Monk’s Top 10 Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2018

Monk: Last year I provided a ranking of my 10 favorite barbecue meals eaten in 2017 so trying to make it an annual thing by doing the same for 2018. Happy New Year!

10. Brisket, sausage, pork ribs and a taste of the beef rib from Louie Mueller Barbecue (review)

I was a little let down by the brisket at Louie Mueller’s (as was Rudy) but I’ll chalk that up to a bad day. However, the beef rib and sausage more than made up for it. Plus, the number of of legendary Texas joints I’ve visited is quite low so I was glad to visit one of the OG’s.

9. Barbecue tray from Smokey Joe’s (review)

8. Barbecue tray from Speedy Lohr’s (review)

I hope to one day make a comprehensive list of Lexington barbecue joints, but in early 2018 I was able to knock two off the list in Smokey Joe’s and Speedy Lohr’s, with neither tray disappointing.

7. Whole hog from NC State BBQ Camp (link)

At the NC State BBQ Camp, I was honored to be a guest panelist for a barbecue roundtable led by none other than Bob Garner. After that chat, the campers and panelists all partook in a whole hog pig pickin’ with some dang fine whole hog. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch who did the smoking but whoever you are, well done.

6. Chopped pork plate and brunswick stew from Stamey’s Barbecue (last review from 2013)

My takeout meal the day after Thanksgiving of pulled pork and brunswick stew only proves that I need to make it a point to get to Stamey’s more often.

5. Chopped pork and brisket from Sweet Lew’s BBQ (review)

There are certainly big things coming for Sweet Lew’s BBQ which only opened in early December. I look forward to many more meals here over the coming months and years.

4. Big Poppa Sampler (Full Rack Ribs, 12oz Pork, 12oz Brisket, ½ Chicken) and 6 Memphis dry rub wings from Martin’s BBQ Joint (review)

I couldn’t have been more impressed with everything on our visit to the downtown Nashville location of Martin’s in late summer – from the space itself to the open air beer garden to each and every delicious meat. Speedy is quite lucky to have Martin’s as his local joint.

3. Whole hog platter with barbecue hash from Buxton Hall Barbecue (review from 2016)

A visit to Buxton Hall once every two years simply isn’t gonna cut it for me. With the consistently amazing whole hog, the fantastic barbecue hash, and at least a couple other items I haven’t even tried such as fried catfish and smoked fried chicken, it should be at least a twice per year affair for me.

2. Brisket, sausage, and chopped pork from Lewis Barbecue (review from 2017)

As confirmed by the #hogtripping crew of the Tales from the Pits podcast as well as The Smoking Ho during their travels in late August, Lewis truly is legit Texas barbecue in the lowcountry. The Carolinas and in particular the lowcountry should count itself very lucky.

1. Brisket, chopped pork, Porky Brewster sandwich, and taco from Jon G’s Barbecue (review)

My only complaint with Jon G’s Barbecue is that lately they’ve focused more on catering gigs instead of public servings. In any case, Garren and Kelly continue to kill it.

Honorable Mentions: Q – Houston, TX (review), LeRoy & Lewis – Austin, TX (review)

Pitmasters of Charlotte: Garren Kirkman of Jon G’s Barbecue

While there is certainly good barbecue to be found in Charlotte, I wouldn’t quite say that it’s a barbecue city…yet. However, there are pitmasters out there doing great work, and I hope to spotlight that a little more in this series of posts called “Pitmasters of Charlotte.”

First up is Garren Kirkman, who along with his wife Kelly own and run Jon G’s Barbecue out of Marshville/Monroe. You may recognize Jon G’s as the current #1 on our Charlotte Big Board, so Garren was a natural first choice to feature.

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How long have you lived in Charlotte (or the surrounding area) and how did you get here?
I was born and raised in Statesville, NC and moved to Union County in 2007 for work. I’m a nuclear medicine supervisor by trade.

How did you become a pitmaster?
First off, I call myself a firekeeper. If you are reading this and think I’m a pitmaster, thanks!

I went to Walmart, found a choice whole packer brisket on clearance, went home and smoked it on an offset Char-Griller bellowing gray smoke for 16 hours and produced a meteorite. Needless to say…I had some work to do (although everyone ate it happily that day). Brisket was surprisingly the first thing I ever smoked and not a Boston butt.

What is your favorite meat to smoke? What type of wood do you prefer?
Brisket and beef ribs are definitely top two, brisket being more of a challenge. My favorite thing to smoke would be beef ribs (dinosaur rib), but we typically save those for catering events due to regional unpopularity.

Mixture of well seasoned white oak and pecan are my choices for wood, but occasionally some red oak will slip in as well. We won’t turn red oak down as long as it’s seasoned. It is all about a consistent, clean burning fire.

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What are your barbecue influences?
If you’ve ever had our food it’s obviously influenced by Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin,TX. But aside from Texas influences, I admire Skylight Inn and Sam Jones in Ayden, NC. While I’m not smoking exactly like them, the history and their dedication to quality and product speaks for itself. I am not a trained “chef” so there is definitely some “Grandmas Sunday lunch” influence on our side dishes. On a side note, we do have a couple events planned this fall featuring a whole hog.

What is your favorite barbecue joint or style?
I’m not into chain restaurant barbecue. I like to go places where I can see the hard work that’s being poured into the food. I like to think we accomplish this even though we are a food truck (for now).

IMG_2509 (2)What is your earliest memory of barbecue?
Growing up in a small town in NC, fire department BBQ was a go-to and is honestly my first memory of BBQ. I’ll just say, it was for a good cause!

What is the best thing about Charlotte barbecue?
If I’m being completely honest, barbecue is not our first choice of a meal when we are home. We save it up for places like Buxton Hall in Asheville, Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, or when traveling to Texas, more up and coming places like Truth Barbecue. Of course we have made the rounds at Franklin Barbecue, La Barbecue, etc.

What is a weakness or opportunity of Charlotte barbecue?
I’d love to see more pitmaster-based barbecue joints. A face behind the food, if you will. And less gas.

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Thanks to Garren for being our first guinea pig for this series. For more about Jon G’s BBQ, check out their Instagram or Facebook page. If you know of a pitmaster who we should feature next, let us know!

Jon G’s Barbecue (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Jon G’s Barbecue (food truck)
Date: 4/27/18
Order: Two meat combo (brisket and pork) with corn pudding, mac and cheese, and Sun Drop
Price: $19

Monk: It was a little over a year ago when I first checked out Jon G’s Barbecue and they shook up our Charlotte Big Board by taking over the #1 spot. A little over 14 months later, I checked them out again wondering if consistency would be maintained.

Since my first time in early 2017, Garren and his wife Kelly have since acquired a food truck and after a brief (but worthy) hiatus to have their first child they have been making the rounds outside of their monthly(ish) pop up at Southern Range Brewing at food truck roundups such as the bi-weekly Food Truck Friday in Matthews.

I’m happy to report that Jon G’s brisket continues to be on point. The mix of lean and fatty again produced some of the best bites of brisket I’ve had in NC, approaching John Lewis’s in Charleston for best that I’ve tasted in the Carolinas as a whole (I do need to get to Columbia to check out City Limits Barbeque for sure though).

Not to be outshone too much, the coarsely pulled pork with a dash or two of vinegar sauce was quite tasty. From what I can tell, I’m seeing few growing pains in the switch to the food truck in terms of quality of food.

Jon G’s has tried a few things with sides since my last visit and the delicious corn pudding was a new menu item inspired by a similar side at Lewis Barbecue in Charleston. I didn’t try the mac and cheese last time but it was also quite good. Finally, having Sun Drop as a drink option was a nice touch, but perhaps I could humbly suggest adding Cheerwine in the future.

So not only was consistency maintained between my two visits but Jon G’s Barbecue may have possibly even gotten better. Garren and Kelly continue to knock it out of the park, and for my money there is no doubt that they remain the best barbecue in Charlotte

Ratings:
Atmosphere – N/A
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs