Archers BBQ – Knoxville, TN

Name: Archers BBQ
Date: 6/12/22
Address: 5200 Rutledge Pike, Knoxville, TN 37924
Order: 2 meat sampler with pork and ribs, hush puppies, and slaw (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: On the long drive back from Crossville, TN (about an hour west of Knoxville and home to one of the latest Buc-ees) earlier this summer, I made a pit stop at Archers BBQ in east Knoxville. Archers BBQ is the vision of Archer Bagley, a Memphis native who was an early investor in Fox Bros BBQ in Atlanta. According to the website, he struck out on his own and headed north to Knoxville where he has since opened 5 locations of the restaurant.

Archers (or at least this location) smokes their cue in a Southern Pride assisted by wood as evidenced by the nice-sized woodpile next to their cooking shed. On this summer Sunday, there was light traffic into and out of the store in a former gas station.

I went with a 2 meat sampler of 5 oz of pork and 3 bones and found both to be slightly above average. Light smoke but perhaps not the freshest barbecue on this day. Even with its Memphis heritage, Archers favors an international house of barbecue approach with all the meats and then all the sauces on the side. Average also summed up my sides of hush puppies and slaw.

So, not a full throated recommendation of Archers BBQ but I’d be curious if I’d have different results on a Friday or Saturday. Maybe I’ll try again next summer.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs

Prime Barbecue – Knightdale, NC

Name: Prime Barbecue
Date: 7/28/22
Address: 900 Park Offices Dr Suite 120, Durham, NC 27703
Order: 3 meat sampler with pork, brisket, and ribs, deviled egg potato salad (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Speedy: A quick work trip afforded me an opportunity I’d been looking forward to for a long time – a visit to Prime Barbecue. Monk first clued me in to Prime Barbecue in early 2020, when he was invited to tour the not yet open facility and sample some of the planned menu. Reading his description of Texas style ‘cue in NC got me interested, and pitmaster Christopher Prieto’s time on “BBQ Brawl” season 2 only made me that much more determined to make it out to Knightdale to sample the goods. However, due to various scheduling challenges and a bit of a pandemic, it took me over two years to make it happen. Let me tell you, dear readers, it was worth the wait.

Monk: I haven’t yet made it back out to Knightdale for an official review, but was thrilled to see Speedy was going to check it out for himself while back in NC recently.

Speedy: Walking up on this hot Thursday around 12:30 in the afternoon, I saw a large outdoor space, complete with a play area for kids and covered picnic style seating. On this day, the outdoor area was pretty sparse (did I mention it was hot?), but walking in, the space was buzzing. The large dining room was nearly full, and there was a line of about a dozen customers ahead of me. The line moved quickly until it was time for me to place my order.

The main reason I like dining with Monk is not the company he provides…

Monk: …hey, wait a minute…

Speedy: …but rather the addition of another eater that allows me to order everything on the menu. Alas, on this day, I was dining solo, so I had to make some tough choices.

Monk: Longtime readers know that I feel your pain here.

Speedy: Of course I opted for the three meat platter – selecting brisket, ribs, and turkey (along with sides of barbecue rice and green beans). The pulled pork and sausage will have to wait for my next trip (and there will be a next trip).

Let’s start from the top – the brisket. Generally, I order a mix of fatty/lean, but today it all looked very moist, so I stuck with the lean. I didn’t sample the fatty, but the lean was nearly perfect. Great bark, moist, peppery, and flavorful with just the right amount of tug. Prime Barbecue struck a perfect balance of enough seasoning to penetrate the meat fully without over-seasoning the outside. That kept every bite flavorful. This was a top ten brisket-gasm of my life.

Next up – the ribs. Prime serves pork spare ribs, that to my taste were perfectly seasoned and cooked. I was able to get a good, clean bite, but also pull meat from the bone easily. The ribs were glazed enough to add some sweetness without being too sticky. I have no improvements to offer here either.

Monk: While the brisket was really good during the aforementioned media preview in 2020, the ribs were the star of the show for me. Seems like that is still the case here.

Speedy: I’m on record lately as to really enjoying smoked turkey, so I was excited to try my final meat – the sliced turkey breast. For me, this was the only meat I didn’t love. While cooked perfectly and not at all dry (the usual culprit for imperfect turkey), I found the turkey to be a bit on the buttery side. My presumption is the turkey is wrapped in foil with butter at some point in the smoke process, and while it definitely kept the meat moist, I felt like the turkey and smoke flavors got overpowered. If you are a fan of buttery meat, I still think you will love this dish, but it wasn’t for me.

I was pretty full from the feast above, but did still have room for a couple of bites of each ordered side. The green beans were solid, and worth ordering. The barbecue rice (complete with bits of sausage) was like no other rice I’d had before and will be something I’ll order again. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I washed it all down with Cheerwine from the soda fountain – just an extra cherry on top of a great meal.

Since we started our blogging over ten (!) years ago, the Barbecue Bros have seen the proliferation of Texas-style barbecue all over the country. I’m happy to say that Prime Barbecue takes this style (along with a few twists) and not only does justice, but serves up one of the best meals you can find anywhere. Five hogs.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Turkey – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs

Lawrence Barbecue – Durham, NC

Name: Lawrence Barbecue
Date: 7/23/22
Address: 900 Park Offices Dr Suite 120, Durham, NC 27703
Order: 3 meat sampler with pork, brisket, and ribs, deviled egg potato salad (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: Jake Wood and Lawrence Barbecue burst onto the Triangle barbecue scene a couple years ago and has come out strong. Originally slated to be one of the many barbecue restaurants announced to open during 2020 as part of Raleigh’s big year of barbecue, it eventually opened in June 2021 and has since been named by Robert Moss one of Southern Living’s best new barbecue joints and best barbecue in Durham by Durham Magazine.

Lawrence Barbecue opened as part of Boxyard RTP, a shipping container park that has retail stores as well as a tap room for Fullsteam Brewing. Wood was originally going to smoke whole hogs but plans changed and he now has three Lang reverse-flow smokers where he smokes pork butts, Texas-style brisket, ribs, chicken, turkey, and wings.

On this visit I got a three meat sampler of 1/3 pound each of pulled pork, Texas-style brisket, and sticky ribs along with the deviled egg potato salad. While I get why it didn’t make sense logistically to smoke whole hogs, at least Jake Wood and team are executing their pork butts nicely. Not really Lexington-style even though they are smoking butts, the pork had lots of bark chopped in and adding their OG vinegar sauce really set it off.

The Texas-style brisket was well smoked and had a great bark that had a little something something else in it – maybe giving it a tangy hint in addition to the usual salt and pepper bark. The brisket was trimmed perfectly and had a nice thin layer of fat in the two slices of fatty I got. Another nice touch were the two burnt ends that were also included.

The sampler came with two bones of spares for their “sticky ribs” and they were smoked perfectly. Sticky and sweet, the bites were clean and flavorful.

I only got one side – deviled egg potato salad – but I’ve been told all are legit and inventive. I can see that based on this twist on a classic potato salad. And they even have their own beer they’ve collaborated on with Trophy Brewing named Leisure Land Lager (“leisure” is big in the world of Jake Wood).

With Lawrence Barbecue, the Research Triangle Park has legit barbecue that competes with the best in the state as well as the southeast. Next time I go, I’ll go on a cooler day (although the covered area has a huge fan, temps were near 100 that day) and will get some oysters in addition to all of the delicious barbecue.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 Hogs

Recap: Smoke & Grapes at the Charlotte Wine & Food Festival featuring Jon G’s Barbecue

Monk: This past Sunday, the closing event of Charlotte Wine & Food was a “Smoke & Grapes” event with Jon G’s Barbecue from Peachland paired with some beautiful wines from Andis Wines from the Sierra Foothills of California. Mrs. Monk and I were fortunate enough to be invited to it by friends of the blog Ariail and Andrew Barker.

After a cocktail hour with their Cheerwine hot link and an amazing beef rib croissant (wine pairing: 2021 Andis Sauvignon Blanc and 2019 Andis Cabernet Franc), we were treated to a three course meal of a good bit of their menu (all paired with some beautiful reds from Andis, of course). The first course was of course brisket served along with slaw, jalapeño cheddar grits, and beans. The brisket was a Jon G’s brisket, enough said. Wine pairing: 2020 Painted Fields Curse of Knowledge (Bordeaux Blend)

Second course was their ribs served with mac and cheese, Mexican street corn, and their amazing brisket fried rice. Mrs. Monk was most excited about three brisket fried rice but the spares were as good as ever. Wine pairing: 2019 Painted Fields Old Vine Zinfandel

The dessert course (not pictured) was an Oreo dirt pudding and Nutter Butter Pie and finished off the filling meal simply but nicely. Wine pairing: 2019 Andis Petite Sirah

For folks who haven’t previously had the pleasure, this was a nice way to try Garren and Kelli’s self-described “comfort food” without having to wait in line at Peachland or a food truck service. Speaking of waiting in line, one of the prized live auction items was a Golden Ticket to skip the line at the Peachland Store. It went for $900, if I’m not mistaken. I should also mention that a percentage of proceeds went to a handful of charities in Charlotte that help underprivileged kids.

For those of us fortunate enough to have have it previously, the consistency of all of the food should be noted. Everything tasted just as it always does, which is exceptional.

All in all, a fantastic event featuring great wines from a family-owned winery as well the amazing barbecue of a family-owned barbecue restaurant.