Noble Smoke – Charlotte, NC

Name: Noble Smoke
Date: 8/24/19
Address: 2216 Freedom Dr, Charlotte, NC 28208
Order: The Miss Mary Platter (1 lb brisket, 1 lb pork, 1 rack ribs, 1 lb turkey, red slaw, coleslaw, pickled veggies), 12 wings, hush puppies (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$ 

Monk: In 1919, the first Lexington-style barbecue stand was set up across the street from the courthouse in Lexington, NC by Sid Weaver. Shortly after, Jess Swicegood set up his own stand and both businesses thrived to the point of building permanent restaurants. Eventually, they would go on to train Warner Stamey in the ways of Lexington-style barbecue, and he continued to spread that gospel all over the Piedmont of North Carolina to owners who would go on to open such famed joints as Bridges Barbecue Lodge, Alston Bridges Barbecue, Lexington Barbecue, and Stamey’s own namesake restaurant, Stamey’s Barbecue

Exactly 100 years later and 60 miles to the south in Charlotte, Chef Jim Noble has finally opened up his passion project restaurant in the form of Noble Smoke, continuing the Lexington-style barbecue tradition (though he does offer a variety of smoke meats). Everyone knows Noble as the chef and restaurateur behind higher-end restaurants like Noble Grill, Rooster’s, and King’s Kitchen, but a Lexington-style barbecue restaurant has been 25 years in the making.

Speedy: Monk and I got to spend a couple hours with Noble before the restaurant opened and, though we didn’t get a chance to sample anything, I left that meeting confident that the man knew his ‘cue and had a true passion for it, so I was more than excited to sample the goods. The space Noble built is fantastic – rustic but refined, with ample seating, a large bar, a nice outdoor space, and a brewery joining next door. 

Monk: For our group of 5, the Miss Mary Platter was the perfect order as it gave us a chance to try just about all of the meats and in the right quantity. At the time of our visit, Noble Smoke still hadn’t fired up the brick masonry pits that were styled after Lexington Barbecue, so our pork was smoked in one of the six large offset smokers occupying the smoke room. As he is doing across the board, Noble is using high-quality ingredients (which you pay for, as the platter was $88) and in this case its Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork. On this day, the pork wasn’t quite the crowd favorite while still being very good. I can’t wait to try them now that they’ve fired up those brick pits.

Speedy: Noble clearly studied up on the Texas brisket he was trying to emulate. And I’ll say, he did a nice job. The prime brisket was moist, peppery, and flavorful. I had previously sworn off ordering brisket in the Carolinas, but Noble Smoke is joining Lewis Barbecue on the exception list. I rank it just a tad behind Lewis, but still a top ten brisket I’ve had in my life. I think any Texan would be impressed.

Monk: I couldn’t agree more, and also think that any Texan would also be impressed with the ribs that Noble Smoke is slinging. Rubbed generously with salt and pepper, I was relieved that Noble avoided the temptation to offer a saucy, sweet rib and instead something far more nuanced. North Carolina isn’t known for ribs and they can often be an afterthought, but these were more Texas Trinity than KC Masterpiece. By far, these were the favorite meats on the table in our group that day.

Speedy: I’m on record saying I don’t know why anyone would order smoked turkey at a barbecue restaurant given the choice of other delectable meats from our hooved friends. Well, I’m man enough to admit it – I was wrong. The turkey at Noble Smoke was probably the best I’ve had. Like the brisket, it was seasoned with just salt and (plenty of) pepper, but that was enough to tease out an incredible amount of flavor, all while retaining moisture. This is a hard thing to do with turkey, so hats off to Jim Noble for this. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite thing I had that day (that goes to the ribs), but it was the biggest surprise for me.

Monk: Like everything else, the wings from were delicious and well smoked, even if they were a bit on the small side. Noble gets his heritage chicken from Winston-Salem-based Joyce Farms, which is nice to see them source from a North Carolina operation. 

We ordered a side of the hush puppies made with Anson Mills heirloom grain corn (again, note the high quality ingredients) and the table gobbled them up pretty quickly. The Miss Mary’s Platter came with small sides of both eastern and western (red) slaw as well as pickled veggies in the form of onions, pickles, and beets. The beets were definitely different.

Speedy: Sometimes new restaurants take a few months to get up to speed and everything rolling, but Chef Jim Noble is clearly a pro and the meal we had at Noble Smoke was one of my top barbecue meals all year. Noble Smoke was designed to be a destination barbecue joint, and I think it will be just that. I’m certainly adding it to the list for every time I visit Charlotte. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Wings – 4 hogs
Turkey – 4.5 hogs 
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Monk’s 5 Favorite Barbecue Meals of the first half of 2019

Monk: It’s been a pretty darn good year in terms of new-to-me barbecue joints. Here’s my five favorite in no particular order…

Brisket, pork belly, ribs, and pulled pork from Owlbear Barbecue (review)

More to come soon on this recent visit by Speedy and me, but Owlbear Barbecue in Denver had perhaps the best brisket I’ve had outside of Texas (yes, that includes Lewis Barbecue). The pork belly was not far behind.

Lexington-style barbecue and brisket from Noble Smoke (preview)

Finally, Charlotte has some legitimate Lexington-style barbecue in the form of Noble Smoke from Chef Jim Noble. Noble is a lifelong fan of Lexington Barbecue (the restaurant) and has even styled his brick pits after the famed Lexington Barbecue smokestacks (with the Monk family’s permission, of course). This barbecue restaurant is decades in the making, and Jim Noble is certainly doing it right.

Pork, ribs, and brisket from Apple City BBQ (review)

While Apple City BBQ had been on my list, my stop there was completely unplanned. But afterwards, I felt fortunate that my route to the foothills took me right by the joint as all three meats I tried that day were ridiculously good. As I stated in my review, Apple City BBQ is a must-stop for any serious North Carolina barbecue fan.

Whole hog barbecue sandwich and hash and rice from Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que (review)

Sweatman’s Bar-b-que made me a believer in South Carolina whole hog that happens to be drenched with that mustard stuff. It’s legitimately that good. The hash and rice is otherworldly, too.

Chopped sandwich with hush puppies and Cheerwine from Mr. Barbecue (review)

Let’s hope that Mr. Barbecue can rebuild quickly from its smokehouse fire back in the spring, because its an unheralded barbecue joint in Winston-Salem that deserves more attention. Legit Lexington-style barbecue from a classic NC joint in one of the larger cities in the state.

Friday Find: Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge on the Kevin’s BBQ Joints Podcast

Natalie Ramsey and Chase Webb are the third generation of the Bridges family to work at the venerated Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby. It’s definitely a Barbecue Bros fave and I’m glad that Kevin’s BBQ Joints interviewed them for the podcast since I don’t think they get a lot of recognition outside of the Piedmont of North Carolina.

In this episode I chat with Natalie Ramsey and Chase Webb from Red Bridges BBQ – Shelby, North Carolina. We discuss the long history of the restaurant which opened in 1946 in Cleveland County (called Dedmond’s Barbecue). In 1953, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was moved to their current location on Highway 74 in Shelby. One of the greatest things about Red Bridges BBQ is that while they have added items as demand grew for specific dishes (i.e. BBQ Nachos), they have stayed true to the old ways of cooking over wood, low and slow, and keeping the recipes for items such as slow the exact same as day one. You can tell the great passion Natalie and Chase have for their business and more importantly family. I guarantee they will treat you like family when you visit. Note they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

See all things Red Bridges BBQ here: http://www.bridgesbbq.com
Follow Red Bridges BBQ on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/red_bridges…
Check out Red Bridges BBQ on Facebook here: http://bit.ly/2LNJaUw

Noble Smoke (Finally) Opens Its Doors

Monk: Personally, I have been following the Jim Noble barbecue restaurant quest for just short of four years. The first article I ever linked that mentioned Jim getting into the barbecue business was from an August 2015 linkdown and I’ve been tracking them on the Charlotte Big Board ever since. Though of course, as has been well established, Jim’s been looking to open a barbecue restaurant for over two decades but wasn’t going to open one without the right location, which Speedy and I got a behind the scenes look at last month. Well, after a visit during their soft opening, I’m happy to report that Noble Smoke is finally here and its spectacular.

While the official grand opening of Noble Smoke is July 25, they officially opened for business for a nearly 2-week period of soft openings (dubbed “The Little Smoke”) on Friday, July 12 meaning the restaurant opens at 4, food is served at 5, and they close once they sell out of meat. On the first Friday, the reduced menu comprised of pork and brisket (served either in sandwich form or by the ¼, ½, or 1 lb) as well as a several slides and a “hand pie” dessert.

And of course, with their on-site partnership with Suffolk Punch Brewing (who hasn’t opened this second location yet), they have plenty of beer on tap in addition to wine and cocktails. They even have a beer called “Noble Toast” which is a Vienna lager and was brewed in honor of their partnership with Noble Smoke. Once the brewery opens, it will surely cement its status as a destination barbecue restaurant.

I stopped in for a quick snack at the bar and am happy to report that they have hit the ground running at Noble Smoke. I ordered a ¼ each of pork and brisket as well as their Lexington-style red slaw. The pork is of course smoked in their custom brick pits fashioned with permission after the famous pits at Lexington Barbecue (Jim’s favorite barbecue joint along with Skylight Inn). I don’t believe they are serving it with the Lexington-style dip chopped in, instead allowing diners to add their choice of sauce. Adding a few dashes of the “Lex” sauce and mixing in the red slaw created the familiar taste of Lexington-style chopped barbecue. Next time I’ll try it on a sandwich. Also available is a sweeter “19” sauce and a mixture of the two, dubbed “Smoke.”

The brisket was what I was probably most interested in, having previously tried the pork at Suffolk Punch Brewing’s first location (then known as Hyde Brewing) for St. Patrick’s Day last year. As Speedy and I were shown a few weeks ago, Noble has 6 custom-built offset smokers that handle the brisket (and I’m guessing the rest of the forthcoming smoked meat items which I’m presuming will including chicken, sausage, pork ribs, and beef ribs). And what they put out is some seriously legit brisket. I was served both the flat and the point. The flat (or lean) had a great peppery bark and was not dry at all. The fatty cut from the point had well-rendered fat which melted in my mouth. Jim Noble’s focus has always been Lexington-style pork but (perhaps unsurprisingly) the man can make a mean brisket.

As I mentioned above, Noble Smoke has hit the ground running. The huge restaurant filled up quickly and had a line out the door by the time I left but I observed no major servicing hiccups. There was a little confusion at the bar as to when we were able to order but once ordered, the food came out promptly. Hospitality was great and all of the servers at the bar were friendly.

Once the soft opening period finishes later this month and the menu expands, I expect that Noble Smoke will be in serious contention for best barbecue restaurant in Charlotte. It’s that good.

Mr. Barbecue – Winston-Salem, NC

Name: Mr. Barbecue
Date: 3/8/19
Address: 1381 Peters Creek Pkwy, Winston-Salem, NC 27103
Order: Chopped sandwich with hush puppies and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Despite growing up within driving distance to a lot of really great barbecue in the Piedmont of North Carolina, I didn’t go searching much beyond my usual joints (Carter Brothers when I ate barbecue in High Point, Lexington Barbecue for a special occasion). This led to me not trying Stamey’s in Greensboro until after this blog had started and it took even longer for me to get to Mr. Barbecue, a wood-burning barbecue joint in Winston-Salem open since 1962. A few weeks back, I found myself in the Twin City on a rainy Friday afternoon and it was time.

As soon as I stepped in, I realized what a bonehead move it was not to get here sooner. Mr. Barbecue is just about everything I want in a classic NC barbecue joint that just happens to be located in a city. The brick smokestacks were going full blast outside and the order counter inside had a classic joint feel (albeit slightly updated with flat screen monitors displaying the menu instead of an old school letterboard). That same classic joint feel continued into the two small dining rooms on either side of the counter as well.

I loved the actually retro feel of the paper wrapper the barbecue sandwich came in even before I dug into the sandwich itself. The wrapper proclaims that Mr. Barbecue is “genuine hickory wood bar-b-q” and I could taste that wood smoke in the chopped pork – not overpowering but a good hit of smoke. Of course, I went with slaw on my sandwich and the cold and slightly tangy red slaw contrasted the warm pork as as classic chopped pork sandwich should. And the freshly fried hush puppies were great as well. Just a damn fine NC barbecue meal.

Mr. Barbecue is a True ‘Cue certified wood burning barbecue joint that appears to do healthy business with the locals but doesn’t nearly get its due on the NC barbecue scene. I checked my NC barbecue books when I got home and it has just a short review in Bob Garner’s Book of Barbecue and a passing mention in Holy Smoke in a short article on the influence of Greeks; no mention at all in The Best Tarheel Barbecue by Winston-Salem native Jim Early, who not surprisingly hasn’t included it on the NC Barbecue Society Historic Barbecue Trail. It also hasn’t been written up in Our State Magazine or included in their recent list of 26 Essential NC Barbecue Joints. Whatever the reason for its flying-under-the-radarness, I would urge folks to give it a try, as I found it to be perhaps just a small notch below some of the best Lexington-style barbecue joints in the Piedmont.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Mr Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday Find: Tyson Ho Talks Carolina Barbecue on the Beards, Booze, and Bacon Podcast

While I had previously enjoyed Tyson Ho’s series of blog posts on Serious Eats entitled “How I Built a Barbecue Restaurant in Brooklyn” documenting the opening of Arrogant Swine. I also enjoyed meeting him at the restaurant in 2015. However, I would quibble with a few of the things he says on this podcast:

  • He continually refers to whole hog barbecue as “Carolina” style which isn’t completely accurate. Ho is smoking eastern North Carolina style whole hog barbecue, which is similar as the style of barbecue from the Pee Dee region of SC. And of course there is Lexington-style which just smokes pork shoulders. There really is no singular style of barbecue called “Carolina Barbecue” that is only whole hog as he asserts.
  • He refers to “outside brown” as the “burnt ends” of pork and says its an off menu item. It’s not really – its just the bark from the pork shoulders in Lexington-style barbecue which locals know to ask for extra in Lexington joints. Not to mention that there’s actually a thing as “pork burnt ends” which is just cubed smoked pork belly tossed in sauce.
  • I’m not a big barbecue competition circuit guy but I wonder how accurate his classification of KCBS vs Memphis Barbecue Network competitions are when he says that KCBS contestants are way too serious where Memphis just wants to party

Regardless, I do appreciate Tyson Ho preaching the gospel of NC barbecue (both eastern and Lexington-styles, serving both at his restaurant) when the trend in barbecue for the past few years is all about Texas and brisket.

Having been born in New York, Ho wanted to know: Who makes the best barbecue in the country. This set him on a quest that would take him across the country, but he realized one thing soon. To him, the best barbecue was that from the Tar Heel State. After spending time learning from legendary pitmasters, Ho took his newfound knowledge and skills back to New York and opened Arrogant Swine.

But what actually makes North Carolina the best barbecue in the country? (Note: The editors do not agree on this point.) What even constitutes true North Carolina barbecue? Want to know where to get that barbecue and fulfill all of your porcine desires? Well, you’re in the right place. ‘Cue this episode up and prepare to be hungry.

Now Available: Barbecue Bros “Forefathers of Lexington Barbecue” T-shirts!

Link: Barbecue Bros Forefathers of Lexington-style Barbecue Shirt

In the spirit of the pioneers and innovators of our favorite style of barbecue, the Barbecue Bros are pleased to make available our first t-shirt featuring those men in the classic Helvetica list style. We hope that Lexington-style barbecue fans will purchase and wear this acknowledgement of history proudly. The shirts are $24.99 and ship for free if you have an Amazon Prime account.

  • Lightweight, Classic fit, Double-needle sleeve and bottom hem
  • Available in Men’s, Women, and Child sizes S-3XL
  • Solid colors: 100% Cotton; Heather Grey: 90% Cotton, 10% Polyester; All Other Heathers: 50% Cotton, 50% Polyester

Click to purchase

A brief history of Lexington-style Barbecue

In 1919, Sid Weaver set up a tent across the street from the Lexington courthouse and began selling what would later become “Lexington-style” barbecue. He was the first man to sell this style of barbecue.

Weaver later teamed up with Jess Swicegood and those two men perfected Lexington-style barbecue and helped spread the technique across the Piedmont of North Carolina. Lexington-style means pork shoulders are smoked as opposed to whole hogs because shoulders are fattier and more forgiving than the leaner hams and loins found in a whole hog and yield more barbecue. They took the vinegar-pepper sauce of the eastern part of the state and added ketchup to provide sweetness to balance it out while maintaining the tang of the vinegar.

In 1927, Warner Stamey began working under Weaver and Swicegood while in high school, and for me this is where things began to pick up. After a few years under the tutelage of Weaver and Swicegood, Stamey moved 100 miles southwest to Shelby, NC. There, he taught the Lexington-style technique to his brother-in-law Alston Bridges as well as Red Bridges (oddly enough, not related). They, of course, opened their own respective restaurants in 1956 and 1946 respectively, both of which still exist today.

Stamey moved back to Lexington in 1938 and bought Swicegood’s restaurant for $300. It was there that he taught the legendary barbecue man Wayne Monk, who went on to open Lexington Barbecue (aka “The Honeymonk”) in 1962, which just so happens to be the Barbecue Bros’ collective favorite barbecue restaurant ever. Stamey would of course go on to open Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro, where his grandson Chip Stamey still owns and operates to this day. Warner Stamey is also widely credited with bringing hush puppies to barbecue restaurants.

Much of the information above was taken from Robert Moss’s seminal book Barbecue: The History of an American Institution. If you want to read more on the history of our favorite food, I highly recommend it.

Linkdown: 1/30/19

Vote in USA Today’s 10Best Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Barbecue in NC

Stamey’s Barbecue with a mini-tweet storm last week; none of which is wrong (click on the tweet below to see the rest):

Sometime it pays to have the fire chief as your pitmaster; a fire broke out in the smokehouse of Skylight Inn last week but Sam Jones was among the firefighters who put the fire out

Rock the Block in downtown Charleston is Saturday, February 23 and benefits Hogs for the Cause; Sam Jones and Justin and Jonathan Fox of Fox Bros BBQ will be in attendance

Conde Nast Travel recently profiled Birmingham and its reinvention and shouted out Rodney Scott’s BBQ, which is opening a store there in 2019

“The city caught my attention because of how pleasant it is,” says Rodney Scott, the James Beard Best Chef Southeast 2018 for his Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston. He’s set to open his next, identical concept in Birmingham first-quarter 2019. “It’s a big city, but it feels like a small town,” he says. “It doesn’t feel like New York or Chicago, but it’s just as important a food city in my opinion.”

WBTV in Charlotte recently featured the “Love Endures” mural by artist Curtis King, which was saved from demolition and now resides behind Sweet Lew’s BBQ

The New York Times’ eating guide for Atlanta for this weekend’s Super Bowl and gives Bryan Furman and B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue a shoutout for being the only whole hog joint in town

Sure, why not?

Linkdown: 1/23/19

Long Leaf Politics: True North Carolina Barbecue hurting. Would a state law help?

This might be a story in the affirmative and while I never made it there myself, by all accounts Bill Ellis Barbecue in Wilson was an eastern NC institution. It unfortunately closed quietly last week after 55 years in business and follows an unfortunate trend after closures at Allen & Son in Chapel Hill and Q Shack in Raleigh

More on NC barbecue; I’m not sure what prompted this but Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro with a mini-thread laying down the truth:

Dream job, and not just because of the barbecue:

Mighty Quinn’s is looking to continue expanding in 2019

HOORAY BRISKET

Yea…just, no

Rien Fertel remembers Douglas Oliver, pitman for Sweatman’s BBQ in Holly Hill, SC, who died in the fall of 2017

Linkdown: 7/16/18

– Oh yeah?!? Well, um, no one eats barbecue to be healthy so…

– Bob Garner gets a bit existential in his latest column: What happened to barbecue?

That’s why your traditional view is what I argued in my 1995 first book. It sold a ton of copies in hardback, far more than any of my subsequent books, and nearly all of them were sold in-state.

But, I have to accept that “North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time” is now out of print. We can only visit the memory and greatness of those places at Rocky Mount’s park display commemorating the city’s barbecue heritage.

I could insist on continuing to scribble history books many people won’t buy. Not many among them seem to read history any longer. Doomed to repeat it? I don’t know.

– WRAL’s list of best barbecue in the Triangle dubiously contains two chain restaurants

– Four NC pitmasters, including Adam Hughes of Old Colony Smokehouse in Edenton, will compete on Chopped Grill Masters in an episode airing August 7

– Delish’s 15 best barbecue festivals in the USA includes The Barbecue Festival in Lexington

– Say it ain’t so, Dave. Say it ain’t so.

– The Washington Post food writer Tim Carman managed to find a new angle on a Rodney Scott profile