Hard Eight BBQ – Coppell, TX

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Name
: Hard Eight BBQ
Date: 7/17/17
Address: 688 Freeport Pkwy, Coppell, TX 75019
Order: Brisket, pork ribs, sausage, fries, corn bread pie (link to menu)
Price: Can’t remember, maybe ~$36?

Speedy: Recently, I had a short work trip to Dallas, which I turned into a more extended trip to visit Rudy in Austin. With a busy work schedule and a couple of planned trips to ‘cue joints in Austin, I only stepped away for one ‘cue meal in Dallas. Hard Eight was the most conveniently located and was recommended by the client, so there we went.

Monk: Dang, another Texas visit that Speedy makes that I didn’t get to go on. What is this, the third time?

Speedy: It is, indeed. Some of us are just more dedicated to the readers than others…

Entering the parking lot, you could see stacks and stacks of wood, and a large outdoor smokehouse with a roof. Smartly, Hard Eight keeps all the meat in a stone oven-esque thing right in front of the cash register, forcing you to order 3x more meat than you can possibly eat.

Monk: Is this the Instagram that inexplicably led to exactly 300 likes as of this writing? Which is by far the most ‘Gram likes any photo of ours has ever had by at least 200?

Speedy: Yes, it is. Except that it’s totally explicable. The followers – they love me. It sucks being second, doesn’t it, Monk.

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That said, I ordered the brisket, sausage, and pork ribs even though I was with co-workers. When it comes to barbecue, I have no shame. The meat is cut and weighed in front of you and you pay by the pound. You then proceed to a cafeteria style line for sides, which I’m told is not uncommon in Texas. You then pay at the end. I don’t know how much my meal specifically cost, but the total for three people was $60. Judging by volume, mine was at least 60% of that.

The interior was large, with plenty of seating, and there was also a good sized covered porch. This day was too hot to eat outside, so we sat at an inside high top and dug in.

Since this joint is in Texas, I’ll start with the brisket. I was very pleased with the brisket. It had decent (not great) bark, good flavor, and a nice tug. It was only slightly dry, but overall didn’t need sauce. At the time, I thought I was having fairly top notch brisket, but (spoiler alert) after a couple of briskets in Austin, I had to re-adjust my internal scale and bump this brisket down a bit. Still, I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Monk: This is true. After this visit, Speedy was raving about Hard Eight. After his subsequent trip to Austin, a little less so.

Speedy: The sausage also was good – it had a nice flavor and held together well. The sausage was sliced at the front and not served in links, and I have no idea if it was made in-house, but it has nice smoke and was cooked well. I would have preferred a little more spice, but overall, a good offering.

The ribs were nice and meaty and had good flavor. They were not dry, but I did end up adding a little sauce. They were cooked well – offering a clean bite without falling off the bone. I would have enjoyed a little more rub, but an enjoyable, if unspectacular rib.

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Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Hard Eight BBQ. I feel like had I written this review immediately, it would have scored higher, but a couple of experiences later in the week just overshadowed it. That said, I wouldn’t complain about a return trip.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Hard Eight BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Smoke Daddy – Chicago, IL

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Name: The Smoke Daddy
Date: 6/17/17
Address: 1804 W Division St., Chicago, IL
Order: Taste of the Daddy – baby back ribs, burnt ends, pulled pork, fries, collards (link to menu)
Price: $25

Speedy: By now, most of my friends are aware of this little barbecue adventure I’m on with Monk and Rudy, and so they have a tendency to suggest ‘cue when I come to visit. This has turned out really well in some cases, terrible in others (I’m looking at you, Boomsauce). Let’s see how the Smoke Daddy stacks up.

Monk: With a name like Smoke Daddy….well, I actually don’t know what to expect. I do know that that I am definitively not a fan of that name, though. Speaking of Boomsauce, Smoke Daddy does sound like somewhere he’d take us. A place where they’d have crappy t-shirts with bad graphics and not-clever innuendo all over it.

Speedy: First off, I want to say a big thanks to my (non-barbecue) bro Berg for letting me put in the full order. He really knows when to let the pros step in. The ribs were part of the deal, and pork was a given. I tacked on burnt ends because I don’t get them too often. Add on fries and collards and we were set.

The food came out looking great, but there was a lot of sauce on everything. I get this on ribs and burnt ends, but I prefer for pork to not be overly sauced. The meat was nice and tender, though, and pulled into decent sized chunks with a nice bark. I would rate the pork as decent to good, but not anything better than that.

The burnt ends were similar. While I expect these to be sauced coming out, I still want the meat to do most of the talking. That wasn’t really the case here, as the sauce was the star. Still enjoyable, and cooked well, but I wanted a little more.

The ribs were my favorite meat. Even though they were baby backs, they were nice and meaty. They were cooked to a nice tenderness without falling off the bone. I got a nice pork flavor, which this time mixed well with the sauce.

Monk: Any idea what kind of smoker they are working with here?

Speedy: No, but I have to assume it was a gasser, just based on the space the occupied. Not sure where they’d fit a stick burner in a crowded Chicago neighborhood.

Overall, the Smoke Daddy puts out a nice product. I think they purposefully feature the sauce in all of their dishes, which I think is a bit of a shame, as I think they do a good job with their smoke. So if you find yourself in Chicago with a hankerin’ for ‘cue, you could do worse than the Smoke Daddy

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – Not rated (outdoor patio was nice, but I never went inside)
Pork – 3 hogs
Burnt Ends – 3 hog
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs
Smoke Daddy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Smoke BBQ – Mount Pleasant, SC

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Name
: Smoke BBQ
Date: 5/26/17
Address: 713 Coleman Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
Order: The Tommy B. Monster Sampler Platter (pork, pastrami brisket, “Charleston brisket”, chicken) plus “perfect rib” and a beer (link to menu)
Price: $35

Monk: I hadn’t planned to visit a fifth barbecue spot during our vacation week but when I saw how close Smoke BBQ was to our Airbnb in Mount Pleasant I couldn’t resist sneaking away one afternoon to check it out. Unfortunately it turns out I shouldn’t have wasted my time or money.

Since I was there I went for it and got the Tommy B. Monster Sampler platter which comes with 4 meats. I then added a “perfect rib” to round it all out. When my platter of meats was delivered each meat was sitting in a pool of grease and appeared to have been reheated. Fresh off the smoker these definitely were not. I won’t bother to go through each meat individually – but I will say that after a bite or two of each one I decided to move on, finding each to be as equally bad as the previous.

The “smoke style slaw” is their take on coleslaw and comes with green apples and candied pecans topped on red cabbage and carrots. I didn’t find it to be a successful barbecue side. The baked macaroni and cheese was the best food part of the meal and was the only real edible item for me.

There was very little that was redeeming about my meal from Smoke BBQ and I ended up tossing most of the takeout container in the trash once I got home. At least I got to enjoy a beer on their nice covered patio. So there’s that.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 1 hog
Brisket – 1 hog
Pastrami – 1 hog
Rib – 1 hog
Chicken – 1 hog
Sides – 1.5 hogs
Overall – 1 hog

Linkdown: 6/21/17

– Rodney Scott surprisingly smoked ribs instead of whole hog at this year’s Big Apple

– The Washington Post’s Jim Shahin has a list of favorite barbecue books this season, and it includes Elliott Moss’s “Buxton Hall BBQ Book of Smoke”

– I couldn’t disagree more but Charlotte Agenda refers to Bubba’s Barbecue as a “hidden gem”

– Whole hog in the most unlikeliest of places? Gravy’s got the scoop

– NC barbecue in Virginia at Willard’s BBQ in Reston

– The Houston Chronicle has an article on barbecue camps, focusing on the one at Texas A&M but with a passing mention of a few in NC (though it mistakenly mentions that the NC State Barbecue Camp only started this year; this was its second third year)

– The Smoking Ho has some nice barbecue photos from his quick trip to LA

– What else would you expect from an Alabaman?

City Barbeque – Charlotte, NC

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Name: City Barbeque
Date: 5/6/17
Address: 11212 Providence Rd W, Charlotte, NC 28277
Order: Judge’s Sampler (pulled pork, brisket, 1/2 slab ribs, and 1/4 chicken) with mac and cheese, collard greens, hush puppies, and two beers (link to menu)
Price: $12 (the $26.99 judges platter was covered but did not affect my review in any way)

Monk: City Barbeque is an Ohio-based chain that in the past 2 years has begun to make inroads into NC and even more recently, Charlotte. The Ballantyne location was the first in the area to open in 2016, and since then a Matthews location has opened with a University location on the way later this year. Speedy had previously checked out the Cary location a few years back and came away fairly impressed, so I knew to expect a fast casual set up with decent barbecue from a gas-assisted wood smoker and scratch made sides. 

For the first Charlotte location, I was invited to check it out and provided a gift card for a free Judge’s Sampler which allowed me to check out 4 of the meats. Mrs. Monk and I got an extra side of hush puppies and a couple of beers on top of it, plus a kids meal for the Monk-ette. All in all, the amount of food we got ended up providing more than enough for 3 total adult meals, so the portion sizes are nice.

The pork and brisket were in small portions next to each other on the tray and were so hard to distinguish between each other that at first glance to the point where I wasn’t sure that we had gotten any brisket at all (we were initially missing our order of hush puppies so it wasn’t too far fetched). Though I will say the folks at City Barbeque were nice enough to provide us extra brisket even though clearly it was a mistake on our end. As for the meat, both were decently smokey. The pork was moist and was nicely accentuated by the spicy vinegar sauce on the table. The brisket was haphazardly sliced and came across as chopped in texture – which led to our mistake in the first place – but was tasty nonetheless.

I found the half slab of ribs to be the best meat of the meal. The heavily-applied rub created a dark, flavorful bark on the ribs and the meat pulled away from the bone nicely. I would go for these ribs here again for sure.

Chicken is not a smoked meat I normally go for (and I didn’t think to substitute it out on this visit) but I will say that it was pretty good. You could do a lot worse if that is the meat you prefer at a barbecue restaurant.

Mrs. Monk was disappointed that the mac and cheese was not baked (she’s a bit of a snob that way) and while I didn’t mind that fact as much as she did, I could see her point. The collards had plenty of pulled pork and were pretty good. The corn bread and Texas toast that came with the sampler were actually quite good but the hush puppies were the best sides we had. Needless to say, we were fine on carbs for the rest of the day (and weekend for that matter).

When it opens, the University location will be pretty convenient to my work and I wouldn’t have to be convinced too hard to go there for lunch. In terms of chains I’ve had, City Barbeque are on par with Jim ‘N Nick’s and way above Moe’s Bar-B-Que.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Chicken – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Linkdown: 4/19/17

READ THIS NOW: This doozy of an article in this week’s New Yorker from James Beard-nominated writer Lauren Collins explores America’s most political food; it was based on a Charlotte Observer article from the awesome Kathleen Purvis on Maurice’s Piggy Park from last December

In 1964, Maurice Bessinger was the president of the National Association for the Preservation of White People. On August 12th of that year, Anne Newman and a friend drove to the West Columbia Piggie Park. They stopped outside the lot for curbside service. A waitress emerged and, seeing that they were black, returned to the building without speaking to them. Then a man with a pad approached the car but refused to take their order, even though white customers were being served. In Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., the district court asserted that “the fact that Piggie Park at all six of its eating places denies full and equal service to Negroes because of their race is uncontested and completely established by evidence,” but it concluded that the restaurants, because they were principally drive-ins, weren’t subject to the public-accommodation provision of the Civil Rights Act. When a higher court reversed the ruling, Bessinger appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming that being forced to serve black people violated his religious principles. He lost, in a unanimous decision.

– The Atlanta Journal Constitution reviews Texas-style Das BBQ; our review to come in a couple of weeks

– A sneak peek at the Juan Luis menu from John Lewis; the Tex-Mex spinoff will open in downtown Charleston later this spring

– A McRib-style sandwich made with actual smoked rib meat

– Grant tries some decent chopped beef at Hwy 58 BBQ in Ooltewah, TN

– Eater: 17 Essential Dallas-Fort Worth Barbecue Destinations

– Chef Vivian Howard’s favorite barbecue restaurants include B’s Barbecue and Skylight Inn

– Confirmation that Chef Jim Noble’s barbecue restaurant has gone mobile

– Fuller’s Old Fashioned Barbecue has reopened in Fayetteville after the original Lumberton location closed due to damage from Hurricane Matthew

– EDIA Maps is selling a NC BBQ and Beer Map combo pack

 

Central BBQ – Memphis, TN

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Name
: Central BBQ
Date: 3/30/17
Address: 2249 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38104
Order: Rib combo (half wet/half dry) with brisket, pork, collards, fries (link to menu)
Price: $25

Speedy: I’m writing this blog post from a Starbucks in Memphis. I had to fly in town for a client meeting, so naturally, I had to fly in early in order to sample some Memphis ‘cue for lunch. The client site wasn’t too far from Central BBQ, so I decided I would just knock out the big dog first thing and head that way for lunch.

Monk: I like the dedication. In fact, I’m thinking about naming you our new senior Tennessee correspondent.

Speedy: Thanks, Monk. It’s a position I’ll take seriously. So much so that I think a move to Nashville is in order. But more on that another time.

Walking in, Central BBQ is everything you could ever want from a ‘cue joint. You order at the counter and take a number, then go sit either inside or at their ample outdoor seating. I wasn’t overly hungry, but since I don’t travel to Memphis often, I had to go ahead and order the ribs, pork and brisket. When asked wet or dry ribs, I was also offered the choice of half and half. I went with it, despite the fact that this was before my client meeting and I was wearing a suit. That’s true commitment to you, dear reader.

Monk: Again, digging the dedication. Longtime readers know that I don’t necessarily always try all of the meats when I review a joint, only the most well-known (tiny tummy syndrome). And then to risk a suit on top of it? Well done, Speedy. Well done.

Speedy: The food was delivered shortly and I was ready to dig in.

I’ll start with the brisket, because that was the only disappointment. It was dry and lacked flavor, so just don’t order it, k?

Monk: I guess there’s a reason why Memphis isn’t known for their brisket.

Speedy: The pork was considerably better. It came unsauced, but was cooked well and perfectly tender. There was a bit of bark in it, but I wish it came with some dip on it. I did add some vinegar sauce, which was good, though I could’ve used a bit more tang. I guess that’s the Carolina boy in me. Overall, a solid offering.

The ribs, though, my god. I’ve never had ribs so good. The ribs were big and meaty, heavily rubbed, and cooked to perfection. I got an absolutely perfect bite every time, and loved the rub. You hear people talk about sweet heat with barbecue rubs all the time, but this is the first one I’ve had that really pulled it off. The sauce was also really good and balanced with the rib perfectly. If I had to choose, I’d say I preferred the dry ribs, but it’s really personal preference. I can say without hesitation that these were the best ribs I ever had, and the only thing I finished on my massive plate of food. These are ribs that I’m going to dream about.

Monk: This might be the first time we’ve reviewed truly great pork ribs for the blog and I gotta say, they sound amazing.

Speedy: I had a little bit of a tough time rating this overall, as I had one good meat, one amazing meat, and one bad meat. It kind of reminds me of Allen & Son in Chapel Hill, which had some of the best pork I’ve ever had but bad ribs. Overall, I think it’s best to (mostly) ignore what a joint does poorly if it has a bread and butter (or rather, a rib and sauce?) to make up for it. And that’s the case here.

So the moral of the story is – if you make it to Memphis, go to Central BBQ and order the ribs. You won’t regret it.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 1.5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs
Central BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Central BBQ

Linkdown: 3/1/17

– NC barbecue legend Bill Ellis has passed away at the age of 83

Ellis was known as a barbecue missionary, carrying the gospel of Eastern North Carolina barbecued pork from coast to coast, and his restaurant was a barbecue mecca.

– His operation was apparently known as the “Microsoft of Barbecue”

– The Wilson Times honored Ellis on their front page yesterday

– City Barbeque has opened its second Charlotte-area location in Matthews as of this past Monday with a grand opening this Saturday; I’ve still yet to check out the Ballantyne location but plan to soon as Speedy had a good impression of the Cary location

– Sauceman’s will be smoking two whole hogs at Lenny Boy Brewing’s patio release party on March 11; you get one free plate when you purchase a 22oz. beer of  SouthEnd MAAgic Yogi, a Belgian Ale brewed with Jasimine Tea & Lemons.

– Rick Bayless details how live fire cooking has influenced him

– The Smoking Ho has photos from The Sausage Kings of Austin Festival in February

– On Jess Pryles, the Austrialian-born now-Austin native

– The latest barbecue stops for Marie, Let’s Eat! are Uncle Gus’s Mountain Pit Bar-B-Que in Decatur, TN and a couple of joints north of Chattanooga

– From Daniel Vaughn and Robert Moss:

Old Brick Pit Barbeque – Chamblee, GA

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Name
: Old Brick Pit Barbeque
Date: 2/15/2017
Address: 4805 Peachtree Rd, Chamblee, GA 30341
Order: Combination platter (pork, ribs) with brunswick stew, slaw (link to menu)
Price: $13

Speedy: Old Brick Pit Barbeque is an old school joint that is just a couple miles north of where I moved in Atlanta. Despite driving by it many times, I never stopped until a recent February evening. Walking in, Old Brick Pit looks like it would fit right in Lexington, so I definitely felt at home. But would the food stack up?

Monk: I know that Marie, Let’s Eat! is a big defender of this place as a good representation of the definitely-not-a-catchall-term “Georgia barbecue”. As I passed by this place leaving Speedy’s place last August, I realized just how close it was. I’ve been really curious how he’d receive it.

Speedy: Of course I ordered a combination platter so I could taste both the ribs and pork and as a bonus, it came with Brunswick stew. The platter was ready shortly after ordering.

The pork was interesting – it came topped with a red barbecue sauce (with more on the side). But the pork was tender and tasty, and I think the sauce actually added an interesting flavor. This was, by a country mile, the best part of the meal. In fact, if I go back to Old Brick Pit, I’ll stick to a barbecue sandwich – available for only $3.

Monk: Based on your description, this sounds a bit like the late Old Hickory House here in Charlotte, which was a Georgia style joint of the chain which only has one location left in Tucker. I was never a huge fan of the tangy sauce that topped the barbecue, but could appreciate that it was a different style than I was accustomed to.

Speedy: Good call, Monk. It did sort of remind me of Old Hickory House. And I’ve been to the one in Tucker – it was not very good. I thought the Charlotte one (RIP) was much better.

As you might have guessed, the ribs were just not good. They were way, way, way overcooked and seem like they had been boiled prior to smoking. The meat was almost soggy. It had OK flavor, but not good enough to make up for the overcooking.

Monk: Seems like the ribs were the favorite of Marie, Let’s Eat! And Burgers, Barbecue and Everything Else. Odd that it was not so great for your visit. Next you’re going to say that you weren’t a fan of the brunswick stew…

Speedy: The brunswick stew was OK, but a little lacking in flavor. I didn’t try the slaw since it was mayo based.

Monk: Well ok, then.

Speedy: Overall, I was disappointed in the Old Brick Pit. I might return for a quick sammie sometime, but I won’t be taking any out of town visitors over.

For more reviews of Old Brick Pit Barbeque, check out
Marie, Let’s Eat!
Burgers, Barbecue and Everything Else

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Ribs – 1.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
Old Brick Pit Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Old Brick Pit

The Smoke Pit – Salisbury, NC

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Name
: The Smoke Pit
Date: 2/11/17
Address: 117 E Innes St, Salisbury, NC 28144
Order: Three meat combo (brisket, sausage, ribs) with baked beans and fries (link to menu)
Price: $28.95

Monk: On occasions such as my birthday, the Monk clan meets my parents (and occasionally the in-laws, like my mother-in-law this time) in Salisbury which is conveniently located exactly halfway between Charlotte and High Point. Lo and behold, The Smoke Pit, a favorite of ours in Concord, opened a second location there about a month ago. So that was an easy decision.

This location is an old brick building in Salisbury’s historic downtown and is a sit-down, full service restaurant as opposed to the fast casual model of the original location. It does have a bar and serves local beer on draft from New Sarum Brewing, Salisbury’s only brewery which is located just a few blocks away. I don’t recall the Concord location having beer on draft, so this is a welcome change.

Splitting a three meat tray with my dad, I went with the Texas Trinity – brisket, ribs, and sausage. As is the case in Concord, the portions are huge and this tray ended up being far more than my dad and I could even come close to eating for lunch that day. We each took home a box, so it really made for about 4 servings.

The brisket was well smoked if not perhaps a little on the fatty side (a choice of lean vs fatty isn’t offered). The two links of sausage come pre-sliced and was my favorite meat of the meal, particularly when dipped in the mustard. The ribs came a little too easily off the bone but still had good flavor. All were very good and consistent from the last time I went to the Concord location.

As for sides, the beans were standard and the fries had nice seasoning. The Texas toast and cornbread that came with the meal were both nice accompaniments, with the cornbread being of the sweeter variety that I always like.

After my meal, I traded Facebook comments with Joey, who manages both restaurants. He is splitting his time between the two locations, and I think it shows when it comes to the consistency. The Smoke Pit has done well with their Salisbury location, and based on a packed lunch on a Saturday, I think the town is a fan.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs