Gibson’s Family BBQ – Charlotte, NC

Name: Gibson’s Family BBQ
Date: 3/29/19
Order: Pulled pork sandwich and brisket (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: Last fall, I received word that Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen, who at one point was our favorite barbecue in Charlotte, had closed (at least according to their page on Yelp). I reached out via Facebook (though their page had not been updated since the summer) but never received any word. As reader “John” pointed out in the comments a few weeks back, Boone’s had rebranded as Gibson’s Family BBQ, presumably with Dan “Boone” Gibson still involved.

In the years since we had initially named Boone’s our Charlotte #1 back in 2014, a lot has changed in the world of Charlotte barbecue. Having been a few years since I had tried them, how would Boone’s/Gibson’s stack up? They’ve been making the rounds at the local breweries lately, so this past Friday I got a chance to try them at Pilot Brewing, a small brewery that recently opened in Plaza Midwood.

Things appear to be status quo between Gibson’s as it was with Boone’s. The menu has the same items, all of the sauces have the same packaging, and the food truck even still has the branding of Boone’s. At this stop, however, Boone himself wasn’t there, though that may or may not be significant if he was back at their commissary kitchen in Southend. Everything felt very familiar up to this point.

That mostly includes the food itself. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and brisket with no sides. I imagine Boone is still smoking on a Southern Pride gasser, which he was always able to coax some good smokey cue out of. On this day, I could taste the smoke but the pulled pork itself was quite dry as if it had possibly been reheated. Eaten on the humongous brioche roll, it was a big mouthful of dryness even after adding the slaw and their eastern vinegar sauce. I’ll chalk it up to an off day unless that’s the case next time.

On the other hand, the brisket slices definitely could not be accused of being dry. Upon opening the box, I was reminded how Boone’s brisket bears very little resemblance to just about all brisket out there. The brisket slices are finished on a grill and then doused in their sweeter PoPo’s sauce. It’s not a bad bite of barbecue, but just don’t expect anything in the Central Texas tradition as this preparation is unique to Boone.

I had removed Boone’s from the Charlotte Big Board a few months back when I believed they had closed. Of course I’ll be adding it back now that I’ve tried Gibson’s, but it won’t be anywhere near the top of the leader board. Charlotte barbecue, and perhaps more specifically my tastes, has evolved in the past 6 years and as a result, Gibson’s Family BBQ no longer stands out like Boone’s once did.

Ratings:
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 Hogs

Ten Underrated Barbecue Joints in North Carolina

(A version of this article was published last year on Tabelog here)

Everybody knows that North Carolina is one of the greatest states in the country to travel around eating barbecue, and there are some amazing, legendary restaurants around which have been open for decades and garnered a whole lot of press and attention, but they’re not the only ones. There are more than four hundred barbecue restaurants in the Tarheel State. Many of them are outstanding even if they fly under the media’s radar. Here are ten that should not be overlooked.

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Backyard BBQ Pit – Durham (link to review)
The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, or Triangle, is the DMZ between the two styles of Carolina barbecue. In that zone, you don’t find an easy boundary between eastern and western (or Lexington-style). Such is the case with Backyard BBQ Pit, whose approach is similar to the great Allen & Son in Chapel Hill in that they smoke pork shoulders (the Lexington-style cut) served with an eastern style sauce with red pepper flakes to give it a little kick. Having been previously featured on Travel Channel’s “Man vs Food” you would think that Backyard BBQ would be mentioned more in the conversation of best barbecue in the Triangle. For some reason its not, but it definitely should be.

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The Barbecue Center – Lexington (link to review)
The Barbecue Center is just two miles from Lexington #1 and doesn’t get nearly as much publicity despite the fact that its recently passed owner Sonny Conrad was the major force behind The Barbecue Festival, which draws crowds of 100,000 to the city on one Saturday each October. As for the food itself, it is a classic Lexington-style joint though its dip (table sauce) can be a little sweeter than I prefer. Having grown up on Lexington #1 I certainly have my bias, but many out-of-towners without such bias (as well as plenty of locals) have stated that The Barbecue Center is the best in town. Depending on the day, they might just have a rightful claim.

Pork, brisket, ribs, wings, brunswick stewBoone’s Bar-B-Q Kitchen – Charlotte (link to review)
Dan “Boone” Gibson has his own family traditions when it comes to barbecue that don’t strictly follow the eastern/Lexington taxonomy, but you’d be silly to dismiss his barbecue right off based on that. Having had a hand in starting two Charlotte-area barbecue chains, Boone tired of that life and struck out on his own in a food truck to serve his smoked wares (pork, brisket, sausage, and ribs) directly to the people. Look for him at various food truck festivals around the Charlotte area, and you won’t be disappointed.

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Fuller’s Old Fashion BBQ – Lumberton (link to review)
Heading towards the NC coast can be hit or miss when it comes to barbecue restaurants, but this buffet-style barbecue joint off I-95 is a nice find. While the buffet has salad and seafood as well as fried chicken, the wood smoked barbecue is the main feature and rightly so. Just don’t be surprised if you get there right as it opens and find a line of folks chomping at the bit to get in.

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Johnson Family BBQ – Durham (link to review)
When you are greeted by a sign that states “It’s All About the Wood” and a simple smoker covered by an aluminum shed at a barbecue joint, you know that’s a good start. And oh, did I mention the joint is connected to a gas station off a country highway between Raleigh and Durham? Thankfully, the barbecue follows through with well-smoked eastern style barbecue with a higher ratio of light meat to dark served in a modest dining room covered with red gingham table cloths.

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Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte (link to review)
Charlotte has been oft overlooked as a barbecue town (and usually for good reason), but Midwood Smokehouse is helping to change that perception with its focus on wood smoked meats from a variety of barbecue cuisines. While it does have an eastern carolina style pork as well as the Lexington style red slaw, Midwood draws from Central Texas in its brisket and sausages, from St. Louis in its ribs, as well as from Kansas City in its burnt ends. Throw in a full bar and you might be tempted to refer to it as “yuppie-que” but whatever you call it just know that the are serving some of the finest smoked meats in the region (the brisket is arguably the best in NC).

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Porkey’s Bar-B-Que – Mount Airy (link to review)
Similar to the coastal plans of NC, once you head west of the Piedmont of NC towards the mountains the barbecue becomes very hit or miss. Which is why stumbling across a Lexington-style joint like Porkey’s in Mount Airy was a nice surprise. It may not quite measure up to the best in Lexington, but if you are exploring the nearby wineries in the Yadkin Valley you can do a lot worse than the chopped pork at this wood smoking joint.

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Richard’s BBQ – Salisbury (link to review)
When it comes to barbecue, Salisbury is very much the little brother to Lexington. According to some, “Lexington style” barbecue – that is, chopped pork shoulders with a vinegar and ketchup-based sauce – may have even originated there. Richard’s is a wood smoking joint that serves coarsely chopped pork with plenty of bark mixed in. Add some nearly perfect hush puppies with the right mix of savory and sweet as well as a classic red slaw, and you’ve got a joint that competes with many of the better ones in Lexington.

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The Smoke Pit – Concord (link to review)
A relative newcomer, The Smoke Pit models its barbecue and presentation after Central Texas. Order a combo platter and you get a tray of meat and sides arranged like what you’d expect in just about any joint in Austin. But with the choice to drink it with a SunDrop (which along with Cheerwine is nearly the perfect drink for barbecue), it still retains some of that North Carolina charm. Much like Charlotte, Concord isn’t known for its barbecue but I’d recommend The Smoke Pit to just about anyone in the area.

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Troutman’s Bar-B-Que – Denton (link to review)
Troutman’s is the archetypal NC barbecue joint: a small, standalone wood shack off a country highway in a rural part of the state. There’s a wood pile out back, two modest dining rooms, and waitresses that take your order as soon as you find your seat. The pork is consistently moist and smokey and paired with the red slaw, hushpuppies, and a Cheerwine, it’s at a price that’s hard to beat.

What other underrated NC joints did we miss?

Best of Charlotte Barbecue: All of Our Posts

If you recall, earlier this year between February and May we had a series of posts detailing the best of Charlotte barbecue in regards to specific meats or dishes. While we’ve had the Charlotte Big Board for a couple of years now, the purpose of these posts was to review individual dishes as opposed to overall restaurant experience.

For easy reference, I have compiled the winners of each category in one post. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen had 3 meats that were best in their category, which helps explain their perch atop the Charlotte Big Board. I still feel very good about the brisket from The Smoke Pit but might reconsider the ribs from Queen City Q in any future revisions to this list, as I have not had a great experience the past few times I’ve gone. One other thing that struck me while composing this post, while Midwood Smokehouse did not win any singular category it was in the top 3 in each of the 5 categories. That would help explain why they are ranked #2 on the Big Board.

Click here to find all of our posts in the Best of Charlotte Barbecue seriesWhat did we miss? Leave any suggestions or comments below.

Best Pork: Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

Best Brisket: The Smoke Pit

Brisket from The Smoke Pit

Brisket from The Smoke Pit

Best Ribs: Queen City Q

Ribs from Queen City Q

Ribs from Queen City Q

Best Sausage: Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

Sausage from Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

Other: Brunswick Stew from Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

Pork, brisket, ribs, wings, brunswick stew

Pork, brisket, ribs, wings, brunswick stew from Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

Best of Charlotte Barbecue: Brisket

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 second in our series. Click here to find the other posts.

Speedy once stated that he was done with brisket in NC. That being said, there are some passable  briskets in the Charlotte region (fantastic, even). The brisket from Midwood Smokehouse was named the sixth best brisket east of the Mississippi by Johnny Fugitt of Barbecue Rankings. But it turns out that we like the brisket at The Smoke Pit (which only opened a little over a year ago) even better. I would put those two at the top tier of briskets in the Charlotte region. At a notch below, Boone’s approach is unique in that he finishes the brisket on the grill and ladles it with a mustard-based sauce. Certainly not the Central Texas way of doing it, but it works nonetheless. After these three, there’s not too much more to be said about brisket in Charlotte.

  1. The Smoke Pit (Concord)
  2. Midwood Smokehouse (Original location; Ballantyne location)
  3. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

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

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.

Charlotte (and NC) Accolades from The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America

I’ve just started The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America by Johnny Fugitt but wanted to share some of the accolades that Charlotte and NC received in the book. I will spoil only just a little bit, and you will have to pick it up for yourself in order to read the rest (currently the #1 new release in US Travel Guides!).

Charlotte
For not having a stellar barbecue reputation, Charlotte is decently represented. I’m proud to say that we helped point Johnny in the direction of Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen based on our Charlotte Rankings and were able to accompany him on a private tour of Boone’s prep kitchen last year.

  • Midwood Smokehouse (our review here and here) makes the top 100 barbecue restaurants in America list (everything outside of the top 25 was not ranked)
  • Midwood Smokehouse’s brisket is #6 on “10 Best Briskets outside Texas (better than 99% in Texas)”
  • Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (our review here) also makes the top 100 list
  • Boone’s brunswick stew is #1 in “The Three Best Brunswick Stews I found in all the Land”
  • Boone’s also makes “America’s 10 Best Vinegar/Tomato-Based Sauces” at #10 for their Eastern Carolina sauce
  • Finally, Boone’s brunswick stew is also listed on Johnny’s “Dream Carolina Meal” as a side along with Skylight Inn’s pork as well as Lexington Barbecue’s pork and barbecue slaw

North Carolina
North Carolina joints were also well represented, with Skylight Inn #8 overall, Allen & Son’s Barbeque (our review here) #18, and Raleigh’s The Pit (our review here) making the top 100; there were several other individual accolades for pork and sides.

Finally, thanks to Johnny for the shout out to us in his review of Lexington Barbecue. Our love for Lexington Barbecue is well-documented (review here), and its cool that he associated us with it.

Monk

Linkdown: 11/26/14

– The Pit beats out NC State University in The Triangle Business Journal’s Battle of the Brands for Reader’s Choice

– Downtown Charleston is getting yet another barbecue joint, this time with Irish pub Egan & Sons coming back as a barbecue restaurant (under a new name) complete with a new smokehouse to be built out back

– I missed this back in the summer, but Home Team BBQ (currently with Sullivan’s Island and West Ashley locations) is also expanding to downtown Charleston

– Billy Durney, pitmaster of Hometown Barbecue in New York, to consult on a Los Angeles barbecue restaurant for Mendocino Farms

– Boone’s Bar-B-Que sauces are now available at Savory Spice Shop in Charlotte

– Ohio-based barbecue chain City Barbeque plans to open another triangle location; in addition to their Cary location they are opening a location at Southpoint Mall in Durham

– Jim ‘N Nicks and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que are forming a partnership for the purest of barbecue ideals – “to leverage their buying power, consolidate labor costs and grow both companies”

– A flattering review of the Flat Rock Wood Room, just outside of Asheville

As for what comes out of that 250-degree wood-fired pit, well, I can only gush. Ordering a half rack of their St. Louis style ribs, I carefully narrowed my sides down to wood-smoked mac and cheese and collard greens. While the mac and cheese was plenty cheesy, it proved to be fairly standard with minimal wood smoke. The collards, on the other hand, had plenty of flavor and a slight sweetness.

– Barbecue Rankings recounts his “barbecue odyssey” in Feast Magazine

I began my barbecue odyssey on October 22, 2013, at Pappy’s Smokehouse in St. Louis.  I was nervous as I met owner Mike Emerson and tried to act as if I knew something about barbecue.  I have always considered myself a casual barbecue fan, but the truth is that I knew very little about regional nuances, barbecue history, smoking practices and the way restaurants work before setting out on this project.  I didn’t prepare much before setting off on my journey – I wanted to learn from the people working the pits day in and day out, not the so-called experts.

– Christmas is right around the corner

Linkdown: 9/24/14

– Check out our Taste Trekker’s list for Five Unique Barbecue Experiences in Charlotte, North Carolina; it was partially (ok, very) inspired by this list from Marie, Let’s Eat!

– The latest Arrogant Swine post on opening a barbecue restaurant on Serious Eats finds Uncle Ho trying to hire a staff

The saddest moment in any barbecue guy’s professional life is when you realize that the person you’re training to do the cooking just doesn’t give a royal fuck about barbecue. They’d be just as happy making pizza or ramen noodles. The food was coming out awful and Jack couldn’t care. “Just cover it with barbecue sauce and no one will tell the difference,” he once noted.

More information on the barbecue events at the World of Bluegrass festival in downtown Raleigh on 10/3

– More coverage on the NC BBQ Map from the Elkin Times and TWC News

– Andrew Carter’s column leading up to last weekend’s ECU drubbing of UNC took the pulse of fans at Parker’s Barbecue in Greenville and ends with this choice quote:

Down at Parker’s the lunch crowd had picked up and Parker went out to help work the register. A line began to form, a small version of what is coming Saturday.

“Everybody in this town needs to thank God for East Carolina,” said Parker, whose restaurant had already booked six catering events at the stadium on Saturday. “I mean, really. For the hospital and for East Carolina.

“(Without) those two things — well, Greenville would be Kinston.”

“The pitfalls of barbecue reportage” examines how barbecue journalists such as Daniel Vaughn attempt to report on pitmasters without romanticizing them

– Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (our current #1) has posted an updated schedule for their foodtruck and they will be at a few upcoming Charlotte beer festivals starting with this weekend’s Charlotte Oktoberfest

– Marie, Let’s Eat!’s latest barbecue stop is Log Cabin Smokehouse Bar-B-Que in Rome, GA

– Barbecue Rankings had a lot of posts in the last week: Dallas, Seattle, Detroit, Pecos, Albuquerque, and Phoenix

– Aaron Franklin brought his smoked meats to Feast Portland last weekend; TMBBQ has the photos and story

– As is to be expected, barbecue is the signature food of several states including North Carolina