Photo Gallery: Quick stop in Lexington, NC

Monk: Mrs. Monk was bringing a good friend of ours a quart of Lexington Barbecue on the way from Charlotte to High Point. However, we arrived in town 15 minutes before it opened, so to kill time I had her stop by Barbecue Center first. Speedy and I had previously checked out (and dug) Barbecue Center almost 4 years ago but I hadn’t had the opportunity to go back since.

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This is the first of three different signs that The Barbecue Center (or Bar-B-Q Center) has on its property.

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This is sign #2 with the classic Coca-Cola signage. Note the different spelling of “barbecue”.

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And finally, the iconic sign off Main Street that is the most well known of the 3. Perhaps one day I’ll devote a post to barbecue signage in and around Lexington.

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The Barbecue Center is True ‘Cue certified and has the sticker to prove it. I was surprised to see that they also accepted both Apple Pay and Android Pay.

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Sonny Conrad was a barbecue icon who owned the Barbecue Center and was one of the creators of the Barbecue Festival. Every year, he would present the first barbecue sandwich of the festival to the mayor of Lexington. Here are some festival posters throughout the years.

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Sonny Conrad passed away in 2013 and a plaque in his memory is near the register. It is now run by his sons and his entire family works there.

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I got a chopped barbecue sandwich for breakfast and it was fantastic and just as good as I remembered. As you can see, the meat-to-bun ratio is very favorable towards the meat.

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Then, it was onto Lexington Barbecue to pick up that quart of barbecue and side of red slaw we had promised our friends.

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The smokestacks were going full throttle at 10am on a Saturday morning, which is always a good sign.

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I stepped away from the parking lot because I had never taken a photo of the street sign on the way to Lexington Barbecue and snapped this photo on the way out.

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Finally, here’s my photo of Smokehouse Lane. Then, it was onto High Point.

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Until next time, Lexington!

Photo Gallery: A Free Range Pig Pickin’ with Sam Jones

For the second year running, Free Range Brewing and Order/Fire combined powers to host a premiere screening of an episode of the web series with a pig pickin’ to follow. While last year’s episode featured four NC breweries (Burial Beer Co., Fonta Flora Brewery, Fullsteam Brewery, and Free Range Brewing), this year’s episode was on Sam Jones and Skylight Inn. Sam joined the festivities and smoked a 230 pound hog the night before for the pig pickin’. The whole shindig and its $10 suggested donation for the barbecue benefited the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, so there was an abundance of reasons to make it out to Free Range on a Sunday afternoon.

The 40 or so minute episode of Order/Fire was primarily a discussion between Sam and host Mark Jacksina that took place at Skylight Inn with topics ranging from the history of Sam’s family and barbecue to his first experiences gaining exposure outside of Ayden and his involvement with the Fatback Collective. It was a casual conversation between the two, with Sam peppering in his usual mix of one-liners and idioms. The packed house enjoyed the screening and you can view it here once it is made available online.

Now the first time I tasted Sam Jones’s barbecue, it was at when he smoked a whole hog at Midwood Smokehouse’s Southern ‘Cue Supper in 2013 and the whole hog literally (actually figuratively) blew my mind. I had not yet tasted cracklin’ skin mixed in with whole hog barbecue and absolutely loved that texture. The whole thing was a “revelatory experience” I hadn’t been able to try in the 3.5 years since. That is, until this day, and it definitely did not disappoint in the slightest. I’m still thinking about that pork as I type this, as a matter of fact.

Afterwards, I made a resolution: I will visit Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ in 2017. Mark it down.

 

Linkdown: 4/5/17

– Looks like NC Governor Roy Cooper will be getting some smoked salmon, coffee, apples, and chocolate from Washington Governor Jay Inslee

– A NY Times profile on Kansas City with some great photography

– Rodney Scott was featured in a KC vs SC barbecue showdown on Late Show with Stephen Colbert

– Southern Living readers voted Carolina BBQ in Spartanburg the best in the state

– Pulled pork + Giant Hush Puppy =

– Jim Early, founder and CEO of the NC BBQ Society received the Winner’s Circle Award from Visit NC 365

– Queen City Q remains the barbecue vendor at Charlotte Knights stadium this year, and are now smoking all barbecue in-house

Barbecue smoked in-house, which had previously only been available on the catering menu, has been added at the outfield picnic area. New items offered to fans include house-smoked, hand pulled pork; slow-cooked, carved brisket; grilled hot dogs; and corn on the cob and potato salad.

– It’s not barbecue, but Bojangles is a NC institution (duh)

Rocky Top BBQ Co (food truck) – Charlotte, NC

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Name
: Rocky Top BBQ Company
Date: 3/24/17
Order: Pulled pork and brisket plate with bacon jalapeno mac n cheese and rocky top slaw
Price: $11

MonkSince the last time I tried Rocky Top BBQ Co at the 2014 Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship they’ve started a food truck and have been making the rounds at the usual food truck rallies around Charlotte. The Monk clan and I checked out the new family-friendly Cotswold Food Truck Rally on a recent Friday night which afforded a good opportunity to check out the truck to see how it compared to the sandwich I had in a festival environment last time around.

Rocky Top graciously allowed me to get a plate of both brisket and pork, which wasn’t on the menu. The pulled pork was moist and somewhat smokey but nothing spectacular. Rocky Top BBQ Company has their own line of sauce that is sweet and vinegar-based, and it works pretty well with the pork.

As for the brisket, it was rather disappointing. In my two slices, the fat was not rendered all the way and outside of the first bite the rest were tough and unpleasant.

The lady taking my order said they were “kind of known for” their bacon jalapeno mac n cheese, and to her credit it was the best part of the meal. The mayo-based slaw was just fine but nothing more than that.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with Rocky Top BBQ Company on this night.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – N/A
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs

Linkdown: 3/29/17

– Skylight Inn and Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que make the list

– Marie, Let’s Eat! goes deep on the old Coleman’s BBQ chain, which used to have 176 stores across the southeast but is now down to just 2 in Mississippi

– From Robert Moss, a history of how the beef rib became an Instagram star

– The Charlotte Pitmasters, at least for July 15

– Cheerwine’s Centennial Celebration in Salisbury on May 20 will have a “People’s Choice BBQ Competition”

– Speaking of which, here’s the story of how Cheerwine came to be 100 years ago from Our State Magazine as well as Eater

Barbecue Bros Book Club: The One True Barbecue by Rien Fertel

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Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

IMG_8196A collection of profiles on whole hog pitmasters throughout the southeast, “The One True Barbecue” by Rien Fertel is an enjoyable if not somewhat controversial read. In particular, Fertel ruffled feathers with his chapters on Wilber Shirley and Ed Mitchell. He portrayed the former’s restaurant as a joint with a racial division of labor between the front of the house and the back and the latter as a marketing gimmick in overalls that cooks hogs in a non-traditional manner (hot and fast rather than the traditional low and slow). However fair Fertel’s representation may or may not be (and he is but one man with his opinion), the fact that he spoke with neither for the purposes of this book only added more embers to the burn barrel.

Fertel ties the profiles together through narrative, following his path from New Orleans to the Carolinas and back, with even a stop in Bushwick to visit Arrogant Swine. Each chapter not only explores the pitmaster(s) themselves but in some cases the history of an entire town with Ayden, NC and its two joints Skylight Inn and Bum’s. He particularly favors Scott’s-Parker’s Barbecue in Lexington, TN, visiting with pitmaster Ricky Parker in the first chapter and then his sons after his death in the last chapter. In between, Fertel visits 12 other whole hog joints in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and the aforementioned Arrogant Swine in NY.

I enjoyed Fertel’s writing and found this to be a quick read that I devoured over just a few sittings. Fertel cut his teeth writing oral histories for The Southern Foodways Alliance, and his experience writing on southern food showed. A small complaint would be that the only color photographs are confined to a section at the center of the book – I would have loved to see them throughout as opposed to the smaller black and white ones within the chapters. In any case, I can’t recommend “The One True Barbecue” enough.

Monk

Linkdown: 3/22/17

– Will Bigham and Christopher Soto of The Improper Pig in Charlotte are doing great work feeding 400 homeless while The Salvation Army’s kitchen undergoes renovations

– Congrats to Luella’s  Bar-B-Que in Asheville for 10 years of being open

Luella’s has teamed with Asheville’s Hi-Wire Brewing Co. to create Pig on a Wire Anniversary Ale, an amber honey-wheat ale that goes well with barbecue.

– Elliott Moss is one of Zagat’s 9 southern chefs to watch this year

– Speaking of Buxton Hall, they make the list of Garden & Gun’s fried chicken bucket list for NC

– TMBBQ on Barbecue (the film)

– John Lewis joined CBS This Morning and brought some recipes for his upcoming Tex-Mex restaurant in Charleston, Juan Luis

– Great sign at Chubby’s Bar-B-Q in Chattanooga. The barbecue? According to Marie, Let’s Eat!: ehhhhh

– A short video on Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro from The Southern Weekend

– If you don’t know, now you know:

Barbecue Bros Book Club: Buxton Hall BBQ Book of Smoke by Elliott Moss

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Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

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“Buxton Hall BBQ Book of Smoke” is a book of recipes from Chef Elliott Moss, the head chef and pitmaster of, you guessed it, Buxton Hall Barbecue. It also functions as a coffee table book of sorts with its beautiful color photography. Finally, it also contains narrative from Moss; among other things, he explains the history of how Buxton Hall came to be, his own family history of barbecue, inspiration for the restaurant, and his philosophy when it comes to barbecue and food.

In terms of the recipes, Moss divides the book between pit smoking techniques and meats, favorite foods found at Buxton Hall, sides, and desserts. While this section of the book is heavy on the recipes themselves, Moss still gives a couple paragraphs introduction on each dish so his voice continues throughout the book past those initial pages.

This was a quick read but I enjoyed reading Elliott Moss’s writing on barbecue (his passion is quite evident) and particularly the food porn-y full color photography (something I wish more barbecue books would have). “Buxton Hall BBQ Book of Smoke” will sit on my shelf as a beautifully laid out reference book that I will go back to try some of the recipes and techniques in the future (hello, cinder block pit and burn barrel).

Monk

Charlotte Barbecue Joint Big Board – March 2017

We have a new #1! Jon G’s BBQ hosts a regular pop-up at Southern Range Brewing in Monroe and smokes some of the finest brisket in NC (the pork’s not so bad either), which lands it at the top spot in our latest update. Since our last big board in December 2015, we’ve added seven total new joints to the list, four of which landed in the top 7: the aforementioned Jon G’s BBQMidwood Smokeshack – the fast casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse, the Texas-style joint Big Tiny’s BBQ in Mooresville, and the year-old korean-southern barbecue fusion of Seoul Food Meat Co. 2017 should hopefully bring us the debut of Jim Noble’s barbecue restaurant, the Texas-and-maybe-Lexington-barbecue-influenced Noble Smoke (side note: our top 5 has a little too much Texas flavor to it for my liking). He’s done some events in Charlotte over the past few months on his new smoker, and I am hoping his brick and mortar restaurant opens soon (or at least I get a chance to taste his barbecue somewhere).

What other Charlotte area joints should we check out? Feel free to weigh in on your favorite in the comments and if you present a strong enough case we will try to head there next. I’ve checked out a few joints recently based on reader comments and feedback (including our new #1) and am always looking for more, whether in Charlotte or across the state.

-Monk

Note: “new” denotes reviewed since last big board update

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  1. Jon G’s BBQ new
    A recent revelation from Monroe. Check their Facebook and Instagram to figure out when Garren and Kelly will be smoking at Southern Range Brewing next because you won’t want to miss it.IMG_0196
  2. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (food truck)
    Some friends of the blog ordered some catering from Boone’s last summer and it was still pretty dang good. I hope to catch them out and about some time soon to see if Jon G’s really is the new best barbecue in town.IMG_1469
  3. Midwood Smokehouse: Ballantyne / Central Ave (original review)
    Midwood keeps doing their thing, and continue to expand with another Charlotte location expected to open with the next month or so.
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  4. Midwood Smokeshack (Matthews) new
    Recently relocated Texas-born pitmaster Michael Wagner is doing some great things at the fast casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse.IMG_4457
  5. The Smoke Pit (Concord) (original review)
    Having recently tried the Salisbury location of The Smoke Pit, I was reminded just how good their smoked meats are.
  6. Big Tiny’s BBQ (Mooresville) new
  7. Seoul Food Meat Co new
  8. Sauceman’s (original review)
  9. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue (original review)
  10. Kyle Fletcher’s Barbecue & Catering
  11. Q2U (Lake Wylie) new
  12. The Improper Pig
  13. Killer Q
  14. Bar-B-Q King
  15. 521 BBQ and Grill: Tega Cay / Indian Land
  16. Mac’s Speed Shop: Steele Creek / South Blvd
  17. Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q (Concord) 
  18. The Q Shack
  19. Smoke & Go Bar-B-Que (food truck)
  20. Kid Cashew new

  21. Treehouse Whiskey and Fork new
  22. Smoke Modern Barbeque (Huntersville)
  23. R&R Bar-B-Que (Concord)
  24. Queen City Q (original review)
  25. Lancaster’s BBQ: Huntersville / Mooresville
  26. Rock Store Bar-B-Q: Stallings / Mint Hill
  27. Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que: food truck / Matthews (original review)
  28. McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon
  29. Brooks’ Sandwich House
  30. Fort Mill BBQ Company (Fort Mill) new

  31. Queen City Q (Concord) new
  32. Bubba’s Barbecue
  33. JJR’s BBQ Shack
  34. Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ
  35. The Dixie Pig (Rock Hill)
  36. City Smoke
  37. Bobbee-O’s BBQ (original review)
  38. OooWee BBQ (food truck)
  39. R.O.’s Bar-B-Que

Closed: Old Hickory House (April 2015), Elwood’s Barbecue & Burger Bar (September 2015), Carolina Ribs on the Run (Mooresville) (July 2014), Farmer’s BBQ (unknown)

Still to review: Dan the Pig Man (food truck), Bodrick’s BBQ, Glenn’s Again (Kannapolis), Slow Smokin’ BBQ (food truck), Smokey J’s BBQ (food truck), Smoke Modern Barbeque (Stonecrest), JB’s Lazy Pig BBQ and Ice Cream (Waxhaw), Unnamed Jim Noble barbecue restaurant (coming soon), Randy’s BBQ (Troutman), City Barbeque, Dan Good Que

Previous Big Boards: December 2015, January 2015May 2014December 2013July 2013

Friday Find: Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour” – The BBQ Triangle

Before “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown”, Anthony Bourdan’s first food travelogue show was “A Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network. In the second season, he visited Texas, Kansas City, and NC – which he refers to as “the barbecue triangle” – and explored barbecue culture for what may have been his first time (at least on recorded camera).

The NC section (starts at 18:35) visits with Ed Mitchell at his old joint in Wilson to explore eastern NC barbecue and then with Bill Eason (vice president of the NC BBQ Society) and Jim Tabb (founder of the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival) in Marshville to learn about Lexington-style barbecue. Of all the barbecue he tastes that episode, he seems to come away most impressed by Mitchell’s eastern NC whole hog.

This episode first aired in 2003 on the Food Network. Bourdain has subsequently learned a lot more through his other shows, but it’s interesting to see where he started from. In any case, it’s all a bit quaint.