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.
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.
Name: The Oak Texas BBQ & Catering Order: 3 meat combo (brisket, beef hot link, bacon brisket) + cilantro slaw Pricing: $$
Speedy: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – ordering brisket outside of Texas is a dangerous proposition. However, afewplaces have opened my eyes to the possibility of awesome brisket outside of Texas, and one in particular made me a believer in food trucks. So when I found out The Oak Texas BBQ was going to be outside my new favorite brewery in Nashville (shout out, Crazy Gnome), I knew I had to try.
Monk: It’s been a fun ride watching Speedy walk back his original declaration of never having brisket outside of Texas.
Speedy: I showed up just after noon to a small line, and I quickly got excited seeing the two large Texas style offset smokers burning large chunks of wood. By the look (and smell) of things, I was in for a treat.
Of course, I went with all three meats offered, plus the cilantro slaw on the side (skipping the cheese grits). It wasn’t long before this delicious Texas trio was delivered to my picnic table and I was able to dig in. Of course I started with the brisket. I asked for a mix of fatty and lean and was given two generous slices of brisket. The brisket was cooked perfectly, had sufficient moisture, and a wonderful, peppery bark. It didn’t quite melt in my mouth in the same way that the best brisket does, but it was definitely a brisket to be remembered. Martin’s has officially been unseated as the best brisket I’ve had in Tennessee.
Speedy: Next up was the beef hot link. The hot link had good flavor but could have used a little more snap in the casing, and maybe a touch more heat. I enjoyed it, but it was a distant third place in terms of meats for me.
Finally, saving the best for last, was the “bacon brisket” aka smoked pork belly. My goodness was this delicious. Surrounded by the same peppery bark as the brisket, but with that great pork flavor, this was the best barbecued meat I’d had in months. Really, really phenomenal stuff and a must order.
Monk: I smoked a pork belly a few months back in a similar manner (in addition to pork belly burnt ends) and freakin’ loved it. I still haven’t smoked a second one yet, so I need to do that soon so I don’t make myself a liar.
Speedy: The cilantro slaw was nice and crunchy, but could have used a little more vinegar zing. However, it was worth ordering.
Monk: The Oak sounds fantastic and definitely worth a stop next time I’m in Nashville. Will they be a regular food truck at Crazy Gnome (which I also want to check out)?
Speedy: Great question, Monk. I know they have plans to be back on September 26, but don’t know otherwise. I’m definitely hopeful that it becomes a regular occurrence.
Monk: A little later than I’d normally like to post a first half look-back but then again, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a weird year. At least barbecue is (mostly) back. After a lot of backyard smoking (a little more on that below) and an attempt at mail order, barbecue restaurants started to reopen in late spring and adapted to the current situation with all formerly extinct practices like curbside service and carhops that made perfect sense in a pandemic environment.
A barn full of firewood out back was a sign of good things to come when it came to Backcountry Barbeque, an unassuming barbecue joint south of Lexington that landed in the top tier of my Lexington barbecue rankings.
Pork belly burnt ends and sliced pork belly from my backyard (story)
While I 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. Particularly as the weather starts to cool down this fall. I still think about those pork belly burnt ends from time to time.
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, particularly if they have a beef rib on special (but be prepared to pay for it). I’ll also reiterate how glad I am that Garren and Kelly finally opened their store and are doing it their way.
Rick’s was the favorite of my new Lexington discoveries as part of my recent Lexington barbecue quest, landing just below my co-favorites Lexington Barbecue and Bar-B-Q Center.
Pork, ribs, and chicken from Southern Smoke BBQ (review)
Not too much more to add from my recent review other than Southern Smoke was my absolutely favorite new barbecue I’ve tried this year. I’ll repeat myself from my review: “Do yourself a favor and find time to make the trip like I did. You won’t regret it.”
What should I try in the second half (or what’s remaining of it) of 2020?Leave a comment with your recommendation.
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