Linkdown: 12/21/16

– Daniel Vaughn on “big city barbecue” (don’t call it “craft barbecue”)

The foundation of big city barbecue is a focus on premium quality meats, such as prime grade beef from boutique brands like Creekstone and 44 Farms. There’s a reverence toward slices of fatty brisket served without sauce. A big city meat cutter might cringe at the idea of chopping their beautiful briskets, looking down on the staple of Texas barbecue that is the chopped beef sandwich. The ribs and pulled pork (and trust me, there will be pulled pork) will likely be identified by breeds like Duroc or Berkshire. Its hard to make a decent profit, even when charging $20 per pound for that prime—or in some cases Akaushi (also known as Texas Wagyu)—brisket, so the menus are diversified with cheaper items like pork shoulder and turkey breast. You won’t find big city barbecue joint that’s a single meat specialist.

– A Pakistani website has the NC Historic Barbecue Trail on its list of best trips for foodies around the world

– A review of D.G. Martin’s book released earlier this year, North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries

– Includes brisket from Franklin Barbecue at #1

– Grant and Marie give Hillbilly Willy’s Bar-B-Que in Chattanooga another try, a place that uses Memphis-style dry rub on their ribs

– Mighty Quinn’s opens its latest outpost in…Manilla, Philippines?

– BBQ Hub has a list of whole hog barbecue restaurants across the southeast and even in Brooklyn

– The more you know

Linkdown: 5/11/16

– We were fortunate enough to be considered “experts” (shh…don’t tell them) and submitted nominees for 10Best.com’s Best BBQ Pork Sandwich in NC contest. Voting ends June 6 at 12pm ET.

– Some coverage of the 10Best contest from Pitt County, Asheville, and Garland

– Creative Loafing profiles Seoul Food Meat Co.

– Over at Marie, Let’s Eat!, Grant visits the last remaining Old Hickory House, located in Tucker, GA, as well as Big Cove BB-Q in Owens Cross Roads, AL

– Whole-hog Carolina barbecue converts Louisiana-native Rien Fertel

Mr. Fertel locates the birthplace of whole-hog barbecue in eastern North Carolina. In aptly named Pitt County, he visits three whole-hog establishments. The agriculture-and-livestock-rich region, he says, is “a bastion, or pit, as it were, where the nation’s oldest vernacular barbecue tradition has been slowly smoking for nearly two centuries.”

– Matthew Odam recently went on a 16-stop barbecue tour throughout Texas

– Midwood Smokehouse’s crinkle cut fries makes this list of best fries in Charlotte from Charlotte Agenda

– Always worth a link:

Short Sugar’s Pit Bar-B-Q – Reidsville, NC

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Name: Short Sugar’s Pit Bar-B-Q
Date: 2/16/16
Address: 1328 South Scales Street, Reidsville, NC
Order: Chopped tray with fries and hushpuppies, Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: ~$11

Speedy: A work trip recently brought me to Reidsville, NC, and since I don’t really happen through this small NC town too often, it seemed like a great opportunity to visit another spot on the NC Historic Barbecue Trail – Short Sugar’s.

Monk: One of the first goals for this blog (other than finding the best barbecue in Charlotte) was to visit each joint on the NC Historic Barbecue Trail. But we’ve been a little lax lately, having visited only one joint in 2015. While there are a few that are a bit east and may end up requiring a dedicated trip, there’s definitely a couple within easy driving distance. Maybe we’ll hit another this year and double our 2015 output!

Speedy: Short Sugar’s is advertised as a drive-in, but in reality, it’s more like an old school diner. There are plenty of tables inside, as well as a lunch counter, and patrons are invited to seat themselves upon entry. Like a typical diner, the menu is fairly diverse, but there is a small section devoted to the barbecue. My order was easy – the barbecue tray with hushpuppies and slaw. When I found out from the waitress that they served white slaw, I quickly subbed in fries instead.

The food came out fairly quickly and I was ready to dig in. It didn’t take me long to figure out why Short Sugars has a sweetener in its name. The barbecue was covered in a dip that was heavy on the brown sugar. While good, it was just a little too sweet for my taste. The meat was chopped fine and very tender, and I still enjoyed my portion. Other than the sweetness, I had two complaints – I didn’t seem to get any outside brown in my portion (I didn’t ask for any), and my ‘cue was a little lukewarm. I imagine it has been chopped a couple hours ago and not placed in a heat lamp. All that being said, I still enjoyed the pork.

The hushpuppies were really good. They also had a sweetness to them, but one that’s more appropriate for the side than it is for the main course. The fries were typical crinkle cut fries, so nothing exciting there.

I have certain expectations whenever I hit up a joint on the historic NC barbecue trail. While Short Sugar’s wasn’t the worst trail joint I’ve hit (and overall I did enjoy the meal), I was slightly disappointed. If I ever find myself in Reidsville again, I wouldn’t be opposed to stopping again, but I won’t be going out of my way to do so.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
Short Sugar’s Pit Bar-B-Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Short Sugar’s

Switzerland Cafe and General Store – Little Switzerland, NC

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Name: Switzerland Cafe and General Store
Date: 7/18/14
Address: 9440 State Highway 226A, Pisgah National Forest, Marion, NC 28752
Order: Speedy: Cafe Barbeque Platter; Monk: The Whole Trout (link to menu)
Price: Speedy: $10.25; Monk: $11.45

Monk: After we left 12 Bones in Arden, Speedy and I headed to Switzerland Cafe and General Store in Little Switzerland. Side note: who else knew that there was a Little Switzerland in North Carolina? Show of hands? No one else? ANYWAYS, in case you were wondering it is located just off the intersection of Highway 226A and the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Marion. Switzerland Cafe was the most recent addition to the NC Historical Barbecue Trail, essentially replacing Deano’s in Mocksville. And next to Herb’s in Murphy, I’m willing to bet its the most remotely located.

Speedy: We went on a rainy/foggy afternoon, so we really couldn’t see that well where we were driving. To say it’s off the beaten path is an understatement. Now this could be a good thing, as a joint has to attract business to stay open, and the more remote it is, the harder it is to attract business. However, whenever a barbecue joint’s main attraction is something other than the ‘cue, I’m skeptical.

Monk: Before ordering, we checked out the smoker located in a colorfully decorated shack out back. We stumbled upon a couple of workers checking on some pork butts in the smoker and got to check it out a little bit. Switzerland Cafe uses a vertical smoker with little more than a pan separating the hickory wood coals from the stack of pork butts. This was definitely a unique technique I haven’t seen in other pits on our barbecue travels.

Speedy: And honestly, I’m not sure it’s a technique I’d recommend. It does keep the direct heat off of the meat, but seems like it would keep some smoke away as well. However, it was a super cool smoker and awesome opportunity to check it out.

But we weren’t there to look at the smoker – it was time to eat. As we had already had a massive barbecue meal at 12 Bones, I decided to stick to the essential – the “barbeque cafe platter,” complete with slaw and baked beans. Digging in, something about the pork was a little off to me. It was plenty tender, but the taste was just not exactly what I expected. It wasn’t bad, but it lacked the expected pork flavor. My best guess is that the odd taste is due to being cooked in the same smoker as the fish.

Monk: Speaking of the fish, I tried “The Whole Trout” appetizer as my dish since it was so unique (not to mention I also was stuffed from 12 Bones). I apparently didn’t read the menu too carefully because as I took a forkful of the trout I was surprised by the fact that it was chilled. I could taste the smoke – unlike the pork cooked over hickory, the fish is cooked over applewood (h/t) – but it was just unexpected and different. I think its worth trying once, but if I ever find myself back I probably won’t order it again.

One of the owners also brought us out a smoked salmon BLT because she wanted us to try, and I took a sliver. Had I been hungrier, I would have eaten the whole thing because that thing was pretty delicious. They also offer a smoked trout BLT, but we didn’t taste that.

Speedy: Overall, Switzerland Cafe was a fine barbecue meal, but likely the last I’ll ever eat there. I think Monk liked it better than I did, but the location is just so remote that it would take an amazing meal to compensate. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t there for me.

But at least we got to check another one off the trail list…

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Trout – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs
Switzerland Cafe on Urbanspoon
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Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby, NC

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Name: Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge
Date: 9/28/13
Address: 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28150
Order: Monk – small barbecue tray, Cheerwine; Speedy: jumbo barbecue plate with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and onion rings, Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $24

Monk: Heading to the Sigur Rós concert in Asheville afforded myself and Speedy another opportunity to hit up one of our favorite barbecue joints of all time, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby, NC.

Speedy: Monk and I have stopped by Red Bridges pretty frequently over the past few years (usually on the way to and from concerts in Asheville) and assumed this would be a slam dunk 5-hog review, as every experience in the past has been perfect.

Monk: However, that wasn’t exactly the case this time around for our official visit. Red Bridges is your classic old school barbecue joint located just off highway 74 and they have been serving the greater Shelby area for 67 years (60 in the current location). Speedy and I entered and sat ourselves and like always we were approached by the waitress immediately upon sitting down. As is our M.O. when it’s available, we each ordered a Cheerwine for our drink (unfortunately in a can and not from the fountain).

Speedy: Like an amateur, Monk had a full breakfast with the in-laws before lunch, so only ordered the small barbecue tray.

Monk: Hey now…

Speedy: I, on the other hand, had been fasting since the previous evening in preparation for the barbecue feast, so I ordered the jumbo barbecue plate which consisted of chopped pork, red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and onion rings. The food was brought out shortly thereafter, although not as promptly as we had remembered in previous visits.

Monk: Look, before we get into it I do want to caveat that it was all very good. Still, we don’t get paid the big bucks not to nitpick.

Speedy: Wait, you’re getting paid?

Monk: We’ll talk about that later…anyways, starting with the chopped pork, it was a little coarser chop than both Speedy and I would prefer – which is different from our past visits. And maybe it could have had just a touch more smoke – again, different from our past visits.

Speedy: I was actually ok with the amount of smoke in the pork. I would like to note, however, that the pork always comes with a good bit of outside brown, even if you don’t specifically ask for it.

Monk: Very true. As for sides, both the oblong hush puppies and red slaw were spot on for a Lexington-style joint.

Speedy: The onion rings were fine but the fries were not good, and I only ended up eating three of them. One thing that has always irked me about Red Bridges is that they have Frank’s Hot Sauce on the table – why not stock Texas Pete, a Winston-Salem product?

Monk: Speaking of sauce, the table dip seemed to be a little thicker than we’ve noticed in the past and lacked tang.

Speedy: You may be reading this review and thinking that we didn’t enjoy our visit. We assure you, that is not the case. Red Bridges is still in our top 5 North Carolina barbecue joints. It’s just that this particular visit didn’t quite live up to their unusually high standards. Still, this meal was better than 95% of barbecue joints out there.

Monk: We still have no trouble recommending Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge to anyone and everyone looking for proper barbecue and we will stop by there every chance we get. Let’s just hope this visit was an anomaly instead of the start of a trend.  

Ratings:
Atmosphere/ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

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Bridges Barbecue Lodge Incorporated on Urbanspoon

Little Richard’s BBQ – Winston-Salem, NC

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Name: Little Richard’s BBQ
Date: 9/24/13
Address4885 Country Club Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27104
Order: Chopped barbecue plate with slaw, fries, and hush puppies (link to menu)
Bill: $7.29

A mid-week work trip from Raleigh, NC to Bristol, VA had me driving through my old stomping grounds in Winston-Salem, which seemed like a perfect time to stop by Little Richard’s BBQ – Winston-Salem’s most famous barbecue restaurant and a stop on the NC Historic BBQ trail. I hadn’t eaten at Little Richard’s all that often – it’s not terribly convenient to Wake Forest’s campus – and honestly, growing up so close to Lexington, I spent many years of my life taking great barbecue for granted. However, I was excited to go because, if memory served me well, I was in for a treat.

Little Richard’s is your classic old-school Lexington style barbecue joint. You walk in, seat yourself, and a waitress comes to see you immediately. There are menus on the table, but if you’re like me, you don’t need one. The order is easy – chopped barbecue plate with slaw, fries, and hush puppies.

The food is brought out nearly immediately, and it’s time to dig in. The pork is good, but I do think it could use a bit more smoke on it. It’s perfectly tender with the right amount of dip applied, but the flavor doesn’t quite stack up to some of the top joints. It’s still quite good and I certainly wasn’t disappointed, but it simply does not compare favorably to most of the places in Lexington.

The sides, however, are a different story. For my money, the slaw and hush puppies were perfect. The slaw had the perfect amount of tang and was served at the right temperate – refrigerator cold to contrast the hot chopped pork. The hush puppies are shaped as small round balls and have just the right amount of sweetness. The crinkle fries are pretty standard and are a bit of an afterthought of the meal.

One thing I must mention is that Little Richard’s is cash only, which can be slightly inconvenient. However, this shouldn’t stop people from going. If you’re in Winston-Salem and looking for barbecue, Little Richard’s is the place to go.

-Speedy

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

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Little Richard's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon 

The Barbecue Center – Lexington, NC

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Name: The Barbecue Center
Date: 8/8/13
Address: 900 N Main St., Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Chopped pork plate with fries, slaw, hush puppies and a Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $10.14

Monk: On our way to fly out of Greensboro for our annual guys trip, Speedy and I took the opportunity to check out a joint in Lexington that is on the NC Historic Barbecue Trail but which neither of us had been to – The Barbecue Center. I personally must have passed within a half mile of it literally hundreds of times heading to and from Charlotte without knowing it was there. Nevertheless, I was excited.

Speedy: Like Monk, I had never been though I’d heard tale of some locals claiming it as their favorite joint in town, which in Lexington is a big deal. (I later found out the reason I never went growing up: when telling Mama Speedy about my lunch locale, she replied with a scoff, “why’d you go there? Monk’s is right around the corner.”)

Pulling in, things looked really good, as there’s a large smokehouse outside and piles of hickory wood. The large smokehouse was not active upon our noon arrival. Additionally, there was hickory wood outside of the kitchen in the main building, which was going, as there was a strong, glorious smoke smell present as we entered the building.

Monk: In addition to the smell, you could see thin veil of smoke wafting in the dining room, so I was definitely encouraged. We grabbed a small two-person booth as the lunch rush started to come in and before too long the waitress had taken our order. As is standard, we each ordered a chopped pork plate (with extra outside brown) that came with fries, slaw, and hush puppies and of course, a Cheerwine to top it all off.

Speedy: The meal looked fantastic – exactly as a barbecue meal should. I bit into the pork and noticed a definite smoke flavor. It was also perfectly tender. I think my biggest problem was with the dip, which seemed a little heavy on the ketchup, making it sweeter than I like.

Monk: The outside brown was very present in the pork, which I agree was very good. The oblong hush puppies were really good and almost as sweet as I like them to be, though not quite. The red slaw wasn’t quite as tangy as I normally like, and I know Speedy had some issues.

Speedy: My love of red slaw is well documented around these parts, but again, the dip really held it back for me. The cabbage was chopped perfectly, but I was just overwhelmed by the sweetness of the dip. Was it better than mayo based cole slaw? Of course. But it just wasn’t up to what I expected in the town of Lexington.

Monk: All in all, I was glad we were able to finally check out The Barbecue Center. It’s former owner Sonny Conrad (who recently passed away in June) was a barbecue icon and was one of six restaurant owners who started The Barbecue Festival in Lexington, the largest one-day festival in the state of NC. Conrad was so iconic, in fact, that he always presented the first barbecue sandwich of the festival to the mayor of Lexington. As for the food itself…

Speedy: It was very good. In fact, if The Barbecue Center were in Charlotte, I’d probably go eat there all the time. But it’s not in Charlotte, and there’s a higher standard in Lexington. At the end of the day, Mama Speedy was right – why waste your time when Monk’s place is just around the corner?

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 Hogs
Pork – 4 Hogs
Sides – 3.5 Hogs
Overall – 4 Hogs

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Barbecue Center on Urbanspoon

Stamey’s Barbecue – Greensboro, NC

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Name: Stamey’s Barbecue
Date: 7/12/13
Address: 2206 High Point Road, Greensboro, NC 27403
Order: Chopped pork plate with red slaw, hush puppies, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Bill: $6.84

Monk: Guys, I think I am in love. Despite growing up in High Point not 20 minutes from Stamey’s, I’m a little ashamed to admit that this past Friday was my first visit to the joint. I mean, Carter Brother’s was fine at the time but why didn’t someone drag me by the ear to Stamey’s?

Rudy: It’s funny that you had never been there, because I practically grew up on Stamey’s. It is located about 2 blocks from my Dad’s business, so I ate there all the time. It is pretty much the barometer for how I view all barbecue. It is also directly across the street from the Greensboro Coliseum, so during the ACC Basketball Tournament, it is packed all day long.

Monk: There really is no good explanation as to why it took so long but in any case, after finishing my latest reading material and getting a better understanding of Warner Stamey’s legacy and influence on Lexington style barbecue in NC, I knew I had to get here asap. And visiting my parents for the weekend while my wife went out of town presented the perfect opportunity.

My dad and I were already going to be in Greensboro so we planned to stop in at Stamey’s that day. We walked into the large wooden building, sat ourselves in a booth and did the usual barbecue joint drill – order a drink, order food when the waitress returns with our drink 2 minutes later, and then receive the food another 2-3 minutes after that (if not sooner).

Soon a perfect plate was presented before me with chopped pork barbecue, red slaw, and oblong hush puppies. After snapping a few photos, I took my first bite and wow. Just wow. Immediately I knew an overall 5 whole hog ratings was in play. Nice chop, perfect smokiness that can’t be faked with gas, and the right ratio of sweetness to tang in the sauce. I ordered the regular plate but immediately wished I had ordered the large.

Rudy: With so many places moving towards gas, it is refreshing to see a big stack of wood piled in the corner of the parking lot; a clear sign that they are sticking with the traditional smoking, which makes the whole difference.

Monk: In case you weren’t aware (I wasn’t until recently), Warner Stamey is actually credited with introducing hush puppies into barbecue meals in the 50’s (it had previously only been a seafood side). As stated in this space numerous times, I like a sweeter hush puppy and while these weren’t quite as sweet as I’d have liked they were pretty good. The red slaw was above average and a Cheerwine rounded out the meal nicely. My Dad and I also split a blueberry cobbler bro-style (separate plates, thank you very much) for dessert, which was quite good. I’m usually too full to order dessert at a barbecue restaurant, but I’m glad I did on this day.

Rudy: One of my biggest complaints about barbecue in Texas is the lack of effort with sides. Most of the time it is just some beans as an option. Stamey’s has brunswick stew as a side option…and it is amazing. Next time anyone goes there, it is an absolute must.

Monk: I wish I had seen your tweet and had ordered the brunswick stew, but next time. When the bill came out I did a double take since the entire meal was under $14. Total. I have come to expect to pay that much for just myself. So you’re telling me not only is this probably at least as good as the best barbecue I’ve ever had (Lexington #1), but the prices are ridiculously reasonable too (a sandwich is $2.99 and a regular plate is $5.29)?

I can’t say enough good things about Stamey’s and I hope to make it back very soon. It is the definition of a 5 whole hog plate of chopped pork barbecue and to me, also the definition of a 5 whole hog joint.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides/Dessert – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs

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Stamey's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Jack Cobb & Son – Farmville, NC

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Name: Jack Cobb & Son Barbecue Place
Date: 6/23/13
Location: 3883 South Main Street, Farmville, NC
Order: Combo plate with chopped barbecue, chicken leg, slaw, collards, and hush puppies
Bill: $10.75

Speedy: So the whole extended Speedy clan decided to go out to the Outer Banks for a week of vacation, giving me a great excuse to visit the eastern part of NC and check out some eastern NC barbecue. I used the NC Barbecue Trail as my guide to help me pick where to eat.

Monk: Good call…we have to get to our goal of reviewing every stop on the trail before the end of 2013 somehow.

Speedy: First off, let me say this – Farmville is in the middle of nowhere.

Monk: Wait, you’re telling me a town called “Farmville” isn’t in the middle of a bustling urban metropolis? Shocking.

Speedy: And Jack Cobb and Son fits the bill of a place you’d expect to see in the middle of nowhere. The building is on a large plot of land and appears a bit run down. You can see the smokehouse in the back, which didn’t appear to be running when I arrived (around 1 pm). Walking in to the building, I got sort of a school cafeteria feel. You place your order at the counter and your meal is spooned from large vats of pork/slaw/etc. I imagine the food was prepared early that morning, but I don’t have anything to base that off of. As I said, the smokehouse was not going when I was there.

Monk: Based on the speed with how most barbecue joints serve up their food, I imagine this happens behind the scenes in the kitchen but its a little odd for it to be right in front of you.

Speedy: The first thing I noticed when driving up and walking in is that there’s nowhere to eat. Despite being on a decent size plot of land and in a big building, Jack Cobb is strictly take out. As I was a few hours from my destination – this posed a problem. I initially tried to eat on a tree stump in front of the building, but when it started raining, I ended up eating in my car. I don’t understand why a few tables couldn’t be set up inside or some picnic tables set up outside. This bothered me greatly – probably more than it should have.

Monk: I can understand why you were annoyed since the situations combined to kind of put you out, but are you seriously going to ding a take-out only place for being what it probably always has been? Wait, I know the answer to this…

Speedy: Monk, it’s my review and I’ll rate how I want to. Anyhow, I decided to get a combo plate so I could sample both the pork and the chicken. It came with hushpuppies and two sides, which I chose slaw and collards. Normally, I wouldn’t bother with ordering chicken as well, but the combo plate gives you a choice of breast or leg (I chose leg), so I was more intrigued than if it were just pulled or chopped chicken.

Monk: Bold strategy, Speedy. I think this is the first time I can remember either of us ordering chicken from a barbecue joint in North Carolina that wasn’t chicken wings. Let’s see if it pays off…

Speedy: The food was served quickly, in large portions, and very reasonably priced (note: the barbecue sandwich is only $3). I first dug into the pork, which was very good. It was eastern style, chopped well, was tender, moist, and with good flavor. Definitely the highlight of the meal. The plate came with a small side of extra vinegar based sauce, but I didn’t really need it.

Monk: So far, so good…

Speedy: The chicken was incredibly tender – maybe even too much so. When I picked up the chicken leg, all of the meat literally came off the bone. I was a little disappointed in the flavor. The chicken didn’t seem flavored at all and was just OK. Definitely could’ve used some seasoning or rub. The slaw was vinegary, but lacked the tang that I like and the collards were somewhat flavorless.

Monk: And there it is…this kind of reinforces my thought to just plainly avoid ordering barbecue chicken whatsoever.

Speedy: All in all, I enjoyed the pork, but not really the rest of the food or the experience. And while the pork was very good, it still lacked behind Lexington #1 or Allen & Son. Based on the location, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to Jack Cobb.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 0 hogs (yes – 0 hogs!)
Pork – 4 hogs
Chicken – 2 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs (all because of the pork)

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