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!

Charlotte Barbecue Joint Big Board – March 2017

We have a new #1! Jon G’s BBQ hosts a regular pop-up at Southern Range Brewing in Monroe and smokes some of the finest brisket in NC (the pork’s not so bad either), which lands it at the top spot in our latest update. Since our last big board in December 2015, we’ve added seven total new joints to the list, four of which landed in the top 7: the aforementioned Jon G’s BBQMidwood Smokeshack – the fast casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse, the Texas-style joint Big Tiny’s BBQ in Mooresville, and the year-old korean-southern barbecue fusion of Seoul Food Meat Co. 2017 should hopefully bring us the debut of Jim Noble’s barbecue restaurant, the Texas-and-maybe-Lexington-barbecue-influenced Noble Smoke (side note: our top 5 has a little too much Texas flavor to it for my liking). He’s done some events in Charlotte over the past few months on his new smoker, and I am hoping his brick and mortar restaurant opens soon (or at least I get a chance to taste his barbecue somewhere).

What other Charlotte area joints should we check out? Feel free to weigh in on your favorite in the comments and if you present a strong enough case we will try to head there next. I’ve checked out a few joints recently based on reader comments and feedback (including our new #1) and am always looking for more, whether in Charlotte or across the state.

-Monk

Note: “new” denotes reviewed since last big board update

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  1. Jon G’s BBQ new
    A recent revelation from Monroe. Check their Facebook and Instagram to figure out when Garren and Kelly will be smoking at Southern Range Brewing next because you won’t want to miss it.IMG_0196
  2. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (food truck)
    Some friends of the blog ordered some catering from Boone’s last summer and it was still pretty dang good. I hope to catch them out and about some time soon to see if Jon G’s really is the new best barbecue in town.IMG_1469
  3. Midwood SmokehouseBallantyne / Central Ave (original review)
    Midwood keeps doing their thing, and continue to expand with another Charlotte location expected to open with the next month or so.
    img_6577
  4. Midwood Smokeshack (Matthews) new
    Recently relocated Texas-born pitmaster Michael Wagner is doing some great things at the fast casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse.IMG_4457
  5. The Smoke Pit (Concord) (original review)
    Having recently tried the Salisbury location of The Smoke Pit, I was reminded just how good their smoked meats are.
  6. Big Tiny’s BBQ (Mooresville) new
  7. Seoul Food Meat Co new
  8. Sauceman’s (original review)
  9. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue (original review)
  10. Kyle Fletcher’s Barbecue & Catering
  11. Q2U (Lake Wylie) new
  12. The Improper Pig
  13. Killer Q
  14. Bar-B-Q King
  15. 521 BBQ and Grill: Tega Cay / Indian Land
  16. Mac’s Speed Shop: Steele Creek / South Blvd
  17. Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q (Concord) 
  18. The Q Shack
  19. Smoke & Go Bar-B-Que (food truck)
  20. Kid Cashew new 
  21. Treehouse Whiskey and Fork new
  22. Smoke Modern Barbeque (Huntersville)
  23. R&R Bar-B-Que (Concord)
  24. Queen City Q (original review)
  25. Lancaster’s BBQ: Huntersville / Mooresville
  26. Rock Store Bar-B-Q: Stallings / Mint Hill
  27. Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que: food truck / Matthews (original review)
  28. McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon
  29. Brooks’ Sandwich House
  30. Fort Mill BBQ Company (Fort Mill) new 
  31. Queen City Q (Concord) new
  32. Bubba’s Barbecue
  33. JJR’s BBQ Shack
  34. Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ
  35. The Dixie Pig (Rock Hill)
  36. City Smoke
  37. Bobbee-O’s BBQ (original review)
  38. OooWee BBQ (food truck)
  39. R.O.’s Bar-B-Que

Closed: Old Hickory House (April 2015), Elwood’s Barbecue & Burger Bar (September 2015), Carolina Ribs on the Run (Mooresville) (July 2014), Farmer’s BBQ (unknown)

Still to review: Dan the Pig Man (food truck), Bodrick’s BBQ, Glenn’s Again (Kannapolis), Slow Smokin’ BBQ (food truck), Smokey J’s BBQ (food truck), Smoke Modern Barbeque (Stonecrest), JB’s Lazy Pig BBQ and Ice Cream (Waxhaw), Unnamed Jim Noble barbecue restaurant (coming soon), Randy’s BBQ (Troutman), City Barbeque, Dan Good Que

Previous Big Boards: December 2015, January 2015May 2014December 2013July 2013

Linkdown: 1/4/17

– The Food Experienced blog recaps a trip to NC for barbecue, their “#1 top experience in 2016”

– Robert Moss recaps last week’s Top Chef Charleston, which featured Rodney Scott

– Eater Charleston also recaps the episode

– Rodney Scott BBQ coming

– I think I missed this back in November, but Robert Moss’s top 10 SC BBQ restaurants

– Midwood Smokeshack is #12 in Charlotte Magazine’s 25 Best New Restaurants: 2017

– I still need to check out Seoul Food Meat Co but it’s apparently doing well enough to expand in the form of a covered patio, dog park, “adult playground”, and four dedicated karaoke rooms

– Barbecue is plenty represented in Eater Charleston’s year end wrap ups: predictions for 2017, favorite restaurants in 2016,  best restaurant meal in 2016, and restaurant trends from 2016

– Preview of next week’s review:

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

Linkdown: 10/5/16

– This year’s Mallard Creek Barbecue will be Thursday, October 27

In 2016, we expect to cook 14,600 pounds of pork barbecue, prepare 2,500 gallons of Brunswick stew, shred 2 tons of Cole slaw, brew 400 gallons of coffee, and entertain close to 20,000 people.  Four drive-thru take out lines will be operated for orders of one sandwich up to EXTRA large group orders.  Orders of 50-plates or more can be quickly accommodated with a call ahead to the take-out stand.

– Fox Bros BBQ is on this Food Republic list of 10 places to eat in Atlanta right now

– Charlotte Agenda checked out Midwood Smokeshack a few weeks back

– Their Raleigh sibling documented last weekend’s Whole Hog Barbecue Championship in photos and words

– The editor of the Winston-Salem Journal writes a love letter to NC barbecue but seemingly doesn’t realize that Lexington-style barbecue contains vinegar

– The Daily Show set up a barbecue food truck in Raleigh named Bone Bros Flamin’ BBQ that discriminated to people by accusing them of being “gay”; it was inspired by HB2

– Charlotte writer D.G. Martin’s book North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries is “a local traveler’s guide to local restaurants, diners, and barbecue joints”

– Martin’s book includes Asheville-area barbecue joints 12 Bones and Luella’s Bar-B-Que, writes the Asheville’s Mountain Express

– Charlotte Magazine goes to Lexington

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: 8/24/16

– Buxton Hall is going to NYC in September as part of the Bon Appetit Hot 10 (believe thats their fried chicken sandwich in the photo)

– More coverage of the NC BBQ Revival from tv station WRAL and Eater

– The North Carolina 100 (which posts 100 word “stories”, but thats for another day) list of their favorite barbecue joints

– Barbecue man Evan LeRoy is leaving Freedmen’s Bar to start his own place

– Where to eat barbecue in Austin when you don’t want to endure the line at Franklin

– Also from Eater (I may have missed this from June, can’t remember), an Austin barbecue primer that includes a brief and incomplete history of barbecue in Austin

A seismic shift in Central Texas barbecue lore began in the early aughts with John Mueller’s spot on Manor Road 2001 (yes, related to the Taylor Muellers). He opened the restaurant with little fanfare, but drew loyal crowds and acclaim for five years despite battles with personal issues and middling profits. Mueller also famously employed Aaron Franklin at the register (not on the pit) and the prep station, leading to Franklin’s $1,000 purchase of Mueller’s old pit for what would become the Franklin Barbecue trailer.

– The new Midwood SmokeShack opened out of the blue last Thursday

Linkdown: 3/30/16

Voting ends tomorrow for Thrillist’s America’s Best BBQ Bracket (vote for Red Bridges!)

– The fast casual concept of Midwood Smokehouse, named Midwood Smokeshack, will open its first location in Matthews

– Charlotte Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis has 5 styles of brisket to try around Charlotte, including the smoked version at Sauceman’s

– Purvis also explores the black/white cornbread divide; loyal readers will know which side I fall on

– Yet another NC barbecue roadtrip list

-The Indy Week out of NC’s triangle has a feature on Picnic:

– Speaking of which, Picnic is now open on Sundays

– Fox Bros. in Atlanta is expanding with a barbecue kiosk at the up-and-coming Armour Yards

– Robert Moss takes a quick trip to Houston and focuses on the boudin sausage

– Red Clay Soul has a Georgia Mild BBQ Sauce Bracket

– The origin story of Heirloom Market’s spicy korean barbecue sandwich