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

 

Linkdown: 6/27/18

– The origin story of the great Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque, the next great pitmaster (who’s already here)

Though he’s been a restaurant owner and full-time pitmaster for just four years, Furman, 37, already sits among the greats. Maybe it’s because he swaps out typical commodity pork for whole heritage-breed hogs he raised himself. (“Nobody else was doing that,” Furman says, “Not in a barbecue restaurant.”) Maybe it’s his unique Carolina-meets-Georgia style sauce, a sweet and tangy blend of mustard and fresh peaches. (“He does everything different,” says Nikki Furman, his wife and business partner.)

– B’s Cracklin Barbeque and a few other Barbecue Bro faves are on this Eater list of best Atlanta barbecue

– Eater’s got a list of barbecue in New York City, too

– Meet the Executive Pitmaster for Midwood Smokehouse’s 4 locations, Matt Berry

– Noble Smoke is one of Charlotte Agenda’s 9 most-anticipated restaurants and bars opening in Charlotte by the end of 2018 (wow that’s not a brief title)

– The Takeout has a crash course on Chinese barbecue, which isn’t wood-smoked like American barbecue

– Houston foodwriter J.C. Reid on the expanding role of the pitmaster

Another responsibility is that of barbecue ambassador. Pitmasters are asked to travel to distant locations to cook for an event or speak on a panel. In this case, the pitmaster isn’t just drawn away from working the pits — he’s often absent from his barbecue joint for days at a time.

– 8 Austin barbecue sandwiches that break the mold

– This Travel + Leisure list of the 25 best places for barbecue in the U.S. is based on Yelp and is…certainly a list

– Reminder: Daniel Vaughn’s Smokelandia airs its pilot episode tonight

– Registration is now open for October’s Tour de Pig in Lexington

Linkdown: 4/25/18

– Seasoned Review visits Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro for barbecue and chicken and mostly digs it

– Reader’s Digest (which is apparently still around?) selects The Barbecue Festival as one of the Best Small-Town Festivals in America

– Chicago has 4 new southern barbecue spots that seem worth checking out

– The Ringer’s Danny Chau visits Portland and documents his meals, which included Central Texas Barbecue at Matt’s BBQ

– A Charlotte Boy Scout pitmaster has started a…crab cake food truck called Baltimore Crab Cakes

– The more you know:

Linkdown: 4/4/18

– A quick primer on NC state symbols, including that the Barbecue Festival in Lexington is the official food festival of the state

– Speaking of festivals, there are a few barbecue festivals coming up in NC over the next few months including BBQ Festival on the Neuse in Kinston, Jiggy with the Piggy Fest in Kannapolis, and the Eastern BBQ Festival in Rocky Mount

– Asian Smokehouse? I’m in!

– Charlotte Agenda’s city guide for Asheville includes Buxton Hall Barbecue and 12 Bones

– Marie, Let’s Eat! tries Martins’ Bar-B-Que Joint in Nolensville and pleads for them to open a store in Chattanooga

– Midwood Smokehouse gets some recognition as TripExpert Expert’s Choice Award 2018 and was named Best of Charlotte

Based on 1M+ reviews from 85 different publications, the award recognizes the best restaurants around the world. TripExpert takes a new approach to ratings by using only professional reviews from travel guides, magazines, newspapers and other respected sources.

– A few barbecue joints gets covered in this Alabama tourism video – BBQ on the Blvd in Florence and Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur

– How did I miss this a few weeks back?

 

Linkdown: 3/28/18

– Southern Living’s best barbecue joint of 2018 is…a tie between Lexington Barbecue and Southern Soul BBQ.

– I’m sorry, what? A recipe for “NC vegan barbecue”

– Happy Birthday on Monday to Grady’s pitmaster Steve Grady

– Speaking of eastern NC barbecue, Scotty McCreery will definitely be serving some at his wedding in the mountains of NC this summer

“I can tell you barbecue is definitely going to be part of the wedding,” he said. “One of my loves about North Carolina is Eastern North Carolina barbecue, so that will be in the wedding.”

– RIP Joe Swicegood, owner of Little Pigs BBQ in Asheville

– Marie, Let’s Eat! visits the legendary Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous in Memphis and finds that he prefers “Rendezvous style” (dry ribs and mustard slaw) to “Memphis style” (wet ribs and may slaw)

– Thanks to Nobly for including us in their list of 121 Ultimate Food Blogs for 2018!
The Noblys 121 ultimate food blogs for 2018

The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC – Honorable Mentions

Monk: Last week I posted my list of the 10 best joints in western North Carolina. Here’s my list of honorable mentions.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

Johnson Family Barbecue – Durham (review)

Outside of my usual digging for barbecue joints I had never heard of Johnson Family Barbecue, so it was a pleasant surprise that the barbecue was as good as it was. The makeshift smokehouse shed around back only adds to the charm of the joint, which is connected to a gas station on Wake Forest Highway between Durham and Raleigh/Wake Forest. 5021 Wake Forest Hwy, Durham, NC 27703 johnsonfamilybbq.com

Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte (review)

As the story goes, if Frank Scibelli can’t get a certain food in Charlotte, he tends to open a restaurant to fill that gap. With Midwood Smokehouse, that gap was wood-smoked barbecue; primarily central Texas brisket and sausage but also but also pan-regional smoked meats such as eastern NC pulled-pork, burnt ends, and ribs. With the latest Park Road location in Charlotte, Midwood Smokehouse is now looking to fill in the gap for wood-smoked whole hog barbecue in Charlotte. various locations midwoodsmokehouse.com

Picnic – Durham (review)

As with Buxton Hall and Old Etowah Smokehouse, Picnic was part of a trend of new whole hog joints outside of eastern NC a few years back. While I found it to be a little on the pricey side, the whole hog was still quite good and worth a return visit whenever I get another chance. 1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705 picnicdurham.com

The Smoke Pit – Concord, Monroe, Salisbury (review)

What began as a combination butcher shop and barbecue joint has developed into a small chain with locations in Salisbury and as of earlier this year, Monroe. The Smoke Pit does serve pulled pork but is a good bet for the some of the best brisket from a restaurant in the Charlotte-area. various locations thesmokepitnc.com

Smokey Joe’s Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Speedy Lohr’s BBQ – Lexington (review)

Someday, I hope to be able to properly assess all of the 18 or so Lexington barbecue joints and create a comprehensive list. In the meantime, I will say that Smokey Joe’s Barbecue and Speedy Lohr’s BBQ are quite good and in my current top 5 for the small town of approximately 20,000. Smokey Joe’s Barbecue: 1101 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292 smokeyjoesbbqlexington.com; Speedy Lohr’s: 3664 NC-8, Lexington, NC 27292

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off on either this list or the 10 best list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.

The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC

Monk: I still need to work my way through the eastern part of the state (it’s been on my to-do list for 5 years and counting…) in order to be able to make a more comprehensive North Carolina-wide list, but in the meantime here’s my list of the best NC barbecue restaurants in the western part of the state.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

10. Old Etowah Smokehouse – Etowah (review)

A few years back Old Etowah Smokehouse was part of a trend of new whole hog joints opening up outside the eastern half of the state (more on that later). The trend may have cooled somewhat since – the amount of labor involved may have something to do with that – but Old Etowah is honoring the style properly in the shadows of the Nantahala National Forest hear Hendersonville. 6577 Brevard Rd, Etowah, NC 28729 facebook.com/oldetowahsmoke

9. Barbee’s Bar-B-Que – Peachland (review)

This was my biggest barbecue discovery of 2017, a classic highway barbecue joint off highway 74 where they are slinging near perfect Lexington-style barbecue. A true hidden gem in the small town of Peachland, which is outside of Marshville, which is outside of Monroe, which is outside of Charlotte. Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133 facebook.com/Barbee’s-Bar-B-Q

8. Backyard BBQ Pit – Durham (review)

Backyard BBQ Pit gets somewhat overlooked in the Research Triangle Park area, but they definitely shouldn’t be. Which is somewhat curious, considering they’ve gotten coverage on Food Network’s “Man vs. Food”. Don’t make the same mistake as everyone else, and check them out. 5122 NC Hwy 55, Durham, NC 27713 sweetribs.com

7. The Barbecue Center – Lexington (review)

This underrated joint in Lexington often lives in the shadow of Lexington Barbecue not 2 miles away but many locals claim it to be the best in the city. I don’t personally happen to agree with them, but they aren’t necessarily wrong. 900 N Main St, Lexington, NC 27292 bbqcenter.net

6. Allen & Son Bar-B-Que – Chapel Hill (review)

When Speedy and I checked out Allen & Son in 2012, we dinged them for their ribs instead of simply focusing on the pork. This was a mistake, and the hybrid of chopped pork shoulder with eastern sauce earned 5 hogs from us on that trip while the ribs knocked the overall rating down to 4 hogs. A return trip is surely in order to properly reassess Allen & Son (add it to the list…). 6203 Millhouse Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27516 facebook.com/Allen-Son-BBQ

5. Bar-B-Q King – Lincolnton (review)

Residents in the small town of Lincolnton (20 minutes north of Gastonia and 50 minutes from Charlotte) are lucky to have had a great barbecue joint such as Bar-B-Q King serving them for the past 46+ years. This is barbecue certainly worthy of a short detour if you are on driving in 321 in that part of the state.  2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092 barbqkingnc.com

4. Stamey’s Barbecue – Greensboro (review)

One irony of the #BrooklynBBQ controversy was that the following week the ACC Tournament was being hosted for the second year in a row in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center instead of in its spiritual home at the Greensboro Coliseum with Stamey’s just across the street. While I am still in the camp that there is good barbecue in Brooklyn, there just isn’t anything that approaches Stamey’s. 2206 W Gate City Blvd, Greensboro, NC 27403 stameys.com

3. Buxton Hall Barbecue – Asheville (review)

I’ve been thinking about the whole hog from Buxton Hall Barbecue for nearly two years and can’t wait to get back to Asheville. From what I can tell though, Elliot Moss and team continue to blow it out of the water in South Slope. 32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 buxtonhall.com

2. Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby (review)

I rarely make it through Shelby without finding a reason to stop at Bridges Barbecue Lodge. It might more accurately be described as more of a 1a for me behind my number 1 below, and it has yet to really let me down ever. 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28150 bridgesbbq.com

1. Lexington Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Lexington Barbecue aka Lexington #1 aka The Honeymonk is first, my last, my everything. 100 Smokehouse Ln, Lexington, NC 27295 lexbbq.com

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off my list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.

Barbecue Bros Film Club: Ugly Delicious – “BBQ” (S1E5)

Ugly Delicious is a new Netflix series brought to us by Chef David Chang of Momofuku and food writer Peter Meehan. Like many shows of this ilk, each episode explores a different food or concept – from tacos to fried chicken to pizza and more. Though technically titled “BBQ”, this episode does explore the food-over-flame customs of other cultures – Korean BBQ in Los Angeles, greens over flame in Noma in Copenhagen (huh?), Peking Duck in Beijing, and yakitori chicken from Tokyo. Those are nice and all (and well worth watching the entire episode) but I’ll focus on the barbecue I’m used to in this write-up.

The episode kicks off with Adam Perry Lang prepping and starting a beef rib smoke at 4am in the morning in Los Angeles. 10 hours later, he pulls the beef rib out of the smoker and serves it up to David, Peter, and novelist Amelia Gray. The conversation over the meat that ensues discusses traditional vs. new and whether barbecue is uniquely American, setting the table for later segments in the episode.

Choice quote from Adam Perry Lang:

“I think the traditional barbecue is freaking unbelievable and I don’t want to change that…but I really look at it as live fire cooking. Beef and pork with fire creates a super flavor.”

The episode then moves to the Whole Hog Extravaganza, a pitmaster convention at the famed 17th Street Barbecue in Murphysboro, IL with some serious talent in attendance from Asheville (Buxton Hall Barbecue), Nashville (Martin’s Bar-B-Q Joint, Peg Leg Porker), and Austin (Micklethwait Craft Meats).

At 8:50, they go back to the discussion in Los Angeles on the regionalization of barbecue but I honestly don’t understand the point that David Chang is making here:

“That’s what bothers me is that it became regional because someone decided to take a chance to do something a little bit different. And I hate when things become an institution”.

Huh? Is he saying that he wishes barbecue was somehow more homogeneous throughout the South? How does “things becoming an institution” fit into that at all? And what’s wrong with something becoming an institution? This is not a coherent argument to me.

The episode then takes a detour to Koreatown and Copenhagen from 9:55 until 16:21 before returning back to the Whole Hog Extravaganza in Murphysboro.

Screenshot (30)

You may recall that Carey Bringle railed against the True ‘Cue pledge in 2015, rejecting their claim that true barbecue is only smoked over wood only because he himself uses both wood-assisted gas smoker as well as wood-fired pits in his restaurants. Well, it seems as if he is still at it in 2017:

People get caught up in pits and people get caught up in fuels. And they get really passionate about it. I’m passionate about telling people: “Don’t tell me how to cook my shit.” It’s about what ends up on your plate.

Next, we get an extended scene of Elliot Moss breaking down a pig and explaining his story behind Buxton Hall and why he does what he does (“it’s always been in my heart”). He mentions that being in Asheville means people care about where their food comes from so he uses pasture-raised hogs which are quite expensive. Which for Moss, just means that he uses every part of the animal.

For the amount of labor and love and how many people’s hands touch it, it should be one of the most expensive things you can buy for food.

Continue reading

Linkdown: 2/21/18

– Congrats to Sam Jones on his James Beard nomination!

– Two other barbecue chefs got nominations as well including Rodney Scott of Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston and Tootsie Tomanetz of Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, TX; Ronnie Killen was also nominated but technically for his new steakhouse, Killen’s STQ

– Texas Monthly has more on Tootsie’s nomination

– A new barbecue restaurant recently opened in Darlington, SC named Fahrenheit 225

– Guy Fieri is curating a lineup of “barbecue badasses” for the country music festival Stagecoach in Indio, CA in late Apil – though the actual list itself doesn’t live up to that billing

– Harold Conyers, a NASA scientist who studied engineering at NC A&T for undergrad and Duke for grad, recently gave a keynote at Morris College in South Carolina

– How Frank Scibelli, restaurateur behind Midwood Smokehouse, Mama Ricotta’s, and Paco’s Tacos (and more), works each day

– The folks behind Seoul Food Meat Co are opening a korean barbecue restaurant next door, targeting later this month

– Owner Rob Berrier announced last month that the Little Richard’s BBQ stores on County Club Drive in Winston-Salem and in Wallburg have changed their names to Real Q; the remaining four Little Richard’s locations separately owned by Nick Karagiorgis and his son Stavros will keep the Little Richard’s name. Read more for the somewhat confusing history behind the ownership of the different locations at the link below.

 

Photo Gallery: Smoking a pork butt Lexington-style

Monk: For this year’s annual Super Bowl smoke, I knew a few things going in:

  1. I was going to use a Big Green Egg to smoke a pork butt for the first time (the BGE was my neighbor’s)
  2. I wanted to try to smoke it and serve it a little more authentically Lexington-style, particularly the rub

The NC BBQ Society’s website has been my go-to page for a Lexington-style dip recipe (that is, a thin barbecue sauce for those of you not in the know) the past few years (recipe here) while using a rub of my own (or Speedy’s) concoction. All these years, they’ve had a recipe for “Cooking Pork Shoulders Lexington Style” just a little further down the page that I’ve been ignoring. Turns out this is actually a transcription of a recipe from the book “The Best Tarheel Barbecue: From Manteo to Murphy” by NC BBQ Society founder Jim Early, which I just so happen to own. So I’ve really had no excuse not to try this technique before now.

On that page, in terms of rub it states “Rub the exposed side of the meat (not skin side) with a fair amount of salt. Set aside at room temperature.” And that’s it. I had to re-read a few times just to be sure I wasn’t missing something. No other spices, no overnight rub – this really was going to be a different technique than I was used to.

Doing a quick Google search, I found some corroborating evidence that salt only is indeed the way that the Lexington Barbecue rubs its pork butts (a second source here also somewhat verified it). So my mind was made up – I just hope it wouldn’t be a bust for our annual Super Bowl Party but it seemed so simple so what could go wrong?  At least we had 100 takeout wings as backup.

Speedy: Just to interject here, Monk, but I’m not sure I buy it. Maybe it’s been in the dip all these years, but I feel like I get some peppery goodness in all the Lexington ‘cue. I’ll reserve judgment until I try it for myself, but it just doesn’t feel right.

Monk: I was skeptical too, but I’m confident you will recognize Lexington in this technique. Next time we get a chance, we should do a side by side with just salt versus a more peppery rub.

The morning of, I rubbed about a ¼ cup of Morton’s coarse kosher salt on the smaller 5 lb pork butt and set aside at room temperature while I got the Big Green Egg lit – though admitedly this took a little longer seeing as this was my first time and I was starting solo.

Outside of that, everything else went about the same as a normal smoke. About 8.5 hours later, I pulled the butt off and let it rest for about an hour before chopping it and adding the Lexington dip.

I must say, I do believe this was the closest I’ve come to recreating Lexington-style pork butts at home. A slider with this chopped pork, a red slaw that Mrs. Monk prepared, and some Texas Pete tasted pretty darn close to what you might find in Lexington. I’m not saying its going to replace a trip to Lexington #1 anytime soon, but its not bad for a backyard smoke.