South Main Street BBQ – Waxhaw, NC

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Name
: South Main Street BBQ
Date: 8/8/18
Address: 116 E South Main St, Waxhaw, NC 28173
Order: Chopped pork sandwich with slaw, chips, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $9

Monk: On an excursion to Frontier Meats just south of Waxhaw to research potential meats for future smokes, I stopped by South Main Street BBQ, a self-proclaimed “Tex-Lex” barbecue restaurant in charming downtown Waxhaw located in the former JB’s Lazy Pig BBQ location. Owner John Crane, who also runs the Killer Q food truck, purchased the business in September 2017 and relaunched it as South Main Street BBQ this past April since it was, you know, located off of South Main Street.

When I tried Killer Q in September 2015, I was a fan of the smokiness in the meat and noted how they had just acquired a BQ stick burner (the kind that Sam Jones uses). I’m not sure if they are using that smoker here but unfortunately, I did not taste that same smokiness in their storefront. While the large sandwich had good texture between the pulled pork and the slaw, when I pulled strands of pork out I just didn’t get a lot of smokiness.

Speaking of slaw, what is normally added for free will cost you an extra $1 here. Obviously, it’s just a dollar, but on a $7 sandwich it seems a bit excessive. Another gripe – the lunch combo came with a bag of Lays where I would have preferred cornbread (that’ll cost you another $2 extra).

South Main Street BBQ does offer brisket (i.e. the “Tex” in the “Tex-Lex”), but only on Saturdays. I’ll have to try that if I make it back to Waxhaw either for Frontier Meats or to check out The Dreamchaser’s Brewery across the railroad tracks downtown. Perhaps if I do, the pulled pork will be a little smokier.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Sides – N/A
Overall – 2.5 hogs

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Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint – Nashville, TN

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Name
: Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint (Downtown location)
Date: 7/21/18
Address: 410 4th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37201
Order: Big Poppa Sampler (Full Rack Ribs, 12oz Pork, 12oz Brisket, ½ Chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, fries) with 6 Memphis dry rub wings, 2 orders of hush puppies, and 2 cornbread hoe cakes (link to menu)
Price: $141 (for 6)

Speedy: With Monk coming to town, I had to take him to my favorite ‘cue in town – Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint. I had reviewed the OG location of Martin’s many years ago, but since then, three other Tennessee locations (as well as two Kentucky ones) have opened. While I greatly enjoy the food, I took Monk (and crew) to the downtown location, which is one of my favorite places in Nashville – barbecue or otherwise.

Monk: The downtown location of Martin’s is amazing – flat out. As soon as we stepped up into the upstairs beer garden, I knew it was going to get 5 hogs for atmosphere and ambiance. The upstairs was an airy, open air space with plenty of natural lighting and big ass fans to keep the air circulating. Besides the smokeroom off to the side, it had a small stage, two small bars flanking either side of the room, several long beer garden-style tables, ping pong, shufflepuck, and dartboards. If we ever hit it big from barbecue blogging, I will be taking photos of this space to an architect to replicate at the loft I would buy once I’m flush with all that theoretical barbecue blogging cashish.

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Speedy: With six of us in tow, we ordered the Big Poppa Platter, which consists of a full rack of ribs, 12 oz pork, 12 oz brisket, ½ chicken, and 3 pints of sides. We tacked on a few extra sides and a half dozen wings and we were good to go.

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I’ll start with the ribs. We ordered spare ribs instead of baby backs since they are bigger and we had six hungry men. The rack of ribs was massive – plenty for us all to eat. We ordered dry ribs, and they showed up heavily seasoned as a full slab. The ribs were tender, cooked perfectly, and delicious. I do wish we had ordered baby back ribs, as the quality of the meat is better. On the spare ribs, there was a big more tendon than I like, but that’s a nit-picky complaint. Overall, I could have used a little more spice in the rub, but the ribs are very, very solid.

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Monk: Martin’s is one of the few restaurants in Tennessee (or anywhere else, for that matter) that is still doing whole hog barbecue. With the purchasing power of a growing regional chain, I imagine they are able to make the economics work, but regardless I applaud them for continuing the whole hog tradition. As for the pork itself, our portion was a mixture of pork that was overall lighter than the darker meat of the shoulders predominantly used in the NC piedmont (though shoulders are also available on the menu). I’m not quite sure what the nuances are between western TN whole hog and what you’ll find in eastern NC or the Pee Dee region of SC (a topic which I’ll gladly earmark for more research later), but I quite enjoyed what Martin’s served.

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Speedy: The brisket is about as good as you can find in Tennessee. It had good bark and was cooked pretty well (maybe ever so slightly overcooked), but it is not on the same level as some of the Texas joints. Martin’s brisket does have nice tug and flavor, and has good bark, but it just doesn’t quite have the peppery goodness needed to reach the upper brisket tier. However, if I’m hankerin’ for a good brisket in Tennessee, Martin’s is the best choice there is. As a side note, while not sampled on this visit, Martin’s does offer a cheeseburger topped with brisket that simply is not to be missed. Beef on beef – brilliant!

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Monk: We don’t normally order chicken but seeing as how it came with the Big Poppa, we embraced it. Smoked chicken is not my jam but it definitely worked when dipped in the Alabama white sauce that came with the tray.

Speedy: The wings were good – using the same dry rub as the ribs (other flavors are available, but we went with the dry rub). They were smoked well, but could have stood to be a little meatier. Like everything at Martin’s, the wings were very good. Smoked wings can be a little difficult to find, so I appreciate a place that does them right, and Martin’s is that.

Monk: There were literally no complaints about any of the sides we got. Some of our group raved about the mac and cheese, others loved the green beans, and I thought the hush puppies were solidly above average. But I was most intrigued by the cornbread hoe cakes, an item I’ve not ever seen on a barbecue menu before. In western NC, our cornmeal comes in the form of hush puppies whereas in the east you’ll see cornsticks or more traditional cornbread. The hoecakes were savory and not overly sweet  but I would definitely get them again – I know Speedy gets them most times he visits. Oh, and they have Cheerwine and Sun Drop in glass bottles! So awesome.

With Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Downtown Nashville, all of the meats are consistently above average, the sides were great, and the space was awesome. One more thought on the space – after we finished our meal, our group stuck around for another hour or so, grabbing another pitcher while playing darts. I would have gladly stuck around for several more hours, but alas we were headed to Third Man Records before throwing axes in East Nashville (side note – Speedy showed the guys a great time that weekend in Nashville). I can see why Martin’s is Speedy’s favorite joint in the city and I would gladly go back for another meal at this or any of the other locations.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Chicken – 3.5 hogs
Wings – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House – Knoxville, TN

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Name
: Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House
Date: 7/19/18
Address: 3725 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920
Order: Sampler (brisket, pork, and ribs) with side salad, slaw, greens and beer (link to menu)
Price: $29

Monk: In 1999, the Knoxville, TN funk-soul band Gran Torino had a modest regional radio hit in the southeast with “Moments with You.” I recall liking it in high school but listening today, it seems a bit overproduced and saccharine. In any case, fast forward 10 years and the band is no more but lead singer Chris Ford has found another passion in barbecue. After years of catering, he opens up a barbecue restaurant just outside of Knoxville in a former marina off the Little River, Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House. Six years later, he is successful enough to open a second location in downtown Knoxville. While the music life may have not ultimately worked out for Chris Ford, he seems to be in the early stages of building a mini barbecue empire in Knoxville.

I knew that Grant of Marie, Let’s Eat! was a fan of Sweet P’s from his visit and it was his suggestion to stop there two years back when I was last passing through Knoxville on the the way to Lexington, Kentucky. Unfortunately, it would have been too much of a detour on that trip, so I stopped at Full Service BBQ instead (which worked out ok). This time through, I was heading to Nashville, so a swing through south Knoxville to hit Sweet P’s made much more sense.

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I had been on the road for 4+ hours from Charlotte after a small breakfast so went for the sampler platter of pork, brisket, and ribs which came with 3 sides. Grant mentioned in his review that he was a big fan of the pork (the only meat he got on his visit) when he went and for me it was by far the best of the three meats. The pork came unsauced and sitting in a bun but I opted not to eat as a sandwich and instead used a fork. It was smokey and moist and with a few dashes of the table vinegar sauce (one of three available), it stood out above the rest of the meats.

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The brisket was a bit overdone (or perhaps held and reheated from the previous day based on the texture) and sprinkled with a sweet and savory rub that just was not pleasing for me. A few bites in and I knew I didn’t have to finish my portion.

The ¼ rack of ribs were better than the brisket while still being just slightly above average. It was also sprinkled with the same rub as the brisket, though this harkened to more of a Memphis dry rub so didn’t bother me as much as the brisket. They weren’t overdone and pulled away from the bone properly with each bite.

As for sides, the slaw was standard but the greens were a bit of a mess. Knowing what lay ahead in terms of drinking and eating that weekend, I chose a side salad as my third side, which ended up being the side that I ate the most of.

Outside of the pork and side salad most of the meal ended up in the to-go box. If you are stopping at Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House while in the Knoxville area, my suggestion would be to save some money and stick with the chopped pork plate.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
Sweet P's Barbeque and Soul House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Pecan Lodge – Dallas, TX (Speedy’s Take)

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Name
: Pecan Lodge
Date: 7/21/18
Address: 2702 Main St, Dallas, TX 75226
Order: The Trough (1 beef rib, 1lb of pork ribs, 1lb brisket, 1/2 lb of pulled pork & 3 sausage links), ½ pound burnt ends, fried okra, collard greens (link to menu)
Price: $120-ish (for 3)

Speedy: On a recent work trip to Dallas, I experienced Divine Intervention. In town for only two days with full calendars both days, I was resigned to having to miss Pecan Lodge once again, and based on Rudy’s review, it’s a joint not to miss. I must have done something right over the past week, because a cancelled meeting left me a block of time between 10 and 2, enough time to head to Deep Ellum to try the ‘cue. I brought two co-workers in tow, which turned out to be a great decision.

Monk: The barbecue gods certainly work in mysterious ways…

Speedy: We arrived right at 11, which is right when Pecan Lodge opens. The line was already out the door, which is when coming with friends comes in handy. We went straight to the bulk order counter (minimum 5 pounds), which had no line (hence the great decision to bring back-ups), and we were on our way.

Our number was called after a short wait, and it was time to dig in. Obviously, we had more food than the three of us could eat, and everything looked and smelled incredible. I have a hard time knowing where to begin with this meal, so let’s just jump right in.

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The brisket was heavenly. Rich, flavorful, moist, peppery, and perfectly cooked. It is easily in the top 4 briskets I’ve ever had, joining La Barbecue, Franklin, and Killen’s, and frankly, nothing else even comes close. The brisket seemed to melt in your mouth.

Personally, my other top meat was the beef rib. It was incredibly tender, had an amazing bark, and pulled, but didn’t fall, right off the bone. Honestly, I’d take these two cuts of beef over even the finest steaks. Beef like this just doesn’t come around often.

The other beef dish we had was the burnt ends, which was a special of the day. My two co-workers rated this as their favorite meat, and I agree it was very good, but I thought it could have been slightly more tender and could have used a little heat on the sauce. This is nit-picking to the extreme, but it was a tier below the brisket and beef rib for me.

The pork was also a pleasant surprise. I have had very hit or miss experiences with pork in Texas, but you could have told me the Pecan Lodge pork was from Tennessee or North Carolina and I would have believed you and demanded to know where from. It was tender and had nice bark, and overall was really great.

Monk: Funny you should mention that. I recalled hearing at one point at there was a connection between Pecan Lodge and NC and lo and behold, Justin and Diane Fourton (the couple behind Pecan Lodge) both used to live in Charlotte and met at Selwyn Pub in 2000. So while they both are originally from Texas, they may have gotten some pork knowledge through osmosis during their time in NC.

Speedy: On Rudy’s trip to Pecan Lodge, he raved about the ribs. This was my least favorite meat by a wide margin. The ribs were still good, but I felt like they could have been a little meatier and the outside got a little charred to me. I’m not sure if it was just a sub-standard batch, but the ribs were forgettable, especially when compared to the rest of the meal.

Rudy: Maybe you got a bad batch or I got an overly great batch. You may have also had the benefit of having several different meat to compare it to, and I only had the brisket. I’m sorry that I missed out on the beef rib.

Speedy: Generally, I don’t pay too much attention to the sides when I have five pounds of barbecue in front of me, but it was a different story here. The fried okra was really, really good. Perfectly seasoned and fried. The collards were also amazing and very unique. While I’m used to having bacon bits or pieces or pulled pork (or at least chicken stock) in the collards, these were very sweet – my guess is brown sugar. The collards are not to be missed.

The next paragraph is going to be a little hard to write. As a North Carolinian, I will go to my grave saying that Lexington barbecue is the best single food item that one can eat and that it was bestowed upon man by God himself. All that said, the top four all around barbecue meals of my life all happened in Texas, and this was in that group. It’s just that good. If you get a chance to visit Pecan Lodge – just do it.

Monk: Who in the? What in the? How in the?

Rudy: I have always said that the ceiling on Texas barbecue is higher but so is the floor.  When it is done well, it is great, but it can also be done poorly. North Carolina barbecue is more consistent. I agree that Pecan Lodge is a must visit and if you have to order from the bulk window to avoid the lines, you will never be disappointed.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Beef rib – 5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Pecan Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OooWee BBQ (food truck) – Charlotte, NC (RE-REVIEW)

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Name: OooWee BBQ
Date: 6/15/18
Address: N/A
Order: Chopped BBQ plate with slaw and mac and cheese (link to menu)
Price: $11

Monk: I’ll admit it, the last time we reviewed OooWee BBQ was not under the most favorable conditions and I was probably a bit harsh. It was a a chilly October Saturday at a somewhat sparsely attended music festival in Charlotte. But still – what they served was dry, nearly inedible chopped pork and I reviewed them accordingly. Though I did state in that review that I’d be interested in trying them again under better circumstances.

In the past five years, OooWee BBQ has gone on to open a brick and mortar store in Pineville but they are still kicking around the food truck circuit in Charlotte. They are regulars at events at my neighborhood pool and they stopped by on a Saturday in June for a day of music at the pool (“music festival” would be a bit overstating it).

In a bit of serendipity, I made the exact same order that I did last time around which allowed me to provide a direct comparison between then and now. The pork came pre-sauced with a tangy red sauce and was much better than what I had tried from them before. Not the smokiest, but at least moist and more flavorful. The mayo-based slaw and mac and cheese were also better than before, although I will say that I ended up mixing the three together, creating a makeshift barbecue sundae on my plate.

IMG_0569Speaking of the barbecue sundae, Mrs. Monk ordered one and in case it wasn’t obvious, it includes all of what I ordered plus baked beans mixed together to make a 4-layer “sundae” into a single cup . And I’m a big fan, though I think it’s kind of hard to mess it up. If every component is as it should be then no problem. But if the pork is dry, then the other sides can help cover it up. Regardless, I think this is the best dish that I’ve had from them and will likely be my order next time.

So OooWee BBQ were much better this time than last while still not reaching the upper tier of Charlotte barbecue. If you do encounter their bright yellow truck around town, I would recommend going for the barbecue sundae.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – N/A
Pork – 2.5 Hogs
Sides – 2.5 Hogs
Overall – 2.5 Hogs

Germantown Commissary – Germantown, TN

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Name
: Germantown Commissary
Date: 6/10/18
Address: 2290 S Germantown Rd, Germantown, TN 38138
Order: Speedy: 3 meat plate (pork, ribs, sausage, fries, green beans) (link to menu)
Price: $23

Speedy: Earlier in my career, I did quite a bit of travelling, which caused me to eat out a lot and eat barbecue all over the country. That has slowed down quite a bit over the past 2-3 years, but I recently started hitting the road a bit again, starting with a client in Memphis. Expect several reviews over the next few months from this neck of the woods, but the first place I stopped was Germantown Commissary.

Monk: Those miles in the car won’t be ideal from a Speedy’s work/life perspective but on the other hand, it should be great for the blog!

Speedy: Germantown Commissary is not really a commissary at all – it’s really just a barbecue joint. It apparently started that way, but after selling some ‘cue he had been smoking in his parking lot for a party, owner Walker Taylor decided to continue selling pork shoulder. It’s got the look and feel of an old timey barbecue joint and my guess is that things have not changed there a whole lot over the years. I was seated immediately and approached by a waiter, who enthusiastically took my order.

In true Barbecue Bros fashion, I ordered a combo plate, with pork, ribs, and sausage. The Commissary was out of brisket (it was late in the day), so I’ll have to wait for the next trip to try that. The food came out quickly and I was ready to dig in.

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As expected, the three meat combo was easily enough food for two people. I started my meal with the pulled pork, which came with large pulled chunks with a sweet sauce already applied. Overall, the pork was tender and I could taste the smoke, but the sauce lacked the tang that I normally enjoy. I also wish it had been pulled a little better, as the chunks were a little hard to navigate. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it, but i think this pork would suit better a sandwich than eating alone.

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I next went to the sausage, which I thought was quite good. It had a nice snap and a good, slightly spicy flavor. I could taste the smoke, but was not overpowered with it. The sausage also came with sweet barbecue sauce on it (the same sauce as the pork), but it worked better with the sausage than the pork, in my opinion. The plate came with two full links, so there was plenty of sausage. I would certainly order this again.

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Monk: Next time, would you order either the pork or sausage with the sauce on the side?

Speedy: I’d probably stay away from the pork altogether, unless I just wanted a sammie. The sausage I thought was very good with the sauce on.

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The star of the show, however, was the ribs. A full slab of spare ribs was delivered, topped by only dry rub (I was not asked wet or dry). I understand why no sauce was applied – none was needed. The ribs were cooked perfectly, offering a clean bite without falling off the bone. The flavor was great – able to taste a mixture of the pork, the smoke, and the seasoning, which had a hint of spice and a hint of sweetness. My only complaint is that i thought the slab could have been a little meatier, and it was a little awkward to handle, as the meat was not trimmed at all. Overall, the ribs are a must order at Germantown Commissary.

Monk: I predict that Speedy will become a Memphis ribs expert over the next few months. Hmm, perhaps a power rankings of them will be in order…

Speedy: As with all barbecue in Memphis, I entered into this meal with high expectations. While I was slightly let down by the pork, the sausage and ribs more than made up for it. I also want to mention that the service I received at Germantown Commissary was top notch – everyone could not have been nicer. All this means I will definitely be back.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pulled Pork – 3 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs
Germantown Commissary Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Jon G’s Barbecue (RE-REVIEW)

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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 Q 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

LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue – Austin, TX (mini-review)


IMG_5801Name
: LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue
Date: 4/8/18
Address: 121 Pickle Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Order: “Pulled pit ham from peaceful pork” sandwich with smoked sweet potato (link to menu)
Price: $16

Monk: On the Sunday of mine and Mrs. Monk’s weekend in Austin, my third (and last) barbecue stop was LeRoy and Lewis’s food truck at the Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden. While they certainly have their central Texas staples, in the relatively short time they’ve been open, LeRoy and Lewis have stood out from other barbecue restaurants for creativity in their menu. On this Sunday, the menu was limited to a pulled pork sandwich and pit smoked sweet potatoes. 

The creativity that I was expecting was evident in the beet bbq sauce that topped the pork sandwich along with some collards. For the last bit of meat before selling out on a Sunday afternoon, the generously portioned sandwich was still fairly tasty.

The pit smoked sweet potato was a nice change of pace for a side than what I usually had. Would get again.

It’s a shame that I couldn’t judge LeRoy and Lewis on their full menu, but on this trip Sunday was the day to check them out for me. The Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden is a really fun setting and a nice way to enjoy the barbecue, and perhaps one day I’ll make it back to try more of what LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue are all about.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Louie Mueller Barbecue – Taylor, TX (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Louie Mueller Barbecue
Date: 4/7/18
Address: 206 W. Second Street, Taylor, TX 76574
Order: Monk: ¼ lb mixed brisket, 2 original sausage links,1 pork rib, potato salad, pinto beans, Big Red; Rudy: 1 beef rib, ½ lb brisket, 1 sausages, 2 slices of turkey, potato salad, 2 waters
Price: Monk: $33.15 (for two); Rudy: $70.32 (for two)

Monk: Since the last time I visited Austin (in 2012, about a month before we started this blog), Speedy has made at least two trips there to visit Rudy and rubbed it in my face each time. Well now, it was my turn…suck it, Speedy!

Rudy: Speedy and I had explored some Lockhart and also some of the better places within Austin, so I decided to take you north and to the Granddaddy of Central Texas Barbecue. Louie Mueller is always ranked as one of the best places in the state (#5 in the latest Texas Monthly Top 50) and has been the inspiration for all of the other best barbecue places throughout the state. It’s one of my favorites, so I figured it was a no-brainer destination.  It is 45 minutes outside of Austin, but when you consider there usually is not much of a line, the time to drive there and back is still shorter than the wait at some of the elite places within Austin.

Monk: Louie Mueller is just the type of joint you don’t often see in North Carolina. The open kitchen smoker has built up a layer of soot on the walls over the past 59 or so years at the current location, which is housed in an old gymnasium. The walls are lined with neon beer lights even though they don’t serve alcohol (but don’t frown if you bring in a cooler of beer). And the air is filled with the smell of smoked wood.

In a way, the one NC joint that it does remind me of is Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville which is much younger (by about 55 years) but itself is in an old skating rink with the smoker sitting in the open kitchen with little separation from the dining room.

Rudy: Louie Mueller’s is best known for their beef ribs. While I usually shy away from these because of the cost and the amount of meat, I couldn’t resist. And I’m super glad that I couldn’t because it was the best thing that I had that day. My rib was an end rib, so 3 of 4 sides was covered in pepper and had a great crust. There was a good amount of fat on the rib (not too much) that was perfectly rendered and provided the rich moistness to compliment the crunch of the outside crust.

Monk: I had a taste of Rudy’s rib and while I am definitely a newbie when it comes to beef ribs, it was darn good.

To say I was expecting great things from Louie Mueller’s brisket would be an understatement. I got a mixture of moist and lean so I could try each out and while the peppery bark was exactly as I was hoping the brisket was a little…dry? Could this really be? Rudy and I watched the guy pull out a new brisket and slice it in front of us. This was definitely not expected.

Rudy: I agree, the brisket was at best, average. I ordered the fatty cut and it was as dry as you might expect a piece of lean. I have eaten here two other times and each time been blown away by the brisket, so to say I was underwhelmed and a bit disappointed is also an understatement. I am hoping that this was an anomaly and not a sign that they’ve lost their fast ball. I also got the jalapeno sausage (which has also been a staple of my orders here) and it was just as good as it has been in the past. Great snap to the case and great flavor without too much heat. So maybe the brisket today was just off.

Monk: I agree that the sausage was a highlight and had just the right amount of heat. I also got a single pork rib since Mrs. Monk is not a rib gal – technically I ordered a ¼ lb but that’s just the one rib. It had good flavor but to be honest was a little overdone. The meat slipped right off the bone after the first bite.

Now, I feel like I should address my choice of drink (besides the Shiner we brought in). Rudy is on record multiple times in stating that he is no fan of Big Red, which he considers to be a poor substitute for the Cheerwine we grew up on in the Piedmont of NC. Having my first taste of Big Red here at Louie Mueller, I have to say that I…completely agree. It’s way too sweet and I finished it only out of obligation. Give me Cheerwine any day of the week over Big Red.

Rudy: Give me anything other than Big Red any day of the week! I was hoping that the Big Red was going to be the only disappointing thing of this trip. Unfortunately the brisket did not live up to the hype or the drive. It’s still one of my favorite places because of the atmosphere and history, but I’m not sure I’ll be going out of my way too often, or at least will temper expectations in the future.

Monk: Listen, I’m definitely not mad that Rudy drove us to Louie Mueller Barbecue 45 minutes away in Taylor. It’s a classic Texas joint that I’m glad to have crossed off my list. I may have caught them on an off day but no doubts that they are legit. If I ever make it back, I’m sure they will prove that to be true.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Beef Rib – 4.5 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Louie Mueller Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Q – Houston, TX

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Name
: Q
Date: 4/6/18
Address: Terminal E International Departures (Upper Level), Houston, TX 77032
Order: Smoked Sausage and Brisket combo with coleslaw (link to menu)
Price: $17

MonkIdeally, my first taste of barbecue on a Texas trip wouldn’t be airport barbecue. But the newish Q, a Texas BBQ Smokehouse collaboration with famed Houston pitmaster Greg Gatlin, is far more authentic than your average airport barbecue restaurant. Instead of smoking offsite and trucking it in daily, they have two onsite Oyler smokers with a fancy ventilation system that they are able to keep going 24 hours a day.

Now, I know what you might be thinking – did Monk route his flight to Austin through Houston just for barbecue? While I appreciate that you might have thought that, it wasn’t so pre-planned as that. While Mrs. Monk’s flight was paid for by her job (the impetus for this trip), I went a cheaper route which included a layover and it just so happened to have a stop in Houston. I honestly didn’t realize what was where I was passing through until the morning of my flight, but luckily my 2 ½ layover would allow me plenty of time to check it out once I got to Houston.

If you are not ordering your ‘cue to take back to your gate or onto your plane to taunt your fellow travelers, there is both bar seating and some high top tables around the backside of the to-go counter and kitchen. This being a fancy OTG restaurant, I ordered via iPad at the bar and the food was brought out shortly after.

And my first taste of brisket in Texas in nearly 6 years at an airport joint was…not actually bad at all! The smaller brisket slices (the two meats totaled ½ lb total) had the peppery bark I would expect and was not the least bit dried out. Guess they have started to get the hang of those Oylers.

The all beef sausage passed muster as well, and had a nice little kick to it due to jalapeños. I’m sure there are better sausages out there, but this wasn’t half bad at all. In trying to keep it light, I opted for just one side and ordered the coleslaw which was standard.

When passing through Houston, you could do a lot worse than finding yourself at Q near gate 2 at Terminal E (just follow your nose to smell of smoke). Despite my first barbecue meal of this trip being in an airport, my Texas trip was off to a good start.

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