Name: Firehawk Brewpub Date: 8/5/23 Address: 309 N Main St, Mt Holly, NC 28120 Order: Orders of pork, brisket, and ribs with slaw, collards, beans, collards, pickled deviled eggs (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Monk: Earlier this year, Firehawk Brewpub exploded on to the local Charlotte barbecue scene with a lot of promise. Located in an old fire station near downtown Mount Holly just west of Charlotte, they announced themselves promising wood fired barbecue. After a late spring opening, it would not be but for a few months before I was able to make it out there for a meal after a morning at the US National Whitewater Center; the restaurant is a short 5-6 minute drive from the entrance to the center in downtown Mount Holly.
My first impressions of the location were great. In addition to true ‘cue barbecue, They’ve built out the restaurant to include both a front patio and a back deck but on this early August day it was much too hot for that. The property is a scenic setting off Dutchman’s Creek, an offshoot of the Catawba River. And did I mention Firehawk also brews their own beer?
There is no combo plate, so we ordered individual portions of pork, brisket, and ribs, each coming with sides of a mustard/mayo slaw and cornbread.
The 10 oz pork portion was coarsely shredded but was flavorful and smokey. As with a lot of places these days, they offer a variety of house-made sauces to try with the pork.
Similarly, the quarter-inch slices of brisket came out well-smoked but they could have perhaps used a little more trimming. Good flavor though.
Now, ribs are a place where Firehawk does something a bit different. They smoke a rack of baby-back ribs and then slice them individually, finishing them on an open flame grill to get more surface area of char. While individual ribs can have varying amounts of char, the flavor really did shine through. Apparently, they are the best seller since they opened, and I can see why.
In terms of appetizers, our group really liked the pickled deviled eggs. Along with the slaw and cornbread, we ordered beans and collards, both being above average. Next time I go back, I’m sure if I ordered any of their other sides I would be similarly impressed.
I’m already looking for my next excuse to head back out to Firehawk Brewpub. They are a worthy addition to the Charlotte barbecue scene, and for me is squarely in the top 3 best barbecue restaurants in the area. I can’t wait to bring more potential converts with me.
Name: SAW’s Soul Kitchen Date: 7/21/23 Address: 215 41st St S, Birmingham, AL 35222 Order: Two meat combo platter with pork and sausage with collards, slaw, and cheese grits (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Monk: SAW’s BBQ owner Mike Wilson (or SAW which is an acronym for “Sorry Ass Wilson”) originally grew up in Charlotte and in the early 2000’s was working as a sous chef at Dean & Deluca in Charlotte fresh out of culinary school at Johnson and Wales (though the Vail location, not the Charlotte one). Eventually he found himself back in Alabama – he went to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa for undergrad – working at a restaurant in Birmingham and doing barbecue on the side. In 2009, an opportunity to take over a closing barbecue restaurant presented itself. Wilson opened the original location of SAW’s BBQ in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood shortly thereafter. Since 2009, SAW’s has grown to six locations in the greater Birmingham area. Those six locations include the Avondale location the Monk family (plus Monk uncles!) found itself on a recent Friday this summer while visiting family.
Each SAW’s location has a slightly different name and menu and for Avondale it’s “SAW’s Soul Kitchen” with the barbecue staples but menu offerings that are more southern soul food (think fried chicken, patty melts, and fried green tomato BLT’s). This location is a cozy, no-frills restaurant where customers order at the bar and then seat themselves either at the bar or one of the handful of tables or booths in the small-ish restaurant.
The Monk Uncles had arrived just before us and took the liberty of ordering a bowl of pork rinds that were still warm upon our arrival. They were light and tasty, and a nice way to kick off the meal.
I shared a two meat combo platter of pork and sausage with Mrs. Monk, adding a third side of collards to the vinegar-based slaw and cheese grits we ordered as our two sides that come with the meal. In terms of the meats, both were above average without being outstanding. Both come standard with a vinegary-sweet sauce that was drizzled over but I added the vinegar table sauce to the pork to further cut that sweetness. The sausage was a standard smoked sausage with no cheese or other filler besides the ground meat.
To be honest, the sides kind of outshone the meats for me. I liked the fact that SAW’s has a vinegar-based slaw (perhaps a nod to Wilson’s NC roots) and it worked with the meat as a native-North Carolinian would expect. Although I only had a couple of tastes, the cheese grits were a highlight of the meal. And the collards were Mrs. Monk-certified.
Sadly, found and owner Mike Wilson passed away in late 2020 from a heart attack at the age of 46 but the legacy of SAW’s Barbecue lives on in the six Birmingham-area locations. Based on this visit, I could see SAW’s Soul Kitchen being a regular stop if I were ever to become a resident of the The Magic City.
Monk: NC Weekend’s been pumping out the barbecue content lately, and in a recent visit host Deborah Holt Noel took a visit to Knightdale to sit down with owner/head fire maker Christopher Prieto for a tour of the restaurant and to try a little bit of everything on the menu.
Description: See why Prime Barbecue is drawing huge crowds to its popular spot in Knightdale.
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