When you enjoy a slice of juicy brisket wrapped inside a warm tortilla, you’re celebrating the marriage of our two most beloved cuisines. This is nothing new at South Texas barbecue joints, where a side dish of rice and beans is as common as coleslaw and you’ll even find the occasional fideo. But the current Tex-Mex wave is deepening the bond between the two cuisines in new ways. You’ll find a lot more than just barbecue tacos, in other words.
Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.
Monk: Bob Garner’s latest book, published in 2014, isn’t strictly a barbecue book per se. Instead it focuses on various favorite foods and drinks of North Carolina, though naturally barbecue is featured being that it is the state’s most popular food.
The barbecue chapter of the book covers the basics in terms of the history of barbecue in the state and how the two dominant styles of barbecue came to be. Where it does cover some new territory compared with previous barbecue books from Garner is the introduction of different styles of smokers into NC, comparing offset and rotisserie smokers imported from the midwest and Texas to the traditional NC brick barbecue pits with its direct heat method. Instead of an exhaustive list of all barbecue restaurants (which Garner previously covered in his Big Book of Barbecue), he instead showcases just four restaurants – one from the east (Skylight Inn), one from the piedmont (Lexington Barbecue), a new-style joint that serves beer while still smoking over wood (Hillsborough BBQ Company), and a regional chain (Smithfield’s Chicken and BBQ).
The book does contain recipes as well, and I particularly like that the recipe for “charcoal cooked pulled pork” is for a Lexington-style barbecue recipe smoked on a Weber charcoal grill.
The subsequent chapters of the book cover foods often eaten with barbecue like brunswick stew and collards as well as desserts such as banana pudding and peach cobbler. This is smartly done by Garner.
As for other barbecue-related items, the book also has later chapters on barbecue sauces found in stores, Texas Pete hot sauce, as well as soft drinks created in NC. Longtime readers and followers will note how much I love Cheerwine or Sun Drop with barbecue, and of course the history of those are featured.
“Foods That Make You Say Mmm-mmm” lovingly explores the food and drinks of North Carolina in a way that only a native North Carolinian can. It is very much a Bob Garner book – and that’s a very good thing.
The latest, he told me the other day, was Hillary Clinton’s choice of a barbecue stop in Charlotte at the end of the presidential campaign. She and President Obama ate at the Midwood Smokehouse. It has a varied and upscale menu, but it is not a traditional barbecue eatery. Meanwhile, Donald Trump was buying one of those $3.50 barbecue sandwiches at Stamey’s in Greensboro.
“Maybe Clinton’s choice sold in Charlotte,” Reed said, “but the rest of the state was thinking Drumpf was eating at a real North Carolina barbecue stop, a big reason he won and she lost.
Name: The Mallard Creek Annual BBQ Date: 10/27/16 (4th Thursday of every October) Address: 11400 Mallard Creek Road, Charlotte, NC 28262 Order: BBQ plate with brunswick stew, slaw, and applesauce (link to menu) Price: $10
Monk: After going to the Mallard Creek Annual BBQ for each of the pastthreeyears, I figured it was time for an official review. Now in its 87th year, the Mallard Creek BBQ is by far the oldest barbecue institution in Charlotte (admittedly a city of very few old barbecue institutions). Its a one-day annual event on the fourth Thursday of every October where barbecue and local politics mix, though the politics won’t get in the way if you just want barbecue. My pro tip for any first-timers is to take a late lunch and go after 2pm when there is no line, otherwise you might be in the car for awhile.
Every year, literally tons of barbecue is smoked by an army of volunteers and this year was no different with 14,000 pounds of pork smoked. I’ve been both in mid and late afternoon and the coarsely chopped pork is always moist, a tribute to the whole operation. Add the table-side hot sauce, a spicy vinegar-based sauce (skip the other, ketchup-based one) and pile with slaw on a slice of the Merita bread loaf on every table and you’ve got a nice open-faced sandwich. On this recent visit, I did this twice and had ample amounts of pork left over.
Really, the Mallard Creek Annual BBQ is probably more well known for its brunswick stew though its not the typical brunswick stew. Per Kathleen Purvis, instead of potatoes it has rice. Instead of shredded chicken and beef, it has ground-up chicken, beef and pork. Instead of lima beans, it has only corn and tomatoes. I’m still no expert on the dish but I would go so far as to say its one of the best versions of the dish I’ve had. On the October days when the weather is a little more brisk, its a very welcome dish. Though it was a little on the warmer side this year.
It is my opinion that any true barbecue fan in the Charlotte area should make it a point to go to the Mallard Creek Annual BBQ at least once. Other publications have covered its history much more extensively, but in short its a great event put on by the folks of Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church. You should go.
We’ve previously posted our lists for pork, brisket, ribs, and sausage but now it’s time for the rest. These are dishes that are not necessarily widely available in restaurants in the Charlotte area, so we wouldn’t have a lot of competition for each.
The Brunswick Stew from Boone’s is not only the dish that led to his food truck, but it also earned the number 1 best brunswick stew in Johnny Fugitt’s book The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America. I believe that Midwood Smokehouse is one of only maybe two or three restaurants in Charlotte that serves burnt ends, but we feel it’s a pretty darn good representation. And finally, if you aren’t familiar with a “que jar” or “barbecue sundae” its a mason jar or sundae cup filled with pulled pork at the bottom and some combination of baked beans, mac and cheese, and cole slaw layered on top. And it is glorious.
Virginia staked her claim boldly in 1988, with a statewide proclamation as this stew’s place of origin, and it has hosted an annual Brunswick stew festival and contest for more than twenty-five years. In a gesture of goodwill, they invite rival stew-masters to bring their crews up from Georgia for some spirited stew celebrations. Georgia staked her own claim by building a monument featuring a massive cast-iron stewpot, which they proudly declare to be the very one in which noble Georgia residents stirred up the very first batch of Brunswick stew back in 1898.
The re-brand comes at a time when the restaurant’s owners wanted to take the eatery to a new level – more than that of a barbecue joint. Of course, that barbecue was the cause for much celebration after City Smoke was named the winner of the Carolina Cook Off edition of “BBQ Blitz” on Food Network thanks to Chef Adam Pugh’s rendition of smoked pork chops with cheddar grits.
A few photos from last Thursday’s 86th Annual Mallard Creek Barbecue, which I was able to make for the third year in a row. Learning from last year, I avoided the normal lunch hours and took a late lunch to encounter minimal traffic.
The barbecue was as good as I remembered, and I really enjoyed the Brunswick stew which I got two servings of when my coworker gave me hers. Admittedly, I’m no Brunswick stew expert but I enjoyed their version (for more information on the history of the dish at this event, check out this article). Looking forward to next year’s 87th installment.
It’s been two years since Texas Monthly published its last Top 50 BBQ Joints list. It was a feat of reporting that took me and my barbecue-eating cohorts across the state to eat at countless legendary restaurants, holes-in-the-wall, out-of-the-way joints. The work didn’t end when the issue went to press. My job since then has essentially been one giant scouting mission for the next list slated for the summer of 2017.