Best of Charlotte Barbecue: All of Our Posts

If you recall, earlier this year between February and May we had a series of posts detailing the best of Charlotte barbecue in regards to specific meats or dishes. While we’ve had the Charlotte Big Board for a couple of years now, the purpose of these posts was to review individual dishes as opposed to overall restaurant experience.

For easy reference, I have compiled the winners of each category in one post. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen had 3 meats that were best in their category, which helps explain their perch atop the Charlotte Big Board. I still feel very good about the brisket from The Smoke Pit but might reconsider the ribs from Queen City Q in any future revisions to this list, as I have not had a great experience the past few times I’ve gone. One other thing that struck me while composing this post, while Midwood Smokehouse did not win any singular category it was in the top 3 in each of the 5 categories. That would help explain why they are ranked #2 on the Big Board.

Click here to find all of our posts in the Best of Charlotte Barbecue seriesWhat did we miss? Leave any suggestions or comments below.

Best Pork: Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

Best Brisket: The Smoke Pit

Brisket from The Smoke Pit

Brisket from The Smoke Pit

Best Ribs: Queen City Q

Ribs from Queen City Q

Ribs from Queen City Q

Best Sausage: Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

Sausage from Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

Other: Brunswick Stew from Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

Pork, brisket, ribs, wings, brunswick stew

Pork, brisket, ribs, wings, brunswick stew from Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen

Queen City Q – Charlotte, NC (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Queen City Q
Date: 4/13/16
Address: 225 E 6th St, Charlotte, NC 28202
Order: Super Q platter (pork, brisket, sausage, ribs) with eastern NC bbq slaw and hush puppies (link)
Price: $28

Speedy: So after Monk panned the Concord Queen City Q location last week, we decided we needed to go back to the flagship to see how it stacked up. In the past, we’ve had pretty good experiences, so we needed to find out if Monk just had a one-off bad experience or if quality had started to slip across the board.

Monk: Before Hornets home games, Queen City Q is packed to the gills and the wait time can reach upwards of 45 minutes. Our visit before the final home game of the season was no exception but after waiting in the packed lower bar area, we were able to snag a high top. Regardless of whether the food was still any good or not, it was evident to me that Queen City Q was probably doing just alright in terms of business.

Speedy: The sausage at QCQ has always been my favorite meat. And today was no different. The sausage is served split with a mustard sauce and it just works. The meat is finished on a grill and has very solid flavor. It doesn’t try to be anything it’s not with fancy flavors or fillers – it’s just good. So the first meat is a go.

Monk: While Speedy considers the ribs to be one of the better meats at QCQ, they were overdone and pretty tough on this occasion. Seeing as how they came in individual bones as opposed to a half rack I wonder if perhaps they had been under a heat lamp after they were cut and that ultimately did them in. Whatever the reason they were just average.

Speedy: I was a little disappointed in the ribs as well. They were fine, but not as good as I had remembered. For the brisket, though, I need to find a better word than disappointed. It was flat out bad. It tasted like it had been cooked the previous day and reheated. There was no tenderness to the meat and it took a significant amount of barbecue sauce just to finish. It’s been a long time since I’ve had brisket at QCQ, and it will be a long time before I do so again.

Monk: The pork was at least better than the dry, stringy mess I got in Concord. It was tender and moist to the point where I didn’t reach for a table sauce. This was more along the lines of the quality I remembered.

Speedy: We had red slaw and hush puppies as sides, which were pretty good. I know Monk was a little disappointed in the sides at the Concord location, but these were both acceptable. Nothing to get too excited about, but they won’t affect my decision on whether to go back.

Monk: In my review of the Concord location, I wondered if it was a one-off disappointing experience at a satellite location or an indication of an overall drop in quality for Queen City Q. Unfortunately, with this review I am pretty firmly convinced that it’s the latter.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

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Queen City Q – Concord, NC

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Name
: Queen City Q (Concord)
Date: 3/31/16
Address: 8524 Pit Stop Ct NW, Concord, NC 28027
Order: Big Q platter (pork, brisket, sausage) with eastern NC bbq slaw and hush puppies (link)
Price: $23.75

Monk: Ever since our last official review of Queen City Q nearly 4 years ago (and two weeks into starting this blog), they’ve been in full on expansion mode. There is now an additional 3 locations – Concord, Matthews, Ballantyne – and they have become the official barbecue of several local sports teams – Hornets, the Knights minor league baseball team, and the Checkers minor league hockey team – which means that they have an expanded presence in each of the respective stadiums or arenas. They’ve also since severed their relationship with Dan “Boone” Gibson, who has gone on to have (in our mind) the best barbecue in the Charlotte area from his own food truck. With all of these changes, is the barbecue still any good at the expansions? I checked out the Concord location (across the street from the Concord Mills mall) to see for myself. I will saw that even though the last official review was 4 years ago, I’ve certainly been to the original 6th Street location several times since – particularly since dads eat free on Father’s Day.

I ordered the Big Q platter and chose pork, brisket, and sausage as my meats. When it came out, the platter was more or less a not-great looking heap of brown meats. The best one of the 3 (and pretty good in its own right) was the sausage. The sausage (not sure if its housemade or not) is split in the middle and finished on the grill. It paired well with the SC mustard I requested on the side. The eastern NC pork was an unflattering shade of brown and just generally lacked flavor. Even adding “Lexington dip” table sauce didn’t help it much. The brisket was plain bad. Now, Queen City Q has always had a slightly unorthodox way of preparing the brisket in that they smoke it, finish it on the grill, and then douse with one of their sauces. In this case, it presumably comes drenched in sauce to hide the fact that it was not smoked very well and had a rubbery consistency.

Speedy: Like Monk, I’ve been a pretty consistent customer for the 6th Street location, especially before Hornets games. I’m really surprised by this review, as my experiences at the mothership have always been solid. I agree that the sausage is the best meat, but I’ve been known to order about anything on the menu. I will say that my second favorite meat at QCQ has been the ribs, which Monk did not order. But still – sounds like a disappointing visit.

Monk: …Seems like a textbook case of an “official re-review is in order” if you ask me.

As for the sides, the eastern NC slaw was nothing you would expect it to be – it contained no mayonnaise and even had a reddish tint to it. In fact, I think they have simply mislabeled it since it’s a Lexington-style red slaw – that or they do not know the difference. The hush puppies were slightly burnt so even though the insides were fluffy the outside left a bitter taste in my mouth. They also threw in a piece of Texas toast which was, you know, toast.

If this is a sign of where this local restaurant chain is headed (as opposed to a one-off bad experience), I may have to move Queen City Q way down in the rankings in light of this visit. Very disappointing.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 1 hog
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs

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Linkdown: 3/16/16

– John Shelton Reed of True Cue in the New York Times on North Carolina and the Politics of Barbecue

– Thrillist releases the 2016 Best BBQ in America and it includes 4 from NC:  Lexington Barbecue, Allen & Son in Chapel Hill, Red Bridges in Shelby, and Skylight Inn in Ayden; there’s also a bracket contest you can vote in

– Local coverage of Allen & Son making the list

– Thrillist Charlotte’s list of best barbecue restaurants in the city include a closed restaurant (Bobbee O’s), a national chain (Jim N Nick’s), and a few other questionable choices

– Grant visits Carl’s Drive-Inn near Knoxville, which despite some old signage doesn’t actually sell its own pit-cooked barbecue anymore

– Queen City Q’s Whiskey & BBQ event is tonight

– Meanwhile, Midwood Smokehouse’s Wine & Swine Dinner (also tonight) is sold out:

– Speaking of wine and barbecue, the future of barbecue in Charleston after this past weekend’s Charleston Wine + Food Festival

The Charleston Wine + Food events, I think, offered a sort of preview of the future of barbecue in one of the South’s great culinary cities. At least a half dozen new barbecue joints have opened in the city in the past year, and several more are still in the works. Their fare is as diverse and ambitious as the dishes served up at the festival, and in an upcoming installment we’ll take a survey of this evolving Charleston barbecue restaurant scene.

Linkdown: 2/3/16

– The New York Post: “Carolina barbecue is the best barbecue”

North Carolina is where you go to get the best barbecue in our defiantly local, my-barbecue-is-the-best-barbecue-of-all land of ours. You prefer Texas, or Kansas City, or Memphis? You are entitled. And I will not throw you out of my house if you bring any of them over. But Carolina barbecue is the best barbecue.

– Speaking of NC barbecue, there’s now an app for that courtesy of Our State Magazine

– Missed this from December, but Travel  Addicts made a barbecue pilgrimage to Lexington #1

– From Garden & Gun Magazine:

– The Ballantyne location of Queen City Q is now open for dinner

– Speaking of Queen City Q, managing partner Bryan Meredith, was a guest on Charlotte Talks to discuss the local craft beer scene and why Queen City Q is boycotting Anheuser Busch InBev

– Grant of Marie, Let’s Eat! visits Saucehouse Barbecue in Athens, GA, the newest barbecue restaurant to open in town

– Kathleen Purvis from The Charlotte Observer and William Porter of The Denver Post swap notes on the cuisines of the respective cities, including barbecue

– Also, the editors from those two papers have made a beer and bison or barbecue bet on the big game

-The insurance commissioners from each state have made a similar bet as well

“If we lose, we’ll treat you to the No. 1 India pale ale in America (NoDa Brewing’s ‘Hop, Drop ’n Roll’), brewed right here.” She also agreed to send barbecue if Denver wins the Super Bowl.

– Midwood Smokehouse has a Big Game Smoker package if you don’t want to  smoke your own barbecue this Super Bowl

Linkdown: 1/27/16

– A sneak preview of the February barbecue issue of Our State Magazine from the Red Bridges Facebook page

Our State Magazine - February 2016 Barbecue Issue

– The issue will be on newstands next Tuesday and here’s a sneak peak

– CrossTies Barbecue in Carrboro is an upcoming restaurant that will be a full-service barbecue restaurant “specializing in authentic Carolina barbecue and a variety of smoked meats, including fresh-made sausages and bacon”; it is slated to open in May

– This person’s “best things I ate in Charlotte in 2015” list includes barbecue from Mac’s Speed Shop and I can’t give the rest of the list any credence (also: mozzarella sticks? Really?)

– For Southern Living’s 50th Anniversary, Robert Moss profiles the South’s legendary joints

– Ole Time BBQ in Raleigh (a semi-decent joint where I ate a lot in college) is closed until further notice after a car crashed into it Saturday night

– Jess Pryles has made recent updates to her guide to Austin Barbecue

– Lewis Barbecue is doing a pop-up tour of Charleston breweries the first three Saturdays of February

– Queen City Q’s Ballantyne location (in the old Elwood’s) is open for lunch and to-go orders as of Monday

Linkdown: 12/16/15

– Now at Stamey’s:

– Grilling with Rich reviews Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville

– They also have an interview with Cary-based BBQ pitmaster and author, Christopher Prieto

– Here’s a recipe for a Georgia-style brunswick stew from Virginia Brock; speaking of Georgia and Virginia

Virginia staked her claim boldly in 1988, with a statewide proclamation as this stew’s place of origin, and it has hosted an annual Brunswick stew festival and contest for more than twenty-five years. In a gesture of goodwill, they invite rival stew-masters to bring their crews up from Georgia for some spirited stew celebrations. Georgia staked her own claim by building a monument featuring a massive cast-iron stewpot, which they proudly declare to be the very one in which noble Georgia residents stirred up the very first batch of Brunswick stew back in 1898.

– City Smoke (one of our least favorite Charlotte barbecue restaurants) is shifting their concept from barbecue restaurant to rotisserie, smokehouse, and speak easy

The re-brand comes at a time when the restaurant’s owners wanted to take the eatery to a new level – more than that of a barbecue joint. Of course, that barbecue was the cause for much celebration after City Smoke was named the winner of the Carolina Cook Off edition of “BBQ Blitz” on Food Network thanks to Chef Adam Pugh’s rendition of smoked pork chops with cheddar grits.

– Meathead Goldwyn’s list of best books for the BBQ lover (via)

– Big beer news from Charlotte’s Queen City Q, official barbecue of the Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Knights baseball team, Charlotte Checkers hockey team, and Charlotte Hounds lacrosse team:

Linkdown: 10/28/15

– Calvin Trillin of The New Yorker heads down to NC with John Shelton Reed and Dan Levine in search of true ‘cue

For some years, I’m now prepared to admit, I somehow labored under the impression that Rocky Mount is the line of demarcation that separates the two principal schools of North Carolina barbecue. Wrong. The line of demarcation is, roughly, Raleigh, sixty miles west. The Research Triangle—the area encompassing Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill—is a sort of demilitarized zone, where someone who’s been concentrating on the barbecue scene, as I was on my most recent visit, half expects to see the distinctive blue helmets of United Nations peacekeepers.

– Frank Scibelli of Midwood Smokehouse is going fast casual with Midwood Smokeshack in a TBD location

– Charlotte Business Journal has a few more details on the new venture:

Scibelli says Midwood Smoke Shack would offer 70% of Midwood’s menu that features hand-pulled pork and chicken as well as brisket, ribs, sandwiches and burgers, plus side items such as mac-and-cheese and BBQ baked beans, and for dessert, peach cobbler and banana pudding.

– A couple more barbecue reviews from Marie, Let’s Eat!: Dave Poe’s in Marietta and the Dunwoody outpost of the Memphis Barbecue Company chain

– Harold Conyers is bringing SC whole hog barbecue to Nola

– Some photos from the 86th annual Mallard Creek Barbecue; we’ll have a few of our own in a post on Friday

– Does Lexington want to brand Lexington-style barbecue to prevent other restaurants outside of the city from diluting the brand?

– Queen City Q keeps on rolling, announcing a fourth location in the old Elwood’s BBQ & Burgers spot

– Chef Rick Bayless doesn’t like tv barbecue

Linkdown: 10/21/15

– In honor of tomorrow’s Mallard Creek Barbecue, here’s Kathleen Purvis’s story from last year on the history behind its famed brunswick stew

– Charlotte  Agenda thinks Smoke Modern Barbeque is a “good bet to be Charlotte’s next breakout restaurant brand”; I’m not so convinced based on their Huntersville restaurant (currently #19 on our big board) that was decent, but overpriced with small portions – though I will say that I plan to check out the new Stonecrest location at some point

– TMBBQ’s top25 new and improved barbecue joints in Texas, plus photographer Wyatt McSpadden’s photos from each

It’s been two years since Texas Monthly published its last Top 50 BBQ Joints list. It was a feat of reporting that took me and my barbecue-eating cohorts across the state to eat at countless legendary restaurants, holes-in-the-wall, out-of-the-way joints. The work didn’t end when the issue went to press. My job since then has essentially been one giant scouting mission for the next list slated for the summer of 2017.

– Marie, Let’s Eat! has more barbecue in Florida at Harry and Larry’s Bar-B-Que, this time in a revitalized downtown Winter Garden

– Fayetteville, NC is getting the third NC location of Mission BBQ

– Charlotte Agenda previews new food available at Hornets games this year, including the expanded Queen City Q outpost

– Ever wonder where folks who smoke meat for a living get their barbecue? This is the article for you

– B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque has returned from a fire and reopened in a new location in Savannah

– Daniel Vaughn has tips for ordering barbecue like a pro in First We Feast

Linkdown: 10/14/15

– True Cue expands to South Carolina

You can no longer be paid to wait in line at Franklin Barbecue

– Q Dogs in Tarpon Springs, FL serves a hot dog with barbecue and Midlands SC mustard on it,  but you might just want to order them separately instead

– Queen City Q keeps on rolling, announcing a partnership with the Charlotte Checkers as the official barbecue of the team while opening a new stand on the main concourse of Bojangles Coliseum

Queen City Q first opened in uptown Charlotte in February 2012 and opened a second location in Matthews at the Plantation Market Shopping Center in July. The restaurant also recently said it is adding a Concord location that will open in early winter.

The barbecue joint also operates two stands inside BB&T Ballpark and recently said it will open two concession stands in the Time Warner Cable Arena this fall.

– Elwood’s Burgers & BBQ has closed in Ballantyne

– Charlotte Agenda wonders if Ballantyne in south Charlotte has reached a barbecue saturation point, though of all of the barbecue restaurants in Ballantyne (including a Dickey’s, Shane’s Rib Shack, 521 BBQ, and the now-open location of Smoke Modern Barbecue) only Midwood is really worth a damn

– Joe Ovies of WRAL has a sneak peak to all the friend foods at this year’s NC State Fair, including a behemoth of a sandwich with a fried pork chop topped with barbecue, bacon, pickle, and slaw; behold the High on the Hog: