Monk’s Favorite Barbecue of 2021

Monk: While my hunch is that I had roughly as much barbecue as last year, I suspect the ratio of mediocre barbecue to great barbecue was higher than in past years. There’s always highlights to pick out, but let’s hope next year is a more favorable ratio.

In alphabetical order:

Jon G’s remains the gold standard for the Charlotte area. And it seems that the rest of the southeast is starting to catch on with Eater Carolinas naming them “Barbecue Restaurant of the Year” and Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn raving about them in an article from mid 2021. The future for Garren and Kelly remain bright.

Chopped pork sandwich from Noble Smoke – Charlotte, NC

Some of the meats at Noble Smoke can be a little hit or miss for me, but the Lexington-style chopped barbecue sandwich is ever reliable.

Speedy has said he often thinks the ribs at Peg Leg Porker are the best in the state of Tennessee, and who am I to argue? The full wings are also a must-order.

Randy’s ribs are a sub-regional variety with a sauce that I understand is found primarily in the Savannah area. It expanded my framework as to what barbecue is in different parts of the US.

Life-changing whole hog. So far I’ve only made it to Sam Jones’ outpost in Raleigh but I can’t wait to try this same tray at Skylight Inn this spring.

Sausage, wings, hash and rice, ribs, brisket, and turkey from Sweet Lew’s BBQ – Charlotte, NC (link to post)

Between the house-made sausage, the barbecue hash, and Lewis Donald’s ever-constant tweaking of his main meats, Sweet Lew’s continues to evolve, and I’m here for the the journey.

It’s a shame that Whispering Pines was takeout only but I’ll make the hour drive to Albemarle again I’m sure. Great Lexington-style barbecue.

Sam Jones BBQ – Raleigh, NC

Name: Sam Jones BBQ
Date: 10/16/21
Address: 502 W Lenoir St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Order: Jones Family Original BBQ Tray (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: Long time readers know that Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC has been on my to-do list for years and sadly it still remains on my to-do list in 2021. Regardless of the fact that I am not in that part of NC pretty much ever, I’ve thankfully been able to try the Jones family barbecue a couple of times in Charlotte over the years. The first time was at Midwood Smokehouse in 2013 when Sam Jones smoked a hog for a Midwood Smokehouse Sunday Supper even that also included an airing of the SFA documentary on Skylight Inn. The second time was at Free Range Brewing Pig Picking in 2017 that doubled as a viewing party for his Order/Fire documentary. Both times, the whole hog was life changing.

Since then, Sam Jones opened his first namesake restaurant in Winterville before opening a second location in Raleigh late last year. It was to be part of Raleigh’s supposed barbecue boom that was short-circuited by the pandemic. Thankfully Sam Jones BBQ persevered along with Prime Barbecue, Longleaf Swine, and Lawrence Barbecue.

After visiting the NC State campus with Lady Monk and the Monkettes, we made the short trip downtown to Lenoir Street. Though the lot for the restaurant is not very big, we found street parking right in front of the restaurant fairly easily. We waited in a short line and ordered at the front and not before too long a Jones Family Original BBQ Tray was placed in front of me.

Which I quickly turned into this to mimic what they do at Skylight Inn:

By now, everyone knows about the legendary whole hog with crispy bits of skin chopped in the way that the Jones family does it. The pork at Sam Jones BBQ in Raleigh lives up to that standard, although the skin could have been just a tad crispier. Just a minor nitpick in otherwise flawless whole hog barbecue.

Going in, I had wondered most about the corn bread. Theirs is a denser, non-sweet version that likely won’t ever be my favorite version of cornmeal served with barbecue. However, I can respect that its serving a different purpose than the sweeter corn meal in the hush puppies I’m used to in the Piedmont.

The mayo-based coleslaw was sweet and paired nicely with the cue and some Texas Pete.

It’s looking like 2022 will be the year I am able to finally make my pilgrimage to Ayden and I’ll likely stop by the original Sam Jones BBQ in nearby Winterville as well. Sam Jones BBQ’s outpost in Raleigh only made me anticipate that upcoming trip even more.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Williamson’s Bar-B-Que & Seafood – Chadbourn, NC

Name: Williamson’s Bar-B-Que & Seafood
Date: 9/26/21
Address: 1011 N Brown St, Chadbourn, NC 28431
Order: From the buffet: pork, hush puppies, cole slaw, mac and cheese, banana pudding (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: Heading back from the beach on a Sunday, there’s usually just a few options for barbecue. Williamson’s Bar-B-Que & Seafood in Chadbourn is one of them, and a buffet at that. A barbecue buffet (usually including seafood) is a phenomenon I’ve encountered almost exclusively in the sandhills of eastern North Carolina, and I’ve previously checked out Fuller’s in Lumberton (now closed) and Pembroke.

Williamson’s is a small roadside shack off state road 410 near Highway 76 in Chadbourn that has both a dining room and a drive through. If you are dining in, you pay for you buffet at the cash register before grabbing your plate and going through the buffet line with options ranging from barbecue to various fried fish options.

I stuck with typical barbecue fare with their eastern style pork, cole slaw, mac and cheese, and hush puppies. Nothing wowed me but all were solid except for the hush puppies, which were fantastic.

I went back to the dessert bar before I left and grabbed some of their amazing banana pudding, the highlight of the meal.

Williamson’s Bar-B-Que & Seafood does a passable version of eastern NC barbecue but much like Joe’s Old Fashioned Barbecue from earlier on my trip, it was all tang and no smoke.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

Joe’s Old Fashioned Barbecue – Whiteville, NC

Name: Joe’s Old Fashioned Barbecue
Date: 9/24/21
Address: 500 Green Hill Dr, Whiteville, NC 28472
Order: Small barbecue plate (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: I’ve been fortunate to spend a decent amount of time at Ocean Isle Beach, NC over the years. Coming from Charlotte, I’ve probably passed Joe’s Old Fashioned Barbecue in Whiteville (about an hour away from OIB) dozens of times without stopping. That’s in part because from Highway 701 there’s just a sign, as the restaurant itself is tucked away from the road behind a Lowe’s Home Improvement.

On my latest trip to OIB, I decided to finally make the stop at Joe’s Old Fashioned Barbecue. Or is it Joe’s Barbecue Kitchen? Or just plain Joe’s Barbecue as the restaurant sign says? The restaurant seems to go by a few different names, however on their website they state that “Joe’s Barbecue has been family-owned since it was established in 1964…Currently owned and managed by third generation family, Terri Edmund and Carol Ward.” At the time, I did not realize how long this establishment had actually been open.

Nevertheless, I stopped in for a quick lunch, which ended up being the small barbecue plate, curiously referred to as “Ladies’ Size.” C’mon guess, let’s get with the times. Sometimes a fella doesn’t wants to exercise portion control and didn’t want to gorge himself. No need to assign a lack of masculinity there.

Regardless, everything was solid but unspectacular; perfectly acceptable for a Friday lunch with co-workers as seemed to be the case for roughly half of the tables that day. The eastern-style barbecue had the vinegar tang you look for, although it wasn’t overly smoky since they apparently smoke with a gasser with wood added. Mixing it with the cole slaw and some table sauce made for quite the nice bite. And the hush puppies were fresh and delicious and my favorite part of the meal.

I was in and out of Joe’s Old Fashioned Barbecue in a matter of 15-20 minutes, which is exactly what I was looking for on this trip. While I wouldn’t suggest anyone go out of their way for it, should I find myself in a similar situation next time I’m headed to the Brunswick Islands of NC, I just may stop back in.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs