Friday Find: The News & Observer’s Favorite NC Barbecue Joints

Monk: The News & Observer presents a video slide show of some great photos of their favorite barbecue joints across the state, from classic whole hog joints to new school places that feature brisket and a Texas influence. Restaurants included:

  • B’s Barbecue in Greenville
  • Grady’s Barbecue in Dudley
  • Jon G’s Barbecue in Peachland
  • Lawrence Barbecue in Durham
  • Longleaf Swine in Raleigh
  • Picnic in Durham
  • Prime Barbecue in Knightdale
  • Redneck BBQ Lab in Benson

Description: Barbecue is the hottest trend in food right now. And in tradition-rich North Carolina, a new generation of pitmasters is making new traditions of their own. Here are a few of our favorites. Video by Kevin Keister / The News & Observer.

Charlotte Barbecue News from the Second Quarter of 2022

Monk: The biggest barbecue news in Charlotte from April to June was surely the inaugural edition of the Carolina BBQ Festival held in late May. You can revisit my recap of the memorable day here:

The festival sold out of all tickets for this year’s edition and Lewis Donald has some big plans for next year. More news on that front should be coming in the next few days or weeks according to a recent Instagram post. Follow them on Instagram to find out as soon as its posted.

The rest of the Charlotte barbecue news from the past 3 months:

April

4/4 In news you don’t like to see, Noble Smoke and a neighboring business The Good Life got involved in a parking dispute

4/5 The owners of Seoul Food Meat Co open a fast casual wing-focused restaurant in South Park

4/25 Axios Charlotte names The Smoke Pit as one of the recommended places to eat when in Concord just north of Charlotte

May

5/10 The inaugural Carolina BBQ Festival officially sells out weeks ahead of its debut

5/24 The Carolina BBQ Festival in photos

5/25 Sweet Lew’s BBQ makes this list from Thrillist on the “57 American barbecue joints to visit right now”

June

6/1 We collaborate with our friends at The Smoke Sheet to recap the Carolina BBQ Festival

6/3 The fan favorite G’s Burger is taken off the Jon G’s Barbecue menu for a “short hiatus”

6/5 Midwood Smokehouse and Jon G’s Barbecue are two of the 13 barbecue restaurants included in Cheerwine’s Carolina ‘Cue Tour

6/5 Not to be outdone, Gaston County launches a barbecue trail of their own. The Gaston County Cue Trail has 7 barbecue restaurants on the list, the oldest of which even opened back in 1946

6/25 Sweet Lew’s BBQ collaborates with Chef Corey Siegel on a sandwich pop-up

6/26 Jon G’s Barbecue headed to Charleston for a pop-up with Palmira BBQ at Hobcaw Brewing

6/30 The Charlotte Observer posts their latest list of Charlotte-area barbecue joints; some good, some not so good on the list but that’s a reflection of Charlotte barbecue more than anything else.

The Carolina BBQ Festival Delivered on its Promise to Put Charlotte Barbecue on the Map

Monk: On a perfect spring day in a perfect setting, the first annual Carolina BBQ Festival capped off Barbecue Month in style at the Boileryard at Camp North End in Charlotte in late May.

My hopes were high, as I had previously written, and I was heartened to see that first the VIP then the General Admission tickets sold out in the weeks ahead of the festival. As someone who can now be considered a longtime Charlottean (having lived here for 17+ years), sometimes you can never tell whether Charlotte is going to show up for a brand new festival but Lewis Donald and team can build off a sold out festival going into next year’s edition. 

Of course, the big selling point for the festival was the barbecue talent rubbing elbows together, and on that front it did not disappoint. 

The biggest lines on the day were for former Charlottean Bryan Furman’s whole hog served with his signature bourbon peach sauce that pulled from his current Georgia roots. Tay Nelson of Bobby’s BBQ in Fountain Inn, SC handled the sides of slaw and an almost dessert-like sweet potato side dish that seemed to be a fan favorite.

Elliot Moss built a behemoth cinder block pit on the Boileryard grounds and smoked his eastern NC (though more accurately SC Pee Dee-style) whole hogs overnight. Matt Register of Southern Smoke brought the elevated sides of a BBQ saltine cracker casserole with a tomato salad and cornbread.

Not to be outdone, Nathan Monk, the 3rd generation pitmaster of Lexington Barbecue, brought a bunch of Lexington-style pork shoulders and red slaw smoked the night before in the storied Lexington Barbecue pits while Brandon Shepherd of Shepherd’s Barbecue in Emerald Isle handled the sides of Mexican street corn and baked beans.

For those fortunate enough to snag a VIP ticket, Jon G’s brought the heat with their beef rib croissant and jalapeno cheddar grits with a burnt end garnish while Sweet Lew’s provided a pickled ramp sausage and cheesy potatoes and a side of his version of hash and rice.

Oysters were provided by North Sea Oyster Co and Crystal Coast Oysters. Oysters plus a couple of mimosas or bloody marys made for a very filling experience for VIP customers, for sure.

Before I go any further, I should pause to give props to all of the pitmasters who came from all over NC and the southeast, many of which were running off of a lack of sleep due to running their restaurants or handling catering gigs. Not to mention the hogs provided by Ronald Simmons and Master Blend Family Farms.

On the entertainment front, several local bands kept the crowd entertained. Carolina Gator Gumbo started off the afternoon with their cajun creole music before giving way to Justin Fedor & the Denim Denim. Fedor, who also spends time in Charlotte psych-rock band Ancient Cities, channels his country-rock troubadour in this band of his. Finally, Emanuel Wynter capped off the afternoon with his unique blend of his violin skills with a talented band behind him switching easily between genres. In between sets, DJ That Guy Smitty kept the crowd’s heads bopping with his mix of funky and soulful tunes.

As successful as the debut festival was, next year I’d like to see a second wave of customers enter after the initial rush moves through because while there are lengthy lines for the first hour or two, there was not as much activity at the tents in hours 3 and 4 while there was still plenty of food. No doubt Lewis and team are working through that and more tweaks for next year’s festival.

Speaking of which, Lewis told me he has even bigger and better plans for next year’s edition, and I can’t wait until he unveils them to the public. The first Carolina BBQ Festival was certainly a great start to what hopefully becomes a Spring tradition in Charlotte. For me, it more than delivered on its promise to put Charlotte barbecue on the map.

More sights from the festival:

Recap: Smoke & Grapes at the Charlotte Wine & Food Festival featuring Jon G’s Barbecue

Monk: This past Sunday, the closing event of Charlotte Wine & Food was a “Smoke & Grapes” event with Jon G’s Barbecue from Peachland paired with some beautiful wines from Andis Wines from the Sierra Foothills of California. Mrs. Monk and I were fortunate enough to be invited to it by friends of the blog Ariail and Andrew Barker.

After a cocktail hour with their Cheerwine hot link and an amazing beef rib croissant (wine pairing: 2021 Andis Sauvignon Blanc and 2019 Andis Cabernet Franc), we were treated to a three course meal of a good bit of their menu (all paired with some beautiful reds from Andis, of course). The first course was of course brisket served along with slaw, jalapeño cheddar grits, and beans. The brisket was a Jon G’s brisket, enough said. Wine pairing: 2020 Painted Fields Curse of Knowledge (Bordeaux Blend)

Second course was their ribs served with mac and cheese, Mexican street corn, and their amazing brisket fried rice. Mrs. Monk was most excited about three brisket fried rice but the spares were as good as ever. Wine pairing: 2019 Painted Fields Old Vine Zinfandel

The dessert course (not pictured) was an Oreo dirt pudding and Nutter Butter Pie and finished off the filling meal simply but nicely. Wine pairing: 2019 Andis Petite Sirah

For folks who haven’t previously had the pleasure, this was a nice way to try Garren and Kelli’s self-described “comfort food” without having to wait in line at Peachland or a food truck service. Speaking of waiting in line, one of the prized live auction items was a Golden Ticket to skip the line at the Peachland Store. It went for $900, if I’m not mistaken. I should also mention that a percentage of proceeds went to a handful of charities in Charlotte that help underprivileged kids.

For those of us fortunate enough to have have it previously, the consistency of all of the food should be noted. Everything tasted just as it always does, which is exceptional.

All in all, a fantastic event featuring great wines from a family-owned winery as well the amazing barbecue of a family-owned barbecue restaurant.