Why the Carolina BBQ Festival Could be a Game Changer for #CLTBBQ

This May at Camp North End in Charlotte, Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ will be having a celebration of pork barbecue (or, just “barbecue” for those of us from NC) and we’re all invited. In addition to a fun looking event, this year’s inaugural Carolina BBQ Festival also has a chance to help put Charlotte on the barbecue map. It will be the first barbecue festival in Charlotte for quite a few years, it will bring together some of the best pitmasters in the southeast, and it will also spotlight the still growing Charlotte barbecue scene.

It’s been almost 8 years since Charlotte hosted a true barbecue festival. Part barbecue-competition, part street festival, the Q City Championship ran for a few years in uptown Charlotte during the fall and was initially sanctioned by the Memphis Barbecue Network before switching over to the short-lived NC BBQ Association for its last iteration in 2014. It closed off the streets of uptown Charlotte for competition teams to waft smoke all over uptown but since you couldn’t taste the teams’ barbecue it didn’t feel dissimilar to the annual Taste of Charlotte or Speed Street festivals.

Looking down South Tryon Street during the Q City Championship in 2014

The Carolina BBQ Festival, on the other hand, looks to be a whole different animal. First off, its focus is strictly on pork instead of the multiple proteins needed for a competition turn-in box. Patrons will be able to enjoy beer, wine, and cocktails with a background of funk, soul, and bluegrass but the focus of the festival will be celebrating the different styles of barbecue throughout the Carolinas – East, South, and West (or Piedmont or Lexington-style).

Not to mention the proceeds from the festival will go to three charities: the Piedmont Culinary Guild, Operation BBQ Relief, and World Central Kitchen.

Charlotte has hosted some great pitmasters over the years in infrequent, one-off events – Sam Jones at Midwood Smokehouse and the Free Range Pig Pickin’ and Ed Mitchell at Midwood Smokehouse come to mind – but the Carolina BBQ Festival is bringing together 6 acclaimed pitmasters with roots in North and South Carolina.

Charlotte-raised Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue and Tay Nelson of Bobby’s BBQ will represent the Palmetto state, smoking a whole hog and dressing it with a mustard-based sauce. Bryan Furman is looking for his next opportunity in Atlanta after the unfortunate burning down of his second restaurant some years ago but has been recently doing pop-ups in the Atlanta area. Tay Nelson has found success in Fountain Inn, SC (just outside of Greenville) after he famously opened up Bobby’s BBQ after doing extensive research on YouTube.

Nathan Monk, third generation owner of Lexington Barbecue, and Elliot Moss of Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville will represent the West, cooking Piedmont or Lexington-style shoulders. Loyal readers know this blog’s thoughts on Lexington Barbecue, and it will be fascinating to see Moss’ influence on Lexington-style barbecue where his focus has primarily been Pee Dee-style whole hog and brisket at his restaurant in Asheville.

Matthew Register of the fantastic Southern Smoke and Brandon Shepard of Shepard Barbecue in Emerald Isle will handle the eastern NC vinegar-pepper duties. I was a big fan of Southern Smoke when I visited in Summer 2020 and hope to be able to catch up with Matthew again while he’s in town. I haven’t yet had the chance to try Shepard Barbecue but between this and the Pinehurst Barbecue Festival, he’s got a busy summer coming up.

And Ronald Simmons of Master Blend Family Farms in Kenansville, NC will be providing all hogs and pork for the festival. He himself has been getting into barbecue after being a recipient of the Kingsford “Preserve the Pit” Fellowship in 2021.

Charlotte may not have experienced the same barbecue boom that Raleigh did (even if the ended up being to a lesser degree than expected due to the pandemic), but in Sweet Lew’s BBQ and Jon G’s Barbecue we have two places to be proud of when it comes to #cltbbq. Lewis and Garren and Kelly Kirkman won’t be cooking for the main festival; instead they are cooking for a VIP brunch the morning of the festival. While they’ve each gotten great media coverage up to this point, this event will surely open them up to new and different circles of influence in the southeastern food and barbecue scene.

Then there’s the fact of Charlotte hosting such an event in the first place. While anyone who pays attention to barbecue may not bat an eye at such a celebration of barbecue, it reminds me of something more along the lines of an event at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival or any number of similar events in Texas like the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival. These type of events don’t seem to happen in Charlotte. Not to get ahead of myself, but let’s hope this festival becomes a mainstay of the Charlotte food scene for years to come.

The inaugural Carolina BBQ Festival has a chance to put Charlotte barbecue on the map through its first-of-its-kind festival for Charlotte, its collection of talented pitmasters from the southeast, and its spotlight of the current Charlotte barbecue scene. The slogan of the festival is ‘Divided By Sauce, United By Coals’ and in that spirit I hope Charlotte shows out in unity for what is sure to be a fantastic afternoon of barbecue. I hope to see you there.

The Carolina Barbecue Festival takes place Sunday, May 21st from 12-4 at Camp North End in Charlotte. More information and tickets available on their website.

The Barbecue Bros Holiday Gift Guide 2021

Monk: Back for another year is our annual holiday gift guide. For you or the barbecue-obsessed person in your life, these are some of the best gifts available whether it be sauces or rubs or books or shirts.

Am I missing something? Comment below or email me at barbecuebros@gmail.com

Note: items in bold are personally recommended

Updated: 12/20/21

Charlotte-area Barbecue Gifts

The Original Slow ‘N Sear from SnS Grills (link)

Rub and Sauces from Fire of Coals (link)

T-shirts, hoodies, Matt’s Rub, sauces, and gift cards from Midwood Smokehouse (link)

Rub, sauce, gift cards, swag from Sweet Lew’s BBQ (link)

Rubs from Roddey’s BBQ (DM on Instagram)

North Carolina Barbecue Gifts

Books

Hats, T-Shirts, Apparel

Accessories, Stocking Stuffers, etc.

Non-Native Barbecue Gifts

Books

Cookbooks, from pitmasters and food writers alike

Food History, Cultural Writing, and Photography

Hats, T-Shirts, Apparel

Accessories, Stocking Stuffers, etc.

Happy Shopping!

Friday Find: Kevins’ BBQ Joints Interviews Elliott Moss

Monk: Kevin spoke with Elliott Moss recently in a wide-ranging conversation starting with his earliest memories of barbecue to how he got into cooking first at a Chic-Fil-A then The Admiral in Asheville, where he was awarded a James Beard Nomination, to the thought process behind Buxton Hall. Elliott also goes into detail about the dishes on his menu that make the restaurant in his mind: whole hog barbecue, barbecue hash, and chicken bog. I’ve read a lot on Moss both in his cookbook as well as various profiles online but this was perhaps the first time I’ve heard his voice in an audio interview.

Moss seems to be in a good place mentally and emotionally despite the pandemic, and it can seemingly be attributed to his decision to quit drinking last July. Between that and roller blading, his mind is as clear as its been in quite some time. Which is great for him.

Description: In this episode I chat with Chef Elliott Moss from Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville, North Carolina.

See all things Buxton Hall Barbecue here: http://www.buxtonhall.com
Visit Buxton Hall Barbecue here: 32 Banks, Ave., Asheville, NC. 28801
Give Buxton Hall Barbecue a call here: 828-232-7216
Current hours: 11:30am – 8:30pm – Tuesday – Sunday
Place an order online here: Order: https://www.toasttab.com/buxton-hall-…
Or you can order at the restaurant.
Order delivery via Kickback here: https://www.kickbackavl.com/r/141/res…
Follow them on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/buxtonhallbbq
Email Elliott here: elliottmoss@gmail.com
Order gift cards here: https://www.toasttab.com/buxton-hall-…
Place a catering order here: http://www.buxtonhall.com/catering
See all things Little Louies here: http://www.buxtonhall.com/littlelouies
Hours: Open Friday and Saturday: 11:30am – 9pm – Sunday’s and Monday’s 12pm – 6pm
Follow Little Louies on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/littlelouie…
See Elliott’s adventures here: https://www.instagram.com/elliottmoss

Linkdown: 3/3/21

Featured

Ed Mitchell is back in the barbecue game as of this Friday, albeit not quite in the way that we’ve been waiting more than a year for. With the opening date of The Preserve up in the air, Ed and team have opted to open a “delivery only ghost kitchen” (previously referred to as a “pop up”) starting this Friday, March 5. Which is, of course, over a month after their original date to open this part of their business on January 22.

Let’s hope this goes smoothly because in a since-deleted reply The Preserve’s official Facebook account stated that they were not going to open until next year “after things cooled down” (I’m paraphrasing here). If that’s the case, then that is the latest setback in a series of setbacks for Mitchell whose original Raleigh restaurant in the Brier Creek area never came to fruition in the years since his Durham restaurant shuttered in 2015. I am rooting that their delivery business goes well, but would feel a lot better if they were still charging forward with opening a restaurant this year. Nevertheless, I hope Raleigh folks will support The Preserve in earnest starting this weekend.

Native News

Buxton Hall makes Eater Carolina’s list of best restaurants in Asheville

ICYMI

Non-Native News

J.C. Reid on barbecue-adjacent stews (paywall)

La Barbecue has collaborated with Zilker Brewing Co for a pilsner perfect for pairing with smoked meats

AGL’s Craft Meats is hoping to be the first to use traditional open-air smokers in LA County

Orlando Magazine has a feature on barbecue in their March 2021 issue