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 did). 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.

Linkdown: 3/13/19

Early last Wednesday, a fire destroyed the Atlanta store of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque. Here’s how you can help:

Troutman’s B-B-Q in Denton recently celebrated being open for 50 years and owner Jimmy Troutman hopes to pass it down to his two daughters and one granddaughter who all work at the restaurant now

Fowler’s Southern Gourmet, a food truck in Fayetteville has gone brick and mortar

Chef Tim Grandinetti, a Greensboro chef who appeared on Chopped: BBQ Grill Masters is opening a barbecue restaurant in the town of Advance, Dr. Brownstone’s BBQ, Take Out & Catering

Bill Spoon’s Barbecue is one of WSOC’s best comfort food restaurants in Charlotte

The Texas Monthly guide to SXSW, including of course barbecue

Congrats to Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge on winning the 10 Best voter’s contest for North Carolina

Linkdown: 5/9/18

– So this happened Monday night:

Rodney Scott is the first African-American to win Best Chef: Southeast and second pitmaster to win a JBFA

– Chris Prieto of PRIME Barbecue broke ground in Knightdale Monday for his new barbecue restaurant

– Sure thing, guys:

– This Charlotte Five guide to Best Charlotte diner’s, drive-in’s, and dives includes the  Bar-B-Q King drive-in

– Bar-B-Q King (opened in 1959), Art’s BBQ (1976), and Bill Spoon’s Barbecue (1963) are all on this list of iconic Charlotte restaurants open for over 20 years

– The Smoking Ho has some cool photos from last week’s Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival in Tyler

– Midwood Smokehouse has several lunch options under $10

– For potential Mother’s Day gift needs:

Monk’s 10 Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2017

Trying something new: a year-end list for my favorite barbecue meals of the year. I used to do this for music, film, and tv but in recent years that has fallen off. Perhaps this will stoke the coals of my list-making motivation in other areas, but at the very least its worth documenting the hobby which has taken up so much of my (and my poor wife’s) free time for the past 5.5 years. Come to think of it, the timeline of this blog lines up almost perfectly with my drop off in listmaking…

In any case, hope you enjoy. This will conclude our reviews and original content for 2017, but we will be back in 2018.

Monk

10. Swig & Swine – 4 hogs (review)

The Summerville location of Swig & Swine included a whole hog smoker (whereas their West Ashley location does not have enough space for one), following the popular trend of the past few years. The whole hog was quite good but their brisket and hash and rice wasn’t too bad either, 1990 Old Trolley Rd, Summerville, SC 29485 swigandswinebbq.com

9. Hill’s Lexington Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

Hill’s claims to be the original “Lexington Barbecue” in name (but definitely not first to serve in that style). They may be a notch below the better places in Lexington, but they are certainly not doing the style any disservice. 4005 Patterson Ave, Winston-Salem, NC 27105 

8. Barbee’s Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

This was truly a surprise for me. I kinda-sorta knew of this place and had passed by it many times , but I had no idea it would be (as I referred to it in my review) “the platonic ideal of the NC roadside barbecue shack”. A must visit, if only to step back in time a bit. Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133

7. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

In 2017, I am happy to say that I rediscovered Bill Spoon’s after a few years away. It’s about as close as we have to a barbecue institution in Charlotte (54 years and counting), and though they are an eastern NC joint and I’m a Lexington-style fanboy, I simply believe that I need to go more often. 5524 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217 spoonsbarbecue.com

6. Rodney Scott’s BBQ – 4 hogs (review)

While my expectations of the brand new Rodney Scott’s BBQ were sky high, I must say that the whole hog didn’t quite match the perfection of Scott’s BBQ back in Hemingway. Nevertheless, taking it for what it’s worth, we should all be glad that Rodney Scott has made his pork accessible without having to drive in the middle of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. 1011 King St, Charleston, SC 29403 rodneyscottsbbq.com

5. Bar-B-Q King – 4.5 hogs (review)

Bar-B-Q King is another NC barbecue institution, though I only discovered it in early 2017. They do seem to be a little underrated on the NC barbecue scene despite smoking over wood for the past 46 years. Hopefully this will change. 2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092 barbqkingnc.com

4. B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – 4.5 hogs (review)

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque was just named best restaurant in Atlanta by Eater (note no “barbecue” modifier), and for good reason. Bryan Furman is another one of the torch bearers of whole hog barbecue, but don’t sleep on his brisket or hash and rice. 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 bscracklinbbq.com

3. Jon G’s BBQ – 4.5 hogs (review)

It appears that Jon G’s has taken a well-deserved break due to the birth of Garren and his wife Kelly’s first child, but I can’t wait until they are back out there slinging some legit Texas-style brisket out of their recently-purchased food truck. Marshville, NC facebook.com/JonGsBBQ

2. Lewis Barbecue – 4.5 hogs (review)

Unlike Rudy and Speedy, I hadn’t really had a taste of true Central Texas barbecue since I sadly haven’t made it out there since the start of the blog. That recently changed earlier this year because John Lewis (formerly of La Barbecue) brought central Texas to Charleston and I tasted is sublime brisket. All hail the king, apparently. 464 N Nassau St, Charleston, SC 29403 lewisbarbecue.com

1. Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – 5 hogs (review)

In a year where I did not have a meal at Lexington Barbecue (my ride or die) Red Bridges is going to easily take the #1 spot on this list. Sadly, it had been nearly 4 years since my last visit but rest assured, it won’t be that long before my next. After 70+ years, they’ve still got it. 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28152 bridgesbbq.com

Honorable Mentions: The Smoke Pit – Salisbury, NC (review), DAS BBQ – Atlanta, GA (review)

Bill Spoon’s Barbecue – Charlotte, NC (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Bill Spoon’s Barbecue
Date: 7/14/17
Address: 5524 South Boulevard  Charlotte, NC 28217
Order: Large chopped pork plate with slaw, baked beans, hush puppies, and sweet tea (link to menu)
Price: $13

Monk: As I was compiling the latest Charlotte Big Board update in March, I noticed a disturbing lack of NC-centric barbecue joints on the list. Four of the top 5 are Texas-style joints (Jon G’s Barbecue, Midwood Smokehouse and Smokeshack, and The Smoke Pit), and Boone’s doesn’t adhere to either eastern or Lexington-style tradition. Clearly, it was time to revisit some NC joints around town.

First on my list (once I got around to it a few months later) was Bill Spoon’s Barbecue, a whole hog eastern NC joint that is not all that inconvenient for me but which I tend to overlook. The last time we checked in was in 2015 and Speedy focused on the ribs which were a new menu item at the time. I considered the ribs but between the fact that the two-meat combo is a bit pricey and that Speedy wasn’t blown away by them last time, I steered clear and stuck with the large pork combo.

Looking back at old reviews, I think we underrated the pork at Spoon’s just a little bit. The chopped pork was tangy, flavorful, and moist. As I recalled, it was good on its own but was enhanced nicely by the table vinegar sauce. I gotta say, it was a nice change of pace to only get pork for once instead of getting all of the meats and having tons of leftovers.

The hush puppy basket was late in arriving, coming after our plates had come. But that likely saved me from overeating on the delicious, slightly-sweet cornmeal pups. I have come to appreciate the mustard-based slaw, even if it will never be my favorite style. And the beans were fine.

Me and the Monkettes got some naner pudding to go and if I’m being truthful, it was half the reason why I wanted to revisit Spoon’s. Just ridiculously good.

I left the meal full and satisfied, with a thought in my head. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue has been around for 54 years and will (hopefully) be there for many more, but on a Friday night the dining room hovered between 25-50% occupied. If I have anything to do with it, we need to make Bill Spoon’s more of a thing.

For more reviews, check out:
Marie, Let’s Eat! (2009)
Marie, Let’s Eat! (2016)
Big Wayner’s BBQ (2011)
Our original review in 2012
Speedy’s review in 2015

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Bill Spoon's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Linkdown: 5/10/17

– We are honored to be recently added to the list of patrons of True ‘Cue alongside our buddy Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat

– Grant tries a “catfish” sandwich from Scott’s-Parker’s BBQ, which is not a fish sandwich as you might expect based on the name

– Not a good look, pt 2: An update on the Smithfield’s v Raleigh PD story, which may have been greatly embellished

– Good news from our new-ish Charlotte #1: Jon G’s BBQ is getting a food trailer

– One of the things you may not have known about Cheerwine (but probably did if you grew up in NC): Cheerwine is often the number one or two brands sold at BBQ restaurants

– Three Wilson men were honored by the Chamber of Commerce last week

While the trio don’t date back to Parker Barbecue’s opening in 1946, they have been a part of the iconic restaurant on U.S. 301 for more than a century collectively. Williams joined the staff in 1963 as a waiter before heading into the kitchen to cook ‘cue alongside one of the original owners, Ralph Parker. He stepped into an ownership role in 1987, eventually bringing Lamm and Lippard along for the ride. Lippard started working in the kitchen in his twenties while Lamm started in 1985.

– Speaking of Parker’s, Our State Magazine tweeted out their profile of them back in 2013

– Could barbecue be why Seymour Johnson Air Force Base near Goldsboro came to be? That’s apparently how the story goes, according to writer Julian Pleasants

And, Pleasants writes with a smile, the Seymour Johnson air base came about when “the War Department, in search of delicious eastern North Carolina barbecue,” designated the municipal airport near Goldsboro “as essential to national defense.”

– Some of our favorite pitmasters – Sam Jones, Elliott Moss, John Lewis, among others – will be in Greenville, SC in September for a barbecue brunch as part of Euphoria Greenville

– The new Whole Foods store in south Charlotte is having a barbecue and bluegrass opening on May 20; no word on where the barbecue is from

– The latest location of Midwood Smokehouse opens Thursday, May 18

– Charlotte Agenda includes dishes from Bar-B-Q King, Bill Spoon’s, and Art’s Barbecue & Deli on this list of 50 must-try Charlotte cheap eats under $10

Linkdown: 10/19/16

– 6 years ago, locals saved this BBQ joint. It returned the favor after Hurricane Matthew.

Provenzano credits Southern Soul, along with a number of other local restaurants that stayed open, for helping the recovery effort run smoothly and allowing emergency workers to stay on the island through mealtimes, instead of having to travel to a staging area on the mainland.

– A bbq and slaw egg roll is one of the crazy foods to try at this year’s NC State Fair

– Bill Spoon’s BBQ makes Charlotte Stories’ list of Top 10 Best Comfort Food Restaurants in Charlotte

– Charleston Paper cheekily writes up Arby’s new Smoke Mountain  sandwich: Finally, Charleston has a place for good barbecue

– Tickets for the train to the Barbecue Festival are still on sale:

– Picnic makes the list of Durham stops in this article from Departures

– Also from Departures, the best mail-order barbecue

– Atlanta Magazine: Meet Atlanta’s next great pitmaster  – Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue

– More on Furman

– Grant’s latest stops: Sportsman’s BBQ in Chattanooga and Peg Leg Porker in Nashville, their 400th barbecue writeup

– Congrats to Grant and Marie!

Linkdown: 8/31/16

– The 2nd edition of the Great NC BBQ Map will be available tomorrow

Charlotte Observer has coverage of it and as well as a release event at the Levine Museum of the New South this Saturday

– Is Virginia the true birthplace of barbecue in the US? This man thinks so, and has written a forthcoming book about it

A mild-mannered technology consultant by day, Haynes, 54, is on a mission to save Virginia barbecue from obscurity. In 2016, he succeeded in getting the Virginia General Assembly to designate May through October as Virginia Barbecue Season. He runs a blog called Obsessive Compulsive Barbecue that’s heavy on Virginia tidbits. He’s trying to market three Virginia-style sauces that he developed. And in September, his book, “Virginia Barbecue: A History” (Arcadia Publishing), is due in stores.

– Here’s a guide to Virginia barbecue regions by sauce

– Bill Spoon’s make a USA Today list of “barbecue restaurants worth a pilgrimage”

– Grant’s first impression of Tennessee barbecue joints along US-27: “pretty good, not great”

– Sweet P’s Barbeque and Soul House in Knoxville, on the other hand, was “downright excellent”

– Looks like Rodney Scott is joining the Charleston barbecue party by the end of the year

– Here’s an exclusive interview from Garden & Gun

– And B’s Cracklin’ BBQ of Savannah, GA is opening an Atlanta outpost this fall

– The more you know:

Best of Charlotte Barbecue: Pork

We initially started this blog in order to find the best barbecue restaurant in Charlotte. While we feel pretty comfortable with our current rankings on the big board having visited 40+ restaurants, what more logical next step than to explore the best meats and dishes in the greater Charlotte area? This is the first in our series. Click here to find the other posts.

We naturally start with pork, which in North Carolina is synonymous with the word “barbecue”. Because Charlotte is a city of transplants and “other people’s barbecue”, you don’t find much barbecue that you might expect of the region (that is, Lexington-style) and you actually find far more eastern-style restaurants. In fact, two of the three below serve eastern-style barbecue (with Boone’s serving his own family’s style recipe that doesn’t easily  classify in Lexington or eastern).

  1. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen
  2. Midwood Smokehouse (Original location; Ballantyne location)
  3. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue

Honorable Mention: The Smoke Pit (Concord)

What do you think? Have we missed the mark? Leave your comments below.

Bill Spoon’s Barbecue – Charlotte, NC (RE-REVIEW)

Bill Spoon's Barbecue
Name
: Bill Spoon’s Barbecue
Date: 8/14/15
Location: 5524 South Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28217
Order: Combo plate – Pork and ribs; hush puppies, fried Okra, Collards (link to menu)
Bill: $24, including drink (which was not a Cheerwine, which they do not serve)

Speedy: Recently, on a Friday afternoon, my work team decided to grab some barbecue for lunch. As I hadn’t been since our last review over two years ago, I steered the team towards Bill Spoon’s. Heading in, my memory was to expect good pork, great hushpuppies, and weird slaw.

Monk:…what Speedy means here is that Bill Spoon’s has a mustard-based slaw. But hey, at least it isn’t mayo-based.

Speedy: Not sure how that’s different than what I said… Anyhow, I was expecting a pretty standard meal, but I was thrown a bit of a curveball when we arrived and found out Spoon’s added ribs to the menu.  I thought I owed it to the dear readers to give it a try. Fortunately, there was a combo plate, so I could grab some pork as well. Sides of collards and fried okra rounded out my meal.

Monk: And from the looks of it, a pretty pricey combo plate at that.

Speedy: I don’t want to go into too much detail about the pork (good), hushpuppies (great), or other sides (average), as I really don’t have anything to add to our previous review. So instead, I’ll focus on the ribs. This were big, meaty spare ribs smoked with the membrane on (boo) and served with just a bit of glaze. These ribs were the epitome of “fall off the bone ribs”, which, unfortunately is not a good thing. They were definitely overcooked and I was unable to even take a bite without all of the meat falling off. The flavor was OK, but nothing to write home about.

Monk: Interesting that they added ribs to the menu (or maybe we just missed it the first time around?). I wouldn’t have expected good ribs from a traditional-ish Eastern Carolina joint like this (thinking Allen & Son) so I wonder what the demand was that led to it. They do cook whole hog so maybe they have them leftover anyways.

Speedy: Overall, it was a disappointing experience, especially considering the hefty price tag that accompanied the ribs. Next time, I’ll stick to the pork.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Chopped Pork – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 2 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
Bill Spoon's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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