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

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); NOW CLOSED

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); NOW CLOSED

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.

Monk’s 10 Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2017

Trying something new: a year-end list for my favorite barbecue meals of the year. I used to do this for music, film, and tv but in recent years that has fallen off. Perhaps this will stoke the coals of my list-making motivation in other areas, but at the very least its worth documenting the hobby which has taken up so much of my (and my poor wife’s) free time for the past 5.5 years. Come to think of it, the timeline of this blog lines up almost perfectly with my drop off in listmaking…

In any case, hope you enjoy. This will conclude our reviews and original content for 2017, but we will be back in 2018.

Monk

10. Swig & Swine – 4 hogs (review)

The Summerville location of Swig & Swine included a whole hog smoker (whereas their West Ashley location does not have enough space for one), following the popular trend of the past few years. The whole hog was quite good but their brisket and hash and rice wasn’t too bad either, 1990 Old Trolley Rd, Summerville, SC 29485 swigandswinebbq.com

9. Hill’s Lexington Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

Hill’s claims to be the original “Lexington Barbecue” in name (but definitely not first to serve in that style). They may be a notch below the better places in Lexington, but they are certainly not doing the style any disservice. 4005 Patterson Ave, Winston-Salem, NC 27105 

8. Barbee’s Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

This was truly a surprise for me. I kinda-sorta knew of this place and had passed by it many times , but I had no idea it would be (as I referred to it in my review) “the platonic ideal of the NC roadside barbecue shack”. A must visit, if only to step back in time a bit. Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133

7. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

In 2017, I am happy to say that I rediscovered Bill Spoon’s after a few years away. It’s about as close as we have to a barbecue institution in Charlotte (54 years and counting), and though they are an eastern NC joint and I’m a Lexington-style fanboy, I simply believe that I need to go more often. 5524 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217 spoonsbarbecue.com

6. Rodney Scott’s BBQ – 4 hogs (review)

While my expectations of the brand new Rodney Scott’s BBQ were sky high, I must say that the whole hog didn’t quite match the perfection of Scott’s BBQ back in Hemingway. Nevertheless, taking it for what it’s worth, we should all be glad that Rodney Scott has made his pork accessible without having to drive in the middle of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. 1011 King St, Charleston, SC 29403 rodneyscottsbbq.com

5. Bar-B-Q King – 4.5 hogs (review)

Bar-B-Q King is another NC barbecue institution, though I only discovered it in early 2017. They do seem to be a little underrated on the NC barbecue scene despite smoking over wood for the past 46 years. Hopefully this will change. 2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092 barbqkingnc.com

4. B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – 4.5 hogs (review)

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque was just named best restaurant in Atlanta by Eater (note no “barbecue” modifier), and for good reason. Bryan Furman is another one of the torch bearers of whole hog barbecue, but don’t sleep on his brisket or hash and rice. 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 bscracklinbbq.com

3. Jon G’s BBQ – 4.5 hogs (review)

It appears that Jon G’s has taken a well-deserved break due to the birth of Garren and his wife Kelly’s first child, but I can’t wait until they are back out there slinging some legit Texas-style brisket out of their recently-purchased food truck. Marshville, NC facebook.com/JonGsBBQ

2. Lewis Barbecue – 4.5 hogs (review)

Unlike Rudy and Speedy, I hadn’t really had a taste of true Central Texas barbecue since I sadly haven’t made it out there since the start of the blog. That recently changed earlier this year because John Lewis (formerly of La Barbecue) brought central Texas to Charleston and I tasted is sublime brisket. All hail the king, apparently. 464 N Nassau St, Charleston, SC 29403 lewisbarbecue.com

1. Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – 5 hogs (review)

In a year where I did not have a meal at Lexington Barbecue (my ride or die) Red Bridges is going to easily take the #1 spot on this list. Sadly, it had been nearly 4 years since my last visit but rest assured, it won’t be that long before my next. After 70+ years, they’ve still got it. 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28152 bridgesbbq.com

Honorable Mentions: The Smoke Pit – Salisbury, NC (review), DAS BBQ – Atlanta, GA (review)