Friday Find: BuzzFeed Roadtrips through North and South Carolina

Update: I re-watched the video and found it to be pretty light on actual barbecue content and more of a commercial for the car.

BuzzFeed takes a 6-stop barbecue roadtrip through North and South Carolina to visit some great and iconic joints: Buxton Hall Barbecue, Lexington Barbecue, Skylight Inn, Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Sweatman’s BBQ, and Lewis Barbecue.

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Linkdown: 11/15/17

– A promising new barbecue joint has opened up in Manteo on the Outer Banks, Carolina Bar-B-Que Company

Behind the smokehouse, owner Mike Weaver raises an axe in an arc over his shoulders. The blade comes down sure and fast and cleaves a broad section of pecan trunk in two. This is barbecue at its most basic level, starting with the wood. Weaver is in his element, living his dream, but it was a long time in the making.

– Virginia is still at it:

– The story of how a Benson, NC man went from a NC State Barbecue Camp to a state whole hog champion in about 18 months

– The Greenville-Pitt Community Visitor’s Bureau continues to advertise the Pitt County Brew and ‘Cue Trail

– Wisconsin-style barbecue? Really?

“It’s going to be tangy with a little bit of sweet, but not mustard tangy, not Carolina barbecue,” Stahl said. “I focus on my rub. I use European spices that reflect my Czech and eastern European heritage. I personally don’t like sauce on my barbecue. I put a lot of work into the smoke and rub, so I don’t think it needs that much sauce.”

– Franklin Barbecue remains in Bill Addison’s 38 Essential Restaurants in America

– Great story on Stan Hays, the man behind Operation BBQ Relief

– Good use of Twitter’s new 280 character limit or great use?

 

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

Photo Gallery: Saturday Lunch at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby, NC

Monk: Some more shots from around the grounds at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge. See my review from this visit here.

IMG_0704I started my stroll at the iconic green and yellow sign closest to Hwy 74, which is just simply a great retro sign. Over 70 years!

Red Bridges is known for their large wood pile, though on this particular Saturday the pile was a little smaller than normal. Must have been a busy night and morning in preparation for the Saturday lunch.

IMG_0718I mean, what other mailbox would be more appropriate for a barbecue joint? No idea if this is the actual mailbox in use.

IMG_0720I don’t know the story behind this limousine or if the patrons were in the restaurant at the time but it cracked me up.

IMG_0729Another notable car on the Red Bridges premises, albeit for different reasons. I wish I had gotten the full car in this shot.

A few exterior shots of the restaurant from different vantage points during the lunch hour on a busy Saturday. In all my times visiting, I hadn’t stepped back to take a shot of the entire building.

IMG_0751I do love the font of the “Bridge’s” sign in the this shot. The same font is used over the door.

 

Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby, NC (solo Monk review)

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Name
: Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge
Date: 10/21/17
Address: 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28150
Order: Barbecue plate with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and baked beans, Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $11.50

Monk: With all apologies to Speedy (who loves this place just as much, if not more than, me), our last visit and only review of Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was over 4 years ago and it was time. In late October, my wife and in-laws roped me into going to the Livermush Festival in downtown Shelby with the promise of Red Bridges for lunch beforehand. And boy, did that promise work on me like a charm.

Last time, Speedy and I thought our visit would yield a slam-dunk 5 hog review but found a few nits to pick and rated it just below. I wondered in the review if it was the start of a trend but I am happy to report that it was an indeed an anomaly and everything on this visit was as good as ever. The chopped pork tray didn’t have as coarse a chop as last time and the table dip had the right consistency. Even the fries, a worrying blunder last time around, were as you would expect.

I must spend a few sentences to opine on the glory of the hush puppies. These large oblong goodies come by the basket full and are top 3 hush puppies for me, ever. They have a perfect mix of sweet and savory and combined with the crunch when they are provided fresh out of the fryer, they are a religious experience.

On this Saturday, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was doing steady business between seated customers and takeout orders. At times, the waiting for a table left customers spilling out of the small waiting area and out the door as well. I imagine Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge had seen this scene on a regular basis in their 70+ years on highway 74 in Shelby. And why not – a short wait to get a table is a small price to pay to get pretty much the perfect meal.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Friday Find: Slice of Jess visits Midwood Smokehouse

Slice of Jess visits with Matthew Barry, Executive Chef and Pit Master of Midwood Smokehouse, for a promotional video that highlights what they’ve been doing in Charlotte since 2012.

Charlotte culinary scene is thriving, and I am so grateful to be intertwined in the mix. With new establishments popping up every week, I’ve decided to film our adventures behind the counter at some of the Queen City’s best eateries, distilleries and brewhouses. These videos are designed to be a quick peek behind the scenes, giving viewers a glance beyond the menu and the chance to meet the faces behind the brand.

I’ve partnered with Foodesign Associates for this series; a full service food design, development and marketing firm here in Charlotte.

Link to full post

Linkdown: 11/1/17

– Photos from last weekend’s Barbecue Festival in Lexington, where almost 200,000 people made the trip

– More whole hog is coming to Texas in the form of Feges BBQ in Houston

– Meanwhile, in Austin:

– Barbecue vs chili (?): who ya got?

– Bare Bones in Raleigh served their last barbecue this past Sunday

– Truth:

 

Linkdown: 10/25/17

– The 88th annual Mallard Creek Barbecue is tomorrow and the chefs are very busy right about now

Event organizers expect to cook 15,000 pounds of pork barbecue, prepare 2,500 gallons of Brunswick stew, shred two tons of coleslaw, brew 400 gallons of coffee and entertain close to 20,000 people.

– Preparations are underway for this weekend’s Barbecue Festival in Lexington

– The SC BBQ Association has sanctioned the fifth annual Speed and Feed Barbecue Cook-Off this weekend at Darlington Raceway

– The origins of the Alabama white sauce (if you’re into that sort of thing)

– The Triangle Business Journal is getting into the  barbecue game; their definitive guide to the best barbecue restaurants in the Triad

– A short profile on EDIA Maps, the creators of The Great NC BBQ Map

Photo Gallery: Hot Dogs and Smoked Pastrami from Noble Smoke

Monk: For the second year in a row, Jim Noble of the forthcoming Noble Smoke partnered with local menswear store Tabor for their Bungalow Social block party, While last year he smoked NC-style barbecue, this year he brought house made hot dogs grilled out of one of his mobile rigs, Flossie. So while I have still yet to try Noble’s barbecue, the hot dogs ground and made in-house at his uptown Rooster’s location more than hit the spot on a sunny fall day. I went Carolina style with chili, slaw, and mustard before topping it off with Texas Pete. Additionally, in an off-menu item, Jim had also smoked a pastrami and when I asked for a small taste he graciously offered a full sandwich. I’m no pastrami connoisseur but it was just fantastic.

I enjoyed introducing myself to Jim (who, by the way, like me is also from High Point, also went to High Point Central, and also went to NC State) through friend of the blog Susong and together we pestered him about Noble Smoke, which was been my most anticipated barbecue restaurant since it was first announced back in August 2015.

In maybe a tiny little bit of a scoop, according to him Noble Smoke will be coming in 2018 in a location off Freedom Drive in a space that is currently a warehouse. That certainly seems to fit the stated intention in the article linked above, where it mentions:

First, he needs to secure a Charlotte site that’s close to Interstate 77 with easy access. Most importantly, the restaurant needs to be in a space that allows the barbecue to be slow-cooked over wood, Noble adds.

From the little bit I recall from a brief discussion (free beers and cocktails for the win), he will be partnering with a local brewery (no word on which) and the space will also have an outdoor beer garden. I can’t wait to hear more details as they become available. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next opportunity to finally try the barbecue from Noble Smoke.

Friday Find: The Charlotte Podcast Explores “Is Charlotte a BBQ Town?”

Monk: Our State Magazine senior editor, podcaster, and writer (and former Charlottean) Jeremy Markovich joins Miller of The Charlotte Podcast to discuss NC barbecue in general before discussing specifically whether Charlotte is a barbecue town.

After a short intro, the barbecue talk starts at 5:17 with some open-ended questions about NC barbecue. Before shifting the conversation to Charlotte later in the episode, the conversation is a little unfocused (admittedly, Miller says he didn’t prep Jeremy for these questions) but covers the difference between east and west and what Jeremy’s idea of barbecue and a barbecue restaurant is.

Here’s a link to Jeremy’s fantastic story in Our State on spending 17 hours (he had planned to be there 24) at B’s Barbecue in Greenville that he begins mentioning at 14:15 when he starts discussing his top 5 barbecue places in NC; Red Bridges in Shelby, 12 Bones in Asheville (I do disagree with this pick), Skylight Inn, and Lexington Barbecue (aka the Honeymonk) all make his list as well.

While mentioning Skylight Inn (16:34), Miller discusses the idea of “porky goodness”. While I’m familiar with (and have tasted) their technique of chopping the crispy skin back into the pork, I must admit that I have never heard this term before. Granted, I have spent only a little time out east so I’m not discounting that it’s a real thing. Only that I’ve yet to come across it in my travels.

Kyle Fletcher’s in Gastonia gets a mention at 18:34. This place deserves a second chance for me, but I was somewhat unimpressed when I went a few years ago.

The Charlotte conversation begins at 21:25. I do disagree with Miller’s assertion that Midwood Smokehouse is a solid B in everything though (21:39) because I think their brisket and burnt ends are A’s and their pork and sausage is at least a B+ (I still need to try the whole hog on the new smoker at Park Road). So I think he may be undervaluing them just a little bit.

Miller brings up the idea of Charlotte as a “barbecue hub” as opposed to a “barbecue city” (22:36) due to its proximity to good barbecue in Lexington (agree), Shelby (agree), and Gastonia (huh?).  Jeremy comes back to Midwood Smokehouse at 25:26 (here’s the article he wrote for Our State) and how restaurateur Frank Scibelli has a habit of introducing foods to Charlotte. First with Mama Ricotta’s and authentic italian (including fresh mozzarella) in the early 2000’s and then Midwood Smokehouse and barbecue other than pork more recently in 2012.

While I couldn’t agree more with Jeremy’s assertion that you need to spell out “barbecue” (as opposed to say, “bbq” like they do in the podcast title) at 28:51, I can’t help but think naming a theoretical barbecue restaurant “Barbecue” is either insanely brilliant or just plain lazy. I still can’t decide.

Overall, I agree with both Jeremy and Miller that no, Charlotte is not a barbecue town but that you can find good barbecue here (I’ve certainly tried to do my homework). When I think on the question of whether Charlotte is a barbecue town, I inevitably go to a quote from Tom Hanchett, the former historian at Charlotte’s Levine Museum of the New South:

Charlotte is not really in either part of North Carolina, it’s a city of newcomers and we have other people’s barbecue.

Until Charlotte is no longer a city of “other people’s barbecue”, in my opinion it will never truly be a barbecue town.