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

Big Tiny’s BBQ – Mooresville, NC

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Name: Big Tiny’s BBQ
Date: 1/16/17
Address: 179 N Main St, Mooresville, NC 28115
Order: ¼ lb brisket, ¼ lb Texas sausage, ¼ lb pork spare ribs, Natty Greene’s Session IPA (link to menu)
Price: $16.59

Monk: While you can find a couple of pretty darn good briskets in and around Charlotte (Midwood Smokehouse and The Smoke Pit immediately come to mind), it’s usually at a place that serves a little bit of everything in terms of barbecue cuisine (John Shelton Reed calls that model the “International House of Barbecue” model). Big Tiny’s BBQ is a newish joint in Mooresville that is truly trying to replicate a Texas style joint in NC – think Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q (mainly because that is exactly what they are going for).

In addition to being super nice people, owners John and Elizabeth Maddox are both Texans that have been in Mooresville for the past 15 years. After years of John smoking as a hobby and then as a side job, they opened their location in downtown Mooresville in a beautiful space last summer. Being that they are both new to the restaurant industry – John worked in auto racing and Elizabeth in insurance – they are learning more about running a restaurant and consistency of product each day. Based on what I saw 4 months in, they are off to a great start.

The layout of Tiny’s is has guests form a line as soon as they enter before they are greeted by a couple of tubs filled with beers and soft drinks in glass bottles before stepping up to a counter where they order meats by the ¼ or ½ pound. Those meats are then sliced and weighed in front of the customer. Even for fast casual barbecue restaurants in the area, this is a unique experience where you are paying by the pound even if you aren’t buying in bulk. They wrap the meats in foil and place into a plastic carrying container (apparently another cue from Rudy’s) with butcher paper and white bread. Then off the customer goes to the long picnic-style tables with red and white gingham table cloths where they can spread out and dig in.

As for the meats, Big Tiny’s is using a Cookshack pellet smoker from Oklahoma. I am not sure if I’ve ever eaten barbecue smoked on a Cookshack but in any case they are able to get a lot of smoke onto the meats. The brisket – I don’t recall there being a choice between lean or fatty – was moist and had a nice peppery bark as well as a good tug to it. The sausage is imported from Texas and had a nice snap and spice to it. The rib was smoked nicely and didn’t pull completely away from the bone with each chew. And the turkey, which I got a few sample slices of after I sat down, was lean, well smoked, and a nice alternative. In general the meats are consistently pretty excellent.

One thing you won’t find on the menu is chopped or pulled pork, and John assured me that will always be the case, no matter how many times they may get asked from locals who are used to barbecue joints automatically serving pork. They want to stay true to their Texas roots, and in a way I can respect them for that approach.

While I only ordered meats (after having just come from Bar-B-Q King in Lincolnton), I got a small sample of the corn casserole which was fantastic. It has been adapted from a family recipe, as has several other of the scratch made sides on the menu.

Named after their first dog, whose large portrait is one of the first pictures you see as you get in line, Big Tiny’s BBQ is a worthy addition to the barbecue scene in the Charlotte area. It ably fills a niche in our pork-centric barbecue culture, and I hope that the locals give John and Elizabeth Maddox’s Texas-style joint a fair shake. I certainly plan to go back next time I’m in the area.

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

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – Atlanta, GA

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Name
: B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque
Date: 12/31/2016
Address: 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: Sampler platter (pork, ribs, chicken) add brisket, fried okra, collards (link to menu)
Price: $25

Speedy: So it’s no secret that I’ve been a little slack in my barbecue eating since moving to Atlanta. So when Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat! reached out to me letting me know he and Marie (along with their boychild) would be in town on Saturday and asking if I were interested in meeting up for a meal, I jumped at the chance. Grant and Marie used to live in Atlanta, so are very in-tune with the culinary scene, including the ‘cue. Grant suggested that we meet at B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque and after reading his review, I was pumped to check it out.

Monk: Big thanks to Grant and co for dragging Speedy back into the land of barbecue blogging. And let me be the first to say that I can’t wait to see how this visit turned out.

Speedy: I arrived mere minutes before Grant, Marie, and the boychild, and we walked in at 5 pm on New Year’s Eve to find ourselves the only patrons. Grant greeted pitmaster Bryan “B” Furman on the way in, a good sign for sure.

Monk: I’m a little shocked that you were the only folks in there, but I’m assuming that has more to do with New Year’s Eve because everything I’ve read about B’s since its September opening has been supremely positive.

Speedy: Definitely, Monk. And I think there were plenty of people there for lunch, leading to a brisket shortage. But more on that later. Walking in, B’s has an old-school feel with plenty of seating, a big outdoor space, and a counter to place the order. I could smell the smoke upon walking in – not in an overpowering way, but in a way that made my mouth water. Obviously I ordered as much meat as possible on one plate, along with collards and fried okra, while Grant went with the two meat plate (pork and brisket) with a double order of the hash and rice (bold move, Grant). The staff informed us that they were out of brisket for the day, apparently a pretty common occurrence. Our disappointment was short-lived, as pitmaster Bryan told us that he could carve some directly off the smoker for us, as long as we don’t tell anyone. (We didn’t at the time, but now you know the secret loyal readers – blogging pays off.)

The meal was delivered shortly, and we eagerly dug in. Let me say this first off – I had enough food to feed three people easily – portions were not skimpy by any means.

I’ll start with what was my favorite portion – the brisket. Being carved fresh off the smoker, I could tell we got a little extra outside (bonus!). Also, it definitely came from the point of the brisket, as it was on the fatty side. Not that this is a complaint at all – the brisket was absolutely delicious. The seasoning was amazing, and the meat was tender and juicy. Overall, this was in the upper echelon of briskets that I’ve tasted. I’m curious as to what this tastes like in a normal setting, but overall, I was really pleased with a meat that is hard to find done well in these parts.

The pork at B’s is whole hog, which is also rarely found in Georgia. The meat here was also plenty tender, but came unsauced, making it slightly dry. At B’s, there are two sauces on the table – a spicy vinegar and a peach mustard. Normally, I would immediately douse the ‘cue in spicy vinegar, but Grant just raved about the peach mustard, so that’s what I tried first. Despite my well known aversion to mustard on pork barbecue, this stuff was excellent. It’s not anything like the traditional SC mustard sauce, but is rather quite sweet without the expected tang. I ended up having a conversation with Bryan about this sauce while eating – more on that later. Of course I tried the spice vinegar as well. Adding this to the whole hog pork would let it stack up favorably to nearly anything I’ve had in eastern NC. If I had to nitpick (and I do), I would love for some cracklin’ to be included in the pork to give it a little more texture, and I feel it would be fitting given the name. But I would definitely consider the pork and brisket “must orders” at B’s.

Monk: I am shocked (shocked!) to hear that Speedy willingly tried a mustard sauce on his pork. I think this shows real growth. Well done, Speedy.

Speedy: Only  because of the recommendation, Monk. The ribs were also very good. B’s serves big, meaty dry spare ribs that have been seasoned to near perfection. They were cooked perfectly – not too tender to fall off the bone, but well enough that you got an easy, clean bite. I personally prefer baby back ribs, but I can’t say I’ve had too many spare ribs that are better. I didn’t end up adding any sauce to my ribs, but would consider seeing how the peach mustard would taste on it. Overall, though, none was needed.

The chicken was also smoked perfectly and seasoned really well. The plate came with a quarter chicken, including the wing. The skin tasted smoky and good, and the chicken was tender without being dry. As a barbecue lover, this is never my top meat choice, and it isn’t at B’s either, but it was still very enjoyable.

The sides at B’s are also quite good. The fried okra had a really tasty seasoning on it, and the collards (made with turkey) are quite flavorful. I didn’t try Grant’s hash and rice (he offered, but I stupidly declined), but it looked fantastic. I think I’ll try that out next time.

Monk: I will say, hash and rise is becoming one of those dishes that I am becoming more and more interested in. With Grant getting a double order, sounds like it’s a dish I definitely need when we go to B’s next time I’m in Atlanta. Along with everything else you ate because it all sounds pretty darn good. At the very least, we could basically get the same order and you’ll just have less leftovers.

Speedy: I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about how nice of a guy pitmaster Bryan is. He came and spoke with us for quite a while during our meal. To me, the most interesting piece was his upcoming partnership with Heinz for a mustard sauce (not the peach mustard – they wanted that recipe, but Bryan wouldn’t give it to them). Bryan said the sauce the ended up with is close, but not quite the same. He mentioned that it is a sweet mustard sauce, though (“it had to be sweet if I was going to put my name on it”). I’m looking forward to trying it!

At the end of the day, this was by far the best barbecue I’ve had in Georgia. It’s good to have a go to place to take visitors. Bryan, I’ll be seeing you again soon!

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Chicken – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs
B's Cracklin' Barbeque

Full Service BBQ – Knoxville, TN

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Name: Full Service BBQ
Date: 10/20/16
Address: 104 Cedar Ln, Knoxville, TN 37912
Order: Big Boy Box (pork, brisket, ribs, sausage, chicken) with fries and beans (link to menu)
Price: $18

Monk: On this year’s annual guys trip, Speedy and I (no Rudy this year, unfort) and the crew coming up from Atlanta were passing through Knoxville around lunchtime, so I solicited the advice from Grant of Marie, Let’s Eat!, the perfect man to ask for barbecue recommendations around the southeast (seriously, he knows his stuff). His first choice, Sweet P’s Barbeque and Soul House, was too far south and out of the way, so we went with his #2 in Full Service BBQ with their Knoxville location being perfect for us just off I-75 on our way to Lexington for a weekend of the bourbon trail and horse racing.

Speedy: And let me tell you – if we didn’t know we were in Tennessee before we got to Full Service, we sure as heck knew it when we got there. There’s no inside seating at Full Service – just places to park your car, picnic tables (complete with napkin logs), and a walk up order window. I thought I was in heaven. That is until I found out that we had just missed smoked wing day (Wednesdays) and were a little too early for burnt end day (Fridays). So while that was a bummer, I was still pumped to try the aptly named Big Boy Box, which I split with Monk, since we’re only medium sized.

Monk: You know I always like a good napkin log. Instead of going meat by meat and offering up our critique, let’s focus on the best meat at Full Service. That ok with you, Speedy?

Speedy: I like it when you spice up our relationship, Monk. So the best meat at Full Service is the brisket.

Monk: By a country mile.

Speedy: By a Tennessee mile. Or maybe a Texas mile is more appropriate. We didn’t get offered a choice of fatty or lean briskets, but what we got seemed like the flat, or lean side. Even so, it was moist, flavorful, and cooked nearly perfectly. It had the tug that you want, the peppery bark, and the juices flowing throughout. All in all, a great brisket, especially from outside of Rudy’s hood.

Monk: It was pretty clear to us from speaking with the person who took our order that the brisket is what they take the most pride in at Full Service. Maybe “after thought” is too harsh for the other meats, but in descending order they ranked ribs, chicken, pork, sausage. And all far, far below the brisket. As for the sides, the fries were fresh with a nice seasoning salt and the beans were solid.

Speedy: Totally agree. I actually thought the sausage and pork weren’t even passable. Had we only tried those two meats, this would rank as one of the lowest we’ve reviewed. But you know what they say, Monk – it only takes one good meat to make a good barbecue restaurant.

Monk: Who says that, exactly?

Speedy: We do, Monk. We do.

Monk: Fair point…Speedy recalled that Full Service BBQ had been mentioned in Johnny Fugitt’s book The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America, listed as part of the other 75 (though he, like Grant, went to the Maryville location). And when I went back to the book, I realized that the brisket was #3 on his list of “10 Best Briskets Outside of Texas (better than 99% in Texas)” (FYI Midwood Smokehouse which was #6 on the list). That might be a bit high for me, but it was a good brisket nonetheless.

Speedy: Overall, I would go back to Full Service BBQ for one reason and one reason only: brisket. And to try the burnt ends. So, maybe two reasons. But I’d recommend that anyone get the chance head through to try that beef.

(For another review, check out Marie, Let’s Eat!)

Ratings: 
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 1 hog
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Chicken – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Full Service BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Full Service BBQ

Photo Gallery: Midwood Smokeshack and Pitmaster Michael Wagner

I recently was invited by Frank Scibelli to meet new pitmaster Michael Wagner at the recently-opened Midwood Smokeshack in Matthews. Midwood Smokeshack is the fast-casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse, with cafeteria-style counter service and a slimmed-down menu. Which makes sense since Midwood Smokeshack is a Texas-style joint and as Frank pointed out to me, most Texas joints really are fast casual (and have been before that term was coined). Over a platter of all the meats and most of the sides  (including corn bread, a change from the hush puppies offered at the bigger brother) doled out by Michael himself, the three of us sat down for lunch and a conversation about barbecue.

Last fall, FS Food Group (the parent company of Midwood Smokehouse and Midwood Smokeshack) posted a job posting for a Texas pitmaster to relocate to Charlotte. After a lengthy interview process, they hired Michael Wagner who previously ran his own food truck before training at Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart and then working at Kent Black’s in San Marcos, TX for nearly two years. After hiring him, they met up earlier this year in Texas while Frank and Plaza Midwood location pitmaster Matt Barry were buying new smokers for both Smokeshack and the upcoming Park Road location of Midwood Smokehouse (this will be a larger capacity smoker than the current ones they use at each location; the Park Road location will open by the end of the year). Michael then made the move to Charlotte just a few weeks ago prior to the opening of Midwood Smokeshack.

So far, Michael says he’s really enjoying his time in Charlotte and spent the first couple of weeks trying new restaurants around town, not having a bad meal among them. He clearly knows his stuff when it comes to barbecue, and Frank hopes that in time he will be able to move between the Midwood Smokehouse and Midwood Smokeshack locations to help up-skill the staffs on the smoking process of the meats (particularly brisket). I look forward to seeing Michael’s growing influence on the franchise over the near future.

I also couldn’t waste the chance to ask Frank about President Obama and Hillary Clinton stopping by the original Plaza Midwood location back in July. He got to speak with the president for about five minutes (who he said was very friendly to him and the staff) and even got to hold his black card to pay for one of the orders (the Clinton campaign paid for the rest). Clinton spent most of her time speaking with patrons in the restaurant that day. Apparently the reason they stopped in was due to secret service personnel having stopped in a few day before and recommending it. They received a lot of exposure from the visit, with photos even appearing in London’s The Daily Mail.

Thanks to Frank and Michael for the opportunity to try out all of the meats at the 2-week old Midwood Smokeshack. I plan to be back soon.

Monk

(Update: an earlier version of this entry incorrectly stated that Michael worked at Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart for 2.5 years)