Linkdown: 7/5/17

– The Battleground Ave location of Stamey’s will reopen in the next few weeks after a fire last summer and has even added a drive-thru

– A visit to Keaton’s Barbecue in Cleveland, NC near Statesville, known for their spicy chicken

– Keaton’s also gets a write up in this month’s Our State

– The Fayetteville Observer reviews Buddy’s Bar-B-Q, an eastern NC joint which opened 72 years ago in 1945

– Eater jumps on the “Charleston as a barbecue hotspot bandwagon”

– Stick with me here: Tim Carman of The Washington Post says that the brisket at Hill Country, which just recently switched off the gas assist on their Ole Hickory smoker, is “as good or better than Franklin’s”

– Austin 360’s Matthew Odam then takes exception to that statement

Look, I’ve never been to Hill Country barbecue in D.C., or the flagship in Manhattan opened by a man with Texas roots who modeled his restaurant on Kreuz Market in his family’s hometown of Lockhart. But I don’t need to to know that the brisket there, or anywhere in D.C., can’t touch that at Franklin Barbecue.

– The Washington Post then responds back immediately, calling Odam’s take “food chauvinism”

– Scott Moore, the pitmaster at Tejas Chocolate, writes about the experience After Texas Monthly, or ATM, when they were named a top 10 joint

– The Christian Science Monitor takes a macro view of barbecue today, starting from its roots up through this year’s Memphis in May competition

Barbecuing, of course, has always been bound up in the politics and race of the nation. Six years before colonists dumped tea in Boston Harbor to protest British tariffs, the royalist governor of North Carolina, William Tryon, tried to appease local militiamen by roasting a whole ox. The men responded by tossing the roast in the river, an act of affirmed loyalties hence referred to as the Wilmington Barbecue.

– Barbecue the film is available next week

Swig & Swine – Summerville, SC

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Name
: Swig & Swine
Date: 5/27/17
Address: 1990 Old Trolley Rd, Summerville, SC 29485
Order: 3 meat plate (pulled pork, brisket, and sausage) with hash & rice, collards, and mac & cheese (link to menu)
Price: $24 (for two)

Monk: I have a confession, dear readers, and not one that I like to readily admit: sometimes I do get sick of barbecue. It doesn’t happen often but it usually happens after I’ve had a particularly bad meal. After having 4 meals in 6 days on the Monk family vacation I was actually completely fine with hitting something quick on the road back to Charlotte so we could just get back to real life. The last meal at Smoke BBQ had broken my enthusiasm for the week, it would appear.

However, in an unexpected twist, Mrs. Monk had looked up reviews of Swig & Swine’s Summerville location and insisted that we stick to our original plan. Her enthusiasm helped push me and on we headed about 35 minutes from Mount Pleasant to Summerville, SC. Sometimes the missus really does just get me.

This Swig & Swine, unlike the West Ashley location that Speedy previously visited, has enough room to smoke whole hogs and that was the main draw for me. Besides that, they do go the “international house of barbecue” route with a little bit of everything in terms of smoked meats.

The pulled pork single-handedly restored my faith in barbecue after the disaster of a meal the day before. The lighter meat was pulled into long strands and dare I say, might I have enjoyed it a bit more than Rodney Scott’s BBQ? Perhaps so.

The brisket had well-rendered fat and a nice tug to it. While the whole hog was the main draw, I would just as soon as go back for the brisket.

The housemade sausage was another solid entry and at this point in the meal, Swig & Swine was running laps around my previous meal at Smoke BBQ. In Speedy’s review of the West Ashley location, sausage was by far his favorite part of the meal and I found it to be really juicy with a nice snap to the casing.

My hash & rice fascination continued at Swig & Swine and I realize should take better notes when it comes to hash, because the subtle differences are probably lost on me. Still, that plus the collards and mac & cheese really brought it.

Swig & Swine capped my trip off nicely with a great meal of barbecue. This was the fifth and last barbecue meal in seven days of vacation to and from Charleston – almost certainly the most amount of barbecue I’ve eaten out in a week-long stretch. There was only one real dud, and overall most of my other experiences were really positive. But after this trip, I’m not ashamed to admit that barbecue and I decided to take a little bit of a break from each other for a week or two – and a welcome one at that.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hog
Sausage  – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Smoke BBQ – Mount Pleasant, SC

IMG_9826
Name
: Smoke BBQ
Date: 5/26/17
Address: 713 Coleman Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
Order: The Tommy B. Monster Sampler Platter (pork, pastrami brisket, “Charleston brisket”, chicken) plus “perfect rib” and a beer (link to menu)
Price: $35

Monk: I hadn’t planned to visit a fifth barbecue spot during our vacation week but when I saw how close Smoke BBQ was to our Airbnb in Mount Pleasant I couldn’t resist sneaking away one afternoon to check it out. Unfortunately it turns out I shouldn’t have wasted my time or money.

Since I was there I went for it and got the Tommy B. Monster Sampler platter which comes with 4 meats. I then added a “perfect rib” to round it all out. When my platter of meats was delivered each meat was sitting in a pool of grease and appeared to have been reheated. Fresh off the smoker these definitely were not. I won’t bother to go through each meat individually – but I will say that after a bite or two of each one I decided to move on, finding each to be as equally bad as the previous.

The “smoke style slaw” is their take on coleslaw and comes with green apples and candied pecans topped on red cabbage and carrots. I didn’t find it to be a successful barbecue side. The baked macaroni and cheese was the best food part of the meal and was the only real edible item for me.

There was very little that was redeeming about my meal from Smoke BBQ and I ended up tossing most of the takeout container in the trash once I got home. At least I got to enjoy a beer on their nice covered patio. So there’s that.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 1 hog
Brisket – 1 hog
Pastrami – 1 hog
Rib – 1 hog
Chicken – 1 hog
Sides – 1.5 hogs
Overall – 1 hog

City Barbeque – Charlotte, NC

IMG_9035
Name: City Barbeque
Date: 5/6/17
Address: 11212 Providence Rd W, Charlotte, NC 28277
Order: Judge’s Sampler (pulled pork, brisket, 1/2 slab ribs, and 1/4 chicken) with mac and cheese, collard greens, hush puppies, and two beers (link to menu)
Price: $12 (the $26.99 judges platter was covered but did not affect my review in any way)

Monk: City Barbeque is an Ohio-based chain that in the past 2 years has begun to make inroads into NC and even more recently, Charlotte. The Ballantyne location was the first in the area to open in 2016, and since then a Matthews location has opened with a University location on the way later this year. Speedy had previously checked out the Cary location a few years back and came away fairly impressed, so I knew to expect a fast casual set up with decent barbecue from a gas-assisted wood smoker and scratch made sides. 

For the first Charlotte location, I was invited to check it out and provided a gift card for a free Judge’s Sampler which allowed me to check out 4 of the meats. Mrs. Monk and I got an extra side of hush puppies and a couple of beers on top of it, plus a kids meal for the Monk-ette. All in all, the amount of food we got ended up providing more than enough for 3 total adult meals, so the portion sizes are nice.

The pork and brisket were in small portions next to each other on the tray and were so hard to distinguish between each other that at first glance to the point where I wasn’t sure that we had gotten any brisket at all (we were initially missing our order of hush puppies so it wasn’t too far fetched). Though I will say the folks at City Barbeque were nice enough to provide us extra brisket even though clearly it was a mistake on our end. As for the meat, both were decently smokey. The pork was moist and was nicely accentuated by the spicy vinegar sauce on the table. The brisket was haphazardly sliced and came across as chopped in texture – which led to our mistake in the first place – but was tasty nonetheless.

I found the half slab of ribs to be the best meat of the meal. The heavily-applied rub created a dark, flavorful bark on the ribs and the meat pulled away from the bone nicely. I would go for these ribs here again for sure.

Chicken is not a smoked meat I normally go for (and I didn’t think to substitute it out on this visit) but I will say that it was pretty good. You could do a lot worse if that is the meat you prefer at a barbecue restaurant.

Mrs. Monk was disappointed that the mac and cheese was not baked (she’s a bit of a snob that way) and while I didn’t mind that fact as much as she did, I could see her point. The collards had plenty of pulled pork and were pretty good. The corn bread and Texas toast that came with the sampler were actually quite good but the hush puppies were the best sides we had. Needless to say, we were fine on carbs for the rest of the day (and weekend for that matter).

When it opens, the University location will be pretty convenient to my work and I wouldn’t have to be convinced too hard to go there for lunch. In terms of chains I’ve had, City Barbeque are on par with Jim ‘N Nick’s and way above Moe’s Bar-B-Que.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Chicken – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Das BBQ – Atlanta, GA

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Name: Das BBQ
Date: 4/1/17
Address: 1203 Collier Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: Triple meat plate (pulled pork, brisket, and sausage) with mac and cheese and collard greens (link to menu)
Price: $22

Monk: Much to my surprise, the Monks made another barbecue stop on our Atlanta trip on the stipulation that it had to have sausage on the menu for Mrs. Monk. In my research ahead of the trip, I had come across Das BBQ on an Eater list of Best New Atlanta Restaurants and being that it’s a Texas-style smokehouse, it most definitely would have sausage.

Das BBQ has been open for only about 3 months in a former Pizza Hut (side note: I’ve had a pet theory that some of the best restaurants are housed in former Pizza Huts; there are several good examples in Charlotte alone). They’ve added a pit room to the side of the old structure and gussied it up real nice, to the point where my Pizza Hut-dar did not detect what we were in. That pit room was actually open to visitors who are encouraged to walk in, talk to the pitmaster, and observe him at work. Kind of a cool concept that may be more commonplace in Texas but less rarely seen in the southeast.

In that open pit room are housed two offset smokers that were supposedly made to the specs of those found at Franklin Barbecue. But instead of the post oak they use in Texas, Das uses a mixture of hickory and pecan wood that are more appropriate to Georgia. Meats are smoked in those smokers for about 5 hours before finishing in a Southern Pride Rotisserie, allowing for a certain amount of automation (if not what some might consider a shortcut).

I ordered the triple meat plate of pulled pork, brisket, and sausage. I’ll start with the sausage, the meat which allowed me to try the joint in the first place. Das BBQ imports two types of beef links from Meyer’s Smokehouse in Elgin, Texas – spicy and mild. We tried the spicy and it had a nice peppery kick. The case had a good snap and it was a well-smoked sausage. We tried the table side peach mustard sauce and it was a nice fusion of Texas-meets-Georgia.

The brisket was another winner, and did a solid job of replicating the Central Texas peppery bark. The fat was well-rendered and none of the bites were overly dry. Pretty good results for a joint in its first couple months of being open.

Instead of going full Texas Trinity, I opted for pulled pork. In addition to the peach mustard sauce, each table also has a thicker ketchup-based sauce. As was the case with the other meats, it was well smoked but a little sauce of your preference wouldn’t hurt.

Mrs. Monk preferred the collards here to the ones we had the day before at B’s, while the mac and cheese shells were standard. They were out of slaw on this particular day. Continuing with the Texas theme, I also ordered a Shiner which is available for the value price of $3.

While some may quibble with the method of finishing in a gas smoker, the end product at Das BBQ is of above average quality across the board. Combine that with the good prices and the open pit room and Atlanta has a nice addition to their barbecue scene.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que – Atlanta, GA (Speedy’s take) 

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Name
: Heirloom Market BBQ
Date: 6/14/17
Address: 2243 Akers Mill Rd., Atlanta, GA 30339
Order: Spicy Korean pork, brisket, collards, fries (link to menu)
Price: $16

Speedy: I sent Monk a simple text on Friday evening. It just said, “Wow wow wow. Heirloom market.”

Monk: It’s true; I can confirm this happened. I wondered why it took so long but was glad Speedy finally made it out there before moving.

Speedy: I have lived in Atlanta for almost a year before checking out Heirloom Market. In my defense, I have to get on 285 (aka the busiest road in America) to get there, but shame on me. This place is incredible.

Heirloom Market doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s connected to a convenience store, is tiny inside, and just has an outside patio with a half dozen tall tables (and no chairs) if you want to dine-in. However, it has a great reputation, which is well deserved.

Monk: Indeed. A few years back when I was coming into Atlanta, Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat! urged me to go here instead of, say, Fox Bros if I was only picking one joint in Atlanta that weekend. And I was so glad I did, especially years later when I finally tried Fox Bros (which was fine). But Heirloom Market is special.

Speedy: I ordered the combo plate, eschewing the traditional pulled pork for the spicy Korean pork, along with the brisket. The pork is served chunked with a spicy sauce and some kimchi (I think) mixed in. Let me tell you, dear reader, it’s absolutely incredible. The pork is smoked perfectly and the sauce adds just the right amount of spice, along with incredible flavor. In addition to my love of barbecue, I’m a huge fan of all Asian food, so this meat was right up my alley. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Monk: My first taste of that spicy, Korean-influenced pork was one of the best bites of barbecue I’ve ever had – definitely top 5.

Speedy: The brisket is also fantastic. It was the right combination of lean and fatty, had lots of bark, and was not dried out at all. The bark was nice and peppery, and no sauce was needed. This was in the upper echelon of briskets that I’ve enjoyed.

Monk: While not Korean-influenced, I agree that Heirloom Market’s is just a damn good brisket.

Speedy: The collards were great – definitely cooked in some sort of meat stock (I’d guess chicken, but not positive) – giving a nice flavor. And the seasoned fries were also excellent.

My meal was too big for one person – I got a second full meal the next day. All this stuff even tasted great re-heated.

Overall, this meal at Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que was perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. The only thing I regret is not getting there sooner.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Spicy Korean Pork – 5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Heirloom Market BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Heirloom Market BBQ

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – Atlanta, GA (Monk’s take)

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Name: B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque
Date: 3/31/17
Address: 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: Two meat plate (brisket and pulled pork) with hash and rice, collard greens, and cracklin’ cornbread (link to menu)
Price: $18

Monk: In the past few months, Speedy has checked out B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque in Atlanta twice and rubbed it in my face each time. Finally, I got sick enough of it and packed the Monk family in the car and made the 4 hour trip down to Atlanta just to shut Speedy up. Actually…the Monk clan just happened to be spending a long weekend in Atlanta so I arranged a lunch stop but that’s neither here nor there. And to be fair he wasn’t really rubbing it in my face per se, but it was at least a light brag that got under my skin.

Speedy: No. It was a face rub. Cause this place is awesome.

Monk: Guess my first instincts were right then….

Sitting 15 minutes west of downtown Atlanta in the Riverside neighborhood, B’s sits in an old house that used to be another barbecue joint named Hottie Hawg’s. Neither Speedy nor I have checked that place out but at B’s, you order at the bar and they bring it out to you. Speaking of bar, they do have a couple of solid beers on tap including local favorite Creature Comforts Tropicalia IPA, in which both Mrs. Monk and I both indulged. There is a decent sized patio and we tried to sit out on it but found that it was just a little too chilly in the shade on this particular late March day.

The whole hog pork at B’s is smoked from heritage hogs and was definitely the star of the show. It was served in coarsely pulled strands reminiscent of Scott’s Bar-B-Cue and was just downright excellent. Unlike Speedy’s visit, mine wasn’t on the dry side and each strand had a nice silky texture. I tried both the spicy vinegar and peach mustard sauces and while neither was essential, both complemented the pork well. Speaking of the pork, on our way out to the car, I even caught a worker carting a half of one of those heritage hogs from their annex to the main building, so I took the opportunity to snap a few photos.

Speedy: I’m surprised you don’t have more to say about the peach mustard sauce. I thought it was excellent and unlike anything I’ve had before. I’m generally against mustard sauce on pork (it belongs on sausage), but this stuff is legit.

Monk: I only used it sparingly but did think it was good. I guess I’m surprised at just how enthusiastic you are about it. 

While not quite on the level of the pork, the brisket had excellent bark and a nice tug to it. On this day, it was slightly on the dry side perhaps due to sitting under a warming lamp for too long. Still, these were darn good slices of brisket.

The side of hash and rice was excellent. If you recall, in Speedy’s review of B’s last December, Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat! went for a double side of hash and rice and after tasting, I completely understand why. This stuff was just plain great and certainly in the upper rankings of barbecue hash I’ve tried in my life. The collards were good but had a different taste than your usual vinegary greens due to the addition of a heavy dose of minced garlic. Pretty good, but I don’t know if I’d go for them again here.

Being that it’s the only bonafide whole hog joint in town and that they also smoke a mean brisket, if you are in Atlanta I urge you to make the trip to the westside and check out B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque. You won’t be disappointed.

For more reviews of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque, check out:
Speedy’s take
Marie, Let’s Eat

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs
B's Cracklin Barbecue  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
B's Cracklin Barbeque

Linkdown: 4/12/17

– Robert Moss on “The Tyranny of Texas Barbecue”

– …and TMBBQ with the retort; claims that Moss is “jealous of neighbor’s popularity”

– The 15 pitmasters for the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party have been announced; Sam Jones and Rodney Scott represent the Carolinas

– Cuegrass ’17 takes over Davie Street in front of the Pit this Saturday for a day of barbecue, beer, and bluegrass

– Henry’s Smokehouse and the Greenville BBQ Trail Tour are in this Charlotte Five article on what to do in the SC town about 1hr 40 minutes away from Charlotte

– BBQ Hub also has a Charleston barbecue tour for the burgeoning barbecue capital

– Marie, Let’s Eat! is pleasantly surprised by some barbecue in Pigeon Forge from Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que

– The Smoking Ho went to the Houston BBQ Festival last weekend and took some great photos

– Wayne Mueller BBQ is eyeing a Houston-area location for expansion

– Don’t forget about the fried chicken

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