Barbecue Bros Book Club: Carolina ‘Cue by Our State Magazine

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Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

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Monk: Carolina ‘Cue is a collection of articles that appeared in Our State Magazine along with the full color photos that originally accompanied them. The stories move from west to east across the state as you read the book and while the heavy hitters – Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge, Lexington Barbecue, Stamey’s Barbecue, Allen & Son Barbeque, etc – get some coverage in the form of photos between articles, the articles themselves focus on some of the lesser-known joints in the state. And perhaps this makes sense, as the big guys have been covered the most both nationally and locally, so Our State is able to focus on the other places that haven’t had as much exposure.

Each article doesn’t focus on the food so much but rather the story behind the family and the building that makes the food – after all, it is subtitled “the people, places, and plates behind our favorite tradition”. No writer is featured more than twice but there is a cohesive voice and tone from article to article. At just under 100 pages, I breezed through the book in two short sittings but you could easily do it in one.

Carolina ‘Cue was compiled as of 2014 and features 27 restaurants in total (17 in articles, 10 in photos). In the table of contents it states that if you don’t see your favorite then they haven’t gotten there – yet. Here’s hoping a second version of the book can be published in another couple of years to continue the great storytelling project of the state’s favorite food.

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Smokey Joe’s Barbecue – Lexington, NC

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Name
: Smokey Joe’s Barbecue
Date: 1/15/18
Address: 1101 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Small chopped tray with hush puppies and a Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $9

Monk: Part two of my MLK Day sojourn to Lexington, Smokey Joe’s is right in downtown Lexington off South Main Street in a small brick building with a drive-thru window. This was actually my first time in downtown Lexington since most of the joints I’ve previously gone to were right off interstate 85.

In terms of menu, Smoke Joe’s was almost identical to what I had just seen at Speedy Lohr’s in terms of having not only barbecue but other southern comfort food staples in hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, chuck wagon, fried fish, etc. I’m not sure if this is just the typical menu setup for a classic Lexington joint or just a coincidence but I’ll have to pay more attention the next time I’m at a different spot.

Ordering the small tray allowed me to compare like to like with what I had just eaten at Speedy Lohr’s. The portions were nearly identical – that is, much larger than the “small” designation would indicate. In terms of pork Smokey Joe’s was smokey, tangy, and moist. I was officially two for two on the day.

As for sides, I actually preferred the slaw here since it was more vinegary and less sweet than Speedy Lohr’s. The basket of oblong-shaped hush puppies was less plentiful than the previous spot, which was welcome from me. I should note that, had I actually wanted more hush puppies it would have gladly been refilled by the friendly wait staff. This being my second meal in a matter of an hour span, I was most definitely not looking for more hush puppies.

This particular day was a good day full of really good barbecue (emphasis on “full”). Smokey Joe’s was yet another above average Lexington joint and when I am ultimately able to make a credible Lexington big list, I suspect Smokey Joe’s will be up there just a notch below my favorites.

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

Killen’s Barbecue – Pearland, TX

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Name
: Killen’s Barbecue
Date: 1/20/18
Address: 3613 E. Broadway, Pearland, TX
Order: ½ pound brisket, ½ pound burnt ends (special), 2 sausage links, 1 beef rib, mac & cheese, fried mac & cheese, onion rings, baked beans, green beans (link to menu)
Price: $90

Speedy: I was down in Houston to visit some friends lately, so of course I convinced everyone to pop over to Killen’s, which is known as one of the top joints in Houston. Killen’s is a bit outside of Houston proper, and we went on a rainy day. All this meant we were left with a short line (though it quickly grew as the weather started to clear). Walking up, I could smell the wood coals burning and got a whiff of some beef on the smoker, so I immediately knew I was somewhere serious.

Monk: Seems like you stumbled onto the perfect time to check out Killen’s, seeing as how I’ve been reading about the long lines there for years. Brilliant, Speedy. Brilliant.

Rudy: Killen’s has been on my must-eat list for a while.  I’ve heard great things about since it opened. Houston is not known for having high quality barbecue like some of the other areas of the state, so I know this place has been getting swamped with people. Since I almost never get down to Houston, I haven’t been able to eat there.

Speedy: Killen’s is cafeteria style, where you first order meat, cut right in front of you, and then sides. One of the guys I was with had been there before and advised to skip the pulled pork, so we went all beef, with the exception of the sausage, which is a pork and beef mix. At Killen’s, you can order plates, or by the weight, and we opted for the latter. They only needed two clarifications with our order – fatty or lean brisket (fatty, duh), and jalapeno sausage or regular (regular). After about 20 minutes in line, we were ready to eat.

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Like at any Texas joint, I started with the brisket. I had high expectations based on my prior Texas trip (when I visited Franklin’s and La Barbecue), and let me tell you, this lived up to expectations. The brisket was peppery, moist, and as good as I could have imagined. I think it was 99% as good as Franklin’s and La Barbecue, and tasted very similar. I did not use any sauce, as none was needed. Overall, nearly flawless execution.

Monk: Wow, 99% as good as Franklin’s and La Barbecue? That’s high praise!

Rudy: Yeah, that is huge praise! Add to that the 20 minute wait and that’s even better.

Speedy: The sausage was also great. Made in house, the casing had good snap and a nice spiciness to it. It did start to fall apart a bit, but overall, it was great and is not to be missed.

The burnt ends were a daily special – made with wagyu beef and covered in sauce, they were tender and perfectly chunked. Overall, there was a little more sauce than I liked, but it was tangy and good.

The beef rib was the only thing that I thought could have been better. The rib was crazy tender and easy to cut with a plastic knife, but the bark was not as good as I had hoped and did not touch the brisket. Our beef rib was 1.4 pounds, so nearly $30 – I would have much preferred another pound of brisket.

The sides were good, but like any good barbecue joint, they were a compliment and did not stand out in any way.

I also really liked the atmosphere at Killen’s, as there was a large area of outside seating and lots of seating inside. It’s the definition of a Texas joint, and though it’s only been open since 2013, it’s damn good and not to be missed if you’re in the Houston area. I, for one, can’t wait to go back.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Beef Rib – 3.5 hogs
Sausage – 4.5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Killen's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Speedy Lohr’s BBQ – Lexington, NC

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Name
: Speedy Lohr’s BBQ
Date: 1/15/18
Address: 3664 NC-8, Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Small chopped tray with hush puppies and a Cheerwine 
Price: $9

Monk: On our way to Cook’s BBQ just after Thanksgiving, we actually passed Speedy Lohr’s BBQ, a barbecue joint with a very similar name to two other joints in the town of Lexington: Speedy’s Barbecue Inc. and Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia. While Cook’s was alright, after this trip in hindsight maybe we should have just stopped at Speedy Lohr’s instead of heading another 4 miles south.

Speedy Lohr’s is located in a no frill building off NC Highway 8 south of Lexington, a classic Lexington-style joint that actually caught fire in 2015 and closed. Thirteen months and $200,000 later, it reopened in August 2016 with its barbecue pits now conforming to current code and has been seemingly humming along ever since. Prior to Speedy Lohr’s taking over the building and its pits in June 2013, it was a barbecue restaurant named Whitley’s Barbecue. Owners Randy and Amy are no strangers to the barbecue business though, with Randy’s father previously running a barbecue joint in the area that was a casualty of when the state of North Carolina expanded highway 8.

Knowing that I was likely going to go to one more spot that day, I tried to keep it simple with a small chopped pork tray with hush puppies instead of buns (duh). Little did I know, the small tray is actually quite big and I left a bit more stuffed than I would have liked. Thankfully, what I was stuffed with was really good smoke-kissed chopped pork basted in a traditional Lexington dip. I couldn’t stop eating the pork until it was all finished even though I knew that I was going to pay for it later due to my limited stomach space. But it was just that good.

The basket of fresh, small orb hush puppies was also a rather bountiful and the slaw on the other side of the cardboard tray was maybe a tad heavy on the dip but still good. Each part of the Lexington trinity was hitting on all cylinders that day.

In all honesty, I actually meant to go to Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia that day to try and knock out another joint on the NC Historic Barbecue Trail. I’ll get to that some other time but I was very happy with the meal I got at Speedy Lohr’s BBQ. In my preliminary “Speedy” power rankings of Lexington joints with that in the name, Speedy Lohr’s BBQ wins out over Speedy’s Barbecue Inc. simply because they smoke over wood as opposed to electricity (even though we gave Speedy’s 4 hogs back in 2012). Next up I’ll have to try Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia to see who takes the belt.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs
Speedy Lohr's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Pedalin’ Pig – Banner Elk, NC

IMG_1547Name: The Pedalin’ Pig
Date: 12/28/17
Address: 4235 Hwy 105 South, Banner Elk, NC 28604
Order: Half pound brisket plate with brunswick stew and BBQ slaw (link to menu)
Price: $14.95

Monk: Usually, I try to close out my year by taking a short trip to a barbecue joint an hour or two away but this year our family took a short, two night trip to the mountains immediately after Christmas. While the mountains wouldn’t be my first choice destination for barbecue, on our way back from the Boone area we passed by The Pedalin’ Pig in Banner Elk (sadly, our first choice Old Hampton Store and Barbeque, a wood-smoked barbecue joint in Linville, was closed until February) as we took a Grandfather Mountain detour on our way back to Charlotte so I was able to get in one last review in 2017. 

A couple days after Christmas, The Pedalin’ Pig was hopping with with folks stopping before or after skiing at  nearby Sugar Mountain on a bitterly cold day. Each of the dining rooms were more or less packed and there was a line out the door. The wait for larger parties went upwards of 45 minutes by the time we left but our party of 4 was able to be seated in less than 5 minutes.

Mrs. Monk ordered the half pound pulled pork plate while I ordered the brisket plate, allowing us to combine our powers into a 2-meat combo plate (which isn’t an option on the menu). According to my handy dandy NC BBQ Map, they use a wood-assisted gasser (my guess would be a Southern Pride) but they were able to get some decent bark on the pork. Mrs. Monk’s half-pound portion had plenty of it mixed in and the meat had a nice smokey taste. The gasser was able to get a somewhat decent bark on my brisket, but the slices were all taken from the flat and as a result were pretty dried out. Still, some decent flavor from those slices of meat.

The bbq slaw was a good rendition of a Lexington-style red slaw while the brunswick stew hit the spot on a cold day. Mrs. Monk’s sides of collards and cheddar grits were equally successful. 

And as loyal readers know, outside of a couple of outliers mountain barbecue is at best considered hit or miss. The Pedalin’ Pig is more on the hit side of the spectrum while not quite essential. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
Pedalin' Pig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monk’s 10 Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2017

Trying something new: a year-end list for my favorite barbecue meals of the year. I used to do this for music, film, and tv but in recent years that has fallen off. Perhaps this will stoke the coals of my list-making motivation in other areas, but at the very least its worth documenting the hobby which has taken up so much of my (and my poor wife’s) free time for the past 5.5 years. Come to think of it, the timeline of this blog lines up almost perfectly with my drop off in listmaking…

In any case, hope you enjoy. This will conclude our reviews and original for 2017, but we will be back in 2018.

Monk

10. Swig & Swine – 4 hogs (review)

The Summerville location of Swig & Swine included a whole hog smoker (whereas their West Ashley location does not have enough space for one), following the popular trend of the past few years. The whole hog was quite good but their brisket and hash and rice wasn’t too bad either, 1990 Old Trolley Rd, Summerville, SC 29485 swigandswinebbq.com

9. Hill’s Lexington Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

Hill’s claims to be the original “Lexington Barbecue” in name (but definitely not first to serve in that style). They may be a notch below the better places in Lexington, but they are certainly not doing the style any disservice. 4005 Patterson Ave, Winston-Salem, NC 27105 

8. Barbee’s Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

This was truly a surprise for me. I kinda-sorta knew of this place and had passed by it many times , but I had no idea it would be (as I referred to it in my review) “the platonic ideal of the NC roadside barbecue shack”. A must visit, if only to step back in time a bit. Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133

7. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue – 4 hogs (review)

In 2017, I am happy to say that I rediscovered Bill Spoon’s after a few years away. It’s about as close as we have to a barbecue institution in Charlotte (54 years and counting), and though they are an eastern NC joint and I’m a Lexington-style fanboy, I simply believe that I need to go more often. 5524 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217 spoonsbarbecue.com

6. Rodney Scott’s BBQ – 4 hogs (review)

While my expectations of the brand new Rodney Scott’s BBQ were sky high, I must say that the whole hog didn’t quite match the perfection of Scott’s BBQ back in Hemingway. Nevertheless, taking it for what it’s worth, we should all be glad that Rodney Scott has made his pork accessible without having to drive in the middle of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. 1011 King St, Charleston, SC 29403 rodneyscottsbbq.com

5. Bar-B-Q King – 4.5 hogs (review)

Bar-B-Q King is another NC barbecue institution, though I only discovered it in early 2017. They do seem to be a little underrated on the NC barbecue scene despite smoking over wood for the past 46 years. Hopefully this will change. 2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092 barbqkingnc.com

4. B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – 4.5 hogs (review)

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque was just named best restaurant in Atlanta by Eater (note no “barbecue” modifier), and for good reason. Bryan Furman is another one of the torch bearers of whole hog barbecue, but don’t sleep on his brisket or hash and rice. 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 bscracklinbbq.com

3. Jon G’s BBQ – 4.5 hogs (review)

It appears that Jon G’s has taken a well-deserved break due to the birth of Garren and his wife Kelly’s first child, but I can’t wait until they are back out there slinging some legit Texas-style brisket out of their recently-purchased food truck. Marshville, NC facebook.com/JonGsBBQ

2. Lewis Barbecue – 4.5 hogs (review)

Unlike Rudy and Speedy, I hadn’t really had a taste of true Central Texas barbecue since I sadly haven’t made it out there since the start of the blog. That recently changed earlier this year because John Lewis (formerly of La Barbecue) brought central Texas to Charleston and I tasted is sublime brisket. All hail the king, apparently. 464 N Nassau St, Charleston, SC 29403 lewisbarbecue.com

1. Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – 5 hogs (review)

In a year where I did not have a meal at Lexington Barbecue (my ride or die) Red Bridges is going to easily take the #1 spot on this list. Sadly, it had been nearly 4 years since my last visit but rest assured, it won’t be that long before my next. After 70+ years, they’ve still got it. 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28152 bridgesbbq.com

Honorable Mentions: The Smoke Pit – Salisbury, NC (review), DAS BBQ – Atlanta, GA (review)

Cook’s BBQ – Lexington, NC

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Name
: Cook’s BBQ
Date: 11/25/17
Address: 366 Valiant Dr, Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Monk: Three meat combo plate (chopped pork, sausage, ribs) with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and Cheerwine; Speedy: Three meat combo plate (coarse chopped pork, brisket, ribs) with red slaw, hush puppies, tater tots, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: ~$17 each

Speedy: Monk and I were both embarking on a post-Thanksgiving drive from High Point to Charlotte (albeit in different vehicles), so we planned on a noon rendezvous at Cook’s BBQ in Lexington. As I was driving up, I thought that I might be entering a scene from Deliverance, and that possibly Monk was trying to kill me. Good news – he wasn’t, and Cook’s BBQ is real.

Monk: It is a bit of a weird location for a barbecue restaurant but I would never “Deliverance” you, Speedy. Off of 85, you go drive down Highway 8 south of Lexington proper and take a few turns on country roads. Then you drive past a few houses before happening on Cook’s in a dead-end at the end of a residential street.

The restaurant has been around since 1969 (though the current owners took over in 1984) so they must be doing something right, even if I feel it’s hardly ever mentioned along with the other Lexington joints. To add to its bona fides, it was also included along with Lexington Barbecue, Skylight Inn, Allen & Son’s, and other NC barbecue heavy hitters in this 2012 Washington Post primer on NC barbecue ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. I had been wanting to stop in for years, particularly once I realized they were open on Sundays – a rarity for most family-owned barbecue joints.

Speedy: One thing that’s a little different about Cook’s from most Lexington style joints is the variety of meats. In addition to pork, they have brisket, ribs, and sausage. As Monk and I do when we see lots of meat, we ordered it all. I opted to go with coarse chopped pork (for a change of pace), the ribs, and the brisket. Monk had the same order, but subbed sausage instead of brisket. We both had red slaw and some form of fried potatoes (tots or fries).

Monk: The table agreed that the sausage was the best meat that we tasted that day, though I don’t know where Cook’s gets its sausage from or whether its house made (I suspect its not). In any case, it’s good.

Speedy: Agree, and I will order it should I go back. The brisket surprised me. NC brisket is generally plain bad (I’ve sworn it off a time or two myself), but this stuff was decent. Not on par with anything I’ve had in Texas, but it was definitely passable.

Monk: I did read afterwards that its one of only two places in Lexington that even serves brisket, so its definitely an anomaly. The ribs were a bit overcooked and fell apart as soon as I attempted to pick up the rack. Not to mention they were overly slathered in a thick, sweet sauce. I would avoid.

Speedy: I didn’t care for the coarse pork. It was a mistake to order it that way. Monk enjoyed the fine chopped better. The sides were all good – particularly the hush puppies.

Monk: I had higher hopes for Cook’s being a hidden gem that might sneak into my personal best of NC list but perhaps my expectations were too high. While Speedy and I agreed that the meats were mostly above average, I don’t know that either of us will be going out of our way to make a special trip out to Cook’s Barbecue anytime soon, threat of Deliverance or not.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Cook's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hill’s Lexington Barbecue – Winston-Salem, NC

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Name
: Hill’s Lexington Barbecue
Date: 11/24/17
Address: 4005 Patterson Ave, Winston-Salem, NC 27105
Order: Monk and Speedy: Chopped plate with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $30 (for two)

Monk: When Speedy and I stopped in at Hill’s Lexington Barbecue the day after Thanksgiving, we didn’t know we were stepping into a little bit of controversy – we just wanted to try a new barbecue joint. As should be well-known to longtime readers of the blog, Lexington-style barbecue is the favorite style of the bros (or at least I think that’s still the case for the Texan, Rudy). Well, Hill’s claims to be the first barbecue restaurant to be branded as “Lexington barbecue” and has done so since 1951. According to Jim Early in The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy, “[a]t the time they opened there were a few small side street barbecues in Lexington operated by Stamey, Beck and Swicegood. But none called their barbecue place ‘Lexington Barbecue’.”

Speedy: Let’s first start with how we ended up at Hill’s. We used the excellent Great NC BBQ Map to find a joint that uses only wood coals close to our hometown of High Point that neither of us had ever been to. After a quick 25 minute drive in the Monk-mobile, we were walking into an old-timey joint that looks like it hasn’t much changed since the aforementioned 1951 date.

We quickly ordered and had our food within 3 minutes.

Monk: And we aren’t talking figuratively here, folks. We literally mean we had food within 3 minutes of ordering.

Speedy: The plate looked great – finely chopped pork, red slaw, and crinkle fries. We might as well have been in heaven. Digging in, I was treated to that nice smokey Lexington flavor I love (and miss in Tennessee). The pork was solid, though I think the ratio of ketchup to vinegar in the dip favored the ketchup a little too much. The pork was served with dip, and no extra was needed.

Monk: I agree that the dip was a little too much on the sweet side, but that’s a minor complaint. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have added more of the table side dip to the meat and just sprinkled it with Texas Pete.

Speedy liked the hush puppies more than me – they were a little more on the savory side of the spectrum – but again, not a huge negative. The red slaw was a classic example of a Lexington barbecue slaw and as is the best that can be hoped for, the fries were fries and didn’t ruin the meal.

Speedy: Similar to the meat, I thought the slaw was a little too sweet, but overall, that’s nitpicking the meal. This was definitely a classic Lexington-style meal. And while neither Monk nor I liked it as much as Lexington #1 or Stamey’s we both left Hill’s Lexington Barbecue feeling full and satisfied. I’m not sure what more you can ask for.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs
Hill's Lexington Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Photo Gallery: Rough Draft Brewing Beer Dinner at Midwood Smokehouse Park Road

IMG_1057 (2)This past Wednesday night, I was invited by Sarah from Midwood Smokehouse (shouts to Sarah!) to a beer dinner featuring some California-inspired dishes which incorporated smoke in various ways paired with four beers from Rough Draft Brewing Company out of San Diego. I hadn’t previously had the pleasure of trying any beers from Rough Draft and the courses for this dinner were different from the usual barbecue beer dinner fare, so this would be a night of new experiences for me. Here’s the highlights:

Appetizers: Rock Shrimp Tostada, Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos, Jalapeno-Jack Cornbread paired with Weekday Session IPA

Now this was a great start to the dinner. My first bite of the evening was a good one – the crunch of the freshly fried corn tostada contrasted well with the acidity of the rock shrimp and ceviche. I had two of these. The bacon-wrapped jalapeno is a normal offering on the menu but this version featured a “queso Chihuahua”. Lastly, the cornbread topped with pulled pork and pico was good but ranked third in my passed app hierarchy (patent pending). The Weekday Session IPA was a smart move to not come out of the gate too hot.

First Course: San Diego Pier Taco paired with Grapefruit Weekday IPA
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A southern California classic – the fish taco. The grouper was fried in a beer batter made with the Grapefruit Weekday IPA mixed with ground corn into a maseca but was still light enough for a first course. The Grapefruit Weekday IPA is made from the same recipe as the session IPA but as the name implies, is infused with grapefruit. This tied in nicely with the grapefruit-avocado crema that topped the taco and the smoke in the dish came from the smoked tomato salsa. I could have had at least 2 more of these, but thankfully they didn’t allow that because I would have been too full for…

Second Course: Ancho Rubbed Tri-tip paired with Hop Therapy Double IPA
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My first taste of tri-tip. I don’t know this preparation compares to classic Santa Maria tri-tip (Midwood smoked over hickory as they do with all meats), but I do know that I really liked it and in particular the ancho rub. Midwood Smokehouse has previously featured it as a Barbecue Month special in years past and if its on the menu next May I may have to make a special trip out. As good as the tri-tip was, the sweet potato tamale was every bit its equal. Made from sweet potatoes from a Barbee Farms out of Concord, the use of sweet potato in a classic tamale presentation blew my mind. This course paired with the Hop Therapy Double IPA which was a more malt-forward double clocking in at 9%. Thankfully, they weren’t serving more than about a half pour because this guy was dangerously drinkable and I could see it sneaking up on me.

Third Course: Key Lime Rye Cake paired with Sea State Blackberry Rye Ale
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FS Food Group (the restaurant group owned by Frank Scibelli that owns Midwood Smokehouse among other concepts) recently hired a full-time pastry chef and while I unfortunately can’t recall her name, this rye cake with smoked blackberry sauce was her topper to the dinner. It paired nicely with the Sea State Blackberry Rye Ale.

The Improper Pig – Charlote, NC (RE-REVIEW)

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Name: The Improper Pig
Date: 11/3/17
Address: 110 S Sharon Amity Rd Charlotte, NC 28211
Order: The Cotswold Platter with pulled pork and smoked andouille with asian slaw and collards (link to menu)
Price: $14.99

Monk: Back in late 2014, Speedy and I checked out The Improper Pig within a few weeks of it opening and found it somewhat promising but that they were perhaps still working out the kinks that come with opening a new restaurant. Fast forward nearly 3 years later, and to paraphrase former Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green, they are who we thought they were.

The restaurant interior has changed a bit in the past 3 years. Whereas it used to be dimly lit (which I recall made it hard to take decent photos), the restaurant is now much brighter inside. I also think they have become popular with families with kids, so it would make sense not to have it so dark inside.

I didn’t take a peek into the open kitchen this time around, but I assume The Improper Pig is still using a Southern Pride gasser. Out of it, they are still able to coax some decently smoky meats – pork and andouille sausage this time around for me – but its still not quite there in order to be one of the better barbecue restaurants in Charlotte.

As was the case on our first visit, they still get creative with their sides and many have a slight asian bent. Mrs. Monk and I did try a southern egg roll, but the texture inside was mostly mushy as it is just sweet potato hash and collards inside with a drizzle of hot asian mustard. Certainly not as well executed as the southern egg rolls I’ve tried from The Pit in Raleigh. The asian slaw was more or less a small salad with ginger dressing, though, and I regretted ordering it just a tiny bit. The collards were fine but perhaps overly spicy. While the sides were the best part of the last meal years ago, they didn’t measure up on this visit.

So where does this land us? The restaurant is kid-friendly and I could see myself trying their brisket and ribs next time but I won’t necessarily be in a rush to make it back out. The Improper Pig is still a pretty good concept but yet again the execution isn’t quite there for me.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Sausage – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
The Improper Pig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato