Charlotte Barbecue News from the Second Quarter of 2021

Monk: In our first quarter wrap-up, I had optimism as things continued to move in a positive direction with vaccinations and the resulting re-opening of restaurants. That mostly continued, and while Charlotte lost a lot of its classic non-barbecue restaurants (Price’s Chicken Coop, Mr. K’s, Oakhurst Grill, Zack’s Hamburgers, etc), I only tracked one barbecue restaurant that closed during that time: the Tyvola Road location of the Sonny’s BBQ chain.

Charlotte barbecue even got some national attention, both of the good (Texas Monthly BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn visiting and loving Jon G’s) as well as notorious variety (Charlotte as the #3 best city for barbecue according to chefspencil.com).

While we may never know about the barbecue joints that weren’t started during the past year, hopefully a corner has been turned (and the Delta variant of COVID doesn’t wreak havoc here like it has in other countries; get vaccinated people!) and the Charlotte barbecue scene can experience new concepts as well as expansion and growth of its existing ones.

April

4/9 Smoke Show BBQ is a new Texas-style barbecue pop up in the Charlotte area from transplanted Texan chef Brandon Belfer who has worked at fine dining spots The Stanley, Crunkleton, The Asbury, Kindred, and Hello, Sailor

4/12 Charlotte-based Mac’s Speed Shop finds itself coming out of the pandemic in a strong position for growth

4/13 Roddey’s BBQ has changed their lunch hours in Rock Hill to Fridays only

4/19 Jon G’s Barbecue gets in the pit fabrication game

4/26 K&N BBQ makes Axios Charlotte’s list of best food trucks; and they recommend you try the pork and brisket

4/26 Adam Richman (of Man vs Food fame) visits Midwood Smokehouse

4/30 In what was (somewhat embarrassingly) one of the oldest barbecue restaurant’s in Charlotte, the Tyvola Rd. outpost of the Sonny’s BBQ chain closed

May

5/7 Daniel Vaughn ends his NC barbecue trip at Jon G’s Barbecue, where I was fortunate enough to meet both him and Kathleen Purvis and also share a meal with him

5/12 Charlotte is obviously the number 3 Top City for BBQ in the US. No objection here.

5/19 Jon G’s Barbecue gets the highest of praise from the BBQ Snob himself, Daniel Vaughn; Noble Smoke also gets a mention for their brisket

5/25 Phar Mill BBQ introduces itself to the world and will be using a Jon G’s offset smoker

June

6/3 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque announces its new food truck

6/3 Noble Smoke announces details on its 2 year anniversary

6/8 Mac’s Hospitality Group, parent company of Mac’s Speed Shop, adds Rare Roots alum Jay Spungin as Director of Operations

6/19 Congrats to Jon G’s Barbecue on one year open

6/26 Charlotte-based EDIA Maps, makers of The Great NC BBQ Map, ends operations

6/29 And the name of the Sweet Lew’s Barbeque food truck is…Sweet Lucille

Linkdown: 5/12/21

Featured

In one of the latest signs of a return to normalcy, 60 teams participated in last weekend’s 40th Annual BBQ on the Neuse Festival, the world’s largest whole hog competition. Attendance was larger than expected, with upwards of 15,000 attendees (vs an expected 5,000) coming to downtown Kinston to enjoy barbecue, music, and a little rainy weather (at least on Friday night).

In terms of winners, contestant Amy Bell had a good year, winning first overall in product quality and sauce. The rest of the winners here:

Next year’s event will be held on May 6-7.

Native News

Indy Week reviews the Raleigh location of Sam Jones BBQ, which doesn’t even have a freezer on site

Daniel Vaughn spent a little over a week in NC and ended his tour at Jon G’s Barbecue this past Saturday where I was fortunate enough to meet up with him

Non-Native News

Congrats to Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ on their new space in Buda, about 15 minutes south of their current location in South Austin

Juan Luis from John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue makes this list

A few shows with barbecue-focused episodes – Ugly Delicious, Cooked, Taco Chronicles, The Chef Show – are on this list from The Manual

Bon Appetit has an essay from Black Smoke

But of course Texas has a state high school barbecue championship

It’s not everyday that a barbecue restaurant gets featured in Architect Magazine; in this case its Black Hog BBQ in Ashburn, VA

Linkdown: 4/21/21

Featured

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.

Native News

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”

D.G Martin also remembers Wilber Shirley and thanks Wilber’s and other community-based restaurants for their hospitality in addition to their food

Smoke Show BBQ will be doing another pop-up at Crown Station in Charlotte

Jon G’s gets in the pit fabrication game

Non-Native News

Less than a week until Black Smoke comes out

John Tanner gets a dispatch on Salvage Barbecue from his “Senior South Portland (Maine) Correspondents”

Smoked wings are a big hit in Columbia

The Riverdale Park, MD-based 2Fifty Texas BBQ is opening up a D.C. location

Vegan Mob was started in 2019

Jon G’s Barbecue – Peachland, NC (Speedy’s take)

Name: Jon G’s Barbecue
Address: 116 Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133
Order: 1.5 lbs brisket, 0.5 lbs pork, 0.5 lbs bacon burnt ends, 1lb rib, 2 Cheerwine hot links, jalapeno cheese grits, apple crisp (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Speedy: Finally, I was in the Charlotte area on a Saturday and able to make it to the Jon G’s Barbecue brick and mortar location, after Monk’s continual praise and an impressive experience with the food truck a few years back. As a non-NC resident, I am only able to pop in and out of Charlotte a few times a year, and Saturday’s are not always convenient times for a trip over to Peachland, so I have one plea: give the people what they want! More barbecue! But I digress.

Monk: I’m pretty sure Speedy gets it now, but even though they are only open Saturdays it’s not like Garren and Kelly are sitting around the rest of the week between prep, catering gigs, and the food truck. Plus, the Saturday only aspect makes it more of an experience. 

Speedy: After loading up from Charlotte around 9:15 AM, we arrived at a small building off highway 74 with a picnic shelter out back around 10:00 and found our place in line for the 11:00 opening. Even an hour early, we were about 10th in line, but we didn’t mind the wait, as we were greeted with a cooler full of (free) Burial beer. A nice touch.

Monk: You know I love free beer and the fact that it’s one of my favorite breweries (NC or otherwise) only adds to it. We each grabbed and beer and joined in on the tailgating atmosphere. This is the one thing I try to convey when convincing anyone to make a trip to Peachland – it’s an experience that’s worth the trip. After all, Saturdays are for the boys!

Speedy: Let’s start with the brisket and not bury the lede. Similar to my experience with Jon G’s food truck a couple years ago, the brisket was fantastic. With apologies to both Jim Noble and John Lewis, this is the best brisket I’ve had in the Carolinas, and rivals Owlbear for the best outside of Texas. The peppery goodness pleased me greatly. I was actually a little worried about the brisket when I saw that Jon G’s uses a rotisserie smoker instead of the Texas standard barrel offset, but it worked out just fine.

For some reason, Jon G’s brisket is still ever so slightly behind my personal Holy Quadrumvirate of brisket (Franklin’s, La Barbecue, Pecan Lodge, Killen’s) but maybe because there’s just something different about eating brisket in Texas.

Monk: Of course that rotisserie smoker is an Oyler from Texas-based J&R Manufacturing, but I get Speedy’s concern when it’s not coming from an army of offset smokers made from old propane tanks (like the original Jon G’s smoker). 

I don’t always get the pork at Jon G’s, but that’s not to say they don’t do a good job with it. And on this visit, it was up to par even if it’s not what we were there for. 

Speedy: As you loyal readers know, I’m very much a rib man. When I visited the food truck ribs were not on the menu, so I had been salivating thinking about ribs the whole drive over. The dry ribs served at Jon G’s were seasoned well and cooked nearly perfectly. I don’t think I’d change a thing and would consider this a must order meat.

Monk: Man, those ribs are so good and I couldn’t agree more. They might even merit a revisit to my Ultimate Charlotte Barbecue Plate in the not-too-distant future.

I think they’ve really dialed in their Cheerwine hot link but I know Garren is really high on their newish Cheesy-Tex sausage made with cheese from Brown Creek Creamery in nearby Polkton So I’ll have to try that next time around when I’m not around Speedy, who is unyielding in his lack of tolerance for lactose.

Speedy: The bacon burnt ends were a special of the day. They had great flavor, as expected, but weren’t totally consistent. There were a couple pieces in our order that were a little dry. Overall, I’d still order again, but in a near perfect meal, this was my nit to pick. 

Monk: My experience with smoking my own bacon burnt ends is that the variance in cubing leads to some getting overdone while they larger ones cook through. Unavoidable but understandable. 

The jalapeno cheddar grits had a little more heat than usual on this visit, which was not unwelcome. Speedy ordered the apple crisp which I’m not sure I’ve ever had from them. It’s a simple but delicious way to end the meal. 

Speedy: Like all Texas-style Barbecue, it’s not something I can eat every day, as I was left with a bit of a gut bomb later in the day. So maybe Jon G’s has it right with the Saturday only thing. But overall, Jon G’s Barbecue is ridiculous. One of the best barbecue meals you’ll get anywhere. If you get the chance, don’t just stop by; make a plan to get there early and spend a Saturday morning out there. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Sausage – 4.5 hogs
Bacon Burnt Ends – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs