Linkdown: 12/5/18

The “Milestone” Edition: In this week’s linkdown, we have links on a new barbecue restaurant opening,  a big expansion of an existing one, plus Chef Vivian Howard’s favorite eastern NC barbecue restaurants and a milestone birthday for the city of Charlotte.

Congrats to Sweet Lew’s BBQ on finally opening today!

Here’s more on what you can expect at Sweet Lew’s from Charlotte Five and Charlotte Agenda

Kathleen Purvis’ 10 food gifts locally made in Charlotte includes Ogre Sauce barbecue sauce

Ogre Sauce gets a shoutout on Mantry’s 6 best barbecue sauces list 

Tonight at 9pm ET on the Cooking Channel:

Chef Vivian Howard, a NC State grad who just finished her acclaimed PBS show “A Chef’s Life”, grew up in eastern NC and lives there now. You can bet she definitely knows her stuff when it comes to eastern NC barbecue.

Dave Grohl once again confirms that eastern NC style barbecue is his favorite

Sam Jones BBQ and The Redneck BBQ Lab get reviewed by the News and Observer

Speaking of Sam Jones BBQ, restaurant #2 is coming to Raleigh

Richmond’s best barbecue spots according to Richmond Magazine

Jamestown, NC is getting their own yuppie-cue barbecue restaurant in an old filling station next year in Black Powder Smokehouse

Congrats to Charlotte on turning 250 earlier this week!

Linkdown: 11/21/18

Rodney Scott and Dr. Howard Conyers are on Southern Living’s Southerners of the Year 2018

Midwood Barbecue and Seoul Food Meat Co make Charlotte Agenda’s list of Top 50 restaurants in Charlotte:

Missed this a few weeks back, but here is Matthew Odam’s list of best barbecue in Austin

Several barbecue restaurants including Midwood Smokehouse, Sauceman’s, Seoul Food Meat Co, and Peace-N-Hominy Q Shack are represented on this list of best wings in Charlotte 

Brunswick stew was the culprit for what made nearly 300 people sick from the Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church BBQ in Concord

Awesome news:

More on Dave Grohl’s barbecue obsession, this time from Maxim

The Smoke Sheet is a new barbecue newsletter worth checking out:

Tex Mex and Barbecue equals crazy delicious:


When you enjoy a slice of juicy brisket wrapped inside a warm tortilla, you’re celebrating the marriage of our two most beloved cuisines. This is nothing new at South Texas barbecue joints, where a side dish of rice and beans is as common as coleslaw and you’ll even find the occasional fideo. But the current Tex-Mex wave is deepening the bond between the two cuisines in new ways. You’ll find a lot more than just barbecue tacos, in other words.

PREACH:

Linkdown: 11/14/18

– Bill Addison’s fifth annual list for Eater is now out and includes 2 barbecue restaurants: 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio and Franklin Barbecue in Austin; Franklin is one of only five restaurants (barbecue or otherwise) that have made his list all five years

– Whole hog barbecue is making its way to Texas

Carolina-style whole-hog barbecue is also making inroads in the self-proclaimed capital of Texas barbecue, Austin. Chef Evan LeRoy of LeRoy & Lewis Barbecue uses a trailer-mounted, whole-hog pit to offer pulled pork on his regular menu.

In perhaps the most ambitious implementation of Carolina-style whole-hog barbecue in Texas, chef Ted Prater of Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden in Austin is building a self-contained smokehouse with custom-built pits dedicated to cooking whole hogs. It’ll be ready in December.

– The owners behind Sauceman’s in Charlotte have sold the lot their restaurant sits on and are looking to relocate in Southend

– A short photo post on B’s Barbecue in Greenville

– From this month’s Garden and Gun, former Charlotte Magazine editor Michael Graff recalls the ribs he grew up on in Charles County, Maryland

– Dr. Howard Conyers spoke at his undergrad alma mater, NC A&T, yesterday on how science influenced his love of barbecue

– The more you know

– Damon Stainbrook, a former French Laundry sous chef, has opened his second Pig in a Pickle barbecue restaurant location in the SF area and is smoking onsite over California white oak

– I continue to love how Dave Grohl’s fallback profession is seemingly “Carolina pitmaster”

– Update: no longer a fallback profession:

Review: The Sqweelin’ Pig – Black Mountain, NC

10772421952_img_0935
Name
: The Sqweelin’ Pig
Date: 11/3/18
Address: 3206 US Hwy 70 W, Black Mountain, North Carolina 28711
Order: Three meat combo dinner with pork, ribs, brisket, hush puppies, green beans, mac and cheese
Price: ~$21

Monk: As I’ve encountered in travels in the mountains of Western NC, barbecue is very hit or miss once you go west of, say, Hickory or Shelby. For every Buxton Hall or even Luella’s, there are those places that may smoke over wood but aren’t all that good or those that don’t even bother with wood. It’s all a game of barbecue roulette, essentially.

10772441408_img_0963

The Sqweelin’ Pig started as a food truck that smoked solely over wood when now pitmaster Buddy Clemons lost his construction job in 2012 and decided to make a late career change to barbecue. It seems as though its working out pretty well for him and his wife (who then quit her own job to help him) as this Black Mountain location that opened earlier this year is the third location after Weaversville and Barnardsville northwest of Black Mountain. Here, a trailer is positioned just outside of the main restaurant with the woodpile stacked against the building.

10771810416_img_0938

The wood smoke did come through once the three meat combo platter of pork, ribs, and brisket was delivered to the table. For the most part, the wood smoke alone didn’t make for great barbecue. The pork and ribs were passable (the pork being a bit better when adding one of their sauces, including an interesting blackberry vinegar sauce) but the brisket was what you expect at most places in the mountains of NC – thin, dried out, and with a consistency more like roast beef than Texas brisket. I’d be curious if they are reheating yesterday’s brisket.

The sides are scratch made but weren’t particularly noteworthy. I will note that all beer bottles, including several local beers, were all $2.50. My wife and I each opted for beers from High Wire out of Asheville while my father-in-law went for Coors Light. Again, each of those beers were $2.50 so not bad at all.

Unfortunately, The Sqweelin’ Pig fell into the “smoke over wood but aren’t all that good” category of western NC mountain barbecue places. I’d recommend sticking with the pork if you make it, but I’d also mention that Buxton Hall is only about 30 minutes west of Black Mountain…

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

 

Friday Find: Tales from the Pit interviews Sam Jones and Michael Letchworth

Sam Jones is as entertaining as ever, and its good to hear from his friend and business partner Michael Letchworth on how he got into the barbecue game.

Having grown up in a family whose history in barbecue could be traced back to the 1800’s, whole hog cooking was something that had always been a part of Sam Jones’ world. Despite being reluctant to make barbecue a career as young man, Sam returned to the business full time when his grandfather Pete Jones, founder of Skylight Inn, became ill.

Sam navigated Skylight Inn through tough times after Pete’s death and helped make the business thrive and prosper. Sam has a strong business mind and wanted to create a restaurant of his own, still focused on whole hog cooked the traditional way over wood burned down to coals, but something that would stand on its own and not be seen as a carbon copy of the now famous Skylight Inn.

Together with his longtime friend and business partner Michael Letchworth, they opened Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, North Carolina in the fall of 2015. Check out part one of our interview with Sam and Michael where we discuss the history of Skylight Inn and its unique way of cooking and serving whole hog, and how the mindset of not being afraid to ask questions and to learn lead to the eventual creation of better processes for running a successful business and brand.

Part 2:

Linkdown: 11/7/18

– Smoked turkeys are available in Charlotte from Midwood Smokehouse and Sweet Lew’s BBQ

– Over 300 people have reported being sick from the annual Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church BBQ in Kannapolis, which has been going on from over 70 years

– The NC State Barbecue Championship will now be held at the Blue Ridge Theater in West Jefferson next August

– This latest (and last) season of House of Cards featured barbecue from The Federalist Pig in DC

One day about six months ago, when the sixth and final season of “House of Cards” was filming on a set outside of Baltimore, two fictional men discussed a plate of real pork ribs. “They’re from a place called Federalist Pig,” one character says to another, adding, “I’ve been told it’s the next best thing to Freddy’s.”

– A report from last weekend’s TMBBQ Festival in Austin

– Future idea:

Linkdown: 10/31/18

– The Barbecue Festival in Lexington continues to grow, and roughly 200,000 people attended last weekend’s festival

– This man is a hero:

– Bay area pitmaster Matt Horn is going to Austin this Friday to collaborate with LeRoy & Lewis

– The New York Times on pork steaks, a spicy barbecue dish found primarily on the border between Kentucky and Tennessee around Tompkinsville, KY

 

– A small update on the progress at Sweet Lew’s BBQ, which is now targeting to open in November

– Hilton Head, SC’s local paper lists the 6 best barbecue restaurants in Columbia

– North Carolina! C’mon and raise up!

Linkdown: 10/24/18

– WSOC Charlotte: Organizers plan to cook more than 14,000 pounds of pork for annual Mallard Creek Barbecue

– This weekend is the Barbecue Festival in Lexington; here’s 10 things you may not have known about barbecue in Lexington

– Jim N Nick’s Bar-B-Q is one of several barbecue restaurants in Birmingham’s Restaurant Hall of Fame

– Next time you are in Atlanta:

 
– Dr. BBQ’s restaurant, Dr. BBQ, opened last week in Tampa

– Robert Stegall began smoking turkeys after he returned from WWI after serving with the 82nd Airborne and passed the family recipe to his kids, who run Rock Store Bar-B-Que and Stegall Smoked Turkey

– Great stuff as always from Kathleen Purvis on Greek immigrants who started restaurants in Charlotte, several of which were barbecue and none were Greek

Cook Out – Charlotte, NC

img_2275
Name
: Cook Out
Date: 10/19/18
Address: 10645 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28210
Order: Cookout tray with barbecue sandwich, tray pups, tray nus, and sweet tea (link to menu)
Price: $5.68

Monk: I was first introduce to Cook Out, a Greensboro-based fast food burgers and milkshakes chain, way back in 1993 when our family moved from Fayetteville, NC to High Point. Those milkshakes were legendary and any time I had them it was a big, big deal.

Then, I was introduced to Cook Out in a whole new light back in my college days in the early 2000’s, where the Western Blvd location was a favorite post-bar, late night destination. Not only did it stay open way past the bars (until 5am on the weekends) but the food was ridiculously cheap ($3.99 for a Cook Out Tray at the time). To say that it did the trick on many a late night my last couple of semesters would be an understatement, and I have the photos to prove it.

7860467856_img_0888

I mentioned the price – while it was $3.99 for a Cook Out Tray in the early 2000s, it will now run you $5.25. With it, you pick from about 10 main items including burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and even a barbecue sandwich. Then, you got to pick two sides – and in addition to the usual fries or onion rings, things like corn dogs, chicken nuggets, and quesadillas are considered sides. Top it off with a huge 32 oz sweet tea (or sub it out for one of their 40+awesome milk shakes) and you felt like you were stealing for the amount of food you were getting for around $5. To read more on the wonders of the Cook Out Tray, check out this Drew Magary piece in Deadspin from his visit to one in Durham in 2012. He does more justice to it than I ever could.

The Cook Out in Raleigh had a few picnic tables but is really more of a drive through or takeout place. While that is the predominant layout of most Cook Outs I’ve encountered, you will occasionally find those with an actual sit down restaurant with an order counter inside such as this one in south Charlotte near Pineville.

I knew what I was getting when I opted to review the barbecue sandwich here. It was not going to blow my socks off, but it did end up being a serviceable version of an eastern NC barbecue sandwich. It comes already topped with a mayo slaw and hot sauce and is surprisingly spicy. You don’t get really any smoke in the pork but it will definitely satisfy in a pinch.

I got my usual side order – hush puppies and chicken nuggets (or “tray pups and tray nugs” in Cook Out employee parlance) – and though they are clearly from frozen, again they will do in a pinch.

Which brings us to the point of Cook Out. It’s fast and cheap food that you shouldn’t think (or perhaps write in my case) too much about. Though when it comes to their barbecue, get it if you must but my recommendation would be instead of that, get one of their crazy good burgers (my recommendation would be Cheddar Style) and a shake. You’ll thank me later.

(For more thoughts on Cook Out, check out one of the chapters at Marie, Let’s Eat! here or here)

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs