Charlotte Barbecue News from the First Quarter of 2021

Monk: After nearly a year of various stages of lockdown and a big spike in COVID cases in January, the first quarter of 2021 had mostly positive news as restaurants managed through relaxed restrictions starting in March.

Here in Charlotte, restaurants are finding new and different ways to diversify their food offerings to attract customers and some are even in expansion mode. Let’s hope that trend continues into Q2.

January

1/5 North State BBQ announces it is opening a second location in Lake Norman off Statesville Rd

1/10 RayNathan’s in Gastonia celebrated their 2 year anniversary

1/13 Sweet Lew’s BBQ hires its first “barbecue apprentice” in Keywon Dooling from the local culinary school at Central Piedmont Community College

1/29 Jon G’s Barbecue gets their first national magazine feature

February

2/7 Pitmasters from Bobby’s BBQ, City Limits Barbeque, and Fork Grove BBQ have a “barbecue Saturday Texas BBQ Pitmaster Meatman meat-up” meet up at Jon G’s Barbecue

2/12 Jon G’s Barbecue introduces some awesome Coors Banquet Beer-inspired t-shirts

2/15 Noble Smoke launches taco kits now available every Tuesday

2/16 Bar-B-Q King makes this list of “50 must-try cheap eats in Charlotte under $10” from Axios Charlotte (formerly Charlotte Agenda)

2/24: Axios Charlotte posts their list of the 4 best barbecue spots in Charlotte, with another 4 worth the drive; we even get a brief shoutout in reference to Jon G’s

March

3/1 Jon G’s Barbecue acquired their restaurant one year ago on 3/1; they would open for business about 3 months later

3/2 Roddey’s BBQ food truck in Rock Hill changes locations

3/3 Noble Smoke introduces the “Mini Mary,” a smaller version of their “Miss Mary” platter that feeds 4

3/4 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque and Midwood Smokehouse make the Eater list for Charlotte

3/9 Mac’s Speed Shop and Noble Smoke have two of the best patios in Charlotte

3/12 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque announces a “Bootcamp and BBQ” event on April 17

3/19 Noble Smoke introduces “The Noble Smoke Pitmaster Experience” where you can learn from their pitmasters for the somewhat steep price of $500 a spot; the initial spots have since sold out

We are offering an exclusive opportunity to learn the step-by-step process of smoking meat first-hand from our pitmasters, Stuart and Ed. You get to take home the meats of your labor which includes a whole brisket and pork butt (5 lbs each). But that’s not all! 3 sauces, a hat, a pitmaster t-shirt, lunch, and a post-smoke beer are also included.

3/19 Charlotte-based Mac’s Hospitality Group, the parent company of Mac’s Speed Shop, eyes growth across the Southeast in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Florida under the leadership of recently-hired president Shang Skipper

3/19 Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ will open a location of its fast casual concept in Concord in the coming weeks

The Ultimate Charlotte Barbecue Plate (2021)

Monk: A lot (and I mean, a lot) has changed since the last time I did a “Best of Charlotte” series in 2016. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen and Queen City Q, both winners in several categories, are both no longer in business. Neither are Sauceman’s or Bill Spoon’s, who in 2016 placed in ribs and pork respectively.

The Smoke Pit had the best brisket at the time and since then Jon G’s, Sweet Lew’s, and Noble Smoke have all opened their doors with wood-smoked brisket that each edges out the offerings from The Smoke Pit.

Midwood Smokehouse didn’t top any one category in 2016 but still had a strong showing by being in the top three in each of the five categories: pork, brisket, ribs, sausage, and other. Thankfully, they are still around and are well represented on this list.

Now, onto our picks for the “Ultimate Charlotte Barbecue Plate.”

Pork – Noble Smoke

Jim Noble and team are carrying on the 100+ years-old legacy of Lexington-style barbecue at Noble Smoke in west Charlotte. Simply rubbed with salt and pepper and smoked directly over wood coals in their custom brick masonry pit (named “John”) whose design was borrowed with permission from family friends the Monk family of Lexington Barbecue, upon tasting the pork transports you an hour or so north up I-85.

Honorable Mention: Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Brisket – Jon G’s Barbecue

The meat that put Jon G’s on the map. Of their many spectacular smoked meats, the brisket is the one must order every time you go. Do it and you won’t be disappointed. Trust me.

Honorable Mention: Noble Smoke

Ribs – The Smoke Pit

This one was a surprise from a recent trip that Speedy and I took to the Gastonia location of the local mini-chain of restaurants in late 2020. On that visit, Speedy noted that the dry rub ribs had the perfect bite with just the right amount of spice. I couldn’t agree more and it was the standout meat of that meal.

Honorable Mention: Jon G’s

Sausage – Cheerwine Hot Link from Jon G’s

A truly unique sausage made in-house at Jon G’s, with Salisbury, NC-based Cheerwine taking the place of the water used in the sausage-making process. The end result isn’t overly sweet or “Cheerwine-y” but it does impart a slight sweetness to counteract the heat of the jalapeno.

Honorable Mention: Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Beef Rib – Midwood Smokehouse

The beef rib is a weekend special at Midwood Smokehouse and upon my last visit is available every week for a cut-rate price of $32, well below what you would pay if it were charged by the pound.

Honorable Mention: Jon G’s BBQ (not available all weekends)

Side – Hash and rice from Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Hash and rice isn’t something you find in Charlotte, much less North Carolina, as its almost strictly a South Carolina barbecue dish. Sweet Lew’s differs from what you would find at True BBQ in West Columbia or Sweatman’s in Holly Hill in that instead of the off parts of the pig it uses pork as well as brisket, but I just love that they now offer it fulltime on their menu whereas it used to be a Wednesday special only.

Honorable Mentions: Pork skins from Sweet Lew’s BBQ, Smoked Meatballs from Midwood Smokehouse, Smoked wings from Noble Smoke

Linkdown: 1/5/21

Featured

My new year’s resolution: I will finally do pork steak’s in my backyard. Mark my word. Now, just to find a local grocery or butcher shop that has them or will cut them for me. -Monk

Native News

Congrats to Jon G’s Barbecue on their receipt of this award from Hometown Heroes of Union County

Three barbecue joints – Midwood Smokehouse, Sweet Lew’s BBQ, and Noble Smoke – make Charlotte Magazine’s 50 best restaurants in Charlotte list

Highlands Smokehouse has new ownership, and they aim to bring a beer garden vibe to the barbecue restaurant

Bib’s Downtown in Winston-Salem was the latest casualty of the pandemic right before the new year

Sweet Lew’s BBQ is the one barbecue joint on the list, but mmmm…pork and chicken skins

Apple City BBQ in Taylorsville introduces a few new menu items for 2021 that have a local bent to them: their hot links will be sourced from Chapman Cattle Company in Alexander County and their grits will be stone ground the old fashioned way at Linney’s Water Mill

Non-Native News

RIP to Mike Mills of 17th Street Barbecue, simply known as “The Legend”

So this happened

…which led to Texas Monthly’s Daniel Vaughn attempting to recreate

Donnie Harris Sr of Pack Jack Barbecue in Sebastapol has been smoking for 40 years

Ribs n Reds is NC-born Chef Bryce Shuman’s pivot to barbecue

Kevin’s BBQ Joints with a couple of recent posts about the knives and sharpeners that barbecue joints use

5 lb barbecue cake

LOL

Charlotte Barbecue News from the Fourth Quarter of 2020

Monk: The Charlotte barbecue news seemingly slowed down in the last 3 months of 2020 as the restaurants that thankfully are still open continue to struggle through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we begin 2021, here’s hoping the news is more positive than negative. Fingers crossed!

October

10/12 Charlotte-based Bojangles briefly expanded to barbecue for National Pulled Pork Day on October 12th

10/13 – Midwood Smokehouse is one of the barbecue restaurants that politicians make a point to visit when in Charlotte

10/15 – Mac’s Speed Shop handed out free pulled pork for early voters in front of the Bojangles Entertainment Complex

November

11/9 – Midwood Smokehouse‘s brisket cheesesteak makes this list of the 6 “must-try” ones in Charlotte

11/23 – Perry’s Pig Pickin’ in Mint Hill is part of a small grocery store; the history of how this Perry brother didn’t get into the jewelry business in the Charlotte Ledger

11/28 The Smoke Pit celebrated 6 years open at its original Concord location

December

12/3 – Chef Jim Noble of Noble Smoke, his religiously conservative views, and how they fit in with today’s Charlotte

12/16 Sweet Lew’s BBQ introduces brisket tamales

12/22 Jon G’s Barbecue makes Charlotte Five’s list of best takeout meals in 2020