The Improper Pig – Charlote, NC (RE-REVIEW)

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Name: The Improper Pig
Date: 11/3/17
Address: 110 S Sharon Amity Rd Charlotte, NC 28211
Order: The Cotswold Platter with pulled pork and smoked andouille with asian slaw and collards (link to menu)
Price: $14.99

Monk: Back in late 2014, Speedy and I checked out The Improper Pig within a few weeks of it opening and found it somewhat promising but that they were perhaps still working out the kinks that come with opening a new restaurant. Fast forward nearly 3 years later, and to paraphrase former Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green, they are who we thought they were.

The restaurant interior has changed a bit in the past 3 years. Whereas it used to be dimly lit (which I recall made it hard to take decent photos), the restaurant is now much brighter inside. I also think they have become popular with families with kids, so it would make sense not to have it so dark inside.

I didn’t take a peek into the open kitchen this time around, but I assume The Improper Pig is still using a Southern Pride gasser. Out of it, they are still able to coax some decently smoky meats – pork and andouille sausage this time around for me – but its still not quite there in order to be one of the better barbecue restaurants in Charlotte.

As was the case on our first visit, they still get creative with their sides and many have a slight asian bent. Mrs. Monk and I did try a southern egg roll, but the texture inside was mostly mushy as it is just sweet potato hash and collards inside with a drizzle of hot asian mustard. Certainly not as well executed as the southern egg rolls I’ve tried from The Pit in Raleigh. The asian slaw was more or less a small salad with ginger dressing, though, and I regretted ordering it just a tiny bit. The collards were fine but perhaps overly spicy. While the sides were the best part of the last meal years ago, they didn’t measure up on this visit.

So where does this land us? The restaurant is kid-friendly and I could see myself trying their brisket and ribs next time but I won’t necessarily be in a rush to make it back out. The Improper Pig is still a pretty good concept but yet again the execution isn’t quite there for me.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Sausage – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
The Improper Pig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Linkdown: 11/8/17

– A couple of barbecue restaurants make Charlotte Agenda’s Top 50 Charlotte Restaurant rankings, Midwood Smokehouse (#20) and Seoul Food Meat Co (#46)

– Raleigh recently got a new barbecue joint on Glenwood South, Southern Charred

– The barbecue circle of life: JB’s Smokeshack on John’s Island outside of Charleston has been put up for sale after 16 years in business

– A barbecue restaurant makes New Orlean’s top 5 new restaurants of 2017, according to Nola.com

– National Nachos Day may have passed on Monday already, but you can always get the Nachos Libre at Midwood Smokehouse

What to expect: A beast portion of tortilla chips that are topped with diced tomatoes, black beans, smoked corn, cilantro, cheddar, diced jalapenos, queso and a heavy drizzle of spicy habanero sauce with lime sour cream.

– TMBBQ Fest was this past weekend

Friday Find: Slice of Jess visits Midwood Smokehouse

Slice of Jess visits with Matthew Barry, Executive Chef and Pit Master of Midwood Smokehouse, for a promotional video that highlights what they’ve been doing in Charlotte since 2012.

Charlotte culinary scene is thriving, and I am so grateful to be intertwined in the mix. With new establishments popping up every week, I’ve decided to film our adventures behind the counter at some of the Queen City’s best eateries, distilleries and brewhouses. These videos are designed to be a quick peek behind the scenes, giving viewers a glance beyond the menu and the chance to meet the faces behind the brand.

I’ve partnered with Foodesign Associates for this series; a full service food design, development and marketing firm here in Charlotte.

Link to full post

Linkdown: 10/25/17

– The 88th annual Mallard Creek Barbecue is tomorrow and the chefs are very busy right about now

Event organizers expect to cook 15,000 pounds of pork barbecue, prepare 2,500 gallons of Brunswick stew, shred two tons of coleslaw, brew 400 gallons of coffee and entertain close to 20,000 people.

– Preparations are underway for this weekend’s Barbecue Festival in Lexington

– The SC BBQ Association has sanctioned the fifth annual Speed and Feed Barbecue Cook-Off this weekend at Darlington Raceway

– The origins of the Alabama white sauce (if you’re into that sort of thing)

– The Triangle Business Journal is getting into the  barbecue game; their definitive guide to the best barbecue restaurants in the Triad

– A short profile on EDIA Maps, the creators of The Great NC BBQ Map

Photo Gallery: Hot Dogs and Smoked Pastrami from Noble Smoke

Monk: For the second year in a row, Jim Noble of the forthcoming Noble Smoke partnered with local menswear store Tabor for their Bungalow Social block party, While last year he smoked NC-style barbecue, this year he brought house made hot dogs grilled out of one of his mobile rigs, Flossie. So while I have still yet to try Noble’s barbecue, the hot dogs ground and made in-house at his uptown Rooster’s location more than hit the spot on a sunny fall day. I went Carolina style with chili, slaw, and mustard before topping it off with Texas Pete. Additionally, in an off-menu item, Jim had also smoked a pastrami and when I asked for a small taste he graciously offered a full sandwich. I’m no pastrami connoisseur but it was just fantastic.

I enjoyed introducing myself to Jim (who, by the way, like me is also from High Point, also went to High Point Central, and also went to NC State) through friend of the blog Susong and together we pestered him about Noble Smoke, which was been my most anticipated barbecue restaurant since it was first announced back in August 2015.

In maybe a tiny little bit of a scoop, according to him Noble Smoke will be coming in 2018 in a location off Freedom Drive in a space that is currently a warehouse. That certainly seems to fit the stated intention in the article linked above, where it mentions:

First, he needs to secure a Charlotte site that’s close to Interstate 77 with easy access. Most importantly, the restaurant needs to be in a space that allows the barbecue to be slow-cooked over wood, Noble adds.

From the little bit I recall from a brief discussion (free beers and cocktails for the win), he will be partnering with a local brewery (no word on which) and the space will also have an outdoor beer garden. I can’t wait to hear more details as they become available. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next opportunity to finally try the barbecue from Noble Smoke.

Friday Find: The Charlotte Podcast Explores “Is Charlotte a BBQ Town?”

Monk: Our State Magazine senior editor, podcaster, and writer (and former Charlottean) Jeremy Markovich joins Miller of The Charlotte Podcast to discuss NC barbecue in general before discussing specifically whether Charlotte is a barbecue town.

After a short intro, the barbecue talk starts at 5:17 with some open-ended questions about NC barbecue. Before shifting the conversation to Charlotte later in the episode, the conversation is a little unfocused (admittedly, Miller says he didn’t prep Jeremy for these questions) but covers the difference between east and west and what Jeremy’s idea of barbecue and a barbecue restaurant is.

Here’s a link to Jeremy’s fantastic story in Our State on spending 17 hours (he had planned to be there 24) at B’s Barbecue in Greenville that he begins mentioning at 14:15 when he starts discussing his top 5 barbecue places in NC; Red Bridges in Shelby, 12 Bones in Asheville (I do disagree with this pick), Skylight Inn, and Lexington Barbecue (aka the Honeymonk) all make his list as well.

While mentioning Skylight Inn (16:34), Miller discusses the idea of “porky goodness”. While I’m familiar with (and have tasted) their technique of chopping the crispy skin back into the pork, I must admit that I have never heard this term before. Granted, I have spent only a little time out east so I’m not discounting that it’s a real thing. Only that I’ve yet to come across it in my travels.

Kyle Fletcher’s in Gastonia gets a mention at 18:34. This place deserves a second chance for me, but I was somewhat unimpressed when I went a few years ago.

The Charlotte conversation begins at 21:25. I do disagree with Miller’s assertion that Midwood Smokehouse is a solid B in everything though (21:39) because I think their brisket and burnt ends are A’s and their pork and sausage is at least a B+ (I still need to try the whole hog on the new smoker at Park Road). So I think he may be undervaluing them just a little bit.

Miller brings up the idea of Charlotte as a “barbecue hub” as opposed to a “barbecue city” (22:36) due to its proximity to good barbecue in Lexington (agree), Shelby (agree), and Gastonia (huh?).  Jeremy comes back to Midwood Smokehouse at 25:26 (here’s the article he wrote for Our State) and how restaurateur Frank Scibelli has a habit of introducing foods to Charlotte. First with Mama Ricotta’s and authentic italian (including fresh mozzarella) in the early 2000’s and then Midwood Smokehouse and barbecue other than pork more recently in 2012.

While I couldn’t agree more with Jeremy’s assertion that you need to spell out “barbecue” (as opposed to say, “bbq” like they do in the podcast title) at 28:51, I can’t help but think naming a theoretical barbecue restaurant “Barbecue” is either insanely brilliant or just plain lazy. I still can’t decide.

Overall, I agree with both Jeremy and Miller that no, Charlotte is not a barbecue town but that you can find good barbecue here (I’ve certainly tried to do my homework). When I think on the question of whether Charlotte is a barbecue town, I inevitably go to a quote from Tom Hanchett, the former historian at Charlotte’s Levine Museum of the New South:

Charlotte is not really in either part of North Carolina, it’s a city of newcomers and we have other people’s barbecue.

Until Charlotte is no longer a city of “other people’s barbecue”, in my opinion it will never truly be a barbecue town.

Linkdown: 10/4/17

The menu for this year’s 88th Annual Mallard Creek Barbecue, to be held on October 26

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– Cheerwine funnel cake, Thanksgiving egg roll, and turkey bbq are some of the crazy food items at this year’s NC State Fair

– Seasoned Review has a few recent barbecue reviews: Dreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa and Hillsborough BBQ Company

– A Kannapolis barbecue restaurant was recently forced to change their name due to a lawsuit from The Varsity in Atlanta; they are now Field House BBQ

Details on the concerts and fireworks shows as part of the 34th Barbecue Festival later this month

– The more you know: history on the “barbecue oven”

– This past weekend’s Whole Hog Barbecue Championship in Raleigh was a family affair

– More from this past weekend:

Linkdown: 9/20/17

– The Port City Ribfest moves from Wilmington to Carolina Beach this November

– It’s no surprise that barbecue is North Carolina’s iconic dish according to Flavored Nation; Missouri is the only other state they list with barbecue as its iconic dish

– Charleston is one of the best food towns in the south, in part because of their barbecue restaurants

– A Washington Post travelogue to Chapel Hill includes a visit to The Pig for lunch

Gail goes with a nifty riff on North Carolina-style barbecue, a salad topped with tender chunks of Vietnamese pork cheek and crispy, dried shrimp. Ewan has a more traditional heaping plate of Eastern Carolina-style pulled pork with cider-vinegar sauce. On counsel of the affable guy behind the counter, I order a fried Bologna sandwich, which has about as much in common with my childhood memories of this luncheon meat as Spam does with chateaubriand.

– A review of Daddy Bob’s Barbeque, a promising-sounding truck in Raleigh that smokes shoulders over a mix of hickory, apple, and pecan and serves with an eastern vinegar sauce

– A group of Sampsonians will be trying to save Lewis Barbecue, which closed Labor Day weekend

Art’s Barbecue & Deli gets a short profile in Charlotte Five

– Just a reminder:

 

Linkdown: 8/30/17

– Thinking of Houston in the wake of Harvey

– In drier times (hopefully coming soon), could whole hog barbecue succeed in Houston?

– Glad to hear that the smokers at Franklin Barbecue made it through the smokehouse fire

– Art’s Barbecue and Deli and Bar-B-Q King make Charlotte Five’s list of 10 classic Charlotte restaurants you must try

– A barbecue-focused episode of House of Carbs this week talks Texas barbecue and Charleston as a barbecue capital

– Buxton Hall evening pitmaster David Phelps gets a mention in this article on third shift workers in Asheville

After coming in around 10 p.m., he spends the first two hours prepping the next day’s sauces and green beans. As he chops and mixes, Phelps is also building the fire up to the required temperature (225 degrees), in order to cook the two pigs nightly. By sunrise, he generally has around 350 to 400 pounds of pulled pork ready for the day crew.

– Buxton Hall’s also got great fried chicken too

– LOL

 

Linkdown: 8/23/17

– Ringer’s Danny Chau visits Lewis Barbecue and Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston and sees the future of barbecue

– First We Feast: “8 Common BBQ Myths, Debunked”

– Seoul Food Meat Co and Mac’s Speed Shop is on Charlotte Five’s list of where to eat and drink in Southend while the original Midwood Smokehouse is on the list for Plaza Midwood

– Some great photos behind the scenes at the world’s largest free barbecue at the XIT Rodeo and Reunion in Dalhart, TX

– Thoughts and prayers are with the Brooks family as the original owner and father of the current brother owners passed away last week at the age of 90

– Kathleen Purvis on the cuisine of Charlotte for newcomers:

Take our barbecue style: We’re close to Lexington, N.C., where “barbecue” means a pork shoulder, slowly cooked over wood coals, chopped and mixed with a vinegar-based sauce with a little tomato in it. The origins are probably German, from all the German immigrants who started in Pennsylvania and ended up here. But you’ll also find Eastern North Carolina style, which involves a whole pig and no tomato in the vinegar sauce. That’s descended from an old English style, and we like that too.

Or you can find newer, fancier barbecue that involves Texas brisket or Memphis ribs, and we embrace that because it tastes good. But if you invite someone over for “a barbecue” and serve them grilled hot dogs? They’ll be nice about it, but they won’t be happy. (See “pop,” above.)

– A recently-closed bistro in Durham will reopen as Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom, which will have an an international house of barbecue menu

– 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio: the next great Texas barbecue joint?

– David Chang’s last meal on earth (which is more of a transcontinental progressive dinner) includes a stopover in Austin for brisket at Franklin Barbecue