Linkdown: 5/8/19

North Carolina does not have a third barbecue style, despite Carolina Treet being a perfectly good sauce

Burnt ends in Paris, courtesy of a Kansas City pitmaster

Jim Auchmutey has his book, “Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America,” coming out next month

The 10 best barbecue joints in the Triangle, according to Indy Week

The Red Dirt BBQ and Music Festival was last weekend in Tyler, TX and The Smoking Ho has some great photos

A look back at Jiggy with the Piggy Festival which took place last weekend in Kannapolis

The TerraVita Food and Drink Festival turns 10 this year and has a barbecue event with Sam Jones and Wyatt Dickson of Picnic

The Buccaneers and Barbecue Festival is a NC Pork Council Whole Hog Barbecue series and taking place in Bath Memorial Day weekend

A new amateur bbq pitmaster competition show for a streaming service is now casting; more information here

Linkdown: 12/5/18

The “Milestone” Edition: In this week’s linkdown, we have links on a new barbecue restaurant opening,  a big expansion of an existing one, plus Chef Vivian Howard’s favorite eastern NC barbecue restaurants and a milestone birthday for the city of Charlotte.

Congrats to Sweet Lew’s BBQ on finally opening today!

Here’s more on what you can expect at Sweet Lew’s from Charlotte Five and Charlotte Agenda

Kathleen Purvis’ 10 food gifts locally made in Charlotte includes Ogre Sauce barbecue sauce

Ogre Sauce gets a shoutout on Mantry’s 6 best barbecue sauces list 

Tonight at 9pm ET on the Cooking Channel:

Chef Vivian Howard, a NC State grad who just finished her acclaimed PBS show “A Chef’s Life”, grew up in eastern NC and lives there now. You can bet she definitely knows her stuff when it comes to eastern NC barbecue.

Dave Grohl once again confirms that eastern NC style barbecue is his favorite

Sam Jones BBQ and The Redneck BBQ Lab get reviewed by the News and Observer

Speaking of Sam Jones BBQ, restaurant #2 is coming to Raleigh

Richmond’s best barbecue spots according to Richmond Magazine

Jamestown, NC is getting their own yuppie-cue barbecue restaurant in an old filling station next year in Black Powder Smokehouse

Congrats to Charlotte on turning 250 earlier this week!

Pecan Lodge – Dallas, TX (Speedy’s Take)

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Name
: Pecan Lodge
Date: 7/21/18
Address: 2702 Main St, Dallas, TX 75226
Order: The Trough (1 beef rib, 1lb of pork ribs, 1lb brisket, 1/2 lb of pulled pork & 3 sausage links), ½ pound burnt ends, fried okra, collard greens (link to menu)
Price: $120-ish (for 3)

Speedy: On a recent work trip to Dallas, I experienced Divine Intervention. In town for only two days with full calendars both days, I was resigned to having to miss Pecan Lodge once again, and based on Rudy’s review, it’s a joint not to miss. I must have done something right over the past week, because a cancelled meeting left me a block of time between 10 and 2, enough time to head to Deep Ellum to try the ‘cue. I brought two co-workers in tow, which turned out to be a great decision.

Monk: The barbecue gods certainly work in mysterious ways…

Speedy: We arrived right at 11, which is right when Pecan Lodge opens. The line was already out the door, which is when coming with friends comes in handy. We went straight to the bulk order counter (minimum 5 pounds), which had no line (hence the great decision to bring back-ups), and we were on our way.

Our number was called after a short wait, and it was time to dig in. Obviously, we had more food than the three of us could eat, and everything looked and smelled incredible. I have a hard time knowing where to begin with this meal, so let’s just jump right in.

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The brisket was heavenly. Rich, flavorful, moist, peppery, and perfectly cooked. It is easily in the top 4 briskets I’ve ever had, joining La Barbecue, Franklin, and Killen’s, and frankly, nothing else even comes close. The brisket seemed to melt in your mouth.

Personally, my other top meat was the beef rib. It was incredibly tender, had an amazing bark, and pulled, but didn’t fall, right off the bone. Honestly, I’d take these two cuts of beef over even the finest steaks. Beef like this just doesn’t come around often.

The other beef dish we had was the burnt ends, which was a special of the day. My two co-workers rated this as their favorite meat, and I agree it was very good, but I thought it could have been slightly more tender and could have used a little heat on the sauce. This is nit-picking to the extreme, but it was a tier below the brisket and beef rib for me.

The pork was also a pleasant surprise. I have had very hit or miss experiences with pork in Texas, but you could have told me the Pecan Lodge pork was from Tennessee or North Carolina and I would have believed you and demanded to know where from. It was tender and had nice bark, and overall was really great.

Monk: Funny you should mention that. I recalled hearing at one point at there was a connection between Pecan Lodge and NC and lo and behold, Justin and Diane Fourton (the couple behind Pecan Lodge) both used to live in Charlotte and met at Selwyn Pub in 2000. So while they both are originally from Texas, they may have gotten some pork knowledge through osmosis during their time in NC.

Speedy: On Rudy’s trip to Pecan Lodge, he raved about the ribs. This was my least favorite meat by a wide margin. The ribs were still good, but I felt like they could have been a little meatier and the outside got a little charred to me. I’m not sure if it was just a sub-standard batch, but the ribs were forgettable, especially when compared to the rest of the meal.

Rudy: Maybe you got a bad batch or I got an overly great batch. You may have also had the benefit of having several different meat to compare it to, and I only had the brisket. I’m sorry that I missed out on the beef rib.

Speedy: Generally, I don’t pay too much attention to the sides when I have five pounds of barbecue in front of me, but it was a different story here. The fried okra was really, really good. Perfectly seasoned and fried. The collards were also amazing and very unique. While I’m used to having bacon bits or pieces or pulled pork (or at least chicken stock) in the collards, these were very sweet – my guess is brown sugar. The collards are not to be missed.

The next paragraph is going to be a little hard to write. As a North Carolinian, I will go to my grave saying that Lexington barbecue is the best single food item that one can eat and that it was bestowed upon man by God himself. All that said, the top four all around barbecue meals of my life all happened in Texas, and this was in that group. It’s just that good. If you get a chance to visit Pecan Lodge – just do it.

Monk: Who in the? What in the? How in the?

Rudy: I have always said that the ceiling on Texas barbecue is higher but so is the floor.  When it is done well, it is great, but it can also be done poorly. North Carolina barbecue is more consistent. I agree that Pecan Lodge is a must visit and if you have to order from the bulk window to avoid the lines, you will never be disappointed.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Beef rib – 5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Pecan Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Killen’s Barbecue – Pearland, TX

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Name
: Killen’s Barbecue
Date: 1/20/18
Address: 3613 E. Broadway, Pearland, TX
Order: ½ pound brisket, ½ pound burnt ends (special), 2 sausage links, 1 beef rib, mac & cheese, fried mac & cheese, onion rings, baked beans, green beans (link to menu)
Price: $90

Speedy: I was down in Houston to visit some friends lately, so of course I convinced everyone to pop over to Killen’s, which is known as one of the top joints in Houston. Killen’s is a bit outside of Houston proper, and we went on a rainy day. All this meant we were left with a short line (though it quickly grew as the weather started to clear). Walking up, I could smell the wood coals burning and got a whiff of some beef on the smoker, so I immediately knew I was somewhere serious.

Monk: Seems like you stumbled onto the perfect time to check out Killen’s, seeing as how I’ve been reading about the long lines there for years. Brilliant, Speedy. Brilliant.

Rudy: Killen’s has been on my must-eat list for a while.  I’ve heard great things about since it opened. Houston is not known for having high quality barbecue like some of the other areas of the state, so I know this place has been getting swamped with people. Since I almost never get down to Houston, I haven’t been able to eat there.

Speedy: Killen’s is cafeteria style, where you first order meat, cut right in front of you, and then sides. One of the guys I was with had been there before and advised to skip the pulled pork, so we went all beef, with the exception of the sausage, which is a pork and beef mix. At Killen’s, you can order plates, or by the weight, and we opted for the latter. They only needed two clarifications with our order – fatty or lean brisket (fatty, duh), and jalapeno sausage or regular (regular). After about 20 minutes in line, we were ready to eat.

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Like at any Texas joint, I started with the brisket. I had high expectations based on my prior Texas trip (when I visited Franklin’s and La Barbecue), and let me tell you, this lived up to expectations. The brisket was peppery, moist, and as good as I could have imagined. I think it was 99% as good as Franklin’s and La Barbecue, and tasted very similar. I did not use any sauce, as none was needed. Overall, nearly flawless execution.

Monk: Wow, 99% as good as Franklin’s and La Barbecue? That’s high praise!

Rudy: Yeah, that is huge praise! Add to that the 20 minute wait and that’s even better.

Speedy: The sausage was also great. Made in house, the casing had good snap and a nice spiciness to it. It did start to fall apart a bit, but overall, it was great and is not to be missed.

The burnt ends were a daily special – made with wagyu beef and covered in sauce, they were tender and perfectly chunked. Overall, there was a little more sauce than I liked, but it was tangy and good.

The beef rib was the only thing that I thought could have been better. The rib was crazy tender and easy to cut with a plastic knife, but the bark was not as good as I had hoped and did not touch the brisket. Our beef rib was 1.4 pounds, so nearly $30 – I would have much preferred another pound of brisket.

The sides were good, but like any good barbecue joint, they were a compliment and did not stand out in any way.

I also really liked the atmosphere at Killen’s, as there was a large area of outside seating and lots of seating inside. It’s the definition of a Texas joint, and though it’s only been open since 2013, it’s damn good and not to be missed if you’re in the Houston area. I, for one, can’t wait to go back.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Beef Rib – 3.5 hogs
Sausage – 4.5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Killen's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Smoke Daddy – Chicago, IL

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Name: The Smoke Daddy
Date: 6/17/17
Address: 1804 W Division St., Chicago, IL
Order: Taste of the Daddy – baby back ribs, burnt ends, pulled pork, fries, collards (link to menu)
Price: $25

Speedy: By now, most of my friends are aware of this little barbecue adventure I’m on with Monk and Rudy, and so they have a tendency to suggest ‘cue when I come to visit. This has turned out really well in some cases, terrible in others (I’m looking at you, Boomsauce). Let’s see how the Smoke Daddy stacks up.

Monk: With a name like Smoke Daddy….well, I actually don’t know what to expect. I do know that that I am definitively not a fan of that name, though. Speaking of Boomsauce, Smoke Daddy does sound like somewhere he’d take us. A place where they’d have crappy t-shirts with bad graphics and not-clever innuendo all over it.

Speedy: First off, I want to say a big thanks to my (non-barbecue) bro Berg for letting me put in the full order. He really knows when to let the pros step in. The ribs were part of the deal, and pork was a given. I tacked on burnt ends because I don’t get them too often. Add on fries and collards and we were set.

The food came out looking great, but there was a lot of sauce on everything. I get this on ribs and burnt ends, but I prefer for pork to not be overly sauced. The meat was nice and tender, though, and pulled into decent sized chunks with a nice bark. I would rate the pork as decent to good, but not anything better than that.

The burnt ends were similar. While I expect these to be sauced coming out, I still want the meat to do most of the talking. That wasn’t really the case here, as the sauce was the star. Still enjoyable, and cooked well, but I wanted a little more.

The ribs were my favorite meat. Even though they were baby backs, they were nice and meaty. They were cooked to a nice tenderness without falling off the bone. I got a nice pork flavor, which this time mixed well with the sauce.

Monk: Any idea what kind of smoker they are working with here?

Speedy: No, but I have to assume it was a gasser, just based on the space the occupied. Not sure where they’d fit a stick burner in a crowded Chicago neighborhood.

Overall, the Smoke Daddy puts out a nice product. I think they purposefully feature the sauce in all of their dishes, which I think is a bit of a shame, as I think they do a good job with their smoke. So if you find yourself in Chicago with a hankerin’ for ‘cue, you could do worse than the Smoke Daddy

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – Not rated (outdoor patio was nice, but I never went inside)
Pork – 3 hogs
Burnt Ends – 3 hog
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs
Smoke Daddy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Linkdown: 1/11/17

– A nicely written, in-depth article from Robert Moss about the uptick in whole hog barbecue restaurant openings:

– BBQ Hub breaks down the worst barbecue news of 2016

– On this episode of Charlotte Magazine’s #DiscussCLT podcast, Frank Scibelli reveals that the Midwood Smokehouse Park Rd location should open in March(ish) and they are planning to open another one in Lake Norman this year

– Speaking of Midwood, they have a new burnt ends recipe that’s more in line with traditional KC style

– Marie, Let’s Eat! checks out a “Chattanooga-style” barbecue joint called Porkers Bar-B-Que

– Congrats to The Smoke Pit on the opening of their Salisbury location

Friday Find: Burnt Legend, a web series about burnt ends

Burnt Legend is a 4 part web series brought to you by Flatland, the digital magazine of Kansas City’s PBS affiliate KCPT. Here’s the first chapter above, with the remaining 3 chapters now available at the Flatland YouTube page.

Kansas City is known for its legendary barbecue, but there is a smoke cloud of mystery surrounding it’s most iconic menu item: burnt ends. Burnt Legend explores the myths and truths of how burt ends became popular, how they are made, and where the BBQ Capital of the World’s favorite delicacy is going.

Monk

Best of Charlotte Barbecue: Other

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? Click here to find the other posts.

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.

  1. Brunswick Stew from Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen
  2. Burnt Ends from Midwood Smokehouse (Original location; Ballantyne location)
  3. Que Jar from Ten Park Lanes

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

Buxton Hall Barbecue – Asheville, NC

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Name
: Buxton Hall Barbecue
Date: 11/14/15
Address: 32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Order: Burnt ends sandwich, slaw and collard, side of pulled pork, RC Cola (link to menu)
Price: ~$20

Recently, I found myself driving through Asheville, which was a great opportunity to visit the newly opened Buxton Hall. Monk and I are on record as big fans of 12 Bones in Asheville (review of Arden location here), but I can’t say I’ve had great whole hog in the city (or even the western part of the state in general). I was hopeful that that would change with this place.

Upon entering, I was super impressed with the Buxton Hall atmosphere. It truly is a huge mess hall, with pretty awesome decor and tons of large tables. Being that I was riding solo, I bellied up to the bar instead of opting for a table for one. As I like to do at ‘cue joints, I quickly ordered a Cheerwine only to be told that there was no Cheerwine to be had but that they’d happily pour me an RC Cola. Since I was on my way to Tennessee, it seemed like an appropriate substitute.

I was all ready to order some glorious whole hog when the bartender threw me a curveball. Today, for the first time, Buxton Hall was serving a burnt end sandwich. It was something I just had to try. However, I made sure to specify that I needed some pulled pork on the side as well – I wasn’t leaving without sampling the top dish. To top it off, I ordered some (vinegar based) slaw and collards.

The food came out quickly and I dug in. The burnt ends were different than those I’d had before. They were almost sliced instead of chunked and tasted more like a sirloin than a brisket. It was slathered in a sweet sauce that complimented the meat well. It was very good – just different than I was expecting. The pulled pork was very good – tender with a kiss of smoke. I did add some vinegar sauce to get a little more tang, but still pretty good. The slaw was fine, but the collards were absolutely top notch. They are a can’t miss.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend a stop in at Buxton Hall Barbecue if looking for ‘cue Asheville. I certainly plan to go back.

Speedy

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Buxton Hall Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte, NC (Ballantyne)

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Name: Midwood Smokehouse (Ballantyne)
Date: 5/22/15
Address: 12410 Johnston Rd, Charlotte, NC 28277
Order: Pig Out combo platter (pulled pork, sausage, ribs, and brisket), collards, and barbecue slaw; Burnt ends platter with mac and cheese and hush puppies (link to menu)
Price: $35

Monk: In a complete coincidence, Speedy and I went to a Midwood Smokehouse on the weekend of our blog-a-versary, just as we did last year. This time the occasion was Midwood’s first expansion into the south Charlotte neighborhood of Ballantyne. Ballantyne has a deserved reputation of being a haven for chain restaurants and while Midwood is fully into expansion mode with future locations announced or expected in Columbia, SC and Huntersville/Mooresville, it was a welcome sight for the Monk clan as we have recently moved to south Charlotte, albeit 12-15 minutes northeast of Ballantyne.

Speedy: And a royal pain in the neck for Speedy who hates getting anywhere near South Carolina during rush hour. However, as our dear readers know, we’ll do anything for good ‘cue. And for this anniversary trip, we brought along Yelp god Dan, a fellow High Pointer turned food critic extraordinaire. Seriously – this guy Yelps more than Jon Snow broods on Game of Thrones (update: Dan’s review here).

Monk: In addition to being an elite Yelper, Dan is also asian and thus takes a ton of photos. Which came in handy since I forgot to bring my camera on this trip. So big ups to Dan for all of the photos in this post. I must say, it was a nice change to just kick back and enjoy the food without worrying about photos.

As for the food, in order to give him a taste of the full range of meats available, we ordered a Pig Out combo plus a burnt ends platter. For their second location, Midwood has utilized an Oyler smoker pretty much identical to the one at the Central Ave. location. Having been open for about 3 weeks, I expected the food to be pretty consistent between the two locations.

Speedy: And consistent it was. The dry ribs were perfectly cooked. Tender without falling off the bone and flawlessly seasoned. The rub really made these bad boys. The ribs might have even been better than I remember. The sausage was good, but didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I felt like maybe it was slightly overcooked, as it was a little drier than I like. But I’m nit-picking a bit – it was still good.

Monk: One thing that was different from Central was that the sausage came out whole as opposed to being pre-sliced for us. May have been an oversight but I guess it’s worth mentioning. My one gripe with the pork was that it was a fairly small portion but it was the eastern style pork I am accustomed to at Midwood. Finally, the brisket was maybe a little below par, but seeing as they were recently named the #6 brisket outside of Texas by The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America (not to mention I’ve personally experienced their greatness), I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Speedy: The burnt ends have been a staple for me at the other location since they became a consistent menu item. I think they’re great. The sauce is sweet, but not overly, and the meat is tender and flavorful. We don’t get burnt ends too often here in NC, so I love having a place close by that does such a credible job.

Monk: One thing worth mentioning is that owner Frank Scibelli, who I briefly said hi to as he was patrolling the dinner crowd, isn’t thrilled with their current burnt end recipe and seemed to be considering making a change as he found them to be too sweet. We’ll have to see if that actually happens and whether that changes Speedy’s mind any.

As with (most of) the meats, the sides were consistent between the two locations. I had no complaints, nor did any stand above what I was expecting.

Speedy: Overall, the quality of the food (and overall experience) at the Ballantyne location was pretty consistent with the Plaza Midwood location, which is a good thing. In the midst of the Chain Restaurant Mecca, I feel confident saying one of the best meals you can find is at Midwood Smokehouse.

Monk: We’ve considered giving Midwood Smokehouse a 4 hog rating in the past, but with this one I think we’ve got to do it. 4 hogs it is.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

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