Linkdown: 6/6/18

– I was honored to participate in a barbecue roundtable at the NC State BBQ Camp last weekend (more on that in the coming weeks); here’s a writeup from the alumni magazine from last year’s edition of the camp

– Chapel Hill author D.G. Martin knows his NC eateries (including barbecue), and Southern Smoke BBQ in Garland is his current favorite NC restaurant

– Forbes says that Bulleit Rye is the best pairing with eastern NC vinegar sauce; check out the other bourbon/whiskey pairings here

– Always save room for dessert

– Buxton Hall and Picnic have two of the best fried chicken sandwiches in NC

– Robert Moss with a nice primer on barbecue styles

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The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC – Honorable Mentions

Monk: Last week I posted my list of the 10 best joints in western North Carolina. Here’s my list of honorable mentions.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

Johnson Family Barbecue – Durham (review)

Outside of my usual digging for barbecue joints I had never heard of Johnson Family Barbecue, so it was a pleasant surprise that the barbecue was as good as it was. The makeshift smokehouse shed around back only adds to the charm of the joint, which is connected to a gas station on Wake Forest Highway between Durham and Raleigh/Wake Forest. 5021 Wake Forest Hwy, Durham, NC 27703 johnsonfamilybbq.com

Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte (review)

As the story goes, if Frank Scibelli can’t get a certain food in Charlotte, he tends to open a restaurant to fill that gap. With Midwood Smokehouse, that gap was wood-smoked barbecue; primarily central Texas brisket and sausage but also but also pan-regional smoked meats such as eastern NC pulled-pork, burnt ends, and ribs. With the latest Park Road location in Charlotte, Midwood Smokehouse is now looking to fill in the gap for wood-smoked whole hog barbecue in Charlotte. various locations midwoodsmokehouse.com

Picnic – Durham (review)

As with Buxton Hall and Old Etowah Smokehouse, Picnic was part of a trend of new whole hog joints outside of eastern NC a few years back. While I found it to be a little on the pricey side, the whole hog was still quite good and worth a return visit whenever I get another chance. 1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705 picnicdurham.com

The Smoke Pit – Concord, Monroe, Salisbury (review)

What began as a combination butcher shop and barbecue joint has developed into a small chain with locations in Salisbury and as of earlier this year, Monroe. The Smoke Pit does serve pulled pork but is a good bet for the some of the best brisket from a restaurant in the Charlotte-area. various locations thesmokepitnc.com

Smokey Joe’s Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Speedy Lohr’s BBQ – Lexington (review)

Someday, I hope to be able to properly assess all of the 18 or so Lexington barbecue joints and create a comprehensive list. In the meantime, I will say that Smokey Joe’s Barbecue and Speedy Lohr’s BBQ are quite good and in my current top 5 for the small town of approximately 20,000. Smokey Joe’s Barbecue: 1101 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292 smokeyjoesbbqlexington.com; Speedy Lohr’s: 3664 NC-8, Lexington, NC 27292

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off on either this list or the 10 best list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.

The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC

Monk: I still need to work my way through the eastern part of the state (it’s been on my to-do list for 5 years and counting…) in order to be able to make a more comprehensive North Carolina-wide list, but in the meantime here’s my list of the best NC barbecue restaurants in the western part of the state.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

10. Old Etowah Smokehouse – Etowah (review)

A few years back Old Etowah Smokehouse was part of a trend of new whole hog joints opening up outside the eastern half of the state (more on that later). The trend may have cooled somewhat since – the amount of labor involved may have something to do with that – but Old Etowah is honoring the style properly in the shadows of the Nantahala National Forest hear Hendersonville. 6577 Brevard Rd, Etowah, NC 28729 facebook.com/oldetowahsmoke

9. Barbee’s Bar-B-Que – Peachland (review)

This was my biggest barbecue discovery of 2017, a classic highway barbecue joint off highway 74 where they are slinging near perfect Lexington-style barbecue. A true hidden gem in the small town of Peachland, which is outside of Marshville, which is outside of Monroe, which is outside of Charlotte. Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133 facebook.com/Barbee’s-Bar-B-Q

8. Backyard BBQ Pit – Durham (review)

Backyard BBQ Pit gets somewhat overlooked in the Research Triangle Park area, but they definitely shouldn’t be. Which is somewhat curious, considering they’ve gotten coverage on Food Network’s “Man vs. Food”. Don’t make the same mistake as everyone else, and check them out. 5122 NC Hwy 55, Durham, NC 27713 sweetribs.com

7. The Barbecue Center – Lexington (review)

This underrated joint in Lexington often lives in the shadow of Lexington Barbecue not 2 miles away but many locals claim it to be the best in the city. I don’t personally happen to agree with them, but they aren’t necessarily wrong. 900 N Main St, Lexington, NC 27292 bbqcenter.net

6. Allen & Son Bar-B-Que – Chapel Hill (review)

When Speedy and I checked out Allen & Son in 2012, we dinged them for their ribs instead of simply focusing on the pork. This was a mistake, and the hybrid of chopped pork shoulder with eastern sauce earned 5 hogs from us on that trip while the ribs knocked the overall rating down to 4 hogs. A return trip is surely in order to properly reassess Allen & Son (add it to the list…). 6203 Millhouse Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27516 facebook.com/Allen-Son-BBQ

5. Bar-B-Q King – Lincolnton (review)

Residents in the small town of Lincolnton (20 minutes north of Gastonia and 50 minutes from Charlotte) are lucky to have had a great barbecue joint such as Bar-B-Q King serving them for the past 46+ years. This is barbecue certainly worthy of a short detour if you are on driving in 321 in that part of the state.  2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092 barbqkingnc.com

4. Stamey’s Barbecue – Greensboro (review)

One irony of the #BrooklynBBQ controversy was that the following week the ACC Tournament was being hosted for the second year in a row in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center instead of in its spiritual home at the Greensboro Coliseum with Stamey’s just across the street. While I am still in the camp that there is good barbecue in Brooklyn, there just isn’t anything that approaches Stamey’s. 2206 W Gate City Blvd, Greensboro, NC 27403 stameys.com

3. Buxton Hall Barbecue – Asheville (review)

I’ve been thinking about the whole hog from Buxton Hall Barbecue for nearly two years and can’t wait to get back to Asheville. From what I can tell though, Elliot Moss and team continue to blow it out of the water in South Slope. 32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 buxtonhall.com

2. Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby (review)

I rarely make it through Shelby without finding a reason to stop Bridges Barbecue Lodge. It might more accurately be described as more of a 1a for me behind my number 1 below, and it has yet to really let me down ever. 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28150 bridgesbbq.com

1. Lexington Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Lexington Barbecue aka Lexington #1 aka The Honeymonk is first, my last, my everything. 100 Smokehouse Ln, Lexington, NC 27295 lexbbq.com

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off my list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.

Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom – Durham, NC

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Name
: Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom
Date: 2/24/18
Address: 900 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701
Order: 2 meat combo with brisket and smoked jalapeno cheddar sausage with hush puppies, collards, and cole slaw (link to menu)
Price: $16

Monk: Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom opened in September in a space in downtown Durham that formerly housed Alivia’s Durham Bistro for 10 years. The owners of Alivia’s closed that concept and opened Maverick’s with a menu with an “international house of barbecue” bent to it – which in this case means pulling from Memphis and Texas in addition to North Carolina barbecue traditions.  

One thing that was apparently kept from Alivia’s was the outdoor patio which was perfect on an unusually warm February day. That, however, was the last of anything positive when it came to this lunch.

The first strike of the meal was a warm beer (curiously, Maverick’s had a special on non-NC draft beer which I don’t think I’ve seen at a NC restaurant – it’s usually the other way around). My speculation was that it was served in a pint glass that may have come straight out of the dishwasher but regardless, it was still an oversight. You just simply don’t want a warm-ish Shiner on a patio.

The next strike came when the platters of food came out. Mrs Monk and I got a two meat combo of brisket and sausage – for pork I was gong to sample some of it from our friend’s platter. The brisket and sausage both came out cool to the touch. The bark on the brisket was flavorful, but in addition to being cold it was fairly dried out. To me, it seemed liked it was likely leftover from the day before. I don’t know where the sausage came from but it had the texture of a slightly warmed hot dog – albeit with pieces of jalapeno and cheddar in it. The pork was a little better in terms of temperature but was quite greasy – my buddy didn’t finish his rather small portion of it.

Finally, on this day the sides weren’t going to save the meal. While the hush puppies and fried okra (also sampled from our friend’s plate) were freshly fried and actually decent, the collards could have use some more stewing and the mayo-based cole slaw was lukewarm. Temperature in general seems to need more focus at Maverick’s.

A charitable way to look at Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom is that they are still figuring things out. Let’s hope that is the case and that they do figure it out soon. If not, it seems unlikely that they will make it to 10 years like Alivia’s did in the same space before them.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Sausage – 1 hog
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs

Linkdown: 1/10/18

– A small smoker has been stolen from the Durham restaurant It’s a Southern Thing

– Jelly: 52 weeks of barbecue in 2018 for the San Antonio Express News

– The recent cold snap in NC (as well as the rest of the eastern seaboard) is no thing for hogs and their modern climate controlled barns

– A new restaurant from the folks at Stiles Switch

– Fort Worth Magazine has the quintessential guide to Fort Worth barbecue

– Sadly, about a 100 employees were affected

 

Friday Find: The Durham Barbecue Trail

This video produced by the Durham Convention & Visitor’s Bureau explores The Pit (our review), Bullock’s Bar-B-Que, Backyard BBQ Pit (our review), and The Q Shack (our review). I do think they should have gone to Johnson Family BBQ (our review) as well.

Barbecue is a famous part of North Carolina cuisine, and Durham’s pit-cooking elite have garnered national praise. Hear about four of the five celebrated barbecue joints located in the Bull City with this video, and head to durh.am/durhambbqmap for an infographic overview.

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

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?