Checking In: Noble Smoke

Monk: It’s been over a year since I last got takeout from Noble Smoke and much longer since I had last dined in. Recently, I found myself in the neighborhood just down the street getting my second COVID vaccine shot, so beforehand I decided to treat myself to lunch on their patio on a nice Spring day.

As everything is a la carte at Noble Smoke, I ordered a Lexington-style chopped pork sandwich ($8), a 1/4 lb of smoked turkey ($5), and a side of Anson Mills hush puppies ($4).

Speedy is on record as proclaiming Noble Smoke’s sandwich the best pork sandwich outside of Lexington. And he’s not wrong. As has been well documented, the pork shoulders are smoked in a brick pit that was fabricated to mimic the pits of Lexington Barbecue (owner Jim Noble got permission from his friends the Monk family). Topped with a red slaw on a fresh baked bun, it’s quite a satisfying sandwich. I’d be tempted to go with getting just two of those next time instead.

Speedy and I have both been into trying smoked turkey at more places so I went with that as a side. Noble Smoked has a very good version of smoked turkey, smokey and not overly dry. The sandwich might be a good switch up order sometime in the future.

Noble Smoke’s hush puppies are made with cornmeal from Anson Mills in Columbia, South Carolina. I find them to be the best hush puppies in Charlotte, no doubt.

Noble Smoke has a daily rotation of fruit hand pies ($4), and on this day they had blueberry, which was fantastic.

Noble Smoke continues to knock it out of the park. On a nice day, their patio is a great setting, with their pallets of wood from Carolina Cookwood providing some separation to the parking lot in addition to setting some nice ambiance and the recent introduction of a beer shack for outdoor drink service. I hope to spend more Spring and Summer afternoons on that patio.

Linkdown: 3/17/21

Featured

Mr. Barbecue has finally re-opened for takeout in Winston-Salem as of this past Monday, nearly 2 years after it closed due to a pit fire. As I wrote in the February 3 linkdown, this is definitely a win for classic, wood-smoked NC barbecue joints. I do have to admit, I was a little worried after they didn’t open by the end of February as they had initially announced but a few weeks delay can be excused. Mr. Barbecue is now open Mondays to Saturdays from 10:30am to 9:30pm.

Native News

Reminder: Jon G’s Barbecue food truck will be at Waxhaw Taphouse today for St. Patty’s Day starting at 5pm

Backyard BBQ Pit in Durham makes this list from Southern Living’s Robert Moss

For Moss’s iconic dish for NC, he selects the humble barbecue tray from the Piedmont region

More coverage of the inaugural Pinehurst Barbecue Festival which will take place on Labor Day Weekend of this year; Chef Joe Lumbrazo of Backyard Bistro restaurant and Ashley Sheppard of the historic Pik N Pig Restaurant in Carthage have joined Ed Mitchell as pitmasters for the event

Barvecue, producers of wood-smoked, plant-based barbecue, has broken ground on the world’s largest plant-based smokehouse in Cornelius; dubbed the “Carolina Smokehouse” the 10,000 square foot facility plans to open in July of 2021

Mac’s Speed Shop and Noble Smoke have two of the best patios in Charlotte

Non-Native News

Evan LeRoy reflects on a year of pandemic barbecue

Rodney Scott’s recipe for leftover barbecue and grits is featured in Parade Magazine

Matt Horn is adding burgers to his budding barbecue empire

Adrian Miller featured in Stanford Magazine as the “bard of “barbecue”

My body is ready:

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

Lexington Style Trimmings – Lexington, NC

Name: Lexington Style Trimmings
Order: Large chopped tray with red slaw, hush puppies, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Since last fall, it has been my pet project to finish trying every Lexington area barbecue restaurant. As of February, I was making good progress and had just one or two more to try…before COVID 19 hit and shut the country down. Like a lot of things, my quest fell by the wayside.

As North Carolina entered phase 2 in late May and restaurants were slowly allowed to reopen with reduced capacity, I knew that it didn’t have to be too long before I was able to try the next restaurant on my list: Lexington Style Trimmings (although they closed for about a month between mid-June and mid-July due to a kitchen fire). Other than the name, I didn’t know too much about LST and even after doing research afterwards detail are a bit hard to come by other than it is a “longtime” barbecue restaurant at the same exit as the Bob Timberlake Gallery exit in Lexington.

Regardless, on first glance, Lexington Style Trimmings fits the bill of a Lexington joint. It sits at the end of a small strip mall, has car hop service (even pre-pandemic), and is a diner-style restaurant that serves barbecue in addition to other southern foods in two small, no-frills dining rooms.

However, the barbecue didn’t live up to Lexington standards. The chopped pork was mushy and had a rather unappealing texture. Not to mention a disappointing lack of smoke. For one of the last joints on my Lexington barbecue quest, this was quite a letdown and only made me want to revisit the better joints on the list post haste.

The red slaw was standard and while the hush puppies were a bit overdone and perhaps a tad too crispy, they were slightly sweet and by far the best part of the meal.

There is now one more joint to try – the newly discovered Blazin’ BBQ and Kickin’ Chicken in downtown Lexington – and there are some joints I need to revisit in my Tier 1 of Lexington joints (like Speedy’s and Smiley’s, which I last visited in 2012), so I’ve still got just a little more work to do. As for Lexington Style Trimmings, now that I’ve punched this one on my card I think I’m good.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 2.5 hogs
Pork – 1.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 1.5 Hogs