Monk: Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ recently joined the local barbecue scene after it expanded from a small craft brewery in Harrisburg to add barbecue smoked on a Jon G’s stick burner. The expansion has continued recently, having opened a second, larger location in downtown Concord in September a little more than a year after expanding to barbecue. I recently checked out the original Harrisburg location a few weeks back.
Long story short, Phar Mill shows some promise but is not quite there for me yet. For this visit, I ordered a half pound of brisket and pulled pork as well as an order of pork belly burnt ends.
The brisket came in a paper boat and was somewhat hacked into half slices. Underneath some more promising leans, a piece of fatty had stripes of un-rendered fat. Not sure what happened here, but not the most appetizing sight.
The pulled pork was smoky and had good flavor on the chunks of bark but I couldn’t tell how fresh it was since it was served on the cooler side. The pulled strands could have also used another chop or two in my opinion.
Continuing with the theme, the pork belly burnt ends had some good qualities but wasn’t quite there. The burnt ends were unevenly cut, cooked, and sauced but the flavor and smoke was there.
I want to really like Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ since they are smoking over all wood, and will definitely be giving it another chance (perhaps at their downtown Concord location) to try some of the other meats and beers. Speaking of beer, I tried the Enjoy Yourself American Lager on this visit but would like try some of their IPA and sour offerings. As for the barbecue, for now we’ll give it an “A” for effort.
Now, with our most recent trip being to Siesta Key, Florida for some deep sea fishing, I didn’t have high hopes for barbecue. But by chance while killing time with friend-of-the-blog Boomsauce at a nearby beer garden waiting for the rest of the crew to fly in, Brick’s Smoked Meats in downtown Sarasota came onto my radar. A little research yielded the fact that despite sitting on the ground level of a parking deck they use “a fire-engine red J&R Oyler Pit smoker that stands almost two stories tall” and that sealed the deal. Next thing you know it, post-airport pickup we’re standing at the door supposedly to a place “where Texas ‘cue meets Florida flair.” We’ll see about that.
Speedy: Brick’s Smoked Meats was on the ground level of the State Street parking garage and had a big dining room and large bar. Our party of seven easily fit at a long table just by the bar, and a server was quickly by to take our order (which was pretty much a little bit of everything). We ordered some beers (including a fave barbecue pairing in Shiner Bock), and we were off and rolling.
As appetizers, the wings and bacon burnt ends came out first. The wings were good, but didn’t get as much smoke on them as I like. We got them tossed in both spicy and sweet barbecue sauce, but I couldn’t tell the difference. So while I’ve had better smoked wings, this was still a pretty good start.
The bacon burnt ends were great. They were melt in your mouth pork belly slathered in a sweet barbecue sauce that perfectly complemented the savory, salty meat. Honestly, we should have saved these for dessert. This is a must order item if you visit Brick’s.
Rudy: Once the main course trays came, I made sure to scout out the different meats and grab a bite of the good stuff before it was taken by others. I always want to make sure to get a piece of the brisket because, for me, it’s the easiest way to determine if a barbecue place knows what they are doing or not. The brisket to me was average at best. It was clear to me that it had been made much earlier and was reheated upon ordering. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t anything memorable either. With all of the other meats to choose from, I would lean away from the brisket.
I also made sure to try a rib, which was much better. The meat was very tender, had a good flavor, and didn’t need sauce to go with it (but they did offer 3 different sauces at the table in case you wanted to add to the flavor. As far as a side order, I really enjoyed the collard greens. They were cooked with bacon and had plenty of flavor and tasted like greens that I used to get at ‘meat and three’ restaurants in North Carolina.
Monk: The house sausage on that day was a jalapeno cheddar link so obviously Speedy was out. I assume they were shipped in and not made in house but were a solid meat on that meal, just a notch above the middle of the road pork.Their slaw looked to be a pre-chopped combo of cabbage and carrots and while it was not offensive in taste, it seemed an afterthought. Quick shoutout to the mini cornbread muffins that came with the combo platters.
Speedy: Loyal readers of the blog know that Monk and I have recently changed our tune and favored ordering smoked turkey. I don’t think Rudy’s there yet, but maybe Brick’s turkey would change his tune. The flavor of the turkey slice was good, and I got the smoke taste, but I found it just a touch overcooked and wanted a little more pepper. Not sure it was good enough to convert Rudy, but I’d order it again.
From a sides standpoint, the standout to me was the roasted brussels. I don’t often see these on the menu at ‘cue joints, but they’re just baby cabbages, so they fit a good barbecue meal. The flavor on the brussels was exceptional, and they were roasted to perfection. Again, something I’d highly recommend ordering.
Rudy: I’m going to have to take your word for it because with a menu full of that many good options, there’s no way I’m fitting turkey onto my plate.
We’ve had mixed results in the quality of barbecue on our trips so it’s hard to know what to expect. I was not anticipating getting any barbecue on this trip, so it was quite the pleasant surprise when Monk told us he found this place. Overall, I was impressed with the overall quality of the ‘cue and the depth of their menu. I would not have pegged Sarasota for having the quality that Brick’s had. Was it the best barbecue we’ve ever had? No. But I really liked it and would make sure to return if I was in the area again. And when you combine barbecue with the good company that we had with us, you can’t go wrong.
Name: Jon G’s Barbecue Address: 116 Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133 Order: 1.5 lbs brisket, 0.5 lbs pork, 0.5 lbs bacon burnt ends, 1lb rib, 2 Cheerwine hot links, jalapeno cheese grits, apple crisp (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Speedy: Finally, I was in the Charlotte area on a Saturday and able to make it to the Jon G’s Barbecue brick and mortar location, after Monk’s continual praise and an impressive experience with the food truck a few years back. As a non-NC resident, I am only able to pop in and out of Charlotte a few times a year, and Saturday’s are not always convenient times for a trip over to Peachland, so I have one plea: give the people what they want! More barbecue! But I digress.
Monk: I’m pretty sure Speedy gets it now, but even though they are only open Saturdays it’s not like Garren and Kelly are sitting around the rest of the week between prep, catering gigs, and the food truck. Plus, the Saturday only aspect makes it more of an experience.
Speedy: After loading up from Charlotte around 9:15 AM, we arrived at a small building off highway 74 with a picnic shelter out back around 10:00 and found our place in line for the 11:00 opening. Even an hour early, we were about 10th in line, but we didn’t mind the wait, as we were greeted with a cooler full of (free) Burial beer. A nice touch.
Monk: You know I love free beer and the fact that it’s one of my favorite breweries (NC or otherwise) only adds to it. We each grabbed and beer and joined in on the tailgating atmosphere. This is the one thing I try to convey when convincing anyone to make a trip to Peachland – it’s an experience that’s worth the trip. After all, Saturdays are for the boys!
Speedy: Let’s start with the brisket and not bury the lede. Similar to my experience with Jon G’s food truck a couple years ago, the brisket was fantastic. With apologies to both Jim Noble and John Lewis, this is the best brisket I’ve had in the Carolinas, and rivals Owlbear for the best outside of Texas. The peppery goodness pleased me greatly. I was actually a little worried about the brisket when I saw that Jon G’s uses a rotisserie smoker instead of the Texas standard barrel offset, but it worked out just fine.
For some reason, Jon G’s brisket is still ever so slightly behind my personal Holy Quadrumvirate of brisket (Franklin’s, La Barbecue, Pecan Lodge, Killen’s) but maybe because there’s just something different about eating brisket in Texas.
Monk: Of course that rotisserie smoker is an Oyler from Texas-based J&R Manufacturing, but I get Speedy’s concern when it’s not coming from an army of offset smokers made from old propane tanks (like the original Jon G’s smoker).
I don’t always get the pork at Jon G’s, but that’s not to say they don’t do a good job with it. And on this visit, it was up to par even if it’s not what we were there for.
Speedy: As you loyal readers know, I’m very much a rib man. When I visited the food truck ribs were not on the menu, so I had been salivating thinking about ribs the whole drive over. The dry ribs served at Jon G’s were seasoned well and cooked nearly perfectly. I don’t think I’d change a thing and would consider this a must order meat.
I think they’ve really dialed in their Cheerwine hot link but I know Garren is really high on their newish Cheesy-Tex sausage made with cheese from Brown Creek Creamery in nearby Polkton So I’ll have to try that next time around when I’m not around Speedy, who is unyielding in his lack of tolerance for lactose.
Speedy: The bacon burnt ends were a special of the day. They had great flavor, as expected, but weren’t totally consistent. There were a couple pieces in our order that were a little dry. Overall, I’d still order again, but in a near perfect meal, this was my nit to pick.
Monk: My experience with smoking my own bacon burnt ends is that the variance in cubing leads to some getting overdone while they larger ones cook through. Unavoidable but understandable.
The jalapeno cheddar grits had a little more heat than usual on this visit, which was not unwelcome. Speedy ordered the apple crisp which I’m not sure I’ve ever had from them. It’s a simple but delicious way to end the meal.
Speedy: Like all Texas-style Barbecue, it’s not something I can eat every day, as I was left with a bit of a gut bomb later in the day. So maybe Jon G’s has it right with the Saturday only thing. But overall, Jon G’s Barbecue is ridiculous. One of the best barbecue meals you’ll get anywhere. If you get the chance, don’t just stop by; make a plan to get there early and spend a Saturday morning out there.
Monk: Our last piece of business before we close the door on 2020, here are my favorite barbecue meals of 2020. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d get to a full list of 10 like I did for 2019, but even with everything going on I still had some great meals.
10. Beef rib from Midwood Smokehouse
Midwood Smokehouse has a weekend beef rib special available every weekend for the (relatively) low price of $32 per bone. Midwood charges a flat fee and compared with what you’d pay if you had to pay by the pound, that’s a saving of at least $10-15.
9. “Bird is the word” smoked then fried chicken sandwich and smoked gulf shrimp from Leah and Louise (Charlotte)
“Bird is the Word” is a smoked then fried chicken sandwich topped with pickles and comeback sauce from Leah and Louise from James Beard-nominated chef Greg Collier and his wife Sabrina. It was also one of the best sandwiches I ate all year, even if it was technically not at a barbecue joint. The other smoked item I enjoyed on that visit was the “On My Way Home” which was “big a$$ smoked gulf shrimp” in a lemon, butter, and worcestershire sauce with cornmeal brioche.
If you are anywhere near Charlotte, get yourself too Leah and Louise at Camp Northend.
8. Smoked beef tenderloin from my backyard
My big Christmas smoke this year was both a smoked turkey breast but most importantly, a smoked beef tenderloin. I dry rubbed the tenderloin with kosher salt earlier that day before rubbing it with Billy Twang’s Old No. 3 Rub (review here) as I got my Oklahoma Joe’s offset up to temp. Two hours later, I had a perfectly medium tenderloin that sliced into perfect medallions. Yet another winner to file away for future smokes.
Rick’s was the favorite of my new Lexington discoveries as part of last year’s Lexington barbecue quest, landing just below my co-favorites Lexington Barbecue and Bar-B-Q Center and the re-review of Smiley’s (see below). Nonetheless, Rick’s is a winner that carries on the Lexington tradition for a relatively new restaurant (opened in 2009).
6. Tres Amigos platter (brisket, pork, and ribs) with smoked turkey and jalapeno cheddar sausage from The Smoke Pit
Mine and Speedy’s full review is forthcoming, but we enjoyed our visit to the newest location of the expanding local restaurant chain, which started in Concord and has grown to 4 locations. Charlotte-area folks: don’t sleep on The Smoke Pit.
5. Texas Trinity and beef rib from Prime BBQ (story)
At last February’s media event for Prime BBQ (in before times), after an extensive tour of the then-in construction Prime BBQ, the group was treated to a lovely meal of brisket, ribs, and sausage (aka the Texas Trinity) and a small beef rib. Eventually I will make it back to Knightdale for an official review, but this was quite the meal.
4. Pork belly burnt ends and sliced pork belly from my backyard (story)
While I still haven’t quite lived up to my promise that I would smoke pork belly again very soon, it is very much on my to-do list for upcoming backyard smokes in 2021. I still dream about those pork belly burnt ends from time to time.
3. Chopped barbecue sandwich with hush puppies and a Cheerwine from Smiley’s Lexington Barbecue (review)
Eight years after my first and only visit to Smiley’s, I wanted to get another visit end in case it truly does end up closing due to road expansion. And what I found was a 5 hog joint in limbo, unsure of the timing when it will be forced to close. Nevertheless, the sandwich I got on that day was the perfect Lexington barbecue sandwich.
2. Beef rib, brisket, ribs, and cheddar bossa sausage from Jon G’s Barbecue (review)
You guys all know how I feel about Jon G’s by now, so not too much more needs to be written here except that you should make the trip out to Peachland, particularly if they have a beef rib on special (but be prepared to pay for it). One of my barbecue new year’s resolution is to make the trip more often and continue to spread the word of Jon G’s.
1. Pork, ribs, and chicken from Southern Smoke BBQ (review)
Southern Smoke was my favorite barbecue at the midpoint of last year and that carried on through to the end of 2020. Matthew Register and team are doing great things in Garland, and I urge folks to make the trip like I did.
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