The Ultimate Charlotte Barbecue Plate (2021)

Monk: A lot (and I mean, a lot) has changed since the last time I did a “Best of Charlotte” series in 2016. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen and Queen City Q, both winners in several categories, are both no longer in business. Neither are Sauceman’s or Bill Spoon’s, who in 2016 placed in ribs and pork respectively.

The Smoke Pit had the best brisket at the time and since then Jon G’s, Sweet Lew’s, and Noble Smoke have all opened their doors with wood-smoked brisket that each edges out the offerings from The Smoke Pit.

Midwood Smokehouse didn’t top any one category in 2016 but still had a strong showing by being in the top three in each of the five categories: pork, brisket, ribs, sausage, and other. Thankfully, they are still around and are well represented on this list.

Now, onto our picks for the “Ultimate Charlotte Barbecue Plate.”

Pork – Noble Smoke

Jim Noble and team are carrying on the 100+ years-old legacy of Lexington-style barbecue at Noble Smoke in west Charlotte. Simply rubbed with salt and pepper and smoked directly over wood coals in their custom brick masonry pit (named “John”) whose design was borrowed with permission from family friends the Monk family of Lexington Barbecue, upon tasting the pork transports you an hour or so north up I-85.

Honorable Mention: Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Brisket – Jon G’s Barbecue

The meat that put Jon G’s on the map. Of their many spectacular smoked meats, the brisket is the one must order every time you go. Do it and you won’t be disappointed. Trust me.

Honorable Mention: Noble Smoke

Ribs – The Smoke Pit

This one was a surprise from a recent trip that Speedy and I took to the Gastonia location of the local mini-chain of restaurants in late 2020. On that visit, Speedy noted that the dry rub ribs had the perfect bite with just the right amount of spice. I couldn’t agree more and it was the standout meat of that meal.

Honorable Mention: Jon G’s

Sausage – Cheerwine Hot Link from Jon G’s

A truly unique sausage made in-house at Jon G’s, with Salisbury, NC-based Cheerwine taking the place of the water used in the sausage-making process. The end result isn’t overly sweet or “Cheerwine-y” but it does impart a slight sweetness to counteract the heat of the jalapeno.

Honorable Mention: Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Beef Rib – Midwood Smokehouse

The beef rib is a weekend special at Midwood Smokehouse and upon my last visit is available every week for a cut-rate price of $32, well below what you would pay if it were charged by the pound.

Honorable Mention: Jon G’s BBQ (not available all weekends)

Side – Hash and rice from Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Hash and rice isn’t something you find in Charlotte, much less North Carolina, as its almost strictly a South Carolina barbecue dish. Sweet Lew’s differs from what you would find at True BBQ in West Columbia or Sweatman’s in Holly Hill in that instead of the off parts of the pig it uses pork as well as brisket, but I just love that they now offer it fulltime on their menu whereas it used to be a Wednesday special only.

Honorable Mentions: Pork skins from Sweet Lew’s BBQ, Smoked Meatballs from Midwood Smokehouse, Smoked wings from Noble Smoke

Introducing: The Barbecue Bros General Store

Monk: We are happy to re-introduce our updated “Forefathers of Lexington Barbecue” t-shirt in a refreshed design printed on a higher quality shirt than version 1.0. Plus, we have a few new items for sale. All while supplies last…meaning once they are gone they are gone.

Link to to the new General Store

Our updated “Forefathers of Lexington Barbecue” t-shirts are in an updated 2.0 design on a soft Next Level t-shirt in sizes M, L, XL, and 2XL.

Plus, we now have camouflage koozies with the Barbecue Bros logo and web address as well as limited edition retro motel-style keychains for sale.

Save money when you buy combo packs of the three items. Who doesn’t love saving a few dollars?

All items are now available at the new General Store

Introducing: The Lexington Big Board

Monk: Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that I quietly posted my Lexington rankings a few months back through the top navigation bar. Before the pandemic hit, it was my pet project to hit all of the current Lexington-area barbecue restaurants for my definitive* Lexington rankings. I’ve been a longtime fan of Lexington Barbecue and in recent years, The Barbecue Center. But as the self-proclaimed “Barbecue Capital of the World” (one of many cities claiming that title, it should be noted) boasting at times one barbecue restaurant per 1,000 restaurants (though this is not currently the case), I needed to explore the others to understand the quality and depth of the other restaurants.

I’ve broken the 14 restaurants I’ve reviewed thus far into three tiers. Someday I will get to the curiously named Lexington Trimmings for completeness sake but in the meantime, here is the most definitive list of Lexington-area barbecue restaurants on the internet*. Ladies and gentlemen, the Lexington Big Board.

*one man’s opinion
**that I know of

Tier 1

  1. Lexington Barbecue
  2. Bar-B-Q Center
  3. Rick’s Smokehouse
  4. Speedy’s Barbecue
  5. Smiley’s Lexington Barbecue
  6. Backcountry Barbeque

I need to revisit both Smiley’s and Speedy’s asap, as they may no longer be in business for too much longer as a result of the NC Department of Transportation widening Highway 8 that they both sit on. Also, both were reviewed very early in this blog’s life and while I really enjoyed both, I’ve had a lot of barbecue since.

Tier 2

  1. Speedy Lohr’s Barbecue
  2. Smokey Joe’s Barbecue
  3. Tarheel Q
  4. Cook’s Barbecue
  5. Arcadia Q

To my knowledge, all of these places smoke over wood with no gas or electricity but are just a notch below the best of the best in Lexington.

Tier 3

  1. Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro
  2. Kerley’s Barbecue
  3. Randy’s Restaurant

Of the bottom tier, Kerley’s and Randy’s don’t smoke over wood and it shows in the actual barbecue.

Still to try

Lexington Trimmings

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments or email us at barbecuebros@gmail.com.