Jim Noble will officially enter the barbecue restaurant world with the opening of Noble Smoke in the coming few weeks, but he is certainly no newcomer when it comes to barbecue, having grown up in High Point and spent his life going to Lexington Barbecue. Noble Smoke will be the culmination of a decades-long idea that’s been rumbling around in Jim’s head ever since he got started in the restaurant business. Jim may have started off in french cuisine and fine dining, but from spending some time with him getting a behind the scenes tour of the upcoming restaurant, it’s pretty evident that barbecue (and in particular, North Carolina barbecue) is a passion of his.
We’re still a few weeks ago from the opening, but its pretty clear to me that once opened, this will be a destination barbecue joint. The touches that you would expect from a Jim Noble restaurant are there – there will be a full service bar, the design is impeccable, and the dining experience will be well thought-out – but where it will really stand out is what’s housed in the custom built smokehouse out back.
That is where there are 6 custom-built reverse-flow offset smokers (each one named for Jim’s great aunts and uncles) as well as a brick pit that pays homage to Lexington Barbecue via a slightly tweaked design of their pits. This was probably the coolest part of the tour for Speedy and me, as longtime readers will know that Lexington Barbecue is our #1 all-time favorite restaurant (Rudy too). Jim is also a huge fan and has learned from the Monks, the family behind Lexington Barbecue, for years. With Noble Smoke, he will be very much looking to continue the Lexington-style barbecue tradition that began with Sid Weaver and Jess Swicegood and their stalls across the street from the Lexington courthouse in 1919.
Besides the smoked meat, the other part of the experience that will help make Noble Smoke a destination barbecue spot will be Suffolk Punch Brewing, which shares the other side of the old bus depot that will house the restaurant. A beer garden and killer patio will make the strong case for customers to stick around well after their meals are done, and Suffolk Punch will be doing some lambic style brewing of sours onsite at this second location, which will surely help differentiate it in the Charlotte market.
Let’s not forget Bossy Beaulah’s, the chicken shack that will sit on the property down a small hill closer to Freedom Drive. Jim has named that after his Aunt Beaulah, whom he named a mobile smoker trailer after and whose fried chicken he grew up on. That will have a smaller menu but patrons in the beer garden will be able to order from it with the servers running up a small hill to bring them brined and buttermilk breaded fried chicken sandwiches.
Jim Noble is a North Carolina guy who is passionate about North Carolina barbecue and I am confident that he will raise the bar when it comes to barbecue in Charlotte. Midwood Smokehouse brought back wood smoked barbecue to Charlotte in 2012 and Sweet Lew’s BBQ has contributed greatly to the scene to it with its opening last December, but Charlotte has so much more room to grow when it comes to its barbecue scene. If Houston’s barbecue scene is blowing up, there’s no reason why Charlotte can’t do the same. I think it just takes more passionate folks like Jim. Noble Smoke will continue the upward trend of barbecue in Charlotte with its opening this summer and I predict will stake a worthy claim to be Charlotte’s flagship barbecue restaurant.
Beaufort vs Beaufort: in the battle of the two coastal Carolina towns, barbecue probably isn’t the main reason to go, but each has their own longstanding joints in Roland’s Barbecue and Duke’s Bar-B-Que
While there is certainly good barbecue to be found in Charlotte, I wouldn’t quite say that it’s a barbecue city…yet. However, there are pitmasters out there doing great work, and I hope to spotlight that a little more in this series of posts called “Pitmasters of Charlotte.”
Monk: I was recently fortunate enough to interview Matthew Berry and Michael Wagner of Midwood Smokehouse in person at their Park Road location. Part 1 posted last week, so here is the second and final part of the conversation. And stay tuned to the Barbecue Bros Instagram page for an upcoming giveaway next month for National Barbecue Month. (This interview was condensed and edited for clarity)
So I’ll switch gears a little bit…a few years ago, Sam Jones came out here for a dinner at Central Avenue and I was actually at that dinner, because I just wanted to try that whole hog. Were you able to spend some time and learn from him?
MB: We took some things from that that we tried to implement here. We tried to do the whole hog – half hogs – for a while but logistically with the pits we have and the situation we have and all of the different other proteins we offer it just wasn’t something we could consistently do at the same level that it deserved and so we scrapped it not quite a year ago.
What’s the status of that – is it a trailer now? Is it more for catering? The whole hog trailer right – the BQ Grill?
MB: Even before we had the BQ Grill we were trying to do it over at Central Avenue but you’re taking a half hog and you’re sacrificing 8 briskets to fit that half hog
And you’re fitting it in the Oyler?
MB: Yea and that was a little nerve-wracking logistically which wasn’t great and Central Avenue is a busy store and you’re losing 8 briskets for that whole hog which isn’t a fair trade off.
MW: And the thing with the BQ Grill, we had it at this restaurant and you know, having what really was intended to be outside inside with the smoke and then how do you get the fire and how do you maintain the fire and where do you do that and you’re supposed to use a burn barrel but we don’t have that so we’re taking coals from the pit and taking from the fire…We couldn’t make it work.
MB: All the smoke was going up the one hood to the yoga studio next door so we had that issue to deal with too. They were like “it smells like barbecue in here” and we did it for a while but we learned a lot from Sam Jones where we add hot sauce to the pork which is something he did. Before the Sam Jones dinner we actually pulled the pork and then we started chopping.
With the cleavers
MB: It’s a coarse chop. Eastern NC its almost like minced but it’s more of like a coarse chop [for us]. But it’s fun just hanging out with somebody – like his family’s been doing barbecue for almost a hundred years and that kind of lineage. But he’s just a normal guy like you and me.
I think Midwood deserves a lot of accolades for bringing wood smoking barbecue back to Charlotte. If it was here before it had gone the way of gas-assisted smokers. Maybe you can clear something up for me – Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ has a Myron Mixon smoker and he’s saying he’s got the only “all wood smoker” in Charlotte. Now I know you guys use Oylers…
MW: I know Lew and I go to his restaurant almost every week and what he said was he had the only all wood, no electric assist. And I can’t argue that. I don’t want to start talking about what he does over there because that’s not what it’s about. If the electricity goes out, what can I do? We are very serious about the all wood, no gas. To cook at the volume we do in the locations our restaurants are, it’s not feasible to have a pit different than we have.
I did a little research and it seems like it really reduces wood
usage. I don’t know if its more than that.
MB: It probably does because its controlling it more. Let’s say you’re manually controlling the fire and if the fire gets too hot you’re pulling wood out and you’re wasting it. Whereas here, it’ll cut the oxygen off so in that regard it probably does.
Regardless, you guys are both doing your thing and putting out
some really good barbecue.
MW: I honestly remember the moment that post came and I had this whole thing and I was like…he’s not wrong.
MB: Our electric assist is the thermostat and let’s be honest, it’s gone down before. And we’ve had to go back. I’ve spent the night at Central Ave.
In that case you are manually
doing it yourself, maintaining the fire and keeping he temps.
MW: And also, it’s not a no-brainer like even during the day you have to maintain it and maintain it the right way. If you’ve put the wrong amount of wood in it at the wrong time, you’re going to black out all your meat or the fire can go out. It’s not like a gas assist pit where you can let the fire go out…
It’s not a set-and-forget
MB: Definitely not.
MW: It’s definitely not
I do want to talk about the new Midwood Smokehouse rub which came out a couple of weeks ago.
MB: It came out some time in March.
kind of led to this, why are you coming out with a rub now?
MB: Well we’ve had the rub…we made the rub ourselves for the longest time and with the volume we’re doing we got RL Schreiber to make us big cubes of the rub. Save some labor, more consistent product. And I think it’s just brand recognition. Frank [Scibelli] and the team at the corporate office know what they’re doing, I haven’t seen them mess anything up yet. Just trying to get stuff out there…if you go to the grocery you see Mac’s [Speed Shop] has a rub and you see some other places that are probably inferior products in all honesty. I think we’re just trying to share…we had a lot of popular demand too at Christmastime but we’d just put it into a deli container. I think this is just something a little nicer, a novelty item.
So is it
truly just the rub you were using, it was being made by a manufacturer and you
saw the demand was there and it was an opportunity for brand recognition?
MB: Hell it’s worked out great for me. I bought a case of it and it’s got my face on it. I’ve got it to give to relatives for a Christmas present next year.
MW: And the cool thing is, it actually is the rub we use.
MB: It’s not like we altered the recipe or anything like that.
Is it an
all-purpose rub? It can go on anything? What do you use it most on at home?
MB: At home? I use it on burgers the most. I cook a lot of burgers at home.
Do you use
it a lot, Mike? What are you using it on?
MW: I would use it on beef and pork. I would use it on chicken with maybe a little more black pepper, just cause that’s the way I like it. I mean anybody that knows anything about dry rubs, if they make one its going to have all of this in it.
no proprietary secrets or anything?
MW: Anybody has all of these spices on their shelf.
any thoughts or plans to develop additional rubs?
MB: We do have a couple of the rubs back in the kitchen. We have a separate rub for ribs and then a poultry rub and then like a little chemistry we’ll mix and match some of the rubs together. You take some of the brisket rub and the rib rub and then that’s what goes on the burger.
to make them available? Will you just see if there’s demand for them?
MB: We’ll see if there’s any demand for them. Far and away, we use this rub the most in the restaurant. That’s what goes on the brisket and the pork. The volume we use on that is significantly higher than everything else. I know we are looking at sauces to get bottled up. That’s in the prelim[inary] phase right now.
I just had a couple of rapid fire questions to wrap it up. You guys have been
great with your time. So, favorite barbecue joint ever, anywhere?
MW: So here’s the thing we talk about “all time.” Your favorite barbecue joints are the ones that you remember. My favorite barbecue joint was whatever backyard it was happening in. For the first 2 decades of my life I can’t honestly say that I ever went to a barbecue “restaurant.” And if I did, it wasn’t memorable and until the Lockhart phase of my life I don’t recall eating barbecue at a restaurant that was as good as what we were doing at home.
MB: Growing up, Bill Spoon’s. That’s where I used to go with my dad when I was younger. The best barbecue I’ve had recently was this place called Green Street Meats in Chicago.
Chicago, I ate there a few years ago. It was good.
MB: I walk in, the first thing I saw was an Oyler – the same
sucker we have – and well that’s a good start. My wife and I ate there about a
always heard – and I repeat it – is that your favorite barbecue is what you
grew up on. It may not be the best ever, but it’s what you grew up on and you
have a fondness for it.
MB: I still go to Bill Spoon’s once in a while when I’m on South Boulevard. Now it’s definitely not as good as I remember but it’s still there and the nostalgia makes it taste better.
your favorite meat to smoke? In your backyard, what do you smoke?
MW: I do a lot of burgers like Matt, a lot of chicken.
do you do a lot of smoking outside of the job? If you have a day off, are you
going to smoke?
MW: I’ve got a Big Green Egg in the backyard. I have an offset
that I’m trying to get here from Texas. I do a lot of cooking on my Big Green
Egg. I do a lot of steaks, I’ve smoked some roasts. I haven’t done a brisket just
cause the amount it makes…
MB: …The amount of people to feed. I do a lot of beer can
chickens. I’ve got a sidecar smoker and a Big Green Egg. I do a lot of smoking
when I have yardwork to do. You can kind of check in on it and when you’re done
you have something delicious to eat.
question is eastern or Lexington style barbecue but having grown up here eating
Bill Spoon’s, which is eastern.
MB: I consider Midwood Smokehouse a mix of the two because you’re chopping it. We tried the whole hog thing for a little bit. Also, our vinegar sauce does have a little tomato in it.
had a chance to try both, Mike, since you’ve been in North Carolina?
MW: Not yet
What is the
best thing about Charlotte barbecue? The state of Charlotte barbecue?
MW: The fact that its still developing. Like, the two places we’ve talked about (offline) – Jon G’s and Sweet Lew’s – and others that are coming, can only make barbecue in general better and us the same.
MB: I don’t think there’s any constraints on barbecue in Charlotte whereas the eastern part of the state or like these places where the barbecue is very established and older and generational. Like this is what they do: “we’re going to have cornbread, pork, and slaw.” I think here you can do burnt ends, you can do pork belly, you can do other stuff.
I think if
you tried that out east depending on the location, you wouldn’t get any traction
if you tried to introduce burnt ends.
MB: Well if you want to have burnt ends, you have to have brisket.
To have brisket – some people in that area might not come to you because you
would be a weakness of Charlotte barbecue? Or an opportunity, if you want to
think of it that way.
MW: One big difference that I see with what is going on here
versus what is going on in Texas, which I think is also an opportunity for what
is going on here, is in Texas all of the guys that own competing restaurants
all are friends with each other. They have a barbecue brotherhood. They go to
each others’ restaurants, they get up with each other at events and stuff
around and they…its just different. Since its so new here, its like we work for
people who are driven to be the best period, full stop. It’s a bit more of a
competitive nature here. I feel like it doesn’t necessarily need to be that cutthroat.
At the end of the day, all that we want to do is cook great meat and I’m
excited to see more people come around and do the thing. To me, it reminds me a
lot of what was happening in Austin when John Lewis started at La Barbecue and Franklin
started with his trailer and then all of a sudden everyone was like “oh my God,
barbecue” and I feel like that’s what’s happening here.
Would you agree? What’s an opportunity or weakness of Charlotte barbecue?
MB: I wouldn’t call I a weakness but Charlotte is still trying to find an identity for barbecue and part of that leads to, I don’t think there’s as much cooperation or cohesion to the people that are doing barbecue. Like, I had to ask you who you had talked to before. I know Lew (Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ), but outside of that I don’t know many people. I always grew up and barbecue had a community feel and in Charlotte it’s a little more isolated if that’s the right word. I think there’s an opportunity for Charlotte to really forge an identity.
question – where do you want to see Charlotte barbecue in two years? We’ve
maybe touched on it with the last two questions but what would you like to see?
MB: I would like to see when people think of North Carolina barbecue,
Charlotte comes to mind. I would like for Charlotte to be the spot. Charlotte’s
more of a melting pot now and we have people from all different regions of the
country and I think we should be more regionally known and North Carolina’s got
good barbecue and Charlotte’s [could be] the center of all that.
MW: In Texas, everybody has known forever that Texas has good
barbecue joints and back in the day Lockhart was the place because it was home
to several. So you could go there and eat at three or four places but there
were hundreds of them. But you get a concentration and you’re like “Lockhart’s
the barbecue capital of Texas” and it has its own day. I think that’s kind of
what is happening here. Barbecue has always been in North Carolina but…
MB: …It’s been a very rural phenomenon. But it can be done in a very urban setting.
Again, thanks to Matthew and Mike for their time. And stay tuned to the Barbecue Bros Instagram page for an upcoming giveaway next month for National Barbecue Month.
While there is certainly good barbecue to be found in Charlotte, I wouldn’t quite say that it’s a barbecue city…yet. However, there are pitmasters out there doing great work, and I hope to spotlight that a little more in this series of posts called “Pitmasters of Charlotte.”
Monk: I was recently fortunate enough to interview Matthew Barry and Michael Wagner of Midwood Smokehouse in person at their Park Road location. While it was my first in-person interview, after a few minutes my nerves melted away due to a fun conversation with the two about their passion for barbecue. This is a little different format for the Pitmasters of Charlotte series than previous entries but I hope you enjoy the first part of a two-part post nonetheless. (This interview was condensed and edited for clarity)
So first I’ll just start with each of your official titles with Midwood Smokehouse and how long you’ve been with the company.
Matthew: Matthew Barry, I guess I would be the executive pitmaster but I just call myself the pitmaster. I’ve been with the company it will be 8 years in June. I moved down here in 2011 from Raleigh. I was up in Raleigh before going to college and then trying to figure out my life and honestly if you had asked me, like, 15 years ago if I would get to do barbecue for a living, I probably would have been like “oh that’s funny, that would be cool.” It wasn’t really a plan, it just kind of like happened.
Did you grow up in the Raleigh area?
Matthew: I grew up in Charlotte, actually. I went to NC State. I went to Charlotte Catholic and South Meck. And then went up to school at NC State and stayed up there for a few years. Then my uncle worked for Frank [Scibelli] at Bad Daddy’s – he was a GM for Bad Daddy’s – and when Frank opened Midwood up he called me up a couple of times asking questions. I did some barbecue stuff up there but then some of these questions they asked me I didn’t have answers to – more complex stuff than I was used to. And then one weekend I came down here and cooked some stuff for Frank and two weeks later I moved down and started working for him.
And Mike, how long have you been here and what’s your title and obviously you came from Texas but how did you come to be here?
Mike: Sure, so Michael Wagner and my title is sous chef for the company. I’m also sort of the right hand man to Matt when it comes to pit training and pitmaster stuff. I’ve been here 3 years this summer. Six years ago I was managing a book store and I quit that and opened a food truck and after the food truck I started working for the Black’s Barbecue family out in Texas and did that for a couple of years.
And you were in San Marcos?
I trained in Lockhart at the original Black’s in Lockhart and they were opening a second location for the first time in 83 years in San Marcos. I went out there as one of the pitmasters and eventually the Assistant GM of the store. During that, I came across a job listing online for a company in North Carolina that was cooking Texas-style brisket and ribs and was looking for someone who understood the process. I reached out and the rest was history.
I actually remember that job posting and Texas Monthly kind of made fun of a NC barbecue joint wanting a pitmaster and having to go to Texas. I don’t know if you ever heard that feedback.
Matthew: I never heard that but it’s interesting.
Mike: I’ve never heard either and it is interesting but what I’ve learned about Frank and FS [Food Group] is that if they are pursuing a concept they go to the source of where it’s done best and Texas is beef country and that’s where brisket cooking originated. I don’t find it a fault on us or them that they had to go to Texas. I think that’s part of what makes i great. I’ve learned a lot from them and I hope they’ve learned a lot from me. It’s been great.
Matthew, before you joined, were you doing a lot of backyard smoking on your own or was it something you grew into?
Matthew: I dropped out of college and and got a job at a barbecue restaurant in Raleigh – Q Shack on Hillsborough Street – and I worked there for a bit before I went back to school and got my history degree. I was trying to figure out what my next step in life and I wasn’t really happy with the options I had. I was going to some interviews and ended up taking a job as a catering director with the company for a little bit and I was just kind of feeling it out and wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I started thinking “what did I like doing” and I said [to myself] “I liked working at that barbecue restaurant and that was fun.”
And what kind of work were you doing? Bussing or waiting?
Matthew: I was working in the kitchen and was a line cook there. Then I started handling the pit stuff and ended up going back and working at the company as a manager and then the company expanded very rapidly and then contracted. And I think the only one that’s still around is down in South Charlotte. I actually came down here for a couple months and opened that up before moving back up [to Raleigh]. So when that kind of dissolved and I was trying to figure out my next move and that’s when I met Frank and kind of opened up a whole new avenue for me that I didn’t see before. I didn’t realize I could make a living and take care of my family doing this. And that’s pretty awesome.
Mike: I’ve had kind of the same experience when I was doing the food truck. I was just doing it and didn’t know what it was going to be but I never knew that it would turn into this. Being out there and just learning everything I’ve learned from Frank. I can’t overstate his commitment to quality and how much he cares about what he does and the people who he has doing it for him.
You mentioned you were working in a book store and then decided to open a food truck. What was the thought process? That was a pretty big leap it sounds like.
Mike: At that point in Texas we were in the middle of a big oil boom. Down in south Texas with the Eagleford shale things were cranking. I knew barbecue people down there and some guys who went all in and made a killing so that was the impetus. Unfortunately, I was a little behind the curve but you know, the oil industry is nothing if its not a good ol’ boy network and I just didn’t know the people. So with that business model in mind to try and restructure with the equipment I had it just wasn’t feasible. I tried to do some typical food truck stuff and the rig was like a 35 foot gooseneck trailer and you couldn’t go into a small downtown area and “food truck it” so that just didn’t work.
It sounds like at least it got you some experience that got you to the next job.
Mike: Yea, if I wouldn’t have done that I wouldn’t have gone to work for Black’s. When I was at the bookstore my district manager would come up on Fridays for meetings and we’d go to Lockhart and eat at Black’s and at that point in my life I was doing a lot of cooking in the backyard. Eating their stuff it was great but it wasn’t better than mine. And then bookstore stuff with online and Amazon…I saw the writing on the wall so I was like “man, I’m going to do this” so I just went all in and do this. It didn’t work but then in my mind the only place I wanted to work was Black’s and that’s where I went.
So Matthew, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you and Frank have gone to Camp Brisket at Texas A&M a couple times or just once?
Matthew: I’ve only been once and I know Frank’s been once. We’ve had some other chefs go and other people at the company and sent them down there.
What type of stuff were you able to take from the long weekend?
Matthew: The number one thing I learned from it personally, having been kind of self taught, was the science behind everything. That’s what they are really big on down there – the science and chemical reactions taking place. You know, stuff that you just took for granted and didn’t realize why it was happening but you knew it was happening. So that’s the big thing – they’re all science guys. I think Texas A&M has the biggest meat science department in the country. We looked at the different grades of brisket and the wood and the flavor they put on the brisket.
And how early was this in Midwood Smokehouse?
Matthew: I had been at Midwood for maybe a year-and-a-half or two years. At that point we were good at what we were doing and were just trying to hone our craft. You know, being from North Carolina, I could cook a brisket but I didn’t know a lot about brisket. I feel like in that time since then I’ve really adopted brisket as my own.
Mike: Like when I was doing the food truck, I was cooking pork butts and I was doing what I thought was pulled pork and it was good, but coming here was a whole different thing and it’s been really interesting. The customers I had loved my food, but what I was serving as pulled pork was nothing like here so its been really fun.
Did the Brisket Camp change anything with the restaurant?
Matthew: We switched to prime brisket from choice. We started trimming the brisket differently. It actually changed a lot and really opened our eyes to some stuff. Before, I had never temped a brisket in my life. So they talked about temping briskets there and people say 190-200 (degrees) and this was the first I had heard of it. So then we started using temp[erature] as a guideline and feel is how we pull but I had never associated temperature with brisket before in my life.
Mike: That’s interesting to hear you say you never had because before here I never had either. It’s changed from two years ago to today but I had never associated a number with brisket.
Matthew: I think when you are commercially trying to do barbecue and you have people working for you, you have to give them some kind of guidelines. For us at this point, you put your hands on something and something in your brain says “yes or no.”
Mike, have you had the chance to go to any brisket camps?
Mike: Like that? No…
Matthew: Well, he got to grow up in Texas
Mike: I’ve never gone to the brisket camp. I just by nature am a really analytical person so when I decided that cooking brisket professionally was what I was doing to do. I knew just from eating so much of it throughout my life just how it should be. Before brisket, I did other cooking, so I had an understanding of what was happening to the meat while it was in there and then it was just trial and error. I always say that the best pitmasters are the ones who have messed up the most briskets. Every time I work a pit shift – even this morning – it’s all learning.
Check back next week for the part two of the interview plus some details on an Instagram giveaway for National Barbecue Month.
The True ‘Cue Newsletter is no more for a variety of reasons, but we are happy to announce that we will help spread any future True ‘Cue news from them received via press releases.
In the final issue of the newsletter, John Shelton Reed did have some nice news to share: In parting, there is some Campaign news to report. Our latest branch, joining those in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Kentucky, will cover Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. It is in the capable hands of John Tanner. We wish him well and look forward to hearing where one can get Real Barbecue in and near our nation’s capital.
An update on Bryan Furman’s plans for the Atlanta B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque
Mr. Barbecue in Winston-Salem had a pit fire last week, caused by embers, but they vow to return
Midwood Smokehouse has them some new fancy sandwiches
Stephen Colbertis at it again: “I love everything about North Carolina other than that damn vinegar stuff that y’all put on the barbecue.”
As usual, Kathleen Purvis puts it all in perspective:
Albemarle, NC has their own branch of the NC barbecue family tree via the Galloway family who have opened three barbecue restaurants over he years in the small town: Log Cabin, Whispering Pines, and Darrell’s Bar-B-Que in nearby Rockwell
Hogs for the Cause is not just a regular barbecue festival
Name: Gibson’s Family BBQ Date: 3/29/19 Order: Pulled pork sandwich and brisket (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Monk: Last fall, I received word that Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen, who at one point was our favorite barbecue in Charlotte, had closed (at least according to their page on Yelp). I reached out via Facebook (though their page had not been updated since the summer) but never received any word. As reader “John” pointed out in the comments a few weeks back, Boone’s had rebranded as Gibson’s Family BBQ, presumably with Dan “Boone” Gibson still involved.
In the years since we had initially named Boone’s our Charlotte #1 back in 2014, a lot has changed in the world of Charlotte barbecue. Having been a few years since I had tried them, how would Boone’s/Gibson’s stack up? They’ve been making the rounds at the local breweries lately, so this past Friday I got a chance to try them at Pilot Brewing, a small brewery that recently opened in Plaza Midwood.
Things appear to be status quo between Gibson’s as it was with Boone’s. The menu has the same items, all of the sauces have the same packaging, and the food truck even still has the branding of Boone’s. At this stop, however, Boone himself wasn’t there, though that may or may not be significant if he was back at their commissary kitchen in Southend. Everything felt very familiar up to this point.
That mostly includes the food itself. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and brisket with no sides. I imagine Boone is still smoking on a Southern Pride gasser, which he was always able to coax some good smokey cue out of. On this day, I could taste the smoke but the pulled pork itself was quite dry as if it had possibly been reheated. Eaten on the humongous brioche roll, it was a big mouthful of dryness even after adding the slaw and their eastern vinegar sauce. I’ll chalk it up to an off day unless that’s the case next time.
On the other hand, the brisket slices definitely could not be accused of being dry. Upon opening the box, I was reminded how Boone’s brisket bears very little resemblance to just about all brisket out there. The brisket slices are finished on a grill and then doused in their sweeter PoPo’s sauce. It’s not a bad bite of barbecue, but just don’t expect anything in the Central Texas tradition as this preparation is unique to Boone.
I had removed Boone’s from the Charlotte Big Board a few months back when I believed they had closed. Of course I’ll be adding it back now that I’ve tried Gibson’s, but it won’t be anywhere near the top of the leader board. Charlotte barbecue, and perhaps more specifically my tastes, has evolved in the past 6 years and as a result, Gibson’s Family BBQ no longer stands out like Boone’s once did.