NC DOT, careless of the thousands of victims of The Great Wilber’s Debacle, now turns its guns on Lexington. NC Dot has determined that the Smiley’s-Speedy’s section of Winston Road apparently gets a fair amount of traffic. Of course it does. It contains two barbecue places.
Robert Moss reflects on Charleston’s dining scene so far, including the barbecue scene which went from “minor outpost to [an] acclaimed destination”
Monk: It’s been a pretty darn good year in terms of new-to-me barbecue joints. Here’s my five favorite in no particular order…
Brisket, pork belly, ribs, and pulled pork from Owlbear Barbecue (review coming soon)
More to come soon on this recent visit by Speedy and me, but Owlbear Barbecue in Denver had perhaps the best brisket I’ve had outside of Texas (yes, that includes Lewis Barbecue). The pork belly was not far behind.
Lexington-style barbecue and brisket from Noble Smoke (preview)
Finally, Charlotte has some legitimate Lexington-style barbecue in the form of Noble Smoke from Chef Jim Noble. Noble is a lifelong fan of Lexington Barbecue (the restaurant) and has even styled his brick pits after the famed Lexington Barbecue smokestacks (with the Monk family’s permission, of course). This barbecue restaurant is decades in the making, and Jim Noble is certainly doing it right.
Pork, ribs, and brisket from Apple City BBQ (review)
While Apple City BBQ had been on my list, my stop there was completely unplanned. But afterwards, I felt fortunate that my route to the foothills took me right by the joint as all three meats I tried that day were ridiculously good. As I stated in my review, Apple City BBQ is a must-stop for any serious North Carolina barbecue fan.
Whole hog barbecue sandwich and hash and rice from Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que (review)
Sweatman’s Bar-b-que made me a believer in South Carolina whole hog that happens to be drenched with that mustard stuff. It’s legitimately that good. The hash and rice is otherworldly, too.
Chopped sandwich with hush puppies and Cheerwine from Mr. Barbecue (review)
Let’s hope that Mr. Barbecue can rebuild quickly from its smokehouse fire back in the spring, because its an unheralded barbecue joint in Winston-Salem that deserves more attention. Legit Lexington-style barbecue from a classic NC joint in one of the larger cities in the state.
Instapot ribs: “The meat was tender and juicy, albeit a pallid gray color. Never mind, slap some sauce on those ribs and throw them in the hot oven until the sugars caramelize. They turned gloriously glossy with meat you could slurp off like a cartoon dog eating a chicken leg.“
Name: Little Pigs BBQ Date: 7/5/19 Address: 384 McDowell Street, Asheville, N.C. 28803 Order: Regular BBQ plate with slaw and beans, broasted chicken thigh (link to menu) Pricing: $
Monk: Back in the 1960’s, the Memphis-based Little Pigs Barbecue of America chain of restaurants had nearly 100 franchises throughout the southeast. The corporation went bankrupt by 1967, but you can still find independently run locations still open here and there; in NC there are locations in Newton and Statesville and I know Columbia, SC still has one open that Marie, Let’s Eat! loved.
And of course there’s this Asheville one. It wasn’t my original plan to try a new Asheville barbecue restaurant on this trip, but Buxton Hall was unexpectedly closed for lunch that day due to some hood system issues so I quickly changed our coordinates towards Little Pigs.
This Asheville location opened in 1963 (the only year that Little Pigs of America apparently turned a profit before shuttering) in an old gas station just north of the Biltmore Estate. It was owned by a husband and wife duo Joe and Peggy Swicegood (from my understanding, not related to Jess Swicegood who helped create the Lexington style of barbecue) until Joe’s death in 2014 at the age of 91. For more of a profile of them, I can’t recommend this Our State article from Jeremy Markovich enough.
With all that history at Little Pigs BBQ, it’s unfortunate that I found my barbecue to be fairly average. Behind the registers at the front counters sit old brick ovens that used to cook the meat but Little Pigs currently uses a gas-assisted wood smoker. You can still get some good product out of gassers, but I didn’t get a lot of smoke in the barbecue, or much flavor to honest. Until I mixed in some slaw and Texas Pete, I found my chopped pork to be quite bland.
The sides of mayo-based coleslaw, baked beans, and three hush puppies were all standard and not noteworthy in the least.
Little Pigs BBQ is by far the oldest barbecue restaurant in Asheville and for that, its worth a visit but only once you’ve eaten at Buxton Hall or 12 Bones or Luella’s. Try the barbecue but be prepared to get some broasted chicken.
Natalie Ramsey and Chase Webb are the third generation of the Bridges family to work at the venerated Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby. It’s definitely a Barbecue Bros fave and I’m glad that Kevin’s BBQ Joints interviewed them for the podcast since I don’t think they get a lot of recognition outside of the Piedmont of North Carolina.
In this episode I chat with Natalie Ramsey and Chase Webb from Red Bridges BBQ – Shelby, North Carolina. We discuss the long history of the restaurant which opened in 1946 in Cleveland County (called Dedmond’s Barbecue). In 1953, Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was moved to their current location on Highway 74 in Shelby. One of the greatest things about Red Bridges BBQ is that while they have added items as demand grew for specific dishes (i.e. BBQ Nachos), they have stayed true to the old ways of cooking over wood, low and slow, and keeping the recipes for items such as slow the exact same as day one. You can tell the great passion Natalie and Chase have for their business and more importantly family. I guarantee they will treat you like family when you visit. Note they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
From this Charlotte Observer article on Noble Smoke’s opening, I found out the interesting tidbit that Joe Kindred (of Kindred and Hello, Sailor) used to work for Jim Noble
He started getting serious about opening a barbecue restaurant around 2008, but he kept getting delayed. Joe Kindred, a former intern for Noble who has since opened his own restaurants, remembers going all across the state with Noble and stopping at barbecue places along the way.
Daniel Vaughn says the best thing on the menu at Franklin Barbecue is the beef rib
Monk: Personally, I have been following the Jim Noble barbecue restaurant quest for just short of four years. The first article I ever linked that mentioned Jim getting into the barbecue business was from an August 2015 linkdown and I’ve been tracking them on the Charlotte Big Board ever since. Though of course, as has been well established, Jim’s been looking to open a barbecue restaurant for over two decades but wasn’t going to open one without the right location, which Speedy and I got a behind the scenes look at last month. Well, after a visit during their soft opening, I’m happy to report that Noble Smoke is finally here and its spectacular.
While the official grand opening of Noble Smoke is July 25, they officially opened for business for a nearly 2-week period of soft openings (dubbed “The Little Smoke”) on Friday, July 12 meaning the restaurant opens at 4, food is served at 5, and they close once they sell out of meat. On the first Friday, the reduced menu comprised of pork and brisket (served either in sandwich form or by the ¼, ½, or 1 lb) as well as a several slides and a “hand pie” dessert.
And of course, with their on-site partnership with Suffolk Punch Brewing (who hasn’t opened this second location yet), they have plenty of beer on tap in addition to wine and cocktails. They even have a beer called “Noble Toast” which is a Vienna lager and was brewed in honor of their partnership with Noble Smoke. Once the brewery opens, it will surely cement its status as a destination barbecue restaurant.
I stopped in for a quick snack at the bar and am happy to report that they have hit the ground running at Noble Smoke. I ordered a ¼ each of pork and brisket as well as their Lexington-style red slaw. The pork is of course smoked in their custom brick pits fashioned with permission after the famous pits at Lexington Barbecue (Jim’s favorite barbecue joint along with Skylight Inn). I don’t believe they are serving it with the Lexington-style dip chopped in, instead allowing diners to add their choice of sauce. Adding a few dashes of the “Lex” sauce and mixing in the red slaw created the familiar taste of Lexington-style chopped barbecue. Next time I’ll try it on a sandwich. Also available is a sweeter “19” sauce and a mixture of the two, dubbed “Smoke.”
The brisket was what I was probably most interested in, having previously tried the pork at Suffolk Punch Brewing’s first location (then known as Hyde Brewing) for St. Patrick’s Day last year. As Speedy and I were shown a few weeks ago, Noble has 6 custom-built offset smokers that handle the brisket (and I’m guessing the rest of the forthcoming smoked meat items which I’m presuming will including chicken, sausage, pork ribs, and beef ribs). And what they put out is some seriously legit brisket. I was served both the flat and the point. The flat (or lean) had a great peppery bark and was not dry at all. The fatty cut from the point had well-rendered fat which melted in my mouth. Jim Noble’s focus has always been Lexington-style pork but (perhaps unsurprisingly) the man can make a mean brisket.
As I mentioned above, Noble Smoke has hit the ground running. The huge restaurant filled up quickly and had a line out the door by the time I left but I observed no major servicing hiccups. There was a little confusion at the bar as to when we were able to order but once ordered, the food came out promptly. Hospitality was great and all of the servers at the bar were friendly.
Once the soft opening period finishes later this month and the menu expands, I expect that Noble Smoke will be in serious contention for best barbecue restaurant in Charlotte. It’s that good.
Robert Moss drops rib knowledge in this well-researched article on the history of pork ribs
Chapel Hill’s TerraVita Food & Drink Festivalwill end this year but is going out with a bang in terms of barbecue; in addition to Sam Jones, [t]his year’s Hill Fire event will focus on North Carolina barbecue and bring together the state’s new generation of pitmasters, including Matthew Register of Southern Smoke, Chris Prieto of Prime Barbecue, Wyatt Dickson of Picnic in Durham, as well as other chefs who use smoke in their cooking.
Sauceman’s is relocating to Sugar Creek Brewing from its original location on West Boulevard