Pitmaster Profiles: Jordan Smith of Bar-B-Q King

Monk: For this Pitmaster Profile, we are staying in Western North Carolina. Jordan Smith is a second-generation pitmaster at Bar-B-Q King in Lincolnton, who we recently re-reviewed. Much like Spencer Purcell, our last profile, Jordan is a new and different voice in North Carolina barbecue, and I hope you enjoy hearing from him.

For more about Bar-B-Q King, check out their websiteInstagram, and Facebook page.

If you know of a pitmaster who we should feature next, let us know!

Courtesy Jordan Smith and BBQ King

How long have you lived in Lincolnton and what’s your family’s history there? 

I’ve lived in Lincolnton my whole life, I was born and raised here.  I only left for college where I played basketball. My dad Keith, has worked at BBQ King for 40 years.  He started working for Steve (owner and founder) when he was 15 years old. Keith quickly became Steve’s right hand man and bought into ownership in the late eighties.  

How did you become a pitmaster? 

I started working on and off at the King at 15 years old. After college I became a full time pitmaster/manager. Barbecue has always been a passion of mine since I was a child and I was excited to dive right into the business after college. I’ve always said barbecue is a labor of love because it is not a quick process. Smoking ‘que the right way takes time but it is well worth it.

What other types of roles do you do for Bar-B-Q King? 

Other roles than pitmaster/manager include social media manager and catering manager. I do a little bit of everything around here and I love it!

Courtesy Jordan Smith and BBQ King

What is your favorite meat to smoke? What type of wood do you prefer?

My favorite meat to smoke is pork shoulder over hickory wood coals. We’ve smoked over hickory wood for almost fifty years and have always used a pork shoulder for the restaurant. Although for caterings we have smoked whole hog and briskets and I thoroughly enjoy those meats as well.

What are your barbecue influences?

My barbecue influences are my Dad (Keith Smith) and Steve Abernethy.  They have taught me everything I know about barbecue. I’ve read plenty of books about barbecue but nothing compares to someone actually showing you the process from start to finish.

What is your favorite barbecue joint or style?

BBQ King is obviously my favorite joint and I love Lexington style barbecue. Pork shoulders with a tangy sauce is my go to. I have an appreciation for all styles of barbecue though and have tremendous amounts of respect for old school joints that have been in business for many years. And I also appreciate the new school barbecue joints smoking barbecue the old school way!

What is your earliest memory of barbecue?

When I was around 5 years old I can remember riding up to BBQ King in the wee hours of the morning to “help” my dad smoke barbecue, and I’ve been in love ever since. There is nothing better than that primal feeling of standing in front of a fire and smoking meat. Many employees/friends that I met at BBQ King as a child still work here to this day.  Employees like Kelly Lineberger and Charlie Reep, who have been here for many years, have played a pivotal role in my life and the restaurants success.

Courtesy Jordan Smith and BBQ King

What is the best thing about barbecue in western North Carolina?

Western NC BBQ has many great qualities but my personal favorites are the meat, sauce, and wood.  The meat is usually pork shoulder or butts. The sauce has just enough vinegar with a hint of ketchup.  And the wood is usually hickory or oak. These techniques are tried and true in this part of the state and I’m thankful to be a part of it.

What is a weakness or opportunity of barbecue in western North Carolina?

Weaknesses of western NC BBQ are restaurants that don’t smoke BBQ over wood.  Oven baked pork is not barbecue. Another weakness is some restaurants use too much ketchup in the sauce and not enough vinegar.  Barbecue smoked over live wood coals and a well-balanced sauce is a recipe for true success!

Courtesy Jordan Smith and BBQ King

Anything else you’d like everyone to know about you or Bar-B-Q King?

My younger brother, Jared, is also a pitmaster/manager and has a passion for BBQ just like me. My fiancée, Stephanie, works at BBQ King as well. Stephanie is great with customers and she is a staple up front at the counter. Her parents (Steve and Becky Abernethy) are the founders of BBQ King. My mother, Kelly Smith, does the payroll. Stephanie’s mother (my future mother-in-law), Becky, helps decorate the restaurant for different seasons. BBQ King is family run from all angles. It is a blessing being able to work with family and share the workload. We are excited to celebrate 50 years in September 2021!

Thanks again to Jordan for his time, and if you ever find yourself in the Lincolnton area stop by BBQ King and say hi.

If you know of a pitmaster who we should feature next, let us know!

Monk and Jordan, December 2019

Bar-B-Q King – Lincolnton, NC (RE-REVIEW)

Name: Bar-B-Q King
Date: 12/27/19
Address: 2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092
Order: Chopped barbecue tray with hush puppies, slaw, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Sometimes there are places you wish you could get to more often but just can’t, whether its due to location or circumstance or something else. Bar-B-Q King in Lincolnton, NC (not to be confused with the Bar-B-Q King drive-in in Charlotte) is definitely one of those places for me. My first (and up until recently only) visit was nearly three years ago even though I thoroughly enjoyed that meal. But typically when heading west towards Asheville of the western part of the state, I drive out Highway 74 through Shelby (and Red Bridges) instead of cutting up Highway 321 from Gastonia to catch I-40, which is a route that would put me right by Lincolnton. This is where BBQ King has been doing their excellent version of Lexington-style barbecue for 48-plus years.

I recently stopped by after hiking at nearby South Mountain State Park for a late lunch and was pleased to find that the barbecue tray I got was full of freshly chopped and moist barbecue. A revelation at 3pm where at many other places I might get a tray of dried out barbecue that was chopped hours ago and sitting in a stream tray. Not the case at Bar-B-Q King.

The hush puppies were freshly fried and the onion rings were some of the best I’ve had in a while. In terms of sides, this year might be the year of the onion rings at barbecue joints (but also at non-barbecue restaurants).

I caught up briefly with Jordan Smith, second generation pitmaster and social media manager for BBQ King (among other things), afterwards and he said that the month of December is very busy for them between the caterings for holiday parties or factory shifts in and around Lincolnton and families looking to get out of the house after Christmas. That was certainly the case on this Friday, and I’m glad the locals continue to support BBQ King.

Though I had already written up my favorite barbecue meals of the year (which posted earlier in January), I definitely had to do some reshuffling to get Bar-B-Q King represented on the list as it was simply that good. Next time I’m heading to the mountains, I will be sure to take 321 so I can make another stop.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs

Bar-B-Q King Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro – Lexington, NC

Name: Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro
Location: 4524 NC-150, Lexington, NC 27295
Order: Regular chopped tray with “extra brown” and red slaw (link to menu)
Pricing: $

While my first two stops on the “Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor” were a bit mixed, my last stop unfortunately ended the mini-tour on a down note. I recall that Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro was at some point on the NC Historic BBQ Trail (which is how I became aware that there was another joint named Stamey’s) but that is no longer the case. Unfortunately, the Stamey’s in Tyro doesn’t compare in the least to the Stamey’s in Greensboro.

As a quick aside, while longtime owner Dan Stamey has been involved in a lawsuit due to similar naming, it apparently hasn’t been because of the Greensboro restaurant. In 1992, one of Dan’s other restaurants was Stamey’s Hog Rock Cafe and featured “pig-faced likenesses of Elvis, Tina Turner and The Rolling Stones” on the wall. Apparently, the name was too similar for the Hard Rock Cafe’s liking, and they sued owner Dan Stamey and forced him to change the name of the restaurant which resulted in a cost of $10,000. It was then changed to “Hog City.”

As for the barbecue, it was my least favorite of the afternoon. The extra brown on the barbecue was rather chewy and the barbecue was heavy on the dip. Curiously, no ramekin of dip was provided (the only one of the three that didn’t provide), but I wouldn’t have used it anyway.

Similarly, the hush puppies were not as successful as the previous two restaurants. I will note that this was the third different shape of hush puppy that day, with small orbs compared with the long cylinders of Arcadia Q and the more typical hush puppy shape at Tarheel Q.

One thing I’ve neglected on the past few reviews is the history and intertwining of these restaurants with other Lexington barbecue restaurants. This is worth pausing on for a bit. Dan Stamey’s father was Herman “Smiley” Stamey and the original owner of Smiley’s Barbecue on Highway 8 (which unfortunately will soon be closed due to highway expansion). The father of Roger Lohr, the former owner of Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia (now Arcadia Q), was Herman “Speedy” Lohr and trained under the legendary Warner Stamey at Stamey’s Drive-In in Lexington and Old Hickory Barbecue, also in Lexington. Speaking of Warner Stamey, there is no direct relation between him and Smiley and Dan Stamey, but there is a belief that they are distant relatives.

Stamey’s BBQ of Tyro has been in business since 1973 and was not thought to last very long in that small unincorporated area west of Lexington which for a while didn’t even have a stoplight. While I wasn’t the biggest fan that day, they have served their community for over 46 years and it doesn’t seem like that will stop anytime soon.

Final Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor Rankings

Barbecue
1 – Tarheel Q
2 – Arcadia Q
3 – Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro

Hush Puppies
1 – Arcadia Q
2 – Tarheel Q
3 – Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs

Stamey's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Arcadia Q – Lexington, NC

Name: Arcadia Q
Location: 8000 N, NC-150, Lexington, NC 27295
Order: Regular chopped tray with “extra brown” and red slaw
Pricing: $

Monk: Lexington, NC is mentioned in some circles as the “barbecue capital of the world” with its ratio of roughly 1 barbecue restaurant per 1,000 residents. However, up to this point I’ve mostly focused on Lexington Barbecue and more recently, the Bar-B-Que Center on my barbecue visits to the city. Recently, I’ve decided to expand my horizons to see what else the other 16 or so barbecue options in Lexington have to offer. On a Friday in November, I decided to take on three Lexington barbecue restaurants on what I have dubbed the “Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor:” Tarheel Q, Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro, and my first stop, Arcadia Q.

Arcadia Q was known until recently as Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia before owners Roger and Lisa Lohr retired earlier this year and reached out to Tarheel Q owners Leon and Becky Simmons to see if they’d be interested in opening a second location of their restaurant. Both Simmonses worked for the Lohrs approximately 25 years ago, and Tarheel Q is located just 9 miles southwest of Arcadia, just off Highway 64. The result is the now-renamed Arcadia Q.

For my tour of three barbecue joints on the Highway 150 Corridor of Barbecue, I decided to make the same order at each restaurant as a means of comparison: a regular chopped tray with extra brown, red slaw, and hush puppies. I did order a Cheerwine at Arcadia Q before deciding that would be the only soft drink order of the day because as much as I like Cheerwine, I didn’t want the empty calories along with all the food I’d be eating for lunch that day.

The hush puppies at Arcadia Q were a shape I hadn’t come across at a Lexington-style barbecue joint before. They were longer cylinders than the typical hush puppy, as if perhaps they were squirted out of an icing squeeze bag directly into the fryer (this is only my speculation). They are somewhat reminiscent of the shape of corn sticks in eastern North Carolina joints like Parker’s, though I don’t have any personal experience with those (yet). Regardless of the curiosity of the shape, these were my favorite hush puppies of the mini tour.

As for the barbecue, I didn’t get a lot of smoke on it and the temperature was slightly lukewarm. Unfortunately, the outside brown was chewy and tough and not until I dug into the tray below the top layer of outside brown did I start to enjoy the texture of the barbecue. Of all the red slaws I tried that day, none really stood out more than the other so I won’t be commenting too much on them other than the say that they did the job they were supposed to.

So my mini-tour on the “Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor” (it’s going to be a thing) was off to an inauspicious start at Arcadia Q. From here I would head southwest along the aforementioned Highway 150. Of my next two stops, one was a bit better and one was a bit worse. Which would be which? Tune in next Monday to see…

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Speedy Lohr's BBQ of Arcadia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato