When you enjoy a slice of juicy brisket wrapped inside a warm tortilla, you’re celebrating the marriage of our two most beloved cuisines. This is nothing new at South Texas barbecue joints, where a side dish of rice and beans is as common as coleslaw and you’ll even find the occasional fideo. But the current Tex-Mex wave is deepening the bond between the two cuisines in new ways. You’ll find a lot more than just barbecue tacos, in other words.
Name: Sauceman’s BBQ & Grill Date: 4/3/15 Address: 228 West Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203 Order: Monk:Two-meat sampler with pork and brisket, Texas toast, red slaw, mac and cheese, Cheerwine; Speedy: Two-meat sampler with pork and ½ rack of ribs, hush puppies, and red slaw (link to menu) Price: Monk: $18; Speedy: $16
Monk: Well, Speedy and I tried going to Old Hickory House one last time but on the Friday before it closed at its current location for good they had sold out by 11:45am. Speedy and I still wanted barbecue so we decided to try Sauceman’s again. I had noted in our previous review almost two years ago that I was curious how their (somewhat) dry pork would fare during the lunch hour. So here we were, ready to give it another go.
Speedy: As I thought Sauceman’s was kind of average in our first review, I hadn’t made a point to get back. However, I’d always thought that in theory, it should be very good – as they don’t seem to cut any corners. I also really like the menu – I think it has everything a good ‘cue joint should. One complaint from last time was that they had no combo platters. This has been remedied, so Monk and I were able to each order two meats.
Sauceman’s cooks its pork Lexington style, but it doesn’t seem to be served that way. Lexington ‘cue is chopped much finer and sauced while chopping. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. So while the pork does have good flavor (I could use more bark), it just tastes dry. Adding some of the dip from the table helps some, but I think Sauceman’s could help itself out by adding dip to it’s saucing process.
Monk: I couldn’t agree more. For a so-called Lexington-style joint it just doesn’t come across in the pork for the reasons Speedy mentions above.
As for the brisket slices, they contained both the flat as well as the point and predictably the point was fattier and moist while the flat was slightly dry due to being overcooked. The slices did have a nice, peppery bark that provided a pop of smoke and flavor, however. We actually didn’t try the brisket last time around (and now Speedy has apparently sworn off all brisket in NC) but I’d say it was a passable version of a central Texas-style brisket.
Speedy: I stand by my decision not to try the brisket. I don’t feel like I missed anything. Brisket, I miss you, but I’ll see you soon on my next trip to Texas.
I remembered the ribs being good and I was pleased with them again. In the two years since we were last at Sauceman’s, I’ve drifted a bit towards drier ribs, so I thought these may have been slightly oversauced, but that’s nitpicking. They were cooked almost perfectly and had great flavor. While eating these ribs, I thought to myself that I might be eating the best rib in Charlotte. After thinking that through, I’m not sure I can confidently make that declaration, but they definitely have to be in the conversation.
Monk: We do need to come up with our best in each meat for Charlotte, but that’s a discussion for another day…
Sauceman’s does have a red slaw which we always love to see, and a decent version at that. I was a dummy and forgot to replace the Texas toast that comes with the with hush puppies. And the mac and cheese was solid but very creamy and almost too heavy for a nice spring day on the patio.
Speedy: Overall, I think a two year hiatus to Sauceman’s may have been a bit too long. It’s a good restaurant and it deserves patronage, particularly in the summer when the awesome patio is usable.
So we are issuing a challenge. We will give a handsome “No Faux ’Cue” apron to the first person to email us at email@example.com with either (1) a citation to any federal, state, county or municipal statute or regulation that makes it impossible for even one North Carolina barbecue restaurant to cook with wood or charcoal or (2) the name and job title of any federal, state, county, or municipal official who has required an existing North Carolina barbecue restaurant to stop cooking with wood or charcoal, or forbidden a new one to start.
“The east/west split dates back to when there were very few people in the mountains, so east really means east of Raleigh where the coastal plains start and west the Piedmont foothills,” said Tom Hanchett, a historian at the city’s Levine Museum of the New South and expert on Southern food, who joined me for lunch. “Charlotte is not really in either part, it’s a city of newcomers and we have other people’s barbecue. One of our most popular restaurants is Georgia-style and we have a lot of Latino and even Vietnamese barbecue, so having Bill Spoon’s here is very special. It’s eastern, whole hog with some hot pepper in the vinegar.”
– If you happened to be at 12 Bones in Asheville yesterday, you may have seen a Travel Channel crew filming at the restaurant to cover the “Hogzilla” sandwich, “a bacon, bratwurst and pulled pork sandwich which Garden and Gun magazine named one of the top in the country,” for an upcoming show “Sandwich Paradise”
Hence, Little Pigs BBQ was actually just one of more than a hundred Little Pigs Barbecue of America franchises. “Those guys were good business guys but they didn’t know food,” Joe says. Back in the ’60s, the concept of fast food was just coming into its own. McDonald’s got its start in the ’40s as a barbecue restaurant, but switched over to burgers because the slow process of making barbecue was hard to replicate on a national scale. Little Pigs Barbecue of America only turned a profit for one year, 1963, and by 1967, the franchise was bankrupt. Barbecue was too hard to homogenize.
But Joe kept his restaurant open. He started doing things his own way. He’d already been offering barbecue sandwiches at a buy-one-get-one-free deal, and the line was out the door on the first day. If customers couldn’t make it to Little Pigs, Joe would bring his food to them.