Charlotte Barbecue News from the Fourth Quarter of 2021

Monk: We enter the new year with cautious optimism, both on the real world as well as barbecue world fronts. My hope for 2022 is that we can regain any Charlotte barbecue momentum that has largely been on pause for the past two years and see some new players enter the game.

Bring it on, 2022.

October

10/12 At Mac’s Speed Shop, beef ribs and bacon-wrapped jalapenos are two of the prep-intensive items that are being taken off the menu for now

10/21 Jon G’s was featured in the Fall 2021 Issue of QC Exclusive

10/28 Lewis Donald and Sweet Lew’s BBQ raised funds to help the family of a young girl who tragically took her own life at the age of 11

November

11/8 Mac’s Speed Shop is closing its Cornelius restaurant but opening a new one in Mooresville

11/8 A new live-fire cooking restaurant called Cinder is opening in Charlotte from Husk veteran Duke Kroger (who identifies himself as a pitmaster in his Twitter profile)

11/17 After announcing that its Lake Norman location was going to close, Mac’s Speed Shop announced plans for the restaurant to stay open as a smaller location after an outpouring of love from the community

11/29 Jon G’s Barbecue and Salud Beer Shop team up for a pizza collaboration for the month of December

December

12/6 Sweet Lew’s BBQ celebrated 3 years open

12/8 Jon G’s Barbecue is named “Barbecue Restaurant of the Year” by Eater Carolinas

12/9 Tony Salerno Named Vice President of Operations for Mac’s Hospitality Group

12/13 Local coverage of Jon G’s being named “Barbecue Restaurant of the Year” by Eater Carolinas

12/13 With it’s upcoming stall at Optimist Hall, Noble Smoke is one Charlotte-area restaurant in expansion mode in 2022

12/29 Jon G’s and Salud Beer Shop announce they will continue their pizza collab in the new year for the first part of January

Linkdown: 12/1/21

In a collaboration you simply love to see: Jon G’s is collaborating with Salud Beer Shop to create a series of barbecue-inspired pizzas available until all month until December 24. The Monk clan used to live down the street from Salud when we lived in NoDa and I am a huge supporter of what Jason and his wife Dairelyn have built; what started out as a kickass bottle shop soon expanded to a small brewery and coffee shop upstairs before offering creative pizzas more recently. Its long been my favorite beer bar in Charlotte and all of North Carolina. And you don’t have to take just my word for it; they’ve been voted “Best Beer Bar” in the U.S. three years running.

Put together by mutual friend Stephen Philpott, these pizzas look simply delicious:

🍕The Jon: Brisket, Jalapenos, Pickled Red Onions, Jon G’s Barbecue Sauce, Salt and Vinegar chips, Chives, Smoked Sea Salt, Black Pepper.

🍕The Kelly: Cheesey Tex Sausage Link, Mozzarella, Bacon, Chopped Calabrian Chilies, Ham, Crispy Cajun Onions, House Honey Mustard, Chives.

🍕The Philpott: Cheerwine Sausage, House Chimichurri, Salud Kutless Lager Braised Sweet Onions, Bianco Dinapoli Tomatoes, Mozzarella.

The pizzas are available at Salud and I hope to try at least one but hopefully all three this month.

Native News

Jon G’s will finally be at Rhino Market in Wesley Heights tomorrow

Carolina Smoke, a food truck in Morganton, has opened its brick and mortar dubbed Carolina Smoke Barbeque Grill and Copper Still

Barbecue books from Asheville-area Buxton Hall and 12 Bones make great gifts

The First Pickles, Pigs, & Swigs Festival in Mount Olive looked to be a success

Non-Native News

More on the reopening of Franklin Barbecue indoor dining

Marie, Let’s Eat! makes a stop at the 75-year old Carlile’s BBQ in Birmingham

Dr. BBQ is a spokesman for the National Turkey Federation and recently stopped by WGN Radio

Bringles Smoking Oasis opens this Saturday in Nashville

Zavala’s Barbecue is in expansion mode

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

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