The Smoke Daddy – Chicago, IL

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Name: The Smoke Daddy
Date: 6/17/17
Address: 1804 W Division St., Chicago, IL
Order: Taste of the Daddy – baby back ribs, burnt ends, pulled pork, fries, collards (link to menu)
Price: $25

Speedy: By now, most of my friends are aware of this little barbecue adventure I’m on with Monk and Rudy, and so they have a tendency to suggest ‘cue when I come to visit. This has turned out really well in some cases, terrible in others (I’m looking at you, Boomsauce). Let’s see how the Smoke Daddy stacks up.

Monk: With a name like Smoke Daddy….well, I actually don’t know what to expect. I do know that that I am definitively not a fan of that name, though. Speaking of Boomsauce, Smoke Daddy does sound like somewhere he’d take us. A place where they’d have crappy t-shirts with bad graphics and not-clever innuendo all over it.

Speedy: First off, I want to say a big thanks to my (non-barbecue) bro Berg for letting me put in the full order. He really knows when to let the pros step in. The ribs were part of the deal, and pork was a given. I tacked on burnt ends because I don’t get them too often. Add on fries and collards and we were set.

The food came out looking great, but there was a lot of sauce on everything. I get this on ribs and burnt ends, but I prefer for pork to not be overly sauced. The meat was nice and tender, though, and pulled into decent sized chunks with a nice bark. I would rate the pork as decent to good, but not anything better than that.

The burnt ends were similar. While I expect these to be sauced coming out, I still want the meat to do most of the talking. That wasn’t really the case here, as the sauce was the star. Still enjoyable, and cooked well, but I wanted a little more.

The ribs were my favorite meat. Even though they were baby backs, they were nice and meaty. They were cooked to a nice tenderness without falling off the bone. I got a nice pork flavor, which this time mixed well with the sauce.

Monk: Any idea what kind of smoker they are working with here?

Speedy: No, but I have to assume it was a gasser, just based on the space the occupied. Not sure where they’d fit a stick burner in a crowded Chicago neighborhood.

Overall, the Smoke Daddy puts out a nice product. I think they purposefully feature the sauce in all of their dishes, which I think is a bit of a shame, as I think they do a good job with their smoke. So if you find yourself in Chicago with a hankerin’ for ‘cue, you could do worse than the Smoke Daddy

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – Not rated (outdoor patio was nice, but I never went inside)
Pork – 3 hogs
Burnt Ends – 3 hog
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs
Smoke Daddy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Swig & Swine – Summerville, SC

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Name
: Swig & Swine
Date: 5/27/17
Address: 1990 Old Trolley Rd, Summerville, SC 29485
Order: 3 meat plate (pulled pork, brisket, and sausage) with hash & rice, collards, and mac & cheese (link to menu)
Price: $24 (for two)

Monk: I have a confession, dear readers, and not one that I like to readily admit: sometimes I do get sick of barbecue. It doesn’t happen often but it usually happens after I’ve had a particularly bad meal. After having 4 meals in 6 days on the Monk family vacation I was actually completely fine with hitting something quick on the road back to Charlotte so we could just get back to real life. The last meal at Smoke BBQ had broken my enthusiasm for the week, it would appear.

However, in an unexpected twist, Mrs. Monk had looked up reviews of Swig & Swine’s Summerville location and insisted that we stick to our original plan. Her enthusiasm helped push me and on we headed about 35 minutes from Mount Pleasant to Summerville, SC. Sometimes the missus really does just get me.

This Swig & Swine, unlike the West Ashley location that Speedy previously visited, has enough room to smoke whole hogs and that was the main draw for me. Besides that, they do go the “international house of barbecue” route with a little bit of everything in terms of smoked meats.

The pulled pork single-handedly restored my faith in barbecue after the disaster of a meal the day before. The lighter meat was pulled into long strands and dare I say, might I have enjoyed it a bit more than Rodney Scott’s BBQ? Perhaps so.

The brisket had well-rendered fat and a nice tug to it. While the whole hog was the main draw, I would just as soon as go back for the brisket.

The housemade sausage was another solid entry and at this point in the meal, Swig & Swine was running laps around my previous meal at Smoke BBQ. In Speedy’s review of the West Ashley location, sausage was by far his favorite part of the meal and I found it to be really juicy with a nice snap to the casing.

My hash & rice fascination continued at Swig & Swine and I realize should take better notes when it comes to hash, because the subtle differences are probably lost on me. Still, that plus the collards and mac & cheese really brought it.

Swig & Swine capped my trip off nicely with a great meal of barbecue. This was the fifth and last barbecue meal in seven days of vacation to and from Charleston – almost certainly the most amount of barbecue I’ve eaten out in a week-long stretch. There was only one real dud, and overall most of my other experiences were really positive. But after this trip, I’m not ashamed to admit that barbecue and I decided to take a little bit of a break from each other for a week or two – and a welcome one at that.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hog
Sausage  – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Smoke BBQ – Mount Pleasant, SC

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Name
: Smoke BBQ
Date: 5/26/17
Address: 713 Coleman Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
Order: The Tommy B. Monster Sampler Platter (pork, pastrami brisket, “Charleston brisket”, chicken) plus “perfect rib” and a beer (link to menu)
Price: $35

Monk: I hadn’t planned to visit a fifth barbecue spot during our vacation week but when I saw how close Smoke BBQ was to our Airbnb in Mount Pleasant I couldn’t resist sneaking away one afternoon to check it out. Unfortunately it turns out I shouldn’t have wasted my time or money.

Since I was there I went for it and got the Tommy B. Monster Sampler platter which comes with 4 meats. I then added a “perfect rib” to round it all out. When my platter of meats was delivered each meat was sitting in a pool of grease and appeared to have been reheated. Fresh off the smoker these definitely were not. I won’t bother to go through each meat individually – but I will say that after a bite or two of each one I decided to move on, finding each to be as equally bad as the previous.

The “smoke style slaw” is their take on coleslaw and comes with green apples and candied pecans topped on red cabbage and carrots. I didn’t find it to be a successful barbecue side. The baked macaroni and cheese was the best food part of the meal and was the only real edible item for me.

There was very little that was redeeming about my meal from Smoke BBQ and I ended up tossing most of the takeout container in the trash once I got home. At least I got to enjoy a beer on their nice covered patio. So there’s that.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 1 hog
Brisket – 1 hog
Pastrami – 1 hog
Rib – 1 hog
Chicken – 1 hog
Sides – 1.5 hogs
Overall – 1 hog

Rodney Scott’s BBQ – Charleston, SC

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Name
: Rodney Scott’s BBQ
Date: 5/24/17
Address: 1011 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
Order: Whole hog plate with hush puppies and coleslaw (link to menu)
Price: $13.50

Monk: Coming into my vacation week in the Charleston area, I was just as excited for Rodney Scott’s BBQ as I was for Lewis Barbecue. I was fortunate enough to have visited Scott’s Bar-B-Que in tiny Hemingway, SC (pop. 573) a few years back taking the long way from Charleston back to NC. First trying Scott’s whole hog at a plastic table in that tiny convenience store was one of the top five or so best barbecue experiences in my life.

Thankfully, Rodney Scott has made it little more convenient to try his barbecue for those who can’t make the trek to Hemingway by opening up a store in Charleston earlier this year, adding to the city’s already booming barbecue scene.

Remembering that styrofoam tray back at Scott’s, I focused on the pork plate as I stepped up to the counter to order. In hindsight maybe I should have tried the ribs as well, but there’s always next time. In terms of setup, Rodney Scott’s is fast casual and covered in the same soothing light blue as the original which reminds me of a classic diner. It has booths on either side of the small-ish dining area with a raised community table at the center of the restaurant.

I’ll start by saying that the whole hog was very good. Still, I don’t think it quite lived up to how I remembered it from the original store. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare it to a memory of one of my favorite barbecue bites, but in any case it didn’t quite measure up. Both were tender and I favored the spicy table sauce in each instance. One difference between the two stores though: whereas the original has coarsely pulled strands of pork the Charleston location was coarsely chopped. But, like I said, it was still very good.

Keeping it traditional, I got hush puppies and white slaw on the side. The hush puppies in particular were very good, served with honey butter which I always like to see.

Like Lewis Barbecue, Rodney Scott’s BBQ falls victim to the Charleston effect when it comes to prices. A plate with two sides will run you almost $14 and that’s before a drink or beer. Some may quibble whether that’s worth it, but for whole hog of that quality in a town filled with tourists, that’s about what I’d expect.

For me, the whole hog of Rodney Scott’s BBQ doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original Hemingway location but there’s still a lot to like about the Charleston location.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

City Barbeque – Charlotte, NC

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Name: City Barbeque
Date: 5/6/17
Address: 11212 Providence Rd W, Charlotte, NC 28277
Order: Judge’s Sampler (pulled pork, brisket, 1/2 slab ribs, and 1/4 chicken) with mac and cheese, collard greens, hush puppies, and two beers (link to menu)
Price: $12 (the $26.99 judges platter was covered but did not affect my review in any way)

Monk: City Barbeque is an Ohio-based chain that in the past 2 years has begun to make inroads into NC and even more recently, Charlotte. The Ballantyne location was the first in the area to open in 2016, and since then a Matthews location has opened with a University location on the way later this year. Speedy had previously checked out the Cary location a few years back and came away fairly impressed, so I knew to expect a fast casual set up with decent barbecue from a gas-assisted wood smoker and scratch made sides. 

For the first Charlotte location, I was invited to check it out and provided a gift card for a free Judge’s Sampler which allowed me to check out 4 of the meats. Mrs. Monk and I got an extra side of hush puppies and a couple of beers on top of it, plus a kids meal for the Monk-ette. All in all, the amount of food we got ended up providing more than enough for 3 total adult meals, so the portion sizes are nice.

The pork and brisket were in small portions next to each other on the tray and were so hard to distinguish between each other that at first glance to the point where I wasn’t sure that we had gotten any brisket at all (we were initially missing our order of hush puppies so it wasn’t too far fetched). Though I will say the folks at City Barbeque were nice enough to provide us extra brisket even though clearly it was a mistake on our end. As for the meat, both were decently smokey. The pork was moist and was nicely accentuated by the spicy vinegar sauce on the table. The brisket was haphazardly sliced and came across as chopped in texture – which led to our mistake in the first place – but was tasty nonetheless.

I found the half slab of ribs to be the best meat of the meal. The heavily-applied rub created a dark, flavorful bark on the ribs and the meat pulled away from the bone nicely. I would go for these ribs here again for sure.

Chicken is not a smoked meat I normally go for (and I didn’t think to substitute it out on this visit) but I will say that it was pretty good. You could do a lot worse if that is the meat you prefer at a barbecue restaurant.

Mrs. Monk was disappointed that the mac and cheese was not baked (she’s a bit of a snob that way) and while I didn’t mind that fact as much as she did, I could see her point. The collards had plenty of pulled pork and were pretty good. The corn bread and Texas toast that came with the sampler were actually quite good but the hush puppies were the best sides we had. Needless to say, we were fine on carbs for the rest of the day (and weekend for that matter).

When it opens, the University location will be pretty convenient to my work and I wouldn’t have to be convinced too hard to go there for lunch. In terms of chains I’ve had, City Barbeque are on par with Jim ‘N Nick’s and way above Moe’s Bar-B-Que.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Chicken – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Dan Good Que (food truck) – Charlotte, NC

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Name
: Dan Good Que
Date: 4/21/17
Order: Pulled pork barbecue plate with coleslaw and baked beans (link to menu)
Price: $9.50

Monk: When we started this blog almost 5 years ago, the original intent for me and Speedy (when he was still living in town) was to find the best barbecue in Charlotte once we realized we were each too much of a barbecue snob to depend on suggestions from Yelp. In the time since, I’ve had some very good barbecue in Charlotte and I’ve had some that is not so good – all in the name of being as exhaustive and thorough as possible.

I do try to be as positive as possible when reviewing barbecue, focusing on other more positive aspects to the experience (plus, Speedy is better at being snarky than I am). Our friend Grant at Marie, Let’s Eat! is a really good example of focusing on the positive, but then again his posts aren’t reviews as much as they are chapters within a larger, ever-continuing story.

Dan Good Que is a new-ish food truck that’s begun popping up in Charlotte and I tried it at the same weekly food truck festival where I tried Rocky Top BBQ Company a few weeks earlier. I may have been a bit harsh on Rocky Top and in the spirit of continuous improvement, let me simply say that I was disappointed in the lack of smoke in the chopped pork on this day from Dan Good Que. The cole slaw and baked beans were middling and while this may seem a little bit of a backhanded compliment, I imagine mixing all 3 would have created a perfectly acceptable barbecue sundae.

I am open to giving Dan Good Que another try at a later date but will be sure to give them enough time to work out the kinks. Here’s hoping they do.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – N/A
Pork – 1 hog
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 1.5 hogs

Das BBQ – Atlanta, GA

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Name: Das BBQ
Date: 4/1/17
Address: 1203 Collier Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: Triple meat plate (pulled pork, brisket, and sausage) with mac and cheese and collard greens (link to menu)
Price: $22

Monk: Much to my surprise, the Monks made another barbecue stop on our Atlanta trip on the stipulation that it had to have sausage on the menu for Mrs. Monk. In my research ahead of the trip, I had come across Das BBQ on an Eater list of Best New Atlanta Restaurants and being that it’s a Texas-style smokehouse, it most definitely would have sausage.

Das BBQ has been open for only about 3 months in a former Pizza Hut (side note: I’ve had a pet theory that some of the best restaurants are housed in former Pizza Huts; there are several good examples in Charlotte alone). They’ve added a pit room to the side of the old structure and gussied it up real nice, to the point where my Pizza Hut-dar did not detect what we were in. That pit room was actually open to visitors who are encouraged to walk in, talk to the pitmaster, and observe him at work. Kind of a cool concept that may be more commonplace in Texas but less rarely seen in the southeast.

In that open pit room are housed two offset smokers that were supposedly made to the specs of those found at Franklin Barbecue. But instead of the post oak they use in Texas, Das uses a mixture of hickory and pecan wood that are more appropriate to Georgia. Meats are smoked in those smokers for about 5 hours before finishing in a Southern Pride Rotisserie, allowing for a certain amount of automation (if not what some might consider a shortcut).

I ordered the triple meat plate of pulled pork, brisket, and sausage. I’ll start with the sausage, the meat which allowed me to try the joint in the first place. Das BBQ imports two types of beef links from Meyer’s Smokehouse in Elgin, Texas – spicy and mild. We tried the spicy and it had a nice peppery kick. The case had a good snap and it was a well-smoked sausage. We tried the table side peach mustard sauce and it was a nice fusion of Texas-meets-Georgia.

The brisket was another winner, and did a solid job of replicating the Central Texas peppery bark. The fat was well-rendered and none of the bites were overly dry. Pretty good results for a joint in its first couple months of being open.

Instead of going full Texas Trinity, I opted for pulled pork. In addition to the peach mustard sauce, each table also has a thicker ketchup-based sauce. As was the case with the other meats, it was well smoked but a little sauce of your preference wouldn’t hurt.

Mrs. Monk preferred the collards here to the ones we had the day before at B’s, while the mac and cheese shells were standard. They were out of slaw on this particular day. Continuing with the Texas theme, I also ordered a Shiner which is available for the value price of $3.

While some may quibble with the method of finishing in a gas smoker, the end product at Das BBQ is of above average quality across the board. Combine that with the good prices and the open pit room and Atlanta has a nice addition to their barbecue scene.

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

Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que – Atlanta, GA (Speedy’s take) 

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Name
: Heirloom Market BBQ
Date: 6/14/17
Address: 2243 Akers Mill Rd., Atlanta, GA 30339
Order: Spicy Korean pork, brisket, collards, fries (link to menu)
Price: $16

Speedy: I sent Monk a simple text on Friday evening. It just said, “Wow wow wow. Heirloom market.”

Monk: It’s true; I can confirm this happened. I wondered why it took so long but was glad Speedy finally made it out there before moving.

Speedy: I have lived in Atlanta for almost a year before checking out Heirloom Market. In my defense, I have to get on 285 (aka the busiest road in America) to get there, but shame on me. This place is incredible.

Heirloom Market doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s connected to a convenience store, is tiny inside, and just has an outside patio with a half dozen tall tables (and no chairs) if you want to dine-in. However, it has a great reputation, which is well deserved.

Monk: Indeed. A few years back when I was coming into Atlanta, Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat! urged me to go here instead of, say, Fox Bros if I was only picking one joint in Atlanta that weekend. And I was so glad I did, especially years later when I finally tried Fox Bros (which was fine). But Heirloom Market is special.

Speedy: I ordered the combo plate, eschewing the traditional pulled pork for the spicy Korean pork, along with the brisket. The pork is served chunked with a spicy sauce and some kimchi (I think) mixed in. Let me tell you, dear reader, it’s absolutely incredible. The pork is smoked perfectly and the sauce adds just the right amount of spice, along with incredible flavor. In addition to my love of barbecue, I’m a huge fan of all Asian food, so this meat was right up my alley. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Monk: My first taste of that spicy, Korean-influenced pork was one of the best bites of barbecue I’ve ever had – definitely top 5.

Speedy: The brisket is also fantastic. It was the right combination of lean and fatty, had lots of bark, and was not dried out at all. The bark was nice and peppery, and no sauce was needed. This was in the upper echelon of briskets that I’ve enjoyed.

Monk: While not Korean-influenced, I agree that Heirloom Market’s is just a damn good brisket.

Speedy: The collards were great – definitely cooked in some sort of meat stock (I’d guess chicken, but not positive) – giving a nice flavor. And the seasoned fries were also excellent.

My meal was too big for one person – I got a second full meal the next day. All this stuff even tasted great re-heated.

Overall, this meal at Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que was perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. The only thing I regret is not getting there sooner.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Spicy Korean Pork – 5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Heirloom Market BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Heirloom Market BBQ

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – Atlanta, GA (Monk’s take)

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Name: B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque
Date: 3/31/17
Address: 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: Two meat plate (brisket and pulled pork) with hash and rice, collard greens, and cracklin’ cornbread (link to menu)
Price: $18

Monk: In the past few months, Speedy has checked out B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque in Atlanta twice and rubbed it in my face each time. Finally, I got sick enough of it and packed the Monk family in the car and made the 4 hour trip down to Atlanta just to shut Speedy up. Actually…the Monk clan just happened to be spending a long weekend in Atlanta so I arranged a lunch stop but that’s neither here nor there. And to be fair he wasn’t really rubbing it in my face per se, but it was at least a light brag that got under my skin.

Speedy: No. It was a face rub. Cause this place is awesome.

Monk: Guess my first instincts were right then….

Sitting 15 minutes west of downtown Atlanta in the Riverside neighborhood, B’s sits in an old house that used to be another barbecue joint named Hottie Hawg’s. Neither Speedy nor I have checked that place out but at B’s, you order at the bar and they bring it out to you. Speaking of bar, they do have a couple of solid beers on tap including local favorite Creature Comforts Tropicalia IPA, in which both Mrs. Monk and I both indulged. There is a decent sized patio and we tried to sit out on it but found that it was just a little too chilly in the shade on this particular late March day.

The whole hog pork at B’s is smoked from heritage hogs and was definitely the star of the show. It was served in coarsely pulled strands reminiscent of Scott’s Bar-B-Cue and was just downright excellent. Unlike Speedy’s visit, mine wasn’t on the dry side and each strand had a nice silky texture. I tried both the spicy vinegar and peach mustard sauces and while neither was essential, both complemented the pork well. Speaking of the pork, on our way out to the car, I even caught a worker carting a half of one of those heritage hogs from their annex to the main building, so I took the opportunity to snap a few photos.

Speedy: I’m surprised you don’t have more to say about the peach mustard sauce. I thought it was excellent and unlike anything I’ve had before. I’m generally against mustard sauce on pork (it belongs on sausage), but this stuff is legit.

Monk: I only used it sparingly but did think it was good. I guess I’m surprised at just how enthusiastic you are about it. 

While not quite on the level of the pork, the brisket had excellent bark and a nice tug to it. On this day, it was slightly on the dry side perhaps due to sitting under a warming lamp for too long. Still, these were darn good slices of brisket.

The side of hash and rice was excellent. If you recall, in Speedy’s review of B’s last December, Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat! went for a double side of hash and rice and after tasting, I completely understand why. This stuff was just plain great and certainly in the upper rankings of barbecue hash I’ve tried in my life. The collards were good but had a different taste than your usual vinegary greens due to the addition of a heavy dose of minced garlic. Pretty good, but I don’t know if I’d go for them again here.

Being that it’s the only bonafide whole hog joint in town and that they also smoke a mean brisket, if you are in Atlanta I urge you to make the trip to the westside and check out B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque. You won’t be disappointed.

For more reviews of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque, check out:
Speedy’s take
Marie, Let’s Eat

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs
B's Cracklin Barbecue  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
B's Cracklin Barbeque

Rocky Top BBQ Co (food truck) – Charlotte, NC

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Name
: Rocky Top BBQ Company
Date: 3/24/17
Order: Pulled pork and brisket plate with bacon jalapeno mac n cheese and rocky top slaw
Price: $11

MonkSince the last time I tried Rocky Top BBQ Co at the 2014 Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship they’ve started a food truck and have been making the rounds at the usual food truck rallies around Charlotte. The Monk clan and I checked out the new family-friendly Cotswold Food Truck Rally on a recent Friday night which afforded a good opportunity to check out the truck to see how it compared to the sandwich I had in a festival environment last time around.

Rocky Top graciously allowed me to get a plate of both brisket and pork, which wasn’t on the menu. The pulled pork was moist and somewhat smokey but nothing spectacular. Rocky Top BBQ Company has their own line of sauce that is sweet and vinegar-based, and it works pretty well with the pork.

As for the brisket, it was rather disappointing. In my two slices, the fat was not rendered all the way and outside of the first bite the rest were tough and unpleasant.

The lady taking my order said they were “kind of known for” their bacon jalapeno mac n cheese, and to her credit it was the best part of the meal. The mayo-based slaw was just fine but nothing more than that.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with Rocky Top BBQ Company on this night.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – N/A
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs