Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que – Kansas City, KS (mail order)

Name: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Order: Ribs, Brisket, Burnt Ends Combo (1 slab pork spare ribs, sliced brisket – 1 pound, chopped burnt ends – 1 pound, 1 bottle of barbecue sauce)

Speedy: After a successful mail order from Black’s Barbecue, and considering I was still sheltering in place, it seemed like a good idea to order some more ‘cue. After some serious Googling, I decided on Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. Like Black’s, the order came super quick, and packed very well, and took several sittings to eat. The meat came with a detailed instruction book that recommended warming the brisket and burnt ends in boiling water, while using the oven for the ribs. I went first with the brisket, which came pre-sliced in pretty thin slices.

After warming the package in boiling water (as directed, while still in the packaging), I cut open the package and got a good smell of smokey ‘cue. I tasted first without the sauce, and it was just OK for me. With such thin slices, there was no bark, and it missed that peppery seasoning. While the taste was good, it felt like more high-end deli roast beef, as the thin slices made it seem like it was made for sandwiches, and not sliced thickly as proper brisket should be. Everyone knows that bark can make or break a brisket, and without it, the brisket was lacking. Adding the sauce helped with the flavor, but having to do that tells you all you need to know. 

Monk: From my experience at the Kansas City-style barbecue at John Brown Smokehouse with native Kansas Citizen (City-an? City-ite?) Sean Ludwig of NYC BBQ and The Smoke Sheet, his guidance (for at least that place) was to stay away from the thinly-sliced brisket and go for the burnt ends if you wanted brisket. Guess the whole thinly-sliced deal for brisket is kind of a Kansas City thing based on this admittedly small sample size.

Speedy: I had a similar experience with the ribs, finding them underseasoned. These were warmed in the oven, which gave me the opportunity to add seasoning myself, I ended up not doing that, which was a mistake. While cooked well and tender, I just wanted more flavor. Overall, I didn’t find these to be any better than store bought pre-cooked ribs.

This leaves us with the Kansas City staple – burnt ends. Going in, I was most excited for the burnt ends, a meat I don’t often get a chance to eat. Reheating the burnt ends in boiling water worked well, leading to piping hot meat, which was tender, but also lacked the bold flavor I was hoping for. The sauce complimented the burnt ends very nicely, but in the end, I still found them to just be average. By no means am I a connoisseur of burnt ends, but I certainly expected more. 

Monk: I was going to order the same package from Joe’s KC but a week after Speedy since I already had ordered bulk barbecue from Jon G’s Barbecue for pick up here in Charlotte for the weekend. However, after his experience Speedy went ahead and let me know that I could probably skip them and spend my money elsewhere. Which is a shame because I too was looking forward to the burnt ends. In any case, thanks for the heads up, bro.

Speedy: At the end of the day, my second experiment with mail order ‘cue didn’t go off quite so well. I just felt there was an overall lack of seasoning, leading to a bland product. I’d be interested in visiting Joe’s KC Bar-Be-Que in person, but I won’t order from them again.

Ratings:
Experience – 2 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 3 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Black’s Barbecue – Lockhart, TX (mail order)

Name: Black’s Barbecue
Order: Black’s Sampler (2 lbs lean brisket, 2 lbs ribs, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage – Jalapeno and Cheese, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage – Garlic)
Pricing: $$

Speedy: Like most of you, Monk and I are sheltered in place (right?! right?!), so unable to visit our favorite ‘cue joints for more than takeout. But despite this, the blog must go on. What better time to try something I’ve never had before: mail order barbecue? I know many of the more famous joints (and some perhaps not so famous) offer this, and I’ve always been curious. So if I can’t make it to Texas, let’s bring Texas to Tennessee. Rudy and I had ventured to Black’s back in 2014, and loved it, so that seemed like an appropriate order. 

Monk: Though I unfortunately didn’t make it on that trip with you and Rudy, from the report it sounded great (particularly the brisket). So yes, I was in on this idea because as Chip Douglas told Steven Kovacs “necessity is the mother of invention,” Speedy.

We each placed our separate orders earlier in the week but the barbecue is not overnight shipped from Black’s in Lockhart until Wednesday. Open the styrofoam box and each meat is vacuum packed separately with dry ice that evaporates as it warms. And wow, is there ever a ton of smoked meat in that box. 

This…

…turned into all this…

Speedy: With all this meat, it took me three sittings to eat the brisket, two on the ribs, and one for each type of sausage. I started the place you should start with at any Texas joint – the brisket. Living in an 800 square foot apartment with all communal space shut down, I had no choice but to heat the brisket in an oven. So I wrapped that 2 pound brisket in foil, added some Worcestershire to retain moisture, sprinkled on a little extra pepper, and let it heat for 45 min. I was very concerned with what the product was going to taste like, given it was lean brisket (I generally prefer fatty) and reheated in an oven, but holy hell was it good.

The brisket was plenty moist and had amazing flavor and good bark. I was immediately transported to Texas and can say this was better than any brisket I’ve had in Tennessee and rivals what you get straight off the smoker most places. I could not have been happier with this. I ended up chopping leftovers for sandwiches the next day (lunch and dinner), and the brisket remained very good. Overall, a great experience.

Monk: I definitely was a little wary of lean brisket shipped frozen overnight and then reheated in an oven (I have access to my smoker but still went the oven route for ease). Worst case, I imagined it would end up dry no matter how well I reheated it and I’d have to chop it up and add sauce for chopped brisket sandwiches as Speedy did. I didn’t add anything into the foil wrap like but what came out was plenty moist and had that same peppery bark described above. I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of brisket that Black’s delivered. 

As far as the ribs, I took the same approach as the brisket and simply wrapped them in foil unadorned and they also came out solid. While I like ribs, I don’t like them as much as Speedy and also don’t have a preference between dry and wet. My first time I ate them dry and found them to be flavorful and smoky and not too dry. My second time a few days later, I added sauce and while I personally didn’t find it necessary, it worked well. All in all, I believe I ended up liking the ribs more than Speedy.

Speedy: I did the ribs in two sittings. The first one I didn’t add anything to the foil to reheat. I thought the flavor was good, but the ribs were under-seasoned. The second time, I added sauce before heating, and I thought that served the ribs much better. Even reheating, I could taste the smokiness and recognize the quality, but I think adding the sauce was necessary. 

At the time of writing, I had only tasted the garlic sausage. I thought the flavor of the sausage was really good, but I didn’t get the much desired snap from the casing. I blame this on the oven reheat, as I don’t feel sausage is made for that as opposed to the grill. But I was still happy with the sausage.

Monk: I thought each of the three sausages had good flavor, particularly the jalapeño cheddar. My major complaint about the sausage was that it was perhaps a little greasy and crumbled apart when I sliced. For me, it was my least favorite of the meats. Upon reheating in the microwave on subsequent eatings, the casing was rubbery and almost inedible. Perhaps some pan frying or grilling is in order to crisp up the skin for the remaining links. 

Speedy: Overall, I was pretty impressed with the order from Black’s. It was fairly pricey ($95 including shipping), but there was A LOT of food there – probably enough protein for 8-10 meals. I definitely prefer the experience of going to a restaurant more, but if we’re stuck in quarantine much longer, I may end up a repeat customer.

Monk: Even with the slightly different experiences in reheating between Speedy and me, I would also consider ordering from Black’s Barbecue again, even though shipping was even pricier for me in NC than it was to Speedy in Tennessee. Speaking of which, may I propose we try White Swan or Morris Barbecue or Parker’s for our next mail order review to give NC barbecue equal time? After all, it does indeed look like we’ll be in this circumstance for a bit longer.

Ratings:
Experience – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Backcountry Barbeque – Lexington, NC

Name: Backcountry Barbeque
Address: 4014 Linwood-Southmont Rd, Lexington, NC 27295
Order: Chopped barbecue tray with red slaw, hush puppies, and Cheerwine
Pricing: $

Monk: In my recent quest to get a better idea of all Lexington-area barbecue joints, I made a late-afternoon stop at Backcountry Barbeque last month on my way back to Charlotte from Knightdale for the Prime BBQ preview.

Before this quest, I had never really heard of Backcountry Barbeque but the best case scenario for a new-to-me joint is 1) they still cook over wood and 2) they’ve been quietly doing their thing and the only reason why I haven’t heard of them is because I haven’t been digging hard enough. Rick’s Smokehouse on the north side of Lexington is one recent example of that best case scenario and as it turns out Backcountry Barbeque south of the city is another. They have a giant barn full of hickory wood out back so they definitely smoke the old way and they opened in 1984, just a few years shy of four decades ago.

For me, the true test of a good Lexington barbecue joint (or any good joint, for that matter) is to never put out a bad tray of barbecue no matter the time of day. If you say you are open until 9pm (as Backcountry does) and you have barbecue on the menu, then it better be up to par at all times of the day. On this day, I stopped by in the bridge time between the late lunch crowd but before the dinner rush and the tray I got was flavorful and moist, with a noticeable smoke taste from the hickory. No reheated or overly dry barbecue here.

Not too much to say about the red slaw and hush puppies, but they were solid and did the trick. On Saturdays it appears that brisket is on special, but I didn’t have the heart or stomach to try it, for fear of ruining a good thing.

Backcountry Barbeque looks and fits the part of a classic, wood-smoked North Carolina roadside barbecue joint and it’s a wonder why more people don’t know about them. Based on my experience, they are in the upper tier of Lexington-area barbecue joints and probably don’t get the respect they rightly deserve.

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

Backcountry Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Midwood Smokehouse (Park Road) – Charlotte, NC

Name: Midwood Smokehouse
Address: 540 Brandywine Rd, Charlotte, NC 28209
Order: Beef rib with collards and creamed corn, basket of hush puppies (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: Somehow, it has been almost five years. That is, five years since we officially reviewed any location of Midwood Smokehouse, the standard bearer for Charlotte barbecue restaurants since we started the blog in 2012 and a regular go-to for the Barbecue Bros. In that time, they’ve opened two more stores: one in Huntersville north of Charlotte and the other in the back lot of the Park Road Shopping Center, which I’ve eaten at many times since opened in spring 2017 but somehow never thought (or remembered) to review. Regardless, I figured it was time to reassess Midwood Smokehouse in the current climate of Charlotte Barbecue.

If you are new to this blog or to Charlotte barbecue, you may not realize that there was a time not too long ago (way back in early 2011) where wood fired barbecue joints were nearly extinct in a town not really known for great barbecue to begin with. Then, Frank Scibelli along with Executive Chef and Pitmaster Matthew Berry opened their original Plaza Midwood location off of Central Avenue with its Oyler smoker imported from J&R Manufacturing out of Texas. I have always tried not to ding them too much for their overly Texas influence (though they do have eastern NC chopped pork and hush puppies on their menu), because the fact stands that they changed Charlotte barbecue for the better in May 2011 by reintroducing wood-smoked barbecue.

On my last visit, I went for it with the beef rib, a weekend special I had been wanting to try for a couple of years now. While it was a tad on the fatty side, it had great flavor and I liked the aggressive, peppery bark. It did come with a somewhat hefty $32 price tag, though I guess I can’t complain too much because Midwood doesn’t charge by the pound like most Texas joints. Had that been the case, this 1+ lb. rib surely would have resulted in a price tag closer to the $50 mark.

We got a basket of hush puppies for the table and they were a hit with the in-laws and the family. I’ve always been a fan of Midwood’s sides and their creamed corn and collards were solid as ever on this visit. The standard offering of pickles and onions (again, very much Texas-influced) were a nice touch to counteract the fattiness of the beef rib.

While a few places have opened in recent years that I might like just a little better (i.e. Noble Smoke and Sweet Lew’s BBQ), there’s something comforting knowing you can go to any Midwood Smokehouse location (four in the Charlotte area and one in Columbia) on any day of the week and get a consistently legit meal of wood-smoked barbecue. For that, they should be celebrated and not taken for granted.

For more on Midwood Smokehouse:
Big Wayner’s BBQ Blog
Marie, Let’s Eat!
Our review of the Central Avenue from 2012
Our review of the Central Avenue from 2014
Our review of the Ballantyne from 2015
Our review of Midwood Smokeshack (now closed)

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Beef rib – 4 hog
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Midwood Smokehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato