Monk: Nine years ago today, it all started with a discussion between Speedy and Monk about Charlotte’s best barbecue on our way to what turned out to be a disappointing visit to Bobbee-O’s, then the #1 joint in the city (at least according to Yelp). That then led to this tweet:
And then Rudy, who at the time lived in Austin, offered to be our beef correspondent:
And then it didn’t take too long to come up with the name:
All this happened in the span of less than an hour, and our first review was up later that afternoon. Shortly thereafter we picked our “noms de blog”: Monk, Speedy, and Rudy. Nine years and 294 reviews later here we are.
Thanks to all of our readers for following our barbecue journey. We’re not stopping anytime soon, and we hope to keep bringing you even more barbecue content.
Name: Switzerland Cafe and General Store Date: 7/18/14 Address: 9440 State Highway 226A, Pisgah National Forest, Marion, NC 28752 Order: Speedy: Cafe Barbeque Platter; Monk: The Whole Trout (link to menu) Price: Speedy: $10.25; Monk: $11.45
Monk: After we left 12 Bones in Arden, Speedy and I headed to Switzerland Cafe and General Store in Little Switzerland. Side note: who else knew that there was a Little Switzerland in North Carolina? Show of hands? No one else? ANYWAYS, in case you were wondering it is located just off the intersection of Highway 226A and the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Marion. Switzerland Cafe was the most recent addition to the NC Historical Barbecue Trail, essentially replacing Deano’s in Mocksville. And next to Herb’s in Murphy, I’m willing to bet its the most remotely located.
Speedy: We went on a rainy/foggy afternoon, so we really couldn’t see that well where we were driving. To say it’s off the beaten path is an understatement. Now this could be a good thing, as a joint has to attract business to stay open, and the more remote it is, the harder it is to attract business. However, whenever a barbecue joint’s main attraction is something other than the ‘cue, I’m skeptical.
Monk: Before ordering, we checked out the smoker located in a colorfully decorated shack out back. We stumbled upon a couple of workers checking on some pork butts in the smoker and got to check it out a little bit. Switzerland Cafe uses a vertical smoker with little more than a pan separating the hickory wood coals from the stack of pork butts. This was definitely a unique technique I haven’t seen in other pits on our barbecue travels.
Speedy: And honestly, I’m not sure it’s a technique I’d recommend. It does keep the direct heat off of the meat, but seems like it would keep some smoke away as well. However, it was a super cool smoker and awesome opportunity to check it out.
But we weren’t there to look at the smoker – it was time to eat. As we had already had a massive barbecue meal at 12 Bones, I decided to stick to the essential – the “barbeque cafe platter,” complete with slaw and baked beans. Digging in, something about the pork was a little off to me. It was plenty tender, but the taste was just not exactly what I expected. It wasn’t bad, but it lacked the expected pork flavor. My best guess is that the odd taste is due to being cooked in the same smoker as the fish.
Monk: Speaking of the fish, I tried “The Whole Trout” appetizer as my dish since it was so unique (not to mention I also was stuffed from 12 Bones). I apparently didn’t read the menu too carefully because as I took a forkful of the trout I was surprised by the fact that it was chilled. I could taste the smoke – unlike the pork cooked over hickory, the fish is cooked over applewood (h/t) – but it was just unexpected and different. I think its worth trying once, but if I ever find myself back I probably won’t order it again.
One of the owners also brought us out a smoked salmon BLT because she wanted us to try, and I took a sliver. Had I been hungrier, I would have eaten the whole thing because that thing was pretty delicious. They also offer a smoked trout BLT, but we didn’t taste that.
Speedy: Overall, Switzerland Cafe was a fine barbecue meal, but likely the last I’ll ever eat there. I think Monk liked it better than I did, but the location is just so remote that it would take an amazing meal to compensate. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t there for me.
But at least we got to check another one off the trail list…
Name: 12 Bones Smokehouse Date: 7/18/14 Address: 3578 Sweeten Creek Road, Arden, NC 28704 Order: Speedy: Two half rack of ribs, rib taster, beer; Monk: Pulled pork plate and sliced brisket plate with collards, baked beans, vinegar slaw, and cucumber salad, Pisgah Pale Ale (link to menu) Price: Speedy: $34; Monk: $20
Monk: One joint that’s been on our hit list ever since we started the blog 2+ years ago was 12 Bones Smokehouse in Asheville. All of our past visits came pre-blog, with the River Arts location outside of downtown Asheville being nearest and dearest to our heart. They actually do have two locations – one in River Arts and another in nearby Arden, out towards the airport – and on this day we found ourselves in Arden (more on that in the future).
Speedy: This was my first visit to the Arden location, and other than the location, I think I liked it better than the River Arts locale. It’s bigger and has similar outdoor seating. The old gas station atmosphere has a really nice feel to it, so I enjoyed it very much. As for the order, Monk and I went a little crazy. We ended up ordering three bones of each type of rib offered, a brisket plate, a pork plate, sides, and beers. It was definitely a lot of food, but we were hungry, so the order wasn’t out of line.
Monk: For once I didn’t sabotage myself and eat anything before a barbecue meal! As for the food, the pork just didn’t have the smokiness in the bark that I prefer, which is likely due to being smoked in a Southern Pride gasser. It’s pretty clear that the pork is not the focus of 12 Bones, which shouldn’t be all that surprising considering the name.
Speedy: All things considered, I thought the pork was pretty decent. While it won’t win any awards on this blog, it had good tenderness, and I thought there was a touch of wood flavor (though not enough). It’s clear by the wood piles of oak and hickory in the back that 12 Bones does make a concerted effort to impart smoke flavor into their gas cooks, so for a gas cooker, I think this is some of the better pork I’ve had.
Monk: The brisket was pretty unfortunate, really. It was very thinly sliced (think sliced deli roast beef on setting 2 or 3) and thus had dried out considerably by the time we got the food. Plus, similar to the pork it didn’t have the smoke or smoke ring in the bark. I had not gotten the brisket here before and based on this visit, customers should avoid it as well.
Speedy: But let’s be honest – you don’t go to a place called 12 Bones for the brisket. The ribs are as good as you’ll find anywhere. 12 Bones is known for its unique and eclectic sauces, and on this day, they had their standard salt/pepper rub, brown sugar, and chipotle blueberry ribs, along with special smoked apple and pineapple habanero ribs. Monk and I decided to order 3 bones of each flavor. The ribs themselves are always cooked perfectly – tender without actually falling from the bone. The different sauces allow for different flavors, but I have noticed that 12 bones generally produces a very sweet rib, which is in contrast to the vinegar-y tang I’m used to when eating ‘cue. I think it ends up working very well and kudos to them for thinking outside the BBQ box.
Monk: The ribs are definitely the highlight at 12 Bones, but holy heck watch out for those sauced with pineapple habanero. They start out sweet but can get you on the back end, particularly if you aren’t expecting it. And I definitely got got.
12 Bones has southern sides, but not all are necessarily what you think of when it comes to barbecue. A slice of cornbread comes with each plate, and I loved it. Had I not been stuffed by all of the meat, I would have eaten mine and possibly Speedy’s. The collards, baked beans, vinegar slaw, and cucumber salad all had merit and I would recommend any of them as a side choice. Again, not all were traditional barbecue sides but still worthy of an order.
Speedy: You stay away from my cornbread, Monk! That stuff was delicious. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – you can’t get 5 hogs for sides if you don’t offer hush puppies, but 12 Bones gives you everything else you could want.
All in all, a meal at 12 Bones Smokehouse is a great experience. I had previously never ordered anything but ribs, and I don’t think I ever will again. I understand offering other meats, but really, if you order something other than ribs, it’s your own fault if you don’t enjoy the meal. So man up, order the ribs, and enjoy!
Name: Lancaster’s BBQ Date: 7/12/14 Address: 515 Rinehardt Rd, Mooresville, NC 28115 Order: BBQ tray with bbq slaw and Sweetwater 420 (link to menu) Price: ~$13
In my review of the Lancaster’s BBQ in Huntersville, I ended by saying I wouldn’t be rushing to the Mooresville location any time soon. Well as it turns out, less than 4 months later I just so happened to find myself there. But not because I necessarily sought it out.
Right before I came here, I tried the sub par barbecue at Carolina Ribs on the Run after I dropped my wife off at a baby shower in town. After I left, I still had a little more time to kill and was so disappointed with my previous meal that I decided to stop by Lancaster’s BBQ to try and salvage my lunch that day. But mainly because I knew they had beer and that sounded good at the moment.
Seeing as how I had already tried the Huntersville location, I knew more or less what to expect. And Mooresville basically matched up to that, though I did rate the pork a little higher this time around. But I suspect that may be due to having it directly after the bland meal at Carolina Ribs on the Run (ok, I’ll stop piling on starting…now). At least this pork had some smoke and spice. It still wasn’t great.
The slaw was the same mustard/mayo slaw as the other location. I was already pretty full so no hush puppies for me, which was too bad because they were the best part of my meal at the other location.
In terms of decor, the Mooresville location takes the NASCAR theme and cranks it to 11 (after all, Mooresville is the “Official Stock Car Capital of the World”). And they have a bus in the middle of the restaurant in which diners can sit in. So there’s that. Unfortunately, the barbecue is still pretty average.