Monk: A fairly wide-ranging state of NC barbecue from News & Observer writer Drew Jackson, who has been very ably covering the barbecue scene in and around Raleigh for the past few years.
Despite the invasive species of brisket coming into the state, there are still a number of places clinging to the NC barbecue tradition, be that eastern whole hog or Lexington-style shoulders (though this story focuses on places east of Durham. Wyatt Dickson, Matt Register, Ronald House (night pitmaster at B’s Barbecue), and Ryan Mitchell are all quoted in the story but of course Sam Jones has the money quote:
Read more at the link:
Lewis Donald is no longer involved with Dish and will be focusing his efforts on Sweet Lew’s BBQ and the Carolina Barbecue Festival going forward
Axios Raleigh releases their Triangle barbecue list
Barbecue Center in Lexington is closing for a week later this month for some hard earned rest and relaxation, so plan accordingly
Hillsborough’s Hog Day festival is the oldest barbecue festival in Orange County and this year will officially be part of the Whole Hog Barbecue State Championship
Jon G’s makes the Yelp Charlotte Top 25 Places to Eat along with…JD’s Smokehouse in Rutherford College near Morganton?
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:
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
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”
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.
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.
Monk: The Charlotte barbecue scene, along with the entire restaurant industry, remains in flux. Longtime Belmont staple Buddy’s BBQ closed in February after 25 years. A second location of Noble Smoke opened in Optimist Hall. The Carolina Barbecue Festival was announced for May and has a chance to put Charlotte on the map. However, no barbecue boom appears on the horizon for Charlotte anytime soon. Here’s a roundup of news from the past 3 months.
1/2 Big Tiny’s BBQ expands its hours in the new year
1/3 By popular demand the pizza collab by Jon G’s Barbecue and Salud continued into January
1/4 Noble Smoke is the only barbecue restaurant on Charlotte Magazine’s annual list of the 50 best restaurants in Charlotte
1/10 RayNathan’s celebrates 3 years open
1/20 Garren of Jon G’s Barbecue profiled on the Ministers of Smoke Instagram page
1/21 A fun story from Charlotte Magazine on how Chapel Hill-born fashion designer Alexander Julian got paid in barbecue for designing the original Charlotte Hornets jerseys
2/7 Buddy’s BBQ in Belmont closed after 25 years
2/9 Cornelius-based Barvecue has raised $600 million thus far
2/9 The latest barbecue list from Only In Your State includes Jon G’s Barbecue
2/23 Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ announces the Carolina Barbecue Festival to be held May 22 at Camp North End in Charlotte
2/27 Congrats to Garren and Kelly from Jon G’s, who 2 years ago on this date closed on the former Barbee’s Barbecue location, which they would open in June 2020 just a few months into the pandemic
3/12 Actor Eric Wareheim made it all the way from LA to Jon G’s Barbecue for a Barbecue Saturday
3/14 Noble Smoke‘s second location at Optimist Hall opens; it was originally scheduled to open on 3/2
3/22 Noble Smoke is involved in a bit of controversy when a miscommunication between its landlord and a neighboring business kicks off a brouhaha
3/24 Noble Smoke and Jim Noble’s official response. As of this writing I have not seen whether an agreement has been reached.
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