). Owner Eric Locklear (as well as his parents Fuller and Delora before they passed) has been operating their barbecue/seafood/soul food buffets for more than 30 years and offer good food for a cheap price (as low as $8.99 for a lunch buffet during the week). It’s certainly worth a stop if you are in Cumberland or Robeson Counties in the southeastern part of the state.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Friday Find: Hugh Acheson Interviews Sam Jones on his podcast

As part of Sam Jones’ publicity tour for his book earlier this year, he stopped by Hugh Acheson Stirs the Pot while in town for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. A lot of familiar ground is covered if you’ve heard other Sam Jones interviews, but Acheson does offer a chef’s perspective as well.

Description: North Carolina chef Sam Jones stops by Empire State South to talk about his new book ‘Whole Hog BBQ’ and how much different writing about barbecue is than cooking it.