Jon G’s Barbecue (RE-REVIEW)

IMG_2174
Name
: Jon G’s Barbecue (food truck)
Date: 4/27/18
Order: Two meat combo (brisket and pork) with corn pudding, mac and cheese, and Sun Drop
Price: $19

Monk: It was a little over a year ago when I first checked out Jon G’s Barbecue and they shook up our Charlotte Big Board by taking over the #1 spot. A little over 14 months later, I checked them out again wondering if consistency would be maintained.

Since my first time in early 2017, Garren and his wife Kelly have since acquired a food truck and after a brief (but worthy) hiatus to have their first child they have been making the rounds outside of their monthly(ish) pop up at Southern Range Brewing at food truck roundups such as the bi-weekly Food Truck Friday in Matthews.

I’m happy to report that Jon G’s brisket continues to be on point. The mix of lean and fatty again produced some of the best bites of brisket I’ve had in NC, approaching John Lewis’s in Charleston for best that I’ve tasted in the Carolinas as a whole (I do need to get to Columbia to check out City Limits Barbeque for sure though).

Not to be outshone too much, the coarsely pulled pork with a dash or two of vinegar sauce was quite tasty. From what I can tell, I’m seeing few growing pains in the switch to the food truck in terms of quality of food.

Jon G’s has tried a few things with sides since my last visit and the delicious corn pudding was a new menu item inspired by a similar side at Lewis Barbecue in Charleston. I didn’t try the mac and cheese last time but it was also quite good. Finally, having Sun Drop as a drink option was a nice touch, but perhaps I could humbly suggest adding Cheerwine in the future.

So not only was consistency maintained between my two visits but Jon G’s Barbecue may have possibly even gotten better. Garren and Kelly continue to knock it out of the park, and for my money there is no doubt that they remain the best barbecue in Charlotte

Ratings:
Atmosphere – N/A
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Linkdown: 12/13/17

– Sad news as Midwood Smokeshack has closed in Matthews. However, there is some good news in that the employees will keep their jobs at other Midwood Smokehouse locations and FS Food Groupd will be looking to build a full service Midwood Smokehouse in the Matthews area at some point.

– D.G. Martin’s list of last minute book gifts includes one of my all-time favorite barbecue books which was just re-issued on paperback, “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue” by John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed, and William McKinney

– Charlotte Agenda: “Noble Smoke could give Charlotte a true barbecue flagship”

– However, one recently-elected city councilwoman will not be patronizing Noble Smoke when it does open due to his support of HB2 in 2015

– Carolina Smokehouse brings western NC barbecue to Carolina Beach’s boardwalk

– Congrats to B’s Cracklin’ BBQ!

Linkdown: 3/1/17

– NC barbecue legend Bill Ellis has passed away at the age of 83

Ellis was known as a barbecue missionary, carrying the gospel of Eastern North Carolina barbecued pork from coast to coast, and his restaurant was a barbecue mecca.

– His operation was apparently known as the “Microsoft of Barbecue”

– The Wilson Times honored Ellis on their front page yesterday

– City Barbeque has opened its second Charlotte-area location in Matthews as of this past Monday with a grand opening this Saturday; I’ve still yet to check out the Ballantyne location but plan to soon as Speedy had a good impression of the Cary location

– Sauceman’s will be smoking two whole hogs at Lenny Boy Brewing’s patio release party on March 11; you get one free plate when you purchase a 22oz. beer of  SouthEnd MAAgic Yogi, a Belgian Ale brewed with Jasimine Tea & Lemons.

– Rick Bayless details how live fire cooking has influenced him

– The Smoking Ho has photos from The Sausage Kings of Austin Festival in February

– On Jess Pryles, the Austrialian-born now-Austin native

– The latest barbecue stops for Marie, Let’s Eat! are Uncle Gus’s Mountain Pit Bar-B-Que in Decatur, TN and a couple of joints north of Chattanooga

– From Daniel Vaughn and Robert Moss:

Linkdown: 12/7/16

– J.C. Reid of the Houston Chronicle: “The death of North Carolina barbecue has been greatly exaggerated”

– The Matthews location of Mac’s Speed Shop is set to open just after New Year’s

– Charlotte’s Got A Lot has 19 side dishes to order at Charlotte-area barbecue restaurants in this Charlotte Agenda post

– Buxton Hall Barbecue is of course on Atlanta Magazine’s list of places to go in Asheville

– Asheville also nabs Lonely Planet’s best places to visit in the US in 2017 list, and Buxton Hall gets a mention there as well

The South Slope area is quickly emerging as a gastronomic hotspot. Housed in a former skating rink, Buxton Hall (buxtonhall.com) offers a modern take on traditional barbecue in this throwback space. Enjoy plates of impossibly tender pork with vegetables cooked in the meat drippings, surrounded by the faded images of decades-old skating figures still visible on the walls. It also benefits from an in-house pastry chef who turns out superb sweet treats such as banana pudding pie to finish off a hearty, hog-based meal.

– The Daily Meal has the best sandwich in every state and for NC it is a chopped bbq sandwich from Lexington Barbecue

– Grant had a great sandwich Duke’s Bar-B-Que in Orangeburg, SC and found a solid spot in August, GA in Cleve Edmunds Bar-B-Que

– Does Georgia have the most bbq joints per capita? BBQ Hub explores that claim but finds that based on some quick and dirty spreadsheets Lexington, NC probably has the strongest claim to that title 

– NC joints get a shout out from Daniel Vaughn in this piece

Despite the difference in preferred protein, I think the closest style to Texas barbecue is in North Carolina. They cook primarily pork, but they still value cooking with wood just as much as we do in Texas.

Midwood Smokeshack – Matthews, NC

img_6574Name: Midwood Smokeshack
Date: 9/30/16
Address: 3335 Siskey Pkwy #400, Charlotte, NC 28105
Order: Well-Fed combo platter with pulled pork (x2), brisket, and sausage with creamed corn, collards, and cornbread  (link to menu)
Price: $24

Monk: Readers may recall that I had previously checked out Midwood Smokeshack in early September on the invitation of FS Food Group owner Frank Scibelli for the primary purpose of meeting the new pitmaster, Michael Wagner. I didn’t want do an official review of that visit but this time around I took the family there on a Friday night to check it out on my own dime.

During our couple of minutes wait in a short line, I was able to convince Mrs. Monk to go in on the “Well-Fed” platter containing 4 meats and two sides with the stipulation that two of the meats be pork since she she wasn’t interested in eating any brisket (we also got sausage as our fourth meat).

Midwood Smokeshack is utilizing the same rotisserie-style, stick burning smoker used at the full-sized Midwood Smokehouse locations and while there may some slight variations, all in all I found the meats to be pretty consistent in quality and flavors. The chopped pork had flavorful chunks of bark throughout and I really enjoyed mixing some of the eastern NC sauce in. I requested a mix of fatty and lean brisket and it had the peppery bark you would expect from Midwood Smokehouse. And the sausage with the South Carolina mustard sauce was a hit with both myself and the missus.

I’m usually pretty consistent when it comes to sides at Midwood Smokehouse: slaw and hush puppies. But with Mrs. Monk picking out sides (another stipulation of getting the Well-Fed platter), we were a bit more adventurous. I hadn’t tried the creamed corn before and after tasting it, I’m not sure why I hadn’t – I loved it and will definitely order it again. The collards with chunks of brisket mixed in were just ok and I’ve tasted better.

The other difference between Smokeshack and Smokehouse is they have opted for cornbread over hush puppies. Partially for logistical reasons – a deep fryer in a crowded serving area would be dangerous – but I also got the sense from speaking with Frank last time that they also wanted to try something different. Their version of cornbread was little bite-sized muffins and was delicious.

I love the original Midwood Smokehouse and will continue to frequent that establishment when the occasion calls for it. But fast casual is increasingly the way people want to eat these days (families, in particular) so its really smart for FS Food Group to build out the Midwood Smokeshack concept (along with their Mediterranean concept Yafo). The fact that they execute a slimmed-down version of the same menu with no drop off in quality is impressive, and I predict that I will find myself frequenting this establishment pretty darn often.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Photo Gallery: Midwood Smokeshack and Pitmaster Michael Wagner

I recently was invited by Frank Scibelli to meet new pitmaster Michael Wagner at the recently-opened Midwood Smokeshack in Matthews. Midwood Smokeshack is the fast-casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse, with cafeteria-style counter service and a slimmed-down menu. Which makes sense since Midwood Smokeshack is a Texas-style joint and as Frank pointed out to me, most Texas joints really are fast casual (and have been before that term was coined). Over a platter of all the meats and most of the sides  (including corn bread, a change from the hush puppies offered at the bigger brother) doled out by Michael himself, the three of us sat down for lunch and a conversation about barbecue.

Last fall, FS Food Group (the parent company of Midwood Smokehouse and Midwood Smokeshack) posted a job posting for a Texas pitmaster to relocate to Charlotte. After a lengthy interview process, they hired Michael Wagner who previously ran his own food truck before training at Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart and then working at Kent Black’s in San Marcos, TX for nearly two years. After hiring him, they met up earlier this year in Texas while Frank and Plaza Midwood location pitmaster Matt Barry were buying new smokers for both Smokeshack and the upcoming Park Road location of Midwood Smokehouse (this will be a larger capacity smoker than the current ones they use at each location; the Park Road location will open by the end of the year). Michael then made the move to Charlotte just a few weeks ago prior to the opening of Midwood Smokeshack.

So far, Michael says he’s really enjoying his time in Charlotte and spent the first couple of weeks trying new restaurants around town, not having a bad meal among them. He clearly knows his stuff when it comes to barbecue, and Frank hopes that in time he will be able to move between the Midwood Smokehouse and Midwood Smokeshack locations to help up-skill the staffs on the smoking process of the meats (particularly brisket). I look forward to seeing Michael’s growing influence on the franchise over the near future.

I also couldn’t waste the chance to ask Frank about President Obama and Hillary Clinton stopping by the original Plaza Midwood location back in July. He got to speak with the president for about five minutes (who he said was very friendly to him and the staff) and even got to hold his black card to pay for one of the orders (the Clinton campaign paid for the rest). Clinton spent most of her time speaking with patrons in the restaurant that day. Apparently the reason they stopped in was due to secret service personnel having stopped in a few day before and recommending it. They received a lot of exposure from the visit, with photos even appearing in London’s The Daily Mail.

Thanks to Frank and Michael for the opportunity to try out all of the meats at the 2-week old Midwood Smokeshack. I plan to be back soon.

Monk

(Update: an earlier version of this entry incorrectly stated that Michael worked at Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart for 2.5 years)

Linkdown: 9/7/16

– Sneak peek of Scott’s Bar-B-Que second outpost opening in Charleston

– More on B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque opening their second location in Atlanta

– The Drawn Cutlass reviewed the recently-opened Midwood Smokeshack in Matthews a few days after it opened

– EDIA Maps is curating The Great NC BBQ & Brewery Tour October 1-16

– The origins of the Weber Grill from Smithsonian

– Daniel Vaughn of TMBBQ on The New Carolina Barbecue that includes Sam Jones BBQ, Picnic, Buxton Hall Barbecue, and Old Etowah Smokehouse

– Is “barbecue” for squares?

Linkdown: 8/17/16

– WOW: Picnic is hosting a three-day “bbq revival” and bringing in Elliot Moss of Buxton Hall, Sam Jones of Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ, Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin BBQ, Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine, John Lewis of Lewis BBQ plus a lot more

– Speaking of Buxton Hall Barbecue, they have been named the #9 best new restaurant in America 2016

– Grant visits Zombie Pig BBQ in Columbus, his last new Georgia barbecue restaurant for awhile

– First We Feast gets another esteemed panel of experts to discuss “The Most Influential BBQ in America”; Barbecue Bros faves Stamey’s and Scott’s makes the list from the Carolinas

– Daniel Vaughn revisits Fox Bros Bar-B-Q after a few years and comes away impressed

– Question #1: Why are there two styles of NC Barbecue?

– Question #2: How would you describe SC barbecue?

Adding one more layer of complexity, he said that a third (or fifth, depending on who’s counting) sauce should be included: “rust gravy,” a ketchup-and-mustard blend found statewide, especially at the Dukes Bar-B-Que restaurants.

– Charlotte Agenda reports that Mac’s Speed Shop is opening a downtown Matthews location, just around the corner from Moe’s Barbeque

– Tim Kaine spent his Monday night eating barbecue at Buxton Hall and jamming with a bluegrass band nextdoor at Catawba Brewery

– So you can eat barbecue and lose weight; The Smoking Ho offers proof

Linkdown: 8/12/15

– Move over Austin, Is Houston the hottest barbecue market in Texas?

– The Drawn Cutlass has a review of the new Queen City Q location in Matthews

– Marie, Let’s Eat! visits Rib & Loin in Hixson, TN

– This “complete” list of Charlotte food trucks includes several we’ve reviewed – Smoke & Go, OooWee BBQ, Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que – but  of the writing of this post somehow omits the best of the bunch, Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

– Downtown Charleston is getting its 8th barbecue restaurant soon, Poogan’s Smokehouse

– Speaking of new barbecue joints coming to Charleston, Charleston Magazine has a quick conversation with John Lewis (via)

– Well?

– Johnny Fugitt’s top 25 barbecue restaurants (as detailed in The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America) here

– TMBBQ has their list of a few more influential barbecue pitmasters that just happen to be black in response to this list of all white barbecue pitmasters and personalities

– Speaking of TMBBQ, Texas BBQ Treasure Hunt researches 40 years of lists from the publication

– Charlotte’s South End neighborhood is getting a Korean barbecue restaurant called Seoul Food Meat Market in the coming months, and the description is somewhat reminiscent of Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta

Esthetically, it will look like American traditional Southern barbecue ribs: It will look the same but it will taste like Korean food.” So beef ribs will be seasoned as the Korean kalbi and bulgogi, pork ribs like the Korean spicy pork, slaw will be kimchi slaw, and wings will be fried, but in rice bran oil, making them healthier, and crunchier, than most, says Chun.

 

Linkdown: 8/5/15

– Food and Wine has must-see spots to check out in Charlotte if you only have a day, and Midwood Smokehouse makes the list

6 p.m.: Midwood Smokehouse. No trip to the South is complete without a stop for BBQ and Midwood Smokehouse is easily the best joint in Charlotte. People swear by the pulled pork and ribs, but I can’t get over the brisket and burnt ends. Temper your animalistic cravings, though – this is just a stop for hors d’oeuvres.

– Follow the SC Trail to Fort Mill BBQ Co.

– ICYMI, Queen City Q’s second location is now open in Matthews

– 10 joints in NC that will “leave your mouth watering”; three Triad joints make the list as does two Triangle joints

– Vote for the NC barbecue trail in the 10 Best’s Best Food Trail poll

– Baltimore City Paper’s BBQ issue is online and it includes an article on how pit beef became a symbol of barbecue

– Remember the salmonella outbreak at Lexington’s Tarheel Q? Well, they now face a wrongful death lawsuit as a result of it

– The Fayetteville Observer has 5 eastern joints where NC is an art

– A classic SC joint goes Texas with brisket

– From Ricky Scott (as opposed to Rodney)