Monk: In a truly tragic and senseless act of violence, Scott Brooks, co-owner of Brooks Sandwich House in Charlotte, was killed early morning on Monday, 12/9 while he was opening the store for the day. In addition to being a thoroughly family-run restaurant (along with his twin brother David as well his niece Lauren), Brooks Sandwich House(opened in 1973 by his father C.T.)is an institution in Charlotte, a city of relatively few food institutions. While they are the place to find arguably the best burger in Charlotte, Scott along with his twin brother David should also be applauded for donating family land the city of Charlotte to help with its affordable housing crisis. Scott will truly be missed, and my thoughts are with the Brooks family.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help cover the family’s funeral expenses if you are so inclined; read the sweet words from his niece who also worked at the store below
Charlotte-based food writer Kathleen Purvis with a profound piece on the loss of Scott and what it means for Charlotte
Kathleen also attended the candlelight vigil Tuesday night in the rain
Along with hundreds more
Charlotte Five remembered Scott by revisiting their post from a series on siblings in Charlotte food from earlier this year
Other Charlotte folks weighed in as well
City Council member Braxton Winston spent time in Monday night’s meeting mourning the loss of Brooks but was unfortunately rudely interrupted by fellow councilman Ed Driggs
The Southern Foodway Alliance mourned the loss of Scott with the reposting of their short film profiling the restaurant, which is definitely worth a view
Everyone knows that Brunswick stew originated in Brunswick County, Virginia. Or was it the city of Brunswick, Georgia? According to this article on the “complicated” history of the stew by barbecue historian Robert Moss, a claim in 1946 even claimed that the stew was a favorite of Queen Victoria and hailed from Brunswick, Germany. There’s also a Brunswick County in North Carolina but no one really tries to assert that the stew was first made there.
I’m not looking to wade into that war between Virginia and Georgia (for what it’s worth, Moss seemed to come down on the side of Virginia but says that Georgia perfected it). Instead, I’d like to focus on a local version of Brunswick stew served at the venerable Mallard Creek Barbecue. Every year as that 4th Thursday approaches and I link to an article about the preparation for the barbecue in my Wednesday linkdowns, a commenter either on this site or our Instagram or on our Facebook page inevitably comments on the Brunswick stew. Or rather, how the version served at the Mallard Creek Barbecue isn’t really Brunswick stew.
But first, for the uninitiated, the Mallard Creek Barbecue is a one day church barbecue held the 4th Thursday of October every year for the past 90 in North Charlotte. Think about that – in a city where very few things are old, this is a tradition that has been going on for 90 years. Granted, back then the land containing an old school house was vacant farmland not actually a part of Charlotte and has been incorporated in the years since. But my point remains: in a city that doesn’t have many – possibly any – institutions that are 90 years old much less much of a barbecue heritage, Charlotte somehow has a 90 year old annual barbecue. The barbecue is great and any serious barbecue fan in the area should try to attend just once. But back to the Brunswick stew…
Traditional Brunswick stew is a tomato-based thin soup or thick stew that originally was made with squirrel meat along with other a few other meats depending on the location in which it was served (shredded chicken in Virginia, pulled pork and shredded beef in Georgia, shredded chicken and beef and pulled pork in North Carolina). Then, it would have some mixture of potatoes, lima or butter beans, corn, okra, tomatoes, plus potentially a variety of other vegetables. So, to summarize: its either a thick or thin stew but maybe a soup, its made with any number of meats, and its got some veggies but who knows which ones. As you may have gathered, there really is no official recipe.
The recipe for Mallard Creek’s version uses ground chicken, beef, and pork instead of shredded versions of those meats. Lima beans are nowhere in sight and instead only corn and tomatoes are found in the stew. And perhaps most controversially, instead of potatoes, they use rice. Critics argue that the use of rice is filler to make the recipe go longer, but as Charlotte food writer Kathleen Purvis wrote in 2014, their recipe has been used since the 40’s and was more than likely made up by Rebecca “Beck” McLaughlin according to her son Dale since, as he notes “[s]he didn’t go by recipes on hardly anything.” Purvis’ article notes that the breaks from traditional Brunswick stew may have simply been a matter of preference since potatoes got too mushy and lima beans tasted too strong, according to Beck.
The official Mallard Creek Barbecue FAQ even has a question dedicated to the stew, noting “[o]n the practical side, some stews have potatoes – but don’t store/freeze/reheat well, [so] your Mallard Creek Stew will not break down as much, since the rice holds better.” It also notes that rice can’t possibly be used to stretch the recipe since there is “6 times as much meat vs rice (by weight) in each serving of stew.”
While I am really only versed in North Carolina versions of Brunswick stew, I quite like Mallard Creek’s version particularly on days when the sun is shining but the temperature is cooler. Were I to travel extensively in Virginia or Georgia, I have a feeling I’d like those respective versions as well (perhaps Georgia more so than Virginia based on what I’ve read). Regardless, my curiosity is officially piqued and as such, I will be ordering Brunswick stew any chance I get in my barbecue travels now.
I just wish I had gotten a gallon or two from this year’s Mallard Creek Barbecue.
From this Charlotte Observer article on Noble Smoke’s opening, I found out the interesting tidbit that Joe Kindred (of Kindred and Hello, Sailor) used to work for Jim Noble
He started getting serious about opening a barbecue restaurant around 2008, but he kept getting delayed. Joe Kindred, a former intern for Noble who has since opened his own restaurants, remembers going all across the state with Noble and stopping at barbecue places along the way.
Daniel Vaughn says the best thing on the menu at Franklin Barbecue is the beef rib
The True ‘Cue Newsletter is no more for a variety of reasons, but we are happy to announce that we will help spread any future True ‘Cue news from them received via press releases.
In the final issue of the newsletter, John Shelton Reed did have some nice news to share: In parting, there is some Campaign news to report. Our latest branch, joining those in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Kentucky, will cover Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. It is in the capable hands of John Tanner. We wish him well and look forward to hearing where one can get Real Barbecue in and near our nation’s capital.
An update on Bryan Furman’s plans for the Atlanta B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque
Mr. Barbecue in Winston-Salem had a pit fire last week, caused by embers, but they vow to return
Midwood Smokehouse has them some new fancy sandwiches
Stephen Colbertis at it again: “I love everything about North Carolina other than that damn vinegar stuff that y’all put on the barbecue.”
As usual, Kathleen Purvis puts it all in perspective:
Congrats to Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque for his James Beard Award semifinal nomination!
Veteran Charlotte restaurateur Pierre Bader closes City Smoke, cites that he doesn’t “see any growth in the barbecue business in Charlotte.” I would argue that he might have seen growth had his restaurant’s barbecue been better (they were 40 out of 42 on our list before their close)
Food and Wine is loving Columbia, SC and thinks you should try to the hash: “Don’t fill up on grits, because you must also try the barbecue, which will be pork, served along with that could-stop-traffic yellow sauce, and a side of that curiously delicious regional specialty, hash, which is nearly always served over rice. Essentially a stew of all the animal parts you probably wouldn’t eat separately, hash might come off a tad musky for some, but this is nose-to-tail cooking at its finest.”
I wonder how the folks in Texas are reacting to this:
For Kathleen Purvis’s last story as Charlotte Observer food writer, she takes a look at the fried pork skins at Sweet Lew’s BBQ as well as the fried chicken skin from Yolk. I love her writing and look forward to seeing what she does next.
The “Milestone” Edition: In this week’s linkdown, we have links on a new barbecue restaurant opening, a big expansion of an existing one, plus Chef Vivian Howard’s favorite eastern NC barbecue restaurants and a milestone birthday for the city of Charlotte.
Congrats to Sweet Lew’s BBQ on finally opening today!
Chef Vivian Howard, a NC State grad who just finished her acclaimed PBS show “A Chef’s Life”, grew up in eastern NC and lives there now. You can bet she definitely knows her stuff when it comes to eastern NC barbecue.
– Justin Brunson of Old Major in Denver has a BQ Grill that he uses for catering as well as for fun
When I arrived at Old Major, Brunson was already stoking the fire in his BQ Grill, a steel behemoth sporting two huge drawers for coals, four air vents, enough horizontal space to cook a 250-pound pig, and a wood storage rack in the back. “It’s pretty much just a big, metal oven,” says Brunson. “This is the same grill that Sam Jones [of Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, North Carolina] and Elliott Moss [of Buxton Hall BBQ in Asheville, North Carolina] use for barbecue. They make a gas model, but that’s not real barbecue. It’s got to be all wood, all the time.”
“This is my hobby right now, cooking on this grill,” says Brunson. “With Red Bear about to open, it’s my stress relief.” It’s also about supporting local farmers and producers, and experimenting with the “flavor of Colorado.” Brunson’s goal: To use the grill for catering, special events, and to cook local pigs, lambs, and more for anyone who asks. (Seriously, if you call Old Major and ask for a whole-animal feast, Brunson will cook it for you.)
– Here’s the full menu for next month’s Big Apple Barbecue Block Party including ribs from the newly awarded James Beard winner Rodney Scott and whole hog from Ed and Ryan Mitchell as well as Sam Jones
– For such a good docuseries, David Chang’s “Ugly Delicious” gets barbecue wrong
Southerners have long nurtured a debate over whether Carolina-style pork or Texas-style brisket is the true king. Charleston has decided you can have it both ways. On Upper King Street, one year ago, Rodney Scott opened Rodney Scott’s BBQ, a brick temple to the low, slow, whole-hog style that put South Carolina barbecue on the map. Less than half a mile away, at Lewis Barbecue, you can sit in a gravel courtyard under the shade of a live oak and enjoy some of the best brisket in the country, Texas-style.
– John Shelton Reed has a guest post at Barbecue Bible to remind folks about True ‘Cue