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.

Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall – Atlanta, GA

Name: Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall
Date: 4/14/22
Address: 684 John Wesley Dobbs Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30312
Order: Pulled pork tray with ribs and chicken wings, BBQ chips, chilled street corn, “BBQ fries”, and fried okra (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$

Speedy: Our most loyal readers will recall that I spent a year living in Atlanta. While there, I graced Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall with my presence 5 or 6 times, but I never knew they had barbecue. In fact, I never ate anything there at all. So imagine my surprise when on a return trip, there was ‘cue on the menu. And I had the entire Monk clan in tow to boot!

Monk: I’m assuming there was a change in the menu since you left Atlanta to become our Senior Tennessee Correspondent because on the day we visited (in town for the wedding of friend of the blog and Yelper HOFer TDB) the smell of smoke was evident as soon as we got out of our car and also wafted throughout the gravel patio set up with biergarten-style tables and firepits. 

Food and drinks are ordered cafeteria-style in the mode of a Texas joint, and the line moves pretty quickly. Unfortunately, at dinner on a Thursday night they were out of brisket so we made do with the available meats that Speedy could tolerate.

Speedy: Easily the star of the show was the St. Louis style ribs. Meaty, tender, and well-seasoned, they had good flavor and texture, but lacked any extra “oomph” that I’m generally looking for that could come from an extra kick; the perfect application of smoke or a sweet glaze. So while perfectly enjoyable, and something I’d order again, I don’t think they will be winning any Memphis in May awards any time soon.

Monk: We always order pork when its available, but as soon as I brought the tray to the table I knew this pork wasn’t going to cut it for us North Carolinians. It came pre-sauced and if there was any smoke to be found, it was certainly masked by the thick, overly-sweet sauce.

Speedy: The wings, like the ribs, were solid if unspectacular. Smoked then fried, these wings were tender and had good flavor, but I didn’t feel compelled to write home about them. Called “Nashville Wings” on the menu, I didn’t taste traditional hot chicken seasoning (I have become an expert), so I’m not sure what that’s about. Still, worth ordering a round for sharing.

Monk: With our group we opted mostly for the “shareable” sides and on the whole they about as successful as the meats. Which is to say, a mixed bag. The pre-sauced pork made much more sense on the “BBQ fries,” the okra was fried nicely, the chilled street corn had good flavor, and the BBQ chips were inoffensive.

Speedy: The best part about Ladybird is definitely the huge outdoor space right on the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, which is perfect for people watching. In fact, Ladybird will show up on many “best of Atlanta” lists when discussing where to have a drink on a nice day. Unfortunately, it probably won’t repeat its spot on any best of barbecue lists. While the barbecue at Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall is good enough to get by, true ‘cue lovers are best served looking elsewhere.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Chicken Wings – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

BBQ Joe’s – Trinity, NC

Name: BBQ Joe’s
Date: 11/24/21
Address: 4865-4873 NC-62, Trinity, NC 27370
Order: Two meat combo with pork and ribs, (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: Growing up in High Point, I have distinct memories of driver’s ed pit stops at a barbecue restaurant called Henry James BBQ off of Greensboro Rd in Jamestown. It is long gone but I believe another restaurant in the regional chain is in nearby Asheboro. The Greensboro Road store seemed to be the usual place for my driver’s ed teacher Ms. Sealy to stop and get refills of her large cup of Diet Coke but not necessarily a meal. I’m certain I ate there once or twice in high school but I can’t be sure whether it was on one of these stops. In concept and layout and even quality, BBQ Joe’s in Trinity reminds me of Henry James.

While both Henry James and BBQ Joe’s are both barbecue restaurants, they might also be more accurately categorized as “country cooking restaurants.” Barbecue is on the menu and in the name, but may not necessarily be the focus.

I would guess the pork is likely cooked offsite for both BBQ Joe’s locations but I found it to be passable. The table sauces were not essential but helped its cause. I would not be unhappy with a barbecue sandwich of this pork topped with some red slaw, sauce, and Texas Pete.

I was feeling frisky and ordered the ribs as well. The color was that of a half rack that had been boiled, rendering the ribs bland and inedible. I don’t know if they assume that patrons will drown them in the sweet, sticky sauce but that’s asking a lot.

The hush puppies at BBQ Joe’s were some of the most original I’ve seen. At first glance, they look like a large onion ring or a small cake donut. They are on the sweeter side, and I loved them. They also had Cheerwine from the fountain, which is always a welcome sight.

Next time at BBQ Joe’s, I’ll stick with a simple barbecue sandwich combo. I suggest you do the same.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Ribs – 1 hog
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Linkdown: 1/19/22

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