Monk: Preparations are underway, not only from the organizers of the festival but also the restaurants on the fringe of town who hope to get additional traffic from the 150,000 or so folks coming into town for the weekend.
I did learn from this video that a barbecue joint named Cafe 71 has recently opened in the former Rick’s Smokehouse in Welcome, which is wonderful news and has been added to my list.
Monk: I first posted the Lexington Big Board two years ago in June 2020 in the early months of the pandemic and have maintained it ever since but it was only in recent months that we’ve had some actual movement in the rankings. And unfortunately it was due to closures.
As a result of the NC Department of Transportation widening of Highway 8, Smiley’s Barbecue has officially closed as of February 2022 but I did get to check them out one last time in October 2020. They will surely be missed. Speedy’s appears to be open for the time being but their days are numbered as a result of the same project. And, in a shock Facebook post at the end of April, Rick’s Smokehouse (previously my overall Lexington #3) closed. Currently they are listed on Facebook as “temporarily closed” but I’ve seen no indications that they will reopen, despite numerous pleas from comments on Facebook.
That leaves us with 13 open restaurants by my count, which I continue to divide into three tiers. I did try Lexington Trimmings after the publish of the initial list but they slotted into the third tier. Blazin’ BBQ and Kickin’ Chicken was another on my list but they closed in October 2020 after only 4 months open
With that out of the way, the current Lexington Big Board
Name: Noble Smoke Date: 2/12/22 Address: 2216 Freedom Dr, Charlotte, NC 28208 Order: Little bit of everything (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Rudy: It’s not every day that some of the Barbecue Bros are able to get together and eat barbecue. Nowadays there has to be a big event to cause it and a couple weeks ago we had a big event! Monk was turning 40 and becoming a man, which gave us a great excuse to get together and celebrate that momentous occasion with some great food. I had heard lots of great reviews of Noble Smoke and was looking forward to trying it out. So upon landing in Charlotte, I headed straight for the restaurant to meet up with Monk and others. In full disclosure, I worked at Jimmy Noble’s restaurant in High Point back in high school, but they didn’t give me an employee discount this day.
Reading the website before I came, it said to make sure you arrive early because they can have long lines, so I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as space. We sat outside, which was a fantastic set up after flying in from snowy Michigan. I am not sure if they have expanded since putting that on their site, but it looked like there was plenty of seating inside and outside and plenty of parking. I was really impressed with their setup.
Monk: I was honored that Rudy made the trip, though it made a lot more sense when he said it hadn’t been above freezing in Michigan in about a month. Regardless, we were treated to clear sunny skies and a high of 69 the day of my 40th birthday party, so it was a nice and perfect day to eat on Noble Smoke’s huge patio.
Rudy: We had a large group so we ordered a little bit of everything from the menu. My main dish was a chopped pork sandwich with western slaw. I added their Lexington style sauce to get a traditional sandwich feel. I really liked the fresh bun and slaw but thought the best part was the barbecue (as it should be). Very traditional barbecue with great flavor and plenty of moisture. It was exactly what I was expecting and hoping for.
Monk: Unfortunately, we ran out of time for me to show Rudy the Lexington-style brick pits in the smokehouse where they smoke the pork shoulders in but I’m glad the sammie hit the spot.
Rudy: The brisket was next and it was a good effort for brisket outside of Texas but wasn’t what I was used to after living in Austin for so many years. I like having more flavor on the bark and would have preferred for it to be trimmed a bit more than it was to remove some of the excess fat that did not render all the way down. Similar review for the sausage, good effort but didn’t get all the way there for me. Again, I would have preferred a bit more flavor, but I was also glad that I tried it and it was better than average.
For me, the best part by far was the sides. Normally when you say that about a barbecue place, it is usually a slight to the meat but that is not the case here; the sides are just that good! We had hushpuppies, mac and cheese, collards, pickled veggies, and brussel sprouts. Any one of them would have been a great side that would have stood on their own, but by far the brussel sprouts were the best. Not only were they cooked perfectly, they also came with a great dipping sauce, and there were a ton of them in an order. Great value and great food.
Monk: We may have gone a little overboard on the sides but I agree that Noble Smoke executes all of them at an extremely high level. Next time I’d recommend Rudy try the creamed corn but honestly I’m just happy that I got to share a barbecue meal with Rudy for the first time in a couple of years. And also that it was significantly better than the last two times we had barbecue in Ohio in 2020 at Ray Ray’s Hog Pit and Rudy’s Smokehouse.
Rudy: Overall I was very pleased with my experience at Noble Smoke. I don’t have the depth of experiences with Charlotte barbecue that Monk does, so I don’t know how it compares or ranks with other places around the city. But I thought the atmosphere was great, the food was great, and most importantly, the friends were great!
Monk: The local Fox affiliate for the Barbecue Bros’ hometown of High Point (where Rudy both interned and worked for a brief time) recently took a trip to the town of Welcome in neighboring Davidson County to visit the underrated Rick’s Smokehouse. Owner Rick Matthews gave Chad Tucker a behind the scenes look as he prepped barbecue chicken.
On my visit to Rick’s Smokehouse back in February 2020, I found them to be admirably carrying on the Lexington barbecue tradition despite being a relatively newer restaurant that opened in 2009. This piece covers the pit fire that burned the restaurant down in 2010 but they thankfully rebuilt and are seemingly thriving. I hope to make it back someday soon.
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