Monk: The last (and only) time I had visited Richard’s Bar-B-Q in Salisbury was nearly 5 years ago and I mostly enjoyed my meal there, preferring it to the other Salisbury joint on the NC Barbecue Trail, Wink’s King of Barbeque.
Richard’s was the choice for a Monk family lunch meet up over the holidays, providing an in-between spot between Charlotte and Pittsboro. Pulling in, the one thing that struck me was the spelling of “Bar-B-Q” on all of Richard’s signage. By my recollection, you tend to see “barbecue,” “bbq,” “barbeque,” “bar-b-que,” or “bar-b-cue” spellings more often, but even thought its clearly a valid spelling, I don’t recall really noticing “bar-b-q” in too many places in my travels. A minor thing for sure, but perhaps worth noting in the future.
As for the ‘cue itself, I found the barbecue to have the necessary smoke but lacking the tang and spice I noted on my previous visit. Ditto for the red slaw. Thankfully, the large hush puppies were just as good as I remembered and I ate them until I was well beyond stuffed. In any case, my family and I enjoyed our meal as we lamented the recent closing of Allen & Son in Chapel Hill – most of us, anyways. My aunt said she found that one subpar and preferred the Pittsboro location much more. Now, even though Chapel Hill is gone, I will have to investigate Pittsboro. In any case, back to Richard’s – I still chuckle at the use of large coffee filters as part of the serving apparatus for the trays. Hopefully they won’t fall victim to the recent trend of NC barbecue joint closings anytime soon.
Name: Sweet Old Bill’s Burgers, Que & Brew Date: 11/21/18 Address: 1232 North Main Street, High Point, North Carolina Order: Three meat combo (pork, brisket, ribs) with hush puppies, corn pudding, and slaw Price: $$ (out of $$$)
Monk: Well, what do you know? The Barbecue Bros’ hometown of High Point has grown to the where someone has opened up a yuppie cue spot (next to a brewery no less). High Point’s always had standard issue barbecue joints like Kepley’s, Carter Brothers, or Henry James but a full bar barbecue joint that serves not only pulled pork but brisket, ribs, chicken and more? Now that’s something new for the Home Furnishings Capital of the World.
Speedy: While this is exciting, I take great offense at calling Kepley’s a “standard issue barbecue joint.” Where’s the respect, Monk?
Monk: All respect given, Speedy. That was not a comment on the quality of the food – I only meant that none of those I mentioned above go the “International House of Barbecue” route and also don’t serve beer or alcohol like Sweet Old Bill’s.
SOB’s opened in early November on North Main Street and shares a wall with the well-received Brown Truck Brewery. At the back of the Sweet Old Bill’s side of the building is a wood-assisted gasser just off the kitchen. Inside, a large bar area occupies approximately half of the interior with a decor that I would probably best described as “industrial chic” with my limited interior decorator vocabulary.
The three meat combo plate was decently priced at $18 and I chose pork, brisket, and ribs. Not ordered but also available was chicken and turkey. The pork had hints of smoke but benefited from being eaten with the slaw and table vinegar sauce, a small batch sauce I didn’t recognize or snap a photo of. I will note that a red slaw was advertised on the menu but what came out was a mayo-based white slaw. I still ate it, but was really hoping to try their version of a Lexington red slaw. Regardless, not a bad start to the meal.
The brisket at SOB’s comes pre-sauced but underneath that sauce were lean slices with a decent pepper bark. This was definitely not a Central Texas style brisket, but for High Point it was not bad. Not great, mind you, but not awful.
Speedy: For NC brisket, “not awful” is high praise…
Monk: The dry-rubbed ribs were well seasoned and not overcooked, giving a good tug with each chew. Of the three meats I ordered, the ribs were probably my favorite, and thankfully they weren’t drowning in sauce like the brisket.
I already mentioned the slaw but when it came to the rest of the sides the scratch-made hush puppies were more on the savory end of the spectrum but were nicely fried orbs of cornmeal goodness. The highlight of sides was definitely the corn pudding, which had some sweetness and also appeared to be scratch made.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that they had a nice selection of craft beers, many of which were local to NC. I ordered a Brown Truck porter, which was made not 10 feet on the other side of the wall from where we were sitting – pretty cool and not too many other barbecue restaurants could claim that I’d bet.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with my meal at Sweet Old Bill’s. Being a new restaurant, they could have easily cut corners in a few areas but thankfully did not. The meats are not all quite there but I appreciated the attention paid to the side dishes. Keep in mind that they were only a few weeks old for this meal so with time I think they will eventually get to a good spot. They are certainly off to a nice start.
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.
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