Linkdown: 1/18/17

– Backyard BBQ Pit is listed on Eater’s 10 Indispensable Durham Restaurants

– Also from Eater Charleston, Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ makes the winter edition of the Essential 38

– Gotta say, I know pretty much nothing about East Texas-style barbecue which is primarily “ribs and links” joints

– Which is not actually too dissimilar from Chicago-style, whose “holy trinity’ is ribs, rib tips, and hot links

– Marie, Let’s Eat! tries Lil’ Choo Choo BBQ in the Tennessee capital

– Clark’s Barbecue is reviewed by the Greensboro News & Record’s Go Triad blog (our review here)

– Charlotte-based food truck OooWee BBQ will be opening a brick and mortar location in downtown Pineville

– Want to turn barbecue into a breakfast item? Put an egg on it, according to BBQ Hub.

– The barbecue’s not great (our review here), but that shrimp burger is legit

Ten Underrated Barbecue Joints in North Carolina

(A version of this article was published last year on Tabelog here)

Everybody knows that North Carolina is one of the greatest states in the country to travel around eating barbecue, and there are some amazing, legendary restaurants around which have been open for decades and garnered a whole lot of press and attention, but they’re not the only ones. There are more than four hundred barbecue restaurants in the Tarheel State. Many of them are outstanding even if they fly under the media’s radar. Here are ten that should not be overlooked.

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Backyard BBQ Pit – Durham (link to review)
The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, or Triangle, is the DMZ between the two styles of Carolina barbecue. In that zone, you don’t find an easy boundary between eastern and western (or Lexington-style). Such is the case with Backyard BBQ Pit, whose approach is similar to the great Allen & Son in Chapel Hill in that they smoke pork shoulders (the Lexington-style cut) served with an eastern style sauce with red pepper flakes to give it a little kick. Having been previously featured on Travel Channel’s “Man vs Food” you would think that Backyard BBQ would be mentioned more in the conversation of best barbecue in the Triangle. For some reason its not, but it definitely should be.

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The Barbecue Center – Lexington (link to review)
The Barbecue Center is just two miles from Lexington #1 and doesn’t get nearly as much publicity despite the fact that its recently passed owner Sonny Conrad was the major force behind The Barbecue Festival, which draws crowds of 100,000 to the city on one Saturday each October. As for the food itself, it is a classic Lexington-style joint though its dip (table sauce) can be a little sweeter than I prefer. Having grown up on Lexington #1 I certainly have my bias, but many out-of-towners without such bias (as well as plenty of locals) have stated that The Barbecue Center is the best in town. Depending on the day, they might just have a rightful claim.

Pork, brisket, ribs, wings, brunswick stewBoone’s Bar-B-Q Kitchen – Charlotte (link to review)
Dan “Boone” Gibson has his own family traditions when it comes to barbecue that don’t strictly follow the eastern/Lexington taxonomy, but you’d be silly to dismiss his barbecue right off based on that. Having had a hand in starting two Charlotte-area barbecue chains, Boone tired of that life and struck out on his own in a food truck to serve his smoked wares (pork, brisket, sausage, and ribs) directly to the people. Look for him at various food truck festivals around the Charlotte area, and you won’t be disappointed.

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Fuller’s Old Fashion BBQ – Lumberton (link to review)
Heading towards the NC coast can be hit or miss when it comes to barbecue restaurants, but this buffet-style barbecue joint off I-95 is a nice find. While the buffet has salad and seafood as well as fried chicken, the wood smoked barbecue is the main feature and rightly so. Just don’t be surprised if you get there right as it opens and find a line of folks chomping at the bit to get in.

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Johnson Family BBQ – Durham (link to review)
When you are greeted by a sign that states “It’s All About the Wood” and a simple smoker covered by an aluminum shed at a barbecue joint, you know that’s a good start. And oh, did I mention the joint is connected to a gas station off a country highway between Raleigh and Durham? Thankfully, the barbecue follows through with well-smoked eastern style barbecue with a higher ratio of light meat to dark served in a modest dining room covered with red gingham table cloths.

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Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte (link to review)
Charlotte has been oft overlooked as a barbecue town (and usually for good reason), but Midwood Smokehouse is helping to change that perception with its focus on wood smoked meats from a variety of barbecue cuisines. While it does have an eastern carolina style pork as well as the Lexington style red slaw, Midwood draws from Central Texas in its brisket and sausages, from St. Louis in its ribs, as well as from Kansas City in its burnt ends. Throw in a full bar and you might be tempted to refer to it as “yuppie-que” but whatever you call it just know that the are serving some of the finest smoked meats in the region (the brisket is arguably the best in NC).

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Porkey’s Bar-B-Que – Mount Airy (link to review)
Similar to the coastal plans of NC, once you head west of the Piedmont of NC towards the mountains the barbecue becomes very hit or miss. Which is why stumbling across a Lexington-style joint like Porkey’s in Mount Airy was a nice surprise. It may not quite measure up to the best in Lexington, but if you are exploring the nearby wineries in the Yadkin Valley you can do a lot worse than the chopped pork at this wood smoking joint.

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Richard’s BBQ – Salisbury (link to review)
When it comes to barbecue, Salisbury is very much the little brother to Lexington. According to some, “Lexington style” barbecue – that is, chopped pork shoulders with a vinegar and ketchup-based sauce – may have even originated there. Richard’s is a wood smoking joint that serves coarsely chopped pork with plenty of bark mixed in. Add some nearly perfect hush puppies with the right mix of savory and sweet as well as a classic red slaw, and you’ve got a joint that competes with many of the better ones in Lexington.

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The Smoke Pit – Concord (link to review)
A relative newcomer, The Smoke Pit models its barbecue and presentation after Central Texas. Order a combo platter and you get a tray of meat and sides arranged like what you’d expect in just about any joint in Austin. But with the choice to drink it with a SunDrop (which along with Cheerwine is nearly the perfect drink for barbecue), it still retains some of that North Carolina charm. Much like Charlotte, Concord isn’t known for its barbecue but I’d recommend The Smoke Pit to just about anyone in the area.

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Troutman’s Bar-B-Que – Denton (link to review)
Troutman’s is the archetypal NC barbecue joint: a small, standalone wood shack off a country highway in a rural part of the state. There’s a wood pile out back, two modest dining rooms, and waitresses that take your order as soon as you find your seat. The pork is consistently moist and smokey and paired with the red slaw, hushpuppies, and a Cheerwine, it’s at a price that’s hard to beat.

What other underrated NC joints did we miss?

Linkdown: 10/26/16

– The Mallard Creek BBQ is tomorrow and Rachel Rollar of NBC Charlotte has a preview; she also reports that some of the proceeds will go to help victims of Hurricane Matthews

– The NC Barbecue Revival is this coming weekend, and the Raleigh News & Observer’s Mouthful blog has a post on the origin of the festival

– They also get a write up in Durham Magazine

When Sunday arrives, prepare yourself for the weekend’s culminating event by attending the BBQ Church, a service that pays tribute to the “Barbecue Man,” through debate and discussion of the whole hog. Next up is to what all you barbecue connoisseurs should look forward to: the pig pickin’ and picnic. Hosted by Picnic, join local chefs as the community comes together to share in this time-honored meal that includes delicious sides and desserts. Bring a picnic blanket and enjoy the sounds of bluegrass music, take part in a pie auction and pick a spot on the trailer for a hay ride. With wines and a beer garden provided by local vendors, the event will also feature a wide variety sips to delight in along with all that delectable barbecue.

– …and Food and Wine

– Speaking of Picnic, here’s barbecue man Wyatt Dickson’s love letter to barbecue

– Grant takes a drive not too close and not too far to Sequatchie Valley BBQ in Dunlap, TN

– This November, vote your conscience:

Linkdown: 10/19/16

– 6 years ago, locals saved this BBQ joint. It returned the favor after Hurricane Matthew.

Provenzano credits Southern Soul, along with a number of other local restaurants that stayed open, for helping the recovery effort run smoothly and allowing emergency workers to stay on the island through mealtimes, instead of having to travel to a staging area on the mainland.

– A bbq and slaw egg roll is one of the crazy foods to try at this year’s NC State Fair

– Bill Spoon’s BBQ makes Charlotte Stories’ list of Top 10 Best Comfort Food Restaurants in Charlotte

– Charleston Paper cheekily writes up Arby’s new Smoke Mountain  sandwich: Finally, Charleston has a place for good barbecue

– Tickets for the train to the Barbecue Festival are still on sale:

– Picnic makes the list of Durham stops in this article from Departures

– Also from Departures, the best mail-order barbecue

– Atlanta Magazine: Meet Atlanta’s next great pitmaster  – Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue

– More on Furman

– Grant’s latest stops: Sportsman’s BBQ in Chattanooga and Peg Leg Porker in Nashville, their 400th barbecue writeup

– Congrats to Grant and Marie!

Picnic – Durham, NC

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Name
: Picnic
Date: 9/5/16
Address: 1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705
Order: Pulled pork plate with pimento mac & cheese, bacon braised collards (link to menu)
Price: $13.95

Monk: In the recent (and very welcome) trend of new whole hog barbecue joints opening in North Carolina in the past year, Picnic is one of the newest alongside Old Etowah Smokehouse (opened June 2016), Sam Jones BBQ (November 2015), and Buxton Hall Barbecue (August 2015), having opened earlier this year in February. Despite being at the end of a long weekend, I convinced the Mrs. Monk to stop at Picnic in Durham for lunch on our way back from Atlantic Beach over Labor Day weekend.

Picnic is located in a fairly picturesque setting amongst tall pine trees in a Durham neighborhood not far off of I-85. The building itself has an average sized dining room with a bar as well as 5-6 outdoor tables. An open kitchen overlooks the new south decor dining area, and the rattle of food preparation is audible but not distracting.

My pulled pork was overall moist and smokey and served unsauced, choosing to let the smoke shine in each silky pork strand. Each table does have a very tasty mixed eastern and western-style Pig Whistle sauce (named for barbecue man Wyatt Dickson’s original pig catering outfit) on the table. I’ve read that the whole hog pork at Picnic can sometimes be on the dry side but that was not my experience. In any case, I alternated between using sauce and not. While I didn’t buy sauce this time, I would consider it next time around .

I generally liked the sides less than the pork. We were fairly hungry from the 3+ hour drive, so we ordered fried green tomatoes as a starter that were more breading than tomato. Each plate comes with hush puppies and slaw in addition to 2 sides. The house-made hush puppies were a little disappointing and not as sweet as I prefer though clearly not frozen as they were of various sizes and shapes. The slaw was not too noteworthy. Of my other two sides, the pimento mac and cheese had good flavor but was very rich (to the point where I decided not to finish it) and the collards were a little bland and needed salt or ideally more vinegar.

Overall, the whole hog pork at Picnic was great but I found the sides to be more of a mixed bag. I also thought it was a bit pricey for what it was – a common complaint from other friends who had previously eaten there. For lunch with Mrs Monk and the Monkette, our tab ran $50 before tip with two plates, a kid’s meal, an appetizer, and a beer. If I do make it back (and I would definitely go again), next time I’ll probably go for their version of a tray with just pork, slaw, and hush puppies.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Picnic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Linkdown: 8/3/16

– Congratulations to Buxton Hall on being named one of Bon Appétit’s 50 Best New Restaurants (full list here)

– Washington Post critic Jim Shahin visits the barbecue scene in Charleston and calls it “the future of barbecue”

– Extra Crispy has a new bacon critic and he leans on two folks for advice heading into the job: Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn and the Denver Post’s cannabis critic Jake Browne

– The Raleigh News & Observer is doing a “Best-Kept Secrets” series of articles and has one on barbecue

– The story of a “cowboy barbecue” at the Fortuna Cowboy Rodeo in California

– While Grant and his family moved to Chattanooga a few weeks back, his impressive backlog of stories about Atlanta-area restaurants is just now winding down; as he now shifts his focus to his new home, he looks back on his favorite Atlanta restaurants, including two barbecue joints: Old Brick Pit and Heirloom Market

– The Smoking Ho joined the Chicago-based Man Meat BBQ podcast for a conversation recently

– City Barbeque is opening their first Charlotte-area restaurant later this month; check out Speedy’s review of the Cary location here

– Beer and barbecue, pt 1

– Beer and barbecue, pt 2

– A Toronto Star travel writer visits Picnic in Durham and calls it a “bellwether for social change”

House Bill 2 (a.k.a. HB2, a.k.a. “the bathroom law”) exploded out of nowhere in March. Dickson promptly ordered new bathroom signage showing Picnic’s disdain for the state government edict that people must go to washrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate.

Thing is, the law only applies to public buildings and schools, not private businesses. North Carolina, he says, has a “proud tradition of being a progressive Southern state,” and HB2 is not a true reflection of it.

Friday Find: Rien Fertel and Wyatt Dickson on The State of Things Podcast

“The One True Barbecue” author Rien Fertel and Picnic’s Wyatt Dickson stopped by WUNC’s The State of Things radio show last week to discuss Fertel’s book and all things whole hog barbecue. After listening to this 17 minute podcast, I realized that Wyatt Dickson and I went to elementary school in Fayetteville way back when. Small world.

Link

Monk

Friday Find: NC Weekend visits Durham’s The Pit

From UNC-TV’s NC Now, Deborah Holt Noel takes the viewer on a behind the scenes look at the Durham location of The Pit for a recent After Dark segment for the show.

The Pit in Raleigh is already an established institution, but their Durham location is quickly creating its own stellar reputation. Their whole-hog, pit-cooked barbecue and lively Downtown Durham location have attracted the attention of The Washington Post and The New Yorker!