Soul Food Scholar Adrian Miller writes about the union between July 4th and barbecue; thankfully he is “not talking about hamburgers and hot dogs on a kettle grill. I’m talking about ‘old school’ barbecue, where a whole animal carcass was skewered with wooden poles and cooked over a trench filled with burning coals from hardwood trees.”
Monk: On the first day of their soft opening dates, I made what is sure to be the first of many trips east to Peachland out to Jon G’s Barbecue. Assuming there was going to be a line for a 4pm start, I arrived at about 3:25 and found that indeed there was one. Once in line I confirmed that I was 12th in line (behind Adam and his wife of Apple City BBQ nonetheless!). I cracked open a beer with my (actual) brother Andy and friend of the blog Chris and happily began our wait in line.
For this first day at least, Jon G’s was just letting one group in at a time to order at the counter so the line moved a little slower than it ultimately will once things are normal (whenever that may be). No matter though if you’ve got a cooler full of beer, which I can’t recommend enough.
Once through the line, we headed out to the picnic tables with our food. On this warm day, some intrepid patrons ahead of us in line set up a tailgate tent over one of the tables and I was immediately jealous. The heat was not unbearable despite it being late June, and between the intermittent breeze and the cold beer we managed. Of course, the barbecue helped.
If you’ve been paying attention, you already know howIfeelabout Jon G’s Barbecue, so I won’t dwell too much on the food. But as expected, the Texas Trinity of brisket, ribs, and sausage each hit the mark. The mix of lean and moist brisket was buttery soft with a great pepper crust, the ribs are rapidly becoming my second favorite meat there, and the sausages (their signature Cheerwine hot link and a jalapeno cheddar) each had a nice kick with a great snap.
Kelly and Garren will be understandably focusing on the restaurant for the foreseeable future at the expense of the food truck so if you want to try the best barbecue in Charlotte, you’re just going to have to make the trip to Peachland to try Jon G’s Barbecue. I would recommend getting there early if you can, as the line had grown to upwards of 60-70 as I left. Regardless, make the trip, bring a cooler, and I promise you won’t be mad that you did.
Have you ever made the trip from Charlotte to Lexington Barbecue during a work day for “a quick lunch?” Or when in Austin, have you ever made the trek to The Salt Lick in Driftwood or Snow’s in Lexington (TX)? When the long-awaited Jon G’s Barbecue brick-and-mortar restaurant opens later this month, it very well might fill that same niche for Charlotte in the small town of Peachland just a short 40-45 minute drive east (praise G’s for that new-ish 74 bypass).
If you’ve been following this site in the past three years, you should alreadyknowabout Jon G’s Barbecue. But when their brick and mortar opens, they will instantly offer a few things you won’t find at other Charlotte barbecue restaurants.
There will almost certainly be a line, central-Texas style. Each tray will be sliced to order and the counter service simply takes some time for each customer to go through. This is of course not the usual in North Carolina where most of the joints both classic and new are sit down affairs and you rarely have to wait. And even though the reconfigured former Barbee’s Bar-B-Que space has been opened up, Jon G’s is still on the smaller end of the spectrum with only 40 or so seats inside and another 40 or so outside (weather permitting, of course). But that doesn’t matter, because…
As it turns out, the town of Peachland (just across the county line in Anson County) is actually a dry town so if you want brews with your brisket, you will actually be able to bring your own cooler (yes, you read that right). In line waiting for your barbecue? Sit on your cooler and have a cold beer as you move through it (you might even get handed a free one). Nice day out? Sit on one of the custom-built picnic tables outside and have a picnic once you get through that line. The newly-opened Prime BBQ in Knightdale is the only other example of a BYOB barbecue restaurant in NC that I’m aware of, but I love the idea.
Besides the line and the BYOB-nature of it all, Jon G’s feels different because its an updated take on the NC roadside barbecue joint (albeit one that happens to serve brisket, of course). There’s simply no pretension to their barbecue operation (not that much would likely be tolerated in Peachland). All of Kelly and Garren’s hard work has led to this point, from the tailgate tent at Southern Range Brewing to the food truck and now to a brick and mortar store. There’s no big money backers here, and they have worked for everything they’ve earned. Major props to them.
Then of course, there’s the barbecue itself. Jon G’s has been our favorite Charlotte-area barbecue for 3 years running and it looks like there is no stopping it anytime soon. Garren has honed his meats on his new Oyler smoker over the past few months and on the night I tried them the brisket, ribs, Cheerwine hot link, and pulled pork were all consistent with the meat I fell in love with that was smoked on the offset. And the tacos should continue to be big sellers.
Opening a restaurant during a pandemic is not ideal and North Carolinians may not be quite used to driving long distances for barbecue (well, outside a few of us wackos). However, I assure you that it will be well worth your time. Once Jon G’s Barbecue opens full time, I predict I will be dragging as many people as I can out that 74 bypass to spread the gospel of Jon G’s. I would urge you to take the trip as swell. Congrats Kelly and Garren!
Speedy: After a successful mail order from Black’s Barbecue, and considering I was still sheltering in place, it seemed like a good idea to order some more ‘cue. After some serious Googling, I decided on Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. Like Black’s, the order came super quick, and packed very well, and took several sittings to eat. The meat came with a detailed instruction book that recommended warming the brisket and burnt ends in boiling water, while using the oven for the ribs. I went first with the brisket, which came pre-sliced in pretty thin slices.
After warming the package in boiling water (as directed, while still in the packaging), I cut open the package and got a good smell of smokey ‘cue. I tasted first without the sauce, and it was just OK for me. With such thin slices, there was no bark, and it missed that peppery seasoning. While the taste was good, it felt like more high-end deli roast beef, as the thin slices made it seem like it was made for sandwiches, and not sliced thickly as proper brisket should be. Everyone knows that bark can make or break a brisket, and without it, the brisket was lacking. Adding the sauce helped with the flavor, but having to do that tells you all you need to know.
Monk: From my experience at the Kansas City-style barbecue at John Brown Smokehouse with native Kansas Citizen (City-an? City-ite?) Sean Ludwig of NYC BBQ and The Smoke Sheet, his guidance (for at least that place) was to stay away from the thinly-sliced brisket and go for the burnt ends if you wanted brisket. Guess the whole thinly-sliced deal for brisket is kind of a Kansas City thing based on this admittedly small sample size.
Speedy: I had a similar experience with the ribs, finding them underseasoned. These were warmed in the oven, which gave me the opportunity to add seasoning myself, I ended up not doing that, which was a mistake. While cooked well and tender, I just wanted more flavor. Overall, I didn’t find these to be any better than store bought pre-cooked ribs.
This leaves us with the Kansas City staple – burnt ends. Going in, I was most excited for the burnt ends, a meat I don’t often get a chance to eat. Reheating the burnt ends in boiling water worked well, leading to piping hot meat, which was tender, but also lacked the bold flavor I was hoping for. The sauce complimented the burnt ends very nicely, but in the end, I still found them to just be average. By no means am I a connoisseur of burnt ends, but I certainly expected more.
Monk: I was going to order the same package from Joe’s KC but a week after Speedy since I already had ordered bulk barbecue from Jon G’s Barbecue for pick up here in Charlotte for the weekend. However, after his experience Speedy went ahead and let me know that I could probably skip them and spend my money elsewhere. Which is a shame because I too was looking forward to the burnt ends. In any case, thanks for the heads up, bro.
Speedy: At the end of the day, my second experiment with mail order ‘cue didn’t go off quite so well. I just felt there was an overall lack of seasoning, leading to a bland product. I’d be interested in visiting Joe’s KC Bar-Be-Que in person, but I won’t order from them again.