Kevin’s BBQ Joints out here again doing yeoman’s work. This time, he reached out to 158 restaurants (4 were added since this Tweet) across the country to get what a best first order would look like. From North Carolina, Black Powder Smokehouse in Jamestown, Lawrence Barbecue in Raleigh, Longleaf Swine in Raleigh, Noble Smoke in Charlotte, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby, Southern Smoke in Garland. Naturally, Texas represents a large portion of the list and a separate “Texas-only” list is located here.
Wilber Shirley is celebrated on the UNC Press Blog by reposting his interview with John Shelton Reed and his late wife Dale Volberg Reed from “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of NC Barbecue”
Eater Atlanta’s Mike Jordan speaks to a number of Atlanta-area pitmasters to get their take on “Georgia-style” barbecue, with the consensus that there is a style, but that you have to get out of Atlanta to try it and its not quite up there with the other “major” styles of barbecue.
The question of “what even is Georgia barbecue” seems to come up every few years and while I’m far from an expert when it comes the Peach State, I follow the lead of people who know more than me. Robert Moss notes in his latest issue of The Cue Sheet that Jordan didn’t quite venture far enough outside of Atlanta to get a true sense of Georgia-style barbecue. That is, chopped barbecue sandwiches, Brunswick stew, cole slaw, and sometimes a regional dish called chicken mull from the Athens area.
Finally, to get an even more impassioned defense of Georgia barbecue, I highly recommend you read our friend Grant’s missive from a few years back over at Marie, Let’s Eat. Grant knows more about Georgia barbecue than just about anyone out there, having done the legwork to travel to the farthest corners of the state in search of true barbecue. When it comes to Georgia barbecue, heed his word. In particular, he urges you to explore the Athens area:
What you might want to do is start in Athens, because some of the best barbecue in the country can be found here. Not too many people pish-poshed this notion, but a couple did, so let me be very clear: I think that Memphis is one of this country’s best barbecue cities. It’s home to Payne’s, Leonard’s, and the Bar-B-Q Shop, and they’re all amazing, and there are at least a dozen other darn good places there. I agree that Lexington NC is certainly one as well. I have only been here three very short times, but I’ve had four downright excellent meals and would love to return for a very long trip. I’m perfectly prepared to accept that Lockhart TX is one. It is unlikely that I will visit anytime soon, but I can believe the hype I hear. Its advocates are reliable correspondents. Kansas City, quite probably. Calvin Trillin believes in Arthur Bryant’s, and if you haven’t figured out how much debt I owe Trillin, you’re not paying attention.
So I’m not dismissing any other city when I say that the Athens area deserves to be given the same accolades. There’s room for it as well. I’ll say that the triangle formed by Zeb’s in Danielsville, Paul’s in Lexington, and Hot Thomas in Watkinsville is the region that I mean, and those three remarkably good restaurants are all in my top twenty somewhere. (They’re actually not in my top ten, about which more in a moment.) The photos accompanying this story come from our last weekend in Georgia before the move. We revisited Paul’s and Hot Thomas, along with Bill’s, which is just across the Clarke County line, outside of Hull, and Scott’s & BJ’s, the only one of these four with an actual Athens address.
(Not so) coincidentally, here’s Eater Atlanta’s list of best barbecue restaurants in the area they rolled out along with the “What is Georgia Barbecue?” article.
Adding Perry’s Pig Pickin’ BBQ in Mint Hill to my list
…same with The Smokehouse at Steve’s in Graham, courtesy of John Tanner’s Barbecue Blog
New merch from Stamey’s
Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ has opened its first location outside of Connecticut in Asheville’s South Slope by permanently parking a food truck on Coxe Ave
Monk: When I moved to Charlotte in 2005, I was surprised at the lack of barbecue options in town. Though had I been paying attention then as I do now, it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise. Mac’s Speed Shop was a fun option for awhile but eventually fell off a cliff after it jettisoned its original barbecue partner and began to expand too quickly. It wasn’t a few years living in Charlotte until I finally checked out Bill Spoon’s Barbecue on South Boulevard, and while the style of barbecue seemed out of place (eastern NC whole hog in the Piedmont?) it was clear to me that it was Charlotte’s classic barbecue joint.
Unfortunately, as of close of business today after 57 years in business, that will no longer be the case. It was announced on Facebook Monday by current owner Steve Spoon, who in 2006 bought it from his grandfather Bill and began operating the barbecue joint in much the same way he had since he opened it in 1963 (albeit in a different location than their current one on South Boulevard). Screw you 2020, and screw you COVID-19.
Kathleen Purvis summed it up perfectly with this poignant quote that doubles as a warning for us lovers of other classic joints: “If all the hard lessons of 2020’s season of terrible teaches us anything, it’s that: Those places don’t last, can’t last, if we don’t make sure of it.“
Charlotte Magazine’s Greg Lacour also pitched in, noting that the restaurant was struggling before COVID and had been operating in takeout only mode for the past few months
Sadly, its taken the restaurant closing for Charlotte to show up again
Seoul Food Meat Co will open a second location in the Optimist Park neighborhood (not NoDa as noted in their post) as part of an adaptive-reuse project called Lintmen’s
Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ is a small Connecticut chain that will open a Kansas City-style barbecue restaurant in Asheville’s South Slope
Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston has been getting a big bump from “Chef’s Table: BBQ”
Wilber’s Barbecue has completed their pit restoration
Bar-B-Q King in Charlotte (not to be confused the similarly named restaurant in Lincolnton) has experienced a surge in business as a result of customers feeling more comfortable at their drive-in due to social distancing
Home Team BBQ in Columbiahas reopened after being closed for more than a month
More coverage on Prime Barbecue’s opening last week
Big T’s BBQwill be opening in the former Top’s Pizza Factory location in Fallston by the same owners because apparently co-owner Tony Maness “can cook anything”
SAW’s Soul Kitchen had their smoker Black Betty stolen at the end of March
Beef and pork suppliers have been hit hard as a result of the pandemic
Midwood Smokehouse is one of several local restaurants where you can buy a t-shirt to support them until their dining rooms open again