Linkdown: 7/17/19

Required reading from John T. in this month’s Garden & Gun

Former Charlotte Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis also weighs in on the best new barbecue joints

From this Charlotte Observer article on Noble Smoke’s opening, I found out the interesting tidbit that Joe Kindred (of Kindred and Hello, Sailor) used to work for Jim Noble

He started getting serious about opening a barbecue restaurant around 2008, but he kept getting delayed. Joe Kindred, a former intern for Noble who has since opened his own restaurants, remembers going all across the state with Noble and stopping at barbecue places along the way.

Daniel Vaughn says the best thing on the menu at Franklin Barbecue is the beef rib

A recap of last weekend’s Tex-Mex BBQ Block Party at Houston’s St. Arnold Brewing

L&L B&M incoming:

Howard Conyers on his recent visit to Jones Bar-B-Que in Marianna, Arkansas, which has been open since 1910

North Carolina barbecue is spreading to Orlando via New York-based restaurant, Brother Jimmy’s

An excerpt from Jim Auchmutey’s book Smoke Lore is up on BarbecueBible.com

Heads up, Denver:

The 11th Annual Bedford Blues & BBQ Festival will take place in Bedford, TX during Labor Day weekend 2019. For more information, please visit their site.

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Pecan Lodge – Dallas, TX (Speedy’s Take)

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Name
: Pecan Lodge
Date: 7/21/18
Address: 2702 Main St, Dallas, TX 75226
Order: The Trough (1 beef rib, 1lb of pork ribs, 1lb brisket, 1/2 lb of pulled pork & 3 sausage links), ½ pound burnt ends, fried okra, collard greens (link to menu)
Price: $120-ish (for 3)

Speedy: On a recent work trip to Dallas, I experienced Divine Intervention. In town for only two days with full calendars both days, I was resigned to having to miss Pecan Lodge once again, and based on Rudy’s review, it’s a joint not to miss. I must have done something right over the past week, because a cancelled meeting left me a block of time between 10 and 2, enough time to head to Deep Ellum to try the ‘cue. I brought two co-workers in tow, which turned out to be a great decision.

Monk: The barbecue gods certainly work in mysterious ways…

Speedy: We arrived right at 11, which is right when Pecan Lodge opens. The line was already out the door, which is when coming with friends comes in handy. We went straight to the bulk order counter (minimum 5 pounds), which had no line (hence the great decision to bring back-ups), and we were on our way.

Our number was called after a short wait, and it was time to dig in. Obviously, we had more food than the three of us could eat, and everything looked and smelled incredible. I have a hard time knowing where to begin with this meal, so let’s just jump right in.

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The brisket was heavenly. Rich, flavorful, moist, peppery, and perfectly cooked. It is easily in the top 4 briskets I’ve ever had, joining La Barbecue, Franklin, and Killen’s, and frankly, nothing else even comes close. The brisket seemed to melt in your mouth.

Personally, my other top meat was the beef rib. It was incredibly tender, had an amazing bark, and pulled, but didn’t fall, right off the bone. Honestly, I’d take these two cuts of beef over even the finest steaks. Beef like this just doesn’t come around often.

The other beef dish we had was the burnt ends, which was a special of the day. My two co-workers rated this as their favorite meat, and I agree it was very good, but I thought it could have been slightly more tender and could have used a little heat on the sauce. This is nit-picking to the extreme, but it was a tier below the brisket and beef rib for me.

The pork was also a pleasant surprise. I have had very hit or miss experiences with pork in Texas, but you could have told me the Pecan Lodge pork was from Tennessee or North Carolina and I would have believed you and demanded to know where from. It was tender and had nice bark, and overall was really great.

Monk: Funny you should mention that. I recalled hearing at one point at there was a connection between Pecan Lodge and NC and lo and behold, Justin and Diane Fourton (the couple behind Pecan Lodge) both used to live in Charlotte and met at Selwyn Pub in 2000. So while they both are originally from Texas, they may have gotten some pork knowledge through osmosis during their time in NC.

Speedy: On Rudy’s trip to Pecan Lodge, he raved about the ribs. This was my least favorite meat by a wide margin. The ribs were still good, but I felt like they could have been a little meatier and the outside got a little charred to me. I’m not sure if it was just a sub-standard batch, but the ribs were forgettable, especially when compared to the rest of the meal.

Rudy: Maybe you got a bad batch or I got an overly great batch. You may have also had the benefit of having several different meat to compare it to, and I only had the brisket. I’m sorry that I missed out on the beef rib.

Speedy: Generally, I don’t pay too much attention to the sides when I have five pounds of barbecue in front of me, but it was a different story here. The fried okra was really, really good. Perfectly seasoned and fried. The collards were also amazing and very unique. While I’m used to having bacon bits or pieces or pulled pork (or at least chicken stock) in the collards, these were very sweet – my guess is brown sugar. The collards are not to be missed.

The next paragraph is going to be a little hard to write. As a North Carolinian, I will go to my grave saying that Lexington barbecue is the best single food item that one can eat and that it was bestowed upon man by God himself. All that said, the top four all around barbecue meals of my life all happened in Texas, and this was in that group. It’s just that good. If you get a chance to visit Pecan Lodge – just do it.

Monk: Who in the? What in the? How in the?

Rudy: I have always said that the ceiling on Texas barbecue is higher but so is the floor.  When it is done well, it is great, but it can also be done poorly. North Carolina barbecue is more consistent. I agree that Pecan Lodge is a must visit and if you have to order from the bulk window to avoid the lines, you will never be disappointed.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Beef rib – 5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Pecan Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Louie Mueller Barbecue – Taylor, TX (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Louie Mueller Barbecue
Date: 4/7/18
Address: 206 W. Second Street, Taylor, TX 76574
Order: Monk: ¼ lb mixed brisket, 2 original sausage links,1 pork rib, potato salad, pinto beans, Big Red; Rudy: 1 beef rib, ½ lb brisket, 1 sausages, 2 slices of turkey, potato salad, 2 waters
Price: Monk: $33.15 (for two); Rudy: $70.32 (for two)

Monk: Since the last time I visited Austin (in 2012, about a month before we started this blog), Speedy has made at least two trips there to visit Rudy and rubbed it in my face each time. Well now, it was my turn…suck it, Speedy!

Rudy: Speedy and I had explored some Lockhart and also some of the better places within Austin, so I decided to take you north and to the Granddaddy of Central Texas Barbecue. Louie Mueller is always ranked as one of the best places in the state (#5 in the latest Texas Monthly Top 50) and has been the inspiration for all of the other best barbecue places throughout the state. It’s one of my favorites, so I figured it was a no-brainer destination.  It is 45 minutes outside of Austin, but when you consider there usually is not much of a line, the time to drive there and back is still shorter than the wait at some of the elite places within Austin.

Monk: Louie Mueller is just the type of joint you don’t often see in North Carolina. The open kitchen smoker has built up a layer of soot on the walls over the past 59 or so years at the current location, which is housed in an old gymnasium. The walls are lined with neon beer lights even though they don’t serve alcohol (but don’t frown if you bring in a cooler of beer). And the air is filled with the smell of smoked wood.

In a way, the one NC joint that it does remind me of is Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville which is much younger (by about 55 years) but itself is in an old skating rink with the smoker sitting in the open kitchen with little separation from the dining room.

Rudy: Louie Mueller’s is best known for their beef ribs. While I usually shy away from these because of the cost and the amount of meat, I couldn’t resist. And I’m super glad that I couldn’t because it was the best thing that I had that day. My rib was an end rib, so 3 of 4 sides was covered in pepper and had a great crust. There was a good amount of fat on the rib (not too much) that was perfectly rendered and provided the rich moistness to compliment the crunch of the outside crust.

Monk: I had a taste of Rudy’s rib and while I am definitely a newbie when it comes to beef ribs, it was darn good.

To say I was expecting great things from Louie Mueller’s brisket would be an understatement. I got a mixture of moist and lean so I could try each out and while the peppery bark was exactly as I was hoping the brisket was a little…dry? Could this really be? Rudy and I watched the guy pull out a new brisket and slice it in front of us. This was definitely not expected.

Rudy: I agree, the brisket was at best, average. I ordered the fatty cut and it was as dry as you might expect a piece of lean. I have eaten here two other times and each time been blown away by the brisket, so to say I was underwhelmed and a bit disappointed is also an understatement. I am hoping that this was an anomaly and not a sign that they’ve lost their fast ball. I also got the jalapeno sausage (which has also been a staple of my orders here) and it was just as good as it has been in the past. Great snap to the case and great flavor without too much heat. So maybe the brisket today was just off.

Monk: I agree that the sausage was a highlight and had just the right amount of heat. I also got a single pork rib since Mrs. Monk is not a rib gal – technically I ordered a ¼ lb but that’s just the one rib. It had good flavor but to be honest was a little overdone. The meat slipped right off the bone after the first bite.

Now, I feel like I should address my choice of drink (besides the Shiner we brought in). Rudy is on record multiple times in stating that he is no fan of Big Red, which he considers to be a poor substitute for the Cheerwine we grew up on in the Piedmont of NC. Having my first taste of Big Red here at Louie Mueller, I have to say that I…completely agree. It’s way too sweet and I finished it only out of obligation. Give me Cheerwine any day of the week over Big Red.

Rudy: Give me anything other than Big Red any day of the week! I was hoping that the Big Red was going to be the only disappointing thing of this trip. Unfortunately the brisket did not live up to the hype or the drive. It’s still one of my favorite places because of the atmosphere and history, but I’m not sure I’ll be going out of my way too often, or at least will temper expectations in the future.

Monk: Listen, I’m definitely not mad that Rudy drove us to Louie Mueller Barbecue 45 minutes away in Taylor. It’s a classic Texas joint that I’m glad to have crossed off my list. I may have caught them on an off day but no doubts that they are legit. If I ever make it back, I’m sure they will prove that to be true.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Beef Rib – 4.5 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Louie Mueller Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Killen’s Barbecue – Pearland, TX

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Name
: Killen’s Barbecue
Date: 1/20/18
Address: 3613 E. Broadway, Pearland, TX
Order: ½ pound brisket, ½ pound burnt ends (special), 2 sausage links, 1 beef rib, mac & cheese, fried mac & cheese, onion rings, baked beans, green beans (link to menu)
Price: $90

Speedy: I was down in Houston to visit some friends lately, so of course I convinced everyone to pop over to Killen’s, which is known as one of the top joints in Houston. Killen’s is a bit outside of Houston proper, and we went on a rainy day. All this meant we were left with a short line (though it quickly grew as the weather started to clear). Walking up, I could smell the wood coals burning and got a whiff of some beef on the smoker, so I immediately knew I was somewhere serious.

Monk: Seems like you stumbled onto the perfect time to check out Killen’s, seeing as how I’ve been reading about the long lines there for years. Brilliant, Speedy. Brilliant.

Rudy: Killen’s has been on my must-eat list for a while.  I’ve heard great things about since it opened. Houston is not known for having high quality barbecue like some of the other areas of the state, so I know this place has been getting swamped with people. Since I almost never get down to Houston, I haven’t been able to eat there.

Speedy: Killen’s is cafeteria style, where you first order meat, cut right in front of you, and then sides. One of the guys I was with had been there before and advised to skip the pulled pork, so we went all beef, with the exception of the sausage, which is a pork and beef mix. At Killen’s, you can order plates, or by the weight, and we opted for the latter. They only needed two clarifications with our order – fatty or lean brisket (fatty, duh), and jalapeno sausage or regular (regular). After about 20 minutes in line, we were ready to eat.

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Like at any Texas joint, I started with the brisket. I had high expectations based on my prior Texas trip (when I visited Franklin’s and La Barbecue), and let me tell you, this lived up to expectations. The brisket was peppery, moist, and as good as I could have imagined. I think it was 99% as good as Franklin’s and La Barbecue, and tasted very similar. I did not use any sauce, as none was needed. Overall, nearly flawless execution.

Monk: Wow, 99% as good as Franklin’s and La Barbecue? That’s high praise!

Rudy: Yeah, that is huge praise! Add to that the 20 minute wait and that’s even better.

Speedy: The sausage was also great. Made in house, the casing had good snap and a nice spiciness to it. It did start to fall apart a bit, but overall, it was great and is not to be missed.

The burnt ends were a daily special – made with wagyu beef and covered in sauce, they were tender and perfectly chunked. Overall, there was a little more sauce than I liked, but it was tangy and good.

The beef rib was the only thing that I thought could have been better. The rib was crazy tender and easy to cut with a plastic knife, but the bark was not as good as I had hoped and did not touch the brisket. Our beef rib was 1.4 pounds, so nearly $30 – I would have much preferred another pound of brisket.

The sides were good, but like any good barbecue joint, they were a compliment and did not stand out in any way.

I also really liked the atmosphere at Killen’s, as there was a large area of outside seating and lots of seating inside. It’s the definition of a Texas joint, and though it’s only been open since 2013, it’s damn good and not to be missed if you’re in the Houston area. I, for one, can’t wait to go back.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Beef Rib – 3.5 hogs
Sausage – 4.5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Killen's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday Find: Eater visits Pecan Lodge

I’ve still yet to go to Pecan Lodge (Rudy liked it a lot) but when I do go I plan to bring some friends and get The Trough.

Ask a Texan what their favorite smokehouse is and the answers will span the state. Ask someone from Dallas, and chances are you’ll hear the name Pecan Lodge thrown around. With the help and desire of their following, Pecan Lodge owners Justin and Diane Fourton turned their brisket out of a truck business into a brick and mortar restaurant that’s hard to miss thanks to a constant line out the door.

Linkdown: 10/18/17

– The Barbecue Festival is next weekend and here are the deets

 

– The updated Thrillist list of best barbecue in America contains 4 joints from NC, including a newer joint that only opened in the past couple of years

– The Eastern Carolina BBQ Throwdown threw down in Rocky Mount last weekend

– The Tour De Pig, a precursor event to the Barbecue Festival in Lexington later this month, was also this past weekend

– Next time you are in Houston:

– Missed this a few weeks back, but a fire at Swig & Swine West Ashley in Charleston caused it to close for a few weeks; as of this post it was scheduled to open by now but no word on whether it has yet

– Archibald’s in Northport, AL recently had a fire as well but is fine

– Heading to the NC State Fair this month? For the first time you can try beer and wine, including Birdsong

Linkdown: 10/11/17

More on fair food at the NC State Fair (which starts tomorrow) and whoops:

Only one of the dishes I tried was outright bad, and that was the barbecue-and-coleslaw waffle sandwich. It was somehow extraordinarily greasy, even by fair food standards, and the barbecue mostly just tasted like smoke.

– The Polar Pig Cook-Off, formerly held in Mount Pleasant (NC), will be held at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center on November 10 and 11; the event will feature vendor tents, a Kids Zone, a beer garden, live music, and the barbecue competition (including a people’s choice award)

– People Food and Zagat have named Skylight Inn the most popular restaurant in NC

– Filing away for future potential use:

– Daniel Vaughn of TMBBQ explores west Tennessee whole hog and discovers Ramey’s Whole Hog Bar-B-Q in Parsons, about 90 minutes outside of Nashville

– 45 years ago Monday:

Linkdown: 3/29/17

– Skylight Inn and Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que make the list

– Marie, Let’s Eat! goes deep on the old Coleman’s BBQ chain, which used to have 176 stores across the southeast but is now down to just 2 in Mississippi

– From Robert Moss, a history of how the beef rib became an Instagram star

– The Charlotte Pitmasters, at least for July 15

– Cheerwine’s Centennial Celebration in Salisbury on May 20 will have a “People’s Choice BBQ Competition”

– Speaking of which, here’s the story of how Cheerwine came to be 100 years ago from Our State Magazine as well as Eater

The Best Barbecue We Ate in 2016

Whole hog pulled pork plate

Whole hog pulled pork plate from Buxton Hall Barbecue

Q: What was the best barbecue (new or old) that you ate in 2016?

Monk: 

  • Whole hog barbecue from Buxton Hall Barbecue, Asheville – It’s simply a revelation that you can find true eastern NC/Pee Dee whole hog in the mountains of NC. I can’t wait to get back to Buxton Hall.
  • Lamb belly from Hometown Bar-B-Que, New York – I didn’t quite know what to expect with lamb belly. It was pulled similar to their pork but had completely different flavor profile. I don’t know where else I might be able to try it again that’s a little closer to home but I want to in 2017.
  • Hash and rice from True BBQ, West Columbia, SC – Grant of Marie Let’s Eat! said it best about the hash and rice from this West Columbia joint which opened in 2011: “It’s two-hundred mile hash.”

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Speedy:

  • Brisket from B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque, Atlanta – From review: “The seasoning was amazing, and the meat was tender and juicy. Overall, this was in the upper echelon of briskets that I’ve tasted.”
  • Beef rib from Hometown Bar-B-Qu, New York (above) – From review: “It was seasoned well, providing some bark on the outside, and was cooked to perfection – tender but not overly so.”
  • Chopped pork from Lexington Barbecue – Every year.

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Rudy:

  • Brisket and sausage sandwich from Black’s Barbecue, Austin (above) –   From review: “And it was amazing, because the fat from the brisket was soaked up by the bun, giving it a rich moist taste. The spice from the jalapenos also gave the sandwich some great flavor.  The brisket was the same great brisket you are accustomed to getting from Black’s, as was the sausage. “

What was the best barbecue you ate in 2016?