Germantown Commissary – Germantown, TN

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Name
: Germantown Commissary
Date: 6/10/18
Address: 2290 S Germantown Rd, Germantown, TN 38138
Order: Speedy: 3 meat plate (pork, ribs, sausage, fries, green beans) (link to menu)
Price: $23

Speedy: Earlier in my career, I did quite a bit of travelling, which caused me to eat out a lot and eat barbecue all over the country. That has slowed down quite a bit over the past 2-3 years, but I recently started hitting the road a bit again, starting with a client in Memphis. Expect several reviews over the next few months from this neck of the woods, but the first place I stopped was Germantown Commissary.

Monk: Those miles in the car won’t be ideal from a Speedy’s work/life perspective but on the other hand, it should be great for the blog!

Speedy: Germantown Commissary is not really a commissary at all – it’s really just a barbecue joint. It apparently started that way, but after selling some ‘cue he had been smoking in his parking lot for a party, owner Walker Taylor decided to continue selling pork shoulder. It’s got the look and feel of an old timey barbecue joint and my guess is that things have not changed there a whole lot over the years. I was seated immediately and approached by a waiter, who enthusiastically took my order.

In true Barbecue Bros fashion, I ordered a combo plate, with pork, ribs, and sausage. The Commissary was out of brisket (it was late in the day), so I’ll have to wait for the next trip to try that. The food came out quickly and I was ready to dig in.

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As expected, the three meat combo was easily enough food for two people. I started my meal with the pulled pork, which came with large pulled chunks with a sweet sauce already applied. Overall, the pork was tender and I could taste the smoke, but the sauce lacked the tang that I normally enjoy. I also wish it had been pulled a little better, as the chunks were a little hard to navigate. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it, but i think this pork would suit better a sandwich than eating alone.

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I next went to the sausage, which I thought was quite good. It had a nice snap and a good, slightly spicy flavor. I could taste the smoke, but was not overpowered with it. The sausage also came with sweet barbecue sauce on it (the same sauce as the pork), but it worked better with the sausage than the pork, in my opinion. The plate came with two full links, so there was plenty of sausage. I would certainly order this again.

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Monk: Next time, would you order either the pork or sausage with the sauce on the side?

Speedy: I’d probably stay away from the pork altogether, unless I just wanted a sammie. The sausage I thought was very good with the sauce on.

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The star of the show, however, was the ribs. A full slab of spare ribs was delivered, topped by only dry rub (I was not asked wet or dry). I understand why no sauce was applied – none was needed. The ribs were cooked perfectly, offering a clean bite without falling off the bone. The flavor was great – able to taste a mixture of the pork, the smoke, and the seasoning, which had a hint of spice and a hint of sweetness. My only complaint is that i thought the slab could have been a little meatier, and it was a little awkward to handle, as the meat was not trimmed at all. Overall, the ribs are a must order at Germantown Commissary.

Monk: I predict that Speedy will become a Memphis ribs expert over the next few months. Hmm, perhaps a power rankings of them will be in order…

Speedy: As with all barbecue in Memphis, I entered into this meal with high expectations. While I was slightly let down by the pork, the sausage and ribs more than made up for it. I also want to mention that the service I received at Germantown Commissary was top notch – everyone could not have been nicer. All this means I will definitely be back.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pulled Pork – 3 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs
Germantown Commissary Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Jon G’s Barbecue (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Jon G’s Barbecue (food truck)
Date: 4/27/18
Order: Two meat combo (brisket and pork) with corn pudding, mac and cheese, and Sun Drop
Price: $19

Monk: It was a little over a year ago when I first checked out Jon G’s Barbecue and they shook up our Charlotte Big Board by taking over the #1 spot. A little over 14 months later, I checked them out again with wondering if consistency would be maintained.

Since my first time in early 2017, Garren and his wife Kelly have since acquired a food truck and after a brief but worthy hiatus to have their first child they have been making the rounds outside of their monthly(ish) pop up at Southern Range Brewing at food truck roundups such as the bi-weekly Food Truck Friday in Matthews.

I’m happy to report that Jon G’s brisket continues to be on point. The mix of lean and fatty again produced some of the best bites of brisket I’ve had in NC, approaching John Lewis’s in Charleston for best that I’ve tasted in the Carolinas as a whole (I do need to get to Columbia to check out City Q for sure though).

Not to be outshined too much, the coarsely pulled pork with a dash or two of vinegar sauce was quite tasty. From what I can tell, I’m seeing few growing pains in the switch to the food truck in terms of quality of food.

Jon G’s has tried a few things with sides since my last visit and the delicious corn pudding was a new menu item inspired by a similar side at Lewis Barbecue in Charleston. I didn’t try the mac and cheese last time but it was also quite good. Finally, having Sun Drop as a drink option was a nice touch, but perhaps I could humbly suggest adding Cheerwine in the future.

So not only was consistency maintained between my two visits but Jon G’s Barbecue may have possibly even gotten better. Garren and Kelly continue to knock it out of the park, and for my money there is no doubt that they remain the best barbecue in Charlotte

Ratings:
Atmosphere – N/A
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue – Austin, TX (mini-review)


IMG_5801Name
: LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue
Date: 4/8/18
Address: 121 Pickle Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Order: “Pulled pit ham from peaceful pork” sandwich with smoked sweet potato (link to menu)
Price: $16

Monk: On the Sunday of mine and Mrs. Monk’s weekend in Austin, my third (and last) barbecue stop was LeRoy and Lewis’s food truck at the Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden. While they certainly have their central Texas staples, in the relatively short time they’ve been open, LeRoy and Lewis have stood out from other barbecue restaurants for creativity in their menu. On this Sunday, the menu was limited to a pulled pork sandwich and pit smoked sweet potatoes. 

The creativity that I was expecting was evident in the beet bbq sauce that topped the pork sandwich along with some collards. For the last bit of meat before selling out on a Sunday afternoon, the generously portioned sandwich was still fairly tasty.

The pit smoked sweet potato was a nice change of pace for a side than what I usually had. Would get again.

It’s a shame that I couldn’t judge LeRoy and Lewis on their full menu, but on this trip Sunday was the day to check them out for me. The Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden is a really fun setting and a nice way to enjoy the barbecue, and perhaps one day I’ll make it back to try more of what LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue are all about.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Kyle Fletcher’s Barbeque & Catering – Gastonia, NC (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Kyle Fletcher’s Barbeque and Catering
Date: 3/30/18
Address: 4507 Wilkinson Blvd, Gastonia, NC 28056
Order: Large chopped sandwich with hush puppies and a sweet tea (link to menu)
Price: $8.41

Monk: In the nearly 4 years since Mrs. Monk surprised me with a Father’s Day mini-barbecue tour of Gastonia, I’ve been wanting to revisit Kyle Fletcher’s Barbecue & Catering to see if I caught them on an off day. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.

Re-reading my review from 2014 gave me a sense of deja vu. Smokers going full blast as I pull into the parking lot? Check. Smokey but dry pork? Check. Hush puppies being slightly above average? Check. Nauseating Carolina decor? Check and check.

The only difference this time was that opted for a large chopped sandwich instead of a tray since I would be taking my order to go and eating in the car on the way back to Charlotte. The slaw that came on this sandwich had an orange-ish tinge to it where I suspect that it may have been a thousand island dressing slaw. In fact, it reminded me of the slaw from R.O.’s Bar-B-Que, which is currently dead last in our Charlotte big board. Must be a Gastonia thing. Oddly, even with this slaw and some sauce, the sandwich was still inexplicably quite dry.

The hush puppies were again the best part of the meal, as they were on that day 4+ years ago.

Kyle Fletcher’s Barbecue & Catering is fine. And the locals certainly seem to love it as it’s packed the crowds both times I have been, both on a Saturday during lunch as well as a Friday for a later lunch. I can’t fault them for their seeming success with the local crowd, but I just wouldn’t necessarily suggest going out of your way for it.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 1 hog (still)
Pork – 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC – Honorable Mentions

Monk: Last week I posted my list of the 10 best joints in western North Carolina. Here’s my list of honorable mentions.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

Johnson Family Barbecue – Durham (review)

Outside of my usual digging for barbecue joints I had never heard of Johnson Family Barbecue, so it was a pleasant surprise that the barbecue was as good as it was. The makeshift smokehouse shed around back only adds to the charm of the joint, which is connected to a gas station on Wake Forest Highway between Durham and Raleigh/Wake Forest. 5021 Wake Forest Hwy, Durham, NC 27703 johnsonfamilybbq.com

Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte (review)

As the story goes, if Frank Scibelli can’t get a certain food in Charlotte, he tends to open a restaurant to fill that gap. With Midwood Smokehouse, that gap was wood-smoked barbecue; primarily central Texas brisket and sausage but also but also pan-regional smoked meats such as eastern NC pulled-pork, burnt ends, and ribs. With the latest Park Road location in Charlotte, Midwood Smokehouse is now looking to fill in the gap for wood-smoked whole hog barbecue in Charlotte. various locations midwoodsmokehouse.com

Picnic – Durham (review)

As with Buxton Hall and Old Etowah Smokehouse, Picnic was part of a trend of new whole hog joints outside of eastern NC a few years back. While I found it to be a little on the pricey side, the whole hog was still quite good and worth a return visit whenever I get another chance. 1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705 picnicdurham.com

The Smoke Pit – Concord, Monroe, Salisbury (review)

What began as a combination butcher shop and barbecue joint has developed into a small chain with locations in Salisbury and as of earlier this year, Monroe. The Smoke Pit does serve pulled pork but is a good bet for the some of the best brisket from a restaurant in the Charlotte-area. various locations thesmokepitnc.com

Smokey Joe’s Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Speedy Lohr’s BBQ – Lexington (review)

Someday, I hope to be able to properly assess all of the 18 or so Lexington barbecue joints and create a comprehensive list. In the meantime, I will say that Smokey Joe’s Barbecue and Speedy Lohr’s BBQ are quite good and in my current top 5 for the small town of approximately 20,000. Smokey Joe’s Barbecue: 1101 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292 smokeyjoesbbqlexington.com; Speedy Lohr’s: 3664 NC-8, Lexington, NC 27292

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off on either this list or the 10 best list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.

Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom – Durham, NC

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Name
: Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom
Date: 2/24/18
Address: 900 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701
Order: 2 meat combo with brisket and smoked jalapeno cheddar sausage with hush puppies, collards, and cole slaw (link to menu)
Price: $16

Monk: Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom opened in September in a space in downtown Durham that formerly housed Alivia’s Durham Bistro for 10 years. The owners of Alivia’s closed that concept and opened Maverick’s with a menu with an “international house of barbecue” bent to it – which in this case means pulling from Memphis and Texas in addition to North Carolina barbecue traditions.  

One thing that was apparently kept from Alivia’s was the outdoor patio which was perfect on an unusually warm February day. That, however, was the last of anything positive when it came to this lunch.

The first strike of the meal was a warm beer (curiously, Maverick’s had a special on non-NC draft beer which I don’t think I’ve seen at a NC restaurant – it’s usually the other way around). My speculation was that it was served in a pint glass that may have come straight out of the dishwasher but regardless, it was still an oversight. You just simply don’t want a warm-ish Shiner on a patio.

The next strike came when the platters of food came out. Mrs Monk and I got a two meat combo of brisket and sausage – for pork I was gong to sample some of it from our friend’s platter. The brisket and sausage both came out cool to the touch. The bark on the brisket was flavorful, but in addition to being cold it was fairly dried out. To me, it seemed liked it was likely leftover from the day before. I don’t know where the sausage came from but it had the texture of a slightly warmed hot dog – albeit with pieces of jalapeno and cheddar in it. The pork was a little better in terms of temperature but was quite greasy – my buddy didn’t finish his rather small portion of it.

Finally, on this day the sides weren’t going to save the meal. While the hush puppies and fried okra (also sampled from our friend’s plate) were freshly fried and actually decent, the collards could have use some more stewing and the mayo-based cole slaw was lukewarm. Temperature in general seems to need more focus at Maverick’s.

A charitable way to look at Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom is that they are still figuring things out. Let’s hope that is the case and that they do figure it out soon. If not, it seems unlikely that they will make it to 10 years like Alivia’s did in the same space before them.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Sausage – 1 hog
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs

Smokey Joe’s Barbecue – Lexington, NC

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Name
: Smokey Joe’s Barbecue
Date: 1/15/18
Address: 1101 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Small chopped tray with hush puppies and a Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $9

Monk: Part two of my MLK Day sojourn to Lexington, Smokey Joe’s is right in downtown Lexington off South Main Street in a small brick building with a drive-thru window. This was actually my first time in downtown Lexington since most of the joints I’ve previously gone to were right off interstate 85.

In terms of menu, Smoke Joe’s was almost identical to what I had just seen at Speedy Lohr’s in terms of having not only barbecue but other southern comfort food staples in hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, chuck wagon, fried fish, etc. I’m not sure if this is just the typical menu setup for a classic Lexington joint or just a coincidence but I’ll have to pay more attention the next time I’m at a different spot.

Ordering the small tray allowed me to compare like to like with what I had just eaten at Speedy Lohr’s. The portions were nearly identical – that is, much larger than the “small” designation would indicate. In terms of pork Smokey Joe’s was smokey, tangy, and moist. I was officially two for two on the day.

As for sides, I actually preferred the slaw here since it was more vinegary and less sweet than Speedy Lohr’s. The basket of oblong-shaped hush puppies was less plentiful than the previous spot, which was welcome from me. I should note that, had I actually wanted more hush puppies it would have gladly been refilled by the friendly wait staff. This being my second meal in a matter of an hour span, I was most definitely not looking for more hush puppies.

This particular day was a good day full of really good barbecue (emphasis on “full”). Smokey Joe’s was yet another above average Lexington joint and when I am ultimately able to make a credible Lexington big list, I suspect Smokey Joe’s will be up there just a notch below my favorites.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Speedy Lohr’s BBQ – Lexington, NC

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Name
: Speedy Lohr’s BBQ
Date: 1/15/18
Address: 3664 NC-8, Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Small chopped tray with hush puppies and a Cheerwine 
Price: $9

Monk: On our way to Cook’s BBQ just after Thanksgiving, we actually passed Speedy Lohr’s BBQ, a barbecue joint with a very similar name to two other joints in the town of Lexington: Speedy’s Barbecue Inc. and Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia. While Cook’s was alright, after this trip in hindsight maybe we should have just stopped at Speedy Lohr’s instead of heading another 4 miles south.

Speedy Lohr’s is located in a no frill building off NC Highway 8 south of Lexington, a classic Lexington-style joint that actually caught fire in 2015 and closed. Thirteen months and $200,000 later, it reopened in August 2016 with its barbecue pits now conforming to current code and has been seemingly humming along ever since. Prior to Speedy Lohr’s taking over the building and its pits in June 2013, it was a barbecue restaurant named Whitley’s Barbecue. Owners Randy and Amy are no strangers to the barbecue business though, with Randy’s father previously running a barbecue joint in the area that was a casualty of when the state of North Carolina expanded highway 8.

Knowing that I was likely going to go to one more spot that day, I tried to keep it simple with a small chopped pork tray with hush puppies instead of buns (duh). Little did I know, the small tray is actually quite big and I left a bit more stuffed than I would have liked. Thankfully, what I was stuffed with was really good smoke-kissed chopped pork basted in a traditional Lexington dip. I couldn’t stop eating the pork until it was all finished even though I knew that I was going to pay for it later due to my limited stomach space. But it was just that good.

The basket of fresh, small orb hush puppies was also a rather bountiful and the slaw on the other side of the cardboard tray was maybe a tad heavy on the dip but still good. Each part of the Lexington trinity was hitting on all cylinders that day.

In all honesty, I actually meant to go to Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia that day to try and knock out another joint on the NC Historic Barbecue Trail. I’ll get to that some other time but I was very happy with the meal I got at Speedy Lohr’s BBQ. In my preliminary “Speedy” power rankings of Lexington joints with that in the name, Speedy Lohr’s BBQ wins out over Speedy’s Barbecue Inc. simply because they smoke over wood as opposed to electricity (even though we gave Speedy’s 4 hogs back in 2012). Next up I’ll have to try Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia to see who takes the belt.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs
Speedy Lohr's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Pedalin’ Pig – Banner Elk, NC

IMG_1547Name: The Pedalin’ Pig
Date: 12/28/17
Address: 4235 Hwy 105 South, Banner Elk, NC 28604
Order: Half pound brisket plate with brunswick stew and BBQ slaw (link to menu)
Price: $14.95

Monk: Usually, I try to close out my year by taking a short trip to a barbecue joint an hour or two away but this year our family took a short, two night trip to the mountains immediately after Christmas. While the mountains wouldn’t be my first choice destination for barbecue, on our way back from the Boone area we passed by The Pedalin’ Pig in Banner Elk (sadly, our first choice Old Hampton Store and Barbeque, a wood-smoked barbecue joint in Linville, was closed until February) as we took a Grandfather Mountain detour on our way back to Charlotte so I was able to get in one last review in 2017. 

A couple days after Christmas, The Pedalin’ Pig was hopping with with folks stopping before or after skiing at  nearby Sugar Mountain on a bitterly cold day. Each of the dining rooms were more or less packed and there was a line out the door. The wait for larger parties went upwards of 45 minutes by the time we left but our party of 4 was able to be seated in less than 5 minutes.

Mrs. Monk ordered the half pound pulled pork plate while I ordered the brisket plate, allowing us to combine our powers into a 2-meat combo plate (which isn’t an option on the menu). According to my handy dandy NC BBQ Map, they use a wood-assisted gasser (my guess would be a Southern Pride) but they were able to get some decent bark on the pork. Mrs. Monk’s half-pound portion had plenty of it mixed in and the meat had a nice smokey taste. The gasser was able to get a somewhat decent bark on my brisket, but the slices were all taken from the flat and as a result were pretty dried out. Still, some decent flavor from those slices of meat.

The bbq slaw was a good rendition of a Lexington-style red slaw while the brunswick stew hit the spot on a cold day. Mrs. Monk’s sides of collards and cheddar grits were equally successful. 

And as loyal readers know, outside of a couple of outliers mountain barbecue is at best considered hit or miss. The Pedalin’ Pig is more on the hit side of the spectrum while not quite essential. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
Pedalin' Pig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cook’s BBQ – Lexington, NC

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Name
: Cook’s BBQ
Date: 11/25/17
Address: 366 Valiant Dr, Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Monk: Three meat combo plate (chopped pork, sausage, ribs) with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and Cheerwine; Speedy: Three meat combo plate (coarse chopped pork, brisket, ribs) with red slaw, hush puppies, tater tots, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: ~$17 each

Speedy: Monk and I were both embarking on a post-Thanksgiving drive from High Point to Charlotte (albeit in different vehicles), so we planned on a noon rendezvous at Cook’s BBQ in Lexington. As I was driving up, I thought that I might be entering a scene from Deliverance, and that possibly Monk was trying to kill me. Good news – he wasn’t, and Cook’s BBQ is real.

Monk: It is a bit of a weird location for a barbecue restaurant but I would never “Deliverance” you, Speedy. Off of 85, you go drive down Highway 8 south of Lexington proper and take a few turns on country roads. Then you drive past a few houses before happening on Cook’s in a dead-end at the end of a residential street.

The restaurant has been around since 1969 (though the current owners took over in 1984) so they must be doing something right, even if I feel it’s hardly ever mentioned along with the other Lexington joints. To add to its bona fides, it was also included along with Lexington Barbecue, Skylight Inn, Allen & Son’s, and other NC barbecue heavy hitters in this 2012 Washington Post primer on NC barbecue ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. I had been wanting to stop in for years, particularly once I realized they were open on Sundays – a rarity for most family-owned barbecue joints.

Speedy: One thing that’s a little different about Cook’s from most Lexington style joints is the variety of meats. In addition to pork, they have brisket, ribs, and sausage. As Monk and I do when we see lots of meat, we ordered it all. I opted to go with coarse chopped pork (for a change of pace), the ribs, and the brisket. Monk had the same order, but subbed sausage instead of brisket. We both had red slaw and some form of fried potatoes (tots or fries).

Monk: The table agreed that the sausage was the best meat that we tasted that day, though I don’t know where Cook’s gets its sausage from or whether its house made (I suspect its not). In any case, it’s good.

Speedy: Agree, and I will order it should I go back. The brisket surprised me. NC brisket is generally plain bad (I’ve sworn it off a time or two myself), but this stuff was decent. Not on par with anything I’ve had in Texas, but it was definitely passable.

Monk: I did read afterwards that its one of only two places in Lexington that even serves brisket, so its definitely an anomaly. The ribs were a bit overcooked and fell apart as soon as I attempted to pick up the rack. Not to mention they were overly slathered in a thick, sweet sauce. I would avoid.

Speedy: I didn’t care for the coarse pork. It was a mistake to order it that way. Monk enjoyed the fine chopped better. The sides were all good – particularly the hush puppies.

Monk: I had higher hopes for Cook’s being a hidden gem that might sneak into my personal best of NC list but perhaps my expectations were too high. While Speedy and I agreed that the meats were mostly above average, I don’t know that either of us will be going out of our way to make a special trip out to Cook’s Barbecue anytime soon, threat of Deliverance or not.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Cook's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato