Charlotte Barbecue News from the Third Quarter of 2021

Monk: If there was an overarching theme for Charlotte barbecue the past three months, it would be expansion. In the second quarter roundup, I had hoped for new concepts and expansion. While we didn’t necessarily get new concepts (yet), we did get quite a bit in the way of expansion. Mac’s Speed Shop, Midwood Smokehouse, and Noble Smoke all announced new locations, (although only one of which is in Charlotte), and rumor has it another Charlotte barbecue joint may be expanding as well.

Not to mention, Phar Mill Brewing in Harrisburg expanded in a slightly different way. Pharr Mill BBQ is utilizing a Jon G’s barbecue pit and they typically serve some combination of brisket, ribs, and pork Thursdays through Saturdays.

July

7/3 Pharr Mill BBQ starts smoking on their Jon G’s barbecue pit at Phar Mill Brewery in Harrisburg

7/10 Noble Smoke celebrates 2 years in business

7/22 FS Food Group announces a Midwood Smokehouse location for Raleigh later his year

7/29 Smoke Show BBQ pivots to Tex-Mex barbecue

7/31 Charlotte-raised Bryan Furman returns to Charlotte and brings his Bryan Furman BBQ pop-up to Sweet Lew’s BBQ

August

8/9 In a nice nod to its employees, all Mac’s Speed Shop locations closed for the day to fight employee burnout

“Our people have been going way above and beyond to make our carry-out, eat-in and delivery business grow by leaps and bounds”… “I’ve never seen a team so dedicated to bringing fun and good food back into the lives of people pent-up by the pandemic.”

Mac’s President Shang Skipper

8/10 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque introduces the “Carolinas Frito Pie”: Carolina bbq hash, warm pimento cheese and jalapeños

8/14 Mac’s Speed Shop is expanding to Fort Mill

8/26 Secondhand Smoke takes over the Pete’s BBQ legacy in Fort Mill

8/27 Jon G’s gets the Axios Charlotte bump

8/30 The 91st Mallard Creek Barbecue is postponed yet another year

September

9/8 Indian Trail’s 100 Main Beef and Barbecue gets featured in Spectrum News for being both a barbecue restaurant and a country store

9/10 Barvecue, the wood-smoked plan-based barbecue company out of Cornelius, is rolling out to 12 colleges and universities and just signed a deal with Sprouts Farmers Market

9/9 Jon G’s Barbecue make this list of “Best New Barbecue Joints in the South” from Southern Living

9/16 Noble Smoke announced its second location will be a stall at the Optimist Hall food hall

9/16 More coverage on the stall from Axios Charlotte

9/24 K&N BBQ competes against Dan Good Que in Food Truck Rumble CLT

Michael Wagner’s Return to Texas is a Big Loss for Charlotte Barbecue

Monk: Last month, Michael Wagner left Midwood Smokehouse and its parent company FS Food Group to return back to Texas. I was fortunate enough to meet Michael within a few weeks of him moving to Charlotte in 2016 to help open the short-lived Midwood Smokeshack and I also interviewed him and Matthew Barry in 2019 for our Pitmaster Profile series as the two main pitmasters for Midwood Smokehouse. Michael has always struck me as a very thoughtful and passionate person about barbecue, and his departure is a big loss for the Charlotte barbecue community. To bookend his time in NC, I wanted to check back in ahead of his big move.

Congrats on the new job! Where are you headed and what’s the new position?

Thanks! I’m going to Dallas, Texas to cook for Terry Black’s BBQ. I’ll be one of the crew of pitmasters at the restaurant.

What’s the first (non-barbecue) thing you’re going to do when you step foot back in Texas?

This is a big transition, and I have some time before I start work, so I’m going camping. Two weeks in the woods with my hammock and my stove.

That sounds very serene; I’m jealous. What are you most looking forward to when it comes to working again at a barbecue joint in Texas?

The pits themselves and the energy at the restaurants.

Any barbecue joints you plan to visit as soon as you get settled in Dallas?

Vaquero’s, Dayne’s, Hurtado’s

Michael and Monk in July 2016

It was right at 5 years with FS Food Group. What are your memories from Midwood Smokeshack where I first met you back in 2016?

Man. Time flies. When I think of The Shack, I remember not knowing how to really cook anything besides BBQ. That was the beginning of a 5 year crash course. I think of Samantha, (she manages for Paco’s Tacos & Tequila now) and learning how to manage all that time.

What are your thoughts on the state of barbecue in Charlotte as you depart?

I’m happy to see a community of committed pitmasters forming. There’s been great food here all along. BBQ has a soul, and it needs a community to foster it.

(L-R): Monk, Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ, Stuart Henderson of Noble Smoke, and Michael Wagner)

Is there anything in particular you will take back to Texas from your time in NC?

Man, so much. I love all the trees, still have never gotten over them. I got pretty serious into disc golfing while here as a way to get out into all the parks. Mostly, I’m leaving here knowing that I capable of much more than smoking meat.

Thanks to Michael for taking his time in answering my questions, particularly in the middle of his big move. I hope to make it to Dallas and Terry Black’s soon to visit!

Charlotte Barbecue News from the Second Quarter of 2021

Monk: In our first quarter wrap-up, I had optimism as things continued to move in a positive direction with vaccinations and the resulting re-opening of restaurants. That mostly continued, and while Charlotte lost a lot of its classic non-barbecue restaurants (Price’s Chicken Coop, Mr. K’s, Oakhurst Grill, Zack’s Hamburgers, etc), I only tracked one barbecue restaurant that closed during that time: the Tyvola Road location of the Sonny’s BBQ chain.

Charlotte barbecue even got some national attention, both of the good (Texas Monthly BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn visiting and loving Jon G’s) as well as notorious variety (Charlotte as the #3 best city for barbecue according to chefspencil.com).

While we may never know about the barbecue joints that weren’t started during the past year, hopefully a corner has been turned (and the Delta variant of COVID doesn’t wreak havoc here like it has in other countries; get vaccinated people!) and the Charlotte barbecue scene can experience new concepts as well as expansion and growth of its existing ones.

April

4/9 Smoke Show BBQ is a new Texas-style barbecue pop up in the Charlotte area from transplanted Texan chef Brandon Belfer who has worked at fine dining spots The Stanley, Crunkleton, The Asbury, Kindred, and Hello, Sailor

4/12 Charlotte-based Mac’s Speed Shop finds itself coming out of the pandemic in a strong position for growth

4/13 Roddey’s BBQ has changed their lunch hours in Rock Hill to Fridays only

4/19 Jon G’s Barbecue gets in the pit fabrication game

4/26 K&N BBQ makes Axios Charlotte’s list of best food trucks; and they recommend you try the pork and brisket

4/26 Adam Richman (of Man vs Food fame) visits Midwood Smokehouse

4/30 In what was (somewhat embarrassingly) one of the oldest barbecue restaurant’s in Charlotte, the Tyvola Rd. outpost of the Sonny’s BBQ chain closed

May

5/7 Daniel Vaughn ends his NC barbecue trip at Jon G’s Barbecue, where I was fortunate enough to meet both him and Kathleen Purvis and also share a meal with him

5/12 Charlotte is obviously the number 3 Top City for BBQ in the US. No objection here.

5/19 Jon G’s Barbecue gets the highest of praise from the BBQ Snob himself, Daniel Vaughn; Noble Smoke also gets a mention for their brisket

5/25 Phar Mill BBQ introduces itself to the world and will be using a Jon G’s offset smoker

June

6/3 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque announces its new food truck

6/3 Noble Smoke announces details on its 2 year anniversary

6/8 Mac’s Hospitality Group, parent company of Mac’s Speed Shop, adds Rare Roots alum Jay Spungin as Director of Operations

6/19 Congrats to Jon G’s Barbecue on one year open

6/26 Charlotte-based EDIA Maps, makers of The Great NC BBQ Map, ends operations

6/29 And the name of the Sweet Lew’s Barbeque food truck is…Sweet Lucille

Linkdown: 4/28/21

Featured

Mr. Barbecue re-opened last month after two years of closure due to a fire, but thankfully owner Jimmy Carros never considered either a) closing or b) not rebuilding the wood-burning smoke pits. To quote him from the Eater story below:

“The thought never really entered my mind,” Carros said.

“The flavor that you get from the wood-burning pits is not easily matched,” he explained. “I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’m not sure I can do it.”

As a classic NC barbecue fan and one who enjoyed his visit to Mr. Barbecue a few months before the fire, I heap the highest of praise to Carros for that thinking. And others appreciate it too, as Mr. Barbecue was recently recognized in the Eater’s Carolinas list of best restaurants in Winston-Salem.

Mr. Barbecue is currently open for drive-thru orders only.

Native News

Thank goodness Grady’s made it out of the pandemic; now I just need to get there

In what was (somewhat embarrassingly) one of the oldest barbecue restaurant’s in Charlotte, the Tyvola Rd. outpost of the Sonny’s BBQ chain closes this Friday

K&N BBQ makes Axios Charlotte’s list of best food trucks; and they recommend you try the pork and brisket

Picnic and Bullock’s Bar-B-Cue make Eater’s list for Durham

Adam Richman (of Man vs Food fame) visited Midwood Smokehouse last week

Non-Native News

Black Smoke is now out, and this in except from the book; the story of Marie Jean of Pine Bluff, AR and her role in barbecue history is uncovered

John Tanner’s Barbecue Page has a fascinating story about barbecue and the law in the landmark case of Katzenbach v. McClung and Ollie’s in Birmingham

Robert Sietsema releases his latest barbecue list for NYC for Eater

Sietsema’s also got the deets on where to get a Frito Pie in NYC, including Mable’s Smokehouse in Williamsburg

I’m seeing the house made sausage trend in NC more too

Congrats to Eliana Gutierrez for one year as a pitmaster at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ