The Ultimate Charlotte Barbecue Plate (2021)

Monk: A lot (and I mean, a lot) has changed since the last time I did a “Best of Charlotte” series in 2016. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen and Queen City Q, both winners in several categories, are both no longer in business. Neither are Sauceman’s or Bill Spoon’s, who in 2016 placed in ribs and pork respectively.

The Smoke Pit had the best brisket at the time and since then Jon G’s, Sweet Lew’s, and Noble Smoke have all opened their doors with wood-smoked brisket that each edges out the offerings from The Smoke Pit.

Midwood Smokehouse didn’t top any one category in 2016 but still had a strong showing by being in the top three in each of the five categories: pork, brisket, ribs, sausage, and other. Thankfully, they are still around and are well represented on this list.

Now, onto our picks for the “Ultimate Charlotte Barbecue Plate.”

Pork – Noble Smoke

Jim Noble and team are carrying on the 100+ years-old legacy of Lexington-style barbecue at Noble Smoke in west Charlotte. Simply rubbed with salt and pepper and smoked directly over wood coals in their custom brick masonry pit (named “John”) whose design was borrowed with permission from family friends the Monk family of Lexington Barbecue, upon tasting the pork transports you an hour or so north up I-85.

Honorable Mention: Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Brisket – Jon G’s Barbecue

The meat that put Jon G’s on the map. Of their many spectacular smoked meats, the brisket is the one must order every time you go. Do it and you won’t be disappointed. Trust me.

Honorable Mention: Noble Smoke

Ribs – The Smoke Pit

This one was a surprise from a recent trip that Speedy and I took to the Gastonia location of the local mini-chain of restaurants in late 2020. On that visit, Speedy noted that the dry rub ribs had the perfect bite with just the right amount of spice. I couldn’t agree more and it was the standout meat of that meal.

Honorable Mention: Jon G’s

Sausage – Cheerwine Hot Link from Jon G’s

A truly unique sausage made in-house at Jon G’s, with Salisbury, NC-based Cheerwine taking the place of the water used in the sausage-making process. The end result isn’t overly sweet or “Cheerwine-y” but it does impart a slight sweetness to counteract the heat of the jalapeno.

Honorable Mention: Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Beef Rib – Midwood Smokehouse

The beef rib is a weekend special at Midwood Smokehouse and upon my last visit is available every week for a cut-rate price of $32, well below what you would pay if it were charged by the pound.

Honorable Mention: Jon G’s BBQ (not available all weekends)

Side – Hash and rice from Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Hash and rice isn’t something you find in Charlotte, much less North Carolina, as its almost strictly a South Carolina barbecue dish. Sweet Lew’s differs from what you would find at True BBQ in West Columbia or Sweatman’s in Holly Hill in that instead of the off parts of the pig it uses pork as well as brisket, but I just love that they now offer it fulltime on their menu whereas it used to be a Wednesday special only.

Honorable Mentions: Pork skins from Sweet Lew’s BBQ, Smoked Meatballs from Midwood Smokehouse, Smoked wings from Noble Smoke

Linkdown: 2/3/21

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Shortly after my first visit to Mr. Barbecue in Winston-Salem in March of 2019 (which I greatly enjoyed), a spark caught fire in the pit house and nearly burned the entire restaurant down. Last I had heard, it was on track for a May 2020 opening and brick was being laid in the smokehouse but clearly that didn’t happen as scheduled (which can be excused during a pandemic, of course). Thankfully, the silence was not a bad omen as WXII is reporting that Mr. Barbecue will reopen later this month.

This will be one in the win column for classic, wood-fired NC barbecue joints, a sometimes rare occurrence these days. Of course, Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro came back from the dead last year under new ownership and there are a host of new or announced restaurants that are smoking barbecue the old fashioned way (most of which seem to be in the greater Raleigh area). But more often than not, these older joints are closing (see Allen & Son, Bill Spoon’s, Bill Ellis Barbecue, The Original Q Shack, among others). But not today, Satan. Not today.

Now, just cross your fingers and toes until late February…

Native News

Sam Jones BBQ has finally opened in Raleigh and is currently in a “soft open” mode

Lawrence Barbecue is hosting a Mardi Gras Party on February 16

More on Lagoon, the sister “leisure bar” to Lawrence Barbecue

Bill Ellis Barbecue, which closed 2 years ago, is going on the auction block as part of a parcel of land in Wilson

Another delay for The Preserve; the pop-up from Ed and Ryan Mitchell has been pushed back to March 5 from late January

Big Mike’s BBQ is opening a location in downtown Cary after expanding to Apex last year

Make your own Cheerwine barbecue sauce with Cheerwine syrup

Non-Native News

Smokejack in Alpharetta, GA is a “must-visit” according to The BBQ Review

Moe Cason has announced his plans for a barbecue restaurant in Des Moines, IA, and pulls no punches when it comes to other restaurants in the area

How Franklin Barbecue has adapted to barbecue during a pandemic

Smiley’s Lexington BBQ – Lexington, NC

Name: Smiley’s Lexington BBQ
Date: 10/1/20
Address: 917 Winston Rd, Lexington, NC 27295
Order: Chopped barbecue sandwich with hush puppies and a Cheerwine (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Smiley’s Lexington BBQ was an early stop on our barbecue journey, about 5 months into the blog and back when our photos were extremely filtered photos from Instagram. However, both Speedy and I really liked the barbecue and ranked Smiley’s as 4 hogs at the time. As I have been working my way through the Lexington barbecue restaurants for my own rankings, it was almost certainly worth a revisit 8 years later. 

Then, word came a little over a year ago that Highway 8 which Smiley’s and Speedy’s both sit on was slated to be widened by the NC DOT and they both would be among the casualties lost (John Tanner certainly had some thoughts). The initial timing I had heard was summer 2020 but with the pandemic throwing a wrinkle in many things, it seems as if Smiley’s has received a temporary stay of execution. I hope it ends up being more permanent but regardless I wanted to make one more stop while I still could.

And I’m so glad I did, because Smiley’s provided an excellent late morning breakfast in my chopped sandwich, hush puppies, and a Cheerwine. The chopped barbecue was fresh, smoky, and topped with a tangy, crunchy red slaw. Just perfectly executed Lexington-style barbecue, with my only complaint was that the sandwich fell apart a bit easily and made for a quick and messy eating experience.

The basket of hush puppies was piping hot and my only regret was that I only had a couple of them and left more than half to waste. I wish that I could have somehow gifted these to someone without making it weird.

As I paid my bill, I asked the waitress if there was any update on the highway widening and she nodded her head side to side, saying that they hadn’t heard anything recently. “We’re just living day to day.”

Make it a point to get to Smiley’s Lexington BBQ while you can.

For more on Smiley’s Lexington BBQ:
BBQ Jew
Marie, Let’s Eat
John Tanner’s Barbecue Blog

Ratings: 
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 5 hogs 
Overall – 5 hogs

Smiley's Lexington BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Linkdown: 6/24/20

RIP Wink’s Barbeque in Salisbury

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Picnic, Lewis Barbecue, and Southern Smoke BBQ all get quoted in this article on potential changes in the food supply chain in a post-COVID world

Sneak peek at the refreshed Wilber’s

Last week’s Smoke Sheet caught up with Brandon Simpson of Jazzy B’s BBQ food truck in Kansas City

In Armenia, their traditional barbecue is mainly pork ribs and chops and the meat is cooked on a “mangal” during a “khorovat”

Excellent advice

Cheerwine Lager from New Sarum Brewing sold out in 3 hours last Friday