Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que – Gatlinburg, TN

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Name
: Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
Date: 9/3/17
Address: 714 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Order: Bar-B-Que Combo (chopped pork, brisket, and sausage) with jalapeno mac and cheese and coleslaw (link to menu)
Price: $14.99

Monk: While our last barbecue stop on the Monk family vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee was a bit of a bust for reasons other than barbecue we got another opportunity a couple days later while we were playing tourist in downtown Gatlinburg. Across the street from the aerial tram Ober Gatlinburg (our main plans for the day), just happened to be Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que and made the decision easy for us.

I know from the review of the Pigeon Forge store from Marie, Let’s Eat! that I was to expect fine-but-not-exceptional barbecue and guess what? Grant was right. The pork was perfectly acceptable but Bennett’s seemed to be very proud of their four sauces found on the table. None of them made a huge difference in the again, perfectly acceptable pork.

The brisket was dry and below average while the best of the three meats that day was the sliced sausage. A little of the table mustard sauce accentuated it nicely. This was the favorite meat of both myself and Mrs. Monk.

Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que is part of the locally-owned Johnson Family chain of restaurants that includes pizza, southern, and ice cream with locations in nearby Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. To their credit, they could serve below-average barbecue to tourists simply because they know that they’ll continue to make money regardless but thankfully that’s not the case. While they are a tourist destination that happens to serve halfway decent barbecue, it won’t blow your mind.

For more reviews, check out:
Marie, Let’s Eat

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 2 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Beef – 2 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
Bennett's Pit Bar-B-Que Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Franklin Barbecue – Austin, TX (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Franklin Barbecue
Date: 7/21/17
Address: 900 E 11th, Austin, TX
Order: 2 pounds brisket, 1 pound ribs, 1 pound ribs, 1 pound sausage (link to menu)
Price: $120-ish

Speedy: Less than 24 hours after my excellent visit to La Barbecue, I was ready to get back at it, this time to the legendary Franklin Barbecue. Rudy dropped me off at 6 AM to get in line and went to take care of some things at work, re-joining me about 8. Getting there that early, I expected to be first in line, but in reality, there were three groups and about 12 people in front of me. Fortunately, I was still there in plenty of time to be shaded for my entire wait, which was hugely clutch. I spent most of the time sitting in a tailgate chair and sipping Lone Stars, so all-in-all, it was a pretty good morning.

Rudy: The shade part was the best by far. I don’t know how the people in the 2nd half of the line made it, I guess just more Lone Stars.  

Speedy: Around 9:00, someone came around to ask what we were ordering, in order to get a good idea when food was going to run out. You weren’t bound by the order, but it was a good way to understand how far the food would go.

Around 10:30 am, I went inside to hit the bathroom (which they opened up around 9:30), and I saw the Godfather himself – Aaron Franklin. I was a little bummed he didn’t recognize me as a Barbecue Bro (AARON – ARE YOU EVEN READING??), but it was pretty cool he was there.

Rudy: I’ll chalk it up to him just being intimidated by your presence. I am sure he scampered to the back to make sure everything was up to snuff. In all seriousness, I think it is great that they open the building early to people that need to use the bathroom or want to purchase drinks or merchandise. I feel like many places would keep the doors closed until they open for food. That was a nice touch.

Speedy: Eventually, the restaurant opened, and Rudy and I were to the front of the line pretty quickly. Like at La Barbecue, we were given a bit of brisket to much on, and it was every bit as good as the previous day, only this time I was expecting it. No matter – we placed our order, got our meat, and found a table to sit at and dig in.

I’ll start with the brisket since that’s what it’s known for and my God, it is incredible. The peppery bark was perfect, the meat was tender and flavorful, and it was simply divine. The previous day I had claimed I had eaten the best brisket I’d ever tasted, but this was every bit its equal. Just absolutely phenomenal.

Rudy: I agree, if barbecue places in Texas are judged primarily on brisket, you have to hit it out of the park to be listed as the best, and Franklin’s did. The bark was amazing, but the flavors ran all the way through the meat, so no matter what bite you got, it was great. We got moist brisket, and the fat was perfectly rendered as opposed to many other places where you end up with a huge glob of fat with drier meat around it.

Speedy: Rudy had been raving about the ribs, so they were what I tried next. I’ve eaten lots of awesome ribs in my day, but these ribs stacked right up there with the best of them. They were perfectly cooked – giving a clean bite every time. The flavor was amazing – with just the right amount of rub that had a touch of sweetness. The ribs were glazed, so neither wet nor dry, which worked perfectly. These may not have been the best ribs I’ve ever had, but I’d say they’re in the top 5. Overall, you’d be remiss to skip out on these at Franklin.

Rudy: Top 5?!?! I need to eat some of the places you’ve been eating! I love them because of the flavor, the fact that they are tender and moist without being wet ribs. They are my favorite by far.

Speedy: The pork was also a great showing. Tender and a little vinegary, it was everything you’d expect from a good pulled pork. In a normal setting, I’d write more to rave about the pork, but it was a distant third in this offering. Not to say it wasn’t very good, but brisket and ribs were the co-headliners.

The sausage was good – considerably better than La Barbecue, but I wouldn’t order it again. Stomach room at Franklin is too precious to waste on just an above average meat. At many barbecue places this would be the top offering, but at Franklin, the brisket and ribs rose to the top.

Rudy: The pork was a pleasant surprise for me because I had not had it before. What I’ve had other places is usually a peppery pulled pork (which this included) but the difference here was the slight taste of vinegar that you don’t get with most other Texas pulled pork. That gave it a distinct flavor compared to the other meats and also made it closer to NC pulled pork, which was a welcome bit of home for me. As far as the sausage, I agree, it was good but I could have done without it in lieu of more of the other 3 meats.

Speedy: The question that came up often after the trip was whether Franklin Barbecue was worth the 5 hour wait. It’s not something I’d do every weekend, but I think it was absolutely worth it. Overall, the wait was a rather enjoyable experience, and if I wasn’t already obsessed with barbecue, I’d call the meat life-changing. I can’t wait for my next trip to Franklin’s!

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – N/A
Overall – 5 hogs
Franklin Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Das BBQ – Atlanta, GA (Rudy’s take)

IMG_6561Name: Das BBQ
Date: 7/15/17
Location: 1203 Collier Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: 2 Meat Plate with Brisket and Sausage, Side of collard greens and Mac & Cheese. Separate order of ½ pound of pulled pork.  (link to menu)
Bill: $25

Rudy:  I knew that Monk had already reviewed Das BBQ on a trip to Atlanta, but when I went to visit family they told me they wanted to take me to their new favorite barbecue restaurant. Who was I to complain? I didn’t recall how the place had rated, so it was good to go in without any preconceived ideas of what to expect.

Like Monk said, they have a Texas-style feel to them. That’s evident from the menu and also from the decor around the place. I noticed some photos of some of Lockhart’s most famous joints. It is also has a Texas-style menu (meats by the pound), however when I asked them for a single piece of chicken or quarter pound of pork (feeding Rudy Jr) they looked at me like I had two heads. Most places in Texas you can order almost any increment of weight (even ask for a single slice of brisket, turkey, etc.). From what I heard, the owners spent some time in Texas learning the tricks to the trade before opening their venture in Atlanta.

The time that they spent learning about Texas-style barbecue, specifically in relation to the brisket, was time well spent. I got a piece of moist brisket and it was fantastic. The smoke was not too overwhelming and it had a great mixture of salt and pepper in the bark. I tend to have low expectations for brisket outside of Texas because of my past experiences, but I was pleasantly pleased with the offering from Das.

Monk: Couldn’t agree more about the brisket. They are putting those Franklin-spec offset smokers to good use.

Rudy: I opted for the spicy sausage, which I thought was fine but not one that I was in love with. I didn’t notice that much of a spice from it, more just pepper flavor. The other thing, and this is purely a personal preference, I tend to like jalapeno and cheddar sausage over just jalapeno sausage. I feel like the creaminess from the cheese compliments the spice. I know I shouldn’t count off for that because they weren’t even offering that type of sausage, but these are my arbitrary rankings, so I’m counting off.

Monk: Loyal readers may recall that the sausage is imported from Meyer’s Smokehouse in Elgin, TX so its legit authentic. Although come to think of it, I don’t know that I’ve had a jalapeno cheddar sausage before (we know Speedy definitely hasn’t) but that’s now officially on my list to try.

Rudy: The pork was moist and flavorful. Nothing too special about it, but still very good. I liked it more than the sausage and Rudy Jr definitely did. He opted to eat a decent amount of it before turning his attention to the mac & cheese (priorities).

As far as the sides, they were serviceable. Mac & cheese was standard offering. The collard greens were good, but definitely on the spicy side. I did not mind that, but others with my group were not expecting that and were not fans. One side that I did not order, but tried from another person’s order, was the cream corn. I thought it was by far the best tasting side and also the most unique. It was not just a standard side, but had lots of flavor and spice to it.  That would be my recommendation for someone getting a side.

Monk: While you hadn’t checked out my review before checking it out, turns out we ended with pretty close ratings both overall and by meat. I’d say that’s a continued good sign for the quality of Das on two independent visits over 3 months apart.

Rudy: Overall, I was very pleased with Das BBQ and enjoyed getting some barbecue that tasted very similar to back home while I was out of town. I can definitely tell that they have done lots of studying to make sure that their barbecue tastes as close to genuine Texas standards, which is something that many places don’t do when they are that far from the state. Next time I am looking for barbecue in Atlanta, I definitely will head back to Das BBQ.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Pulled Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

La Barbecue – Austin, TX (Speedy’s take)

IMG_1608Name: La Barbecue
Date: 7/20/17
Address: 1906 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702
Order: ½ lb brisket, ¼ lb pork, 1 sausage link (link to menu)
Price: $19

Speedy: After a quick work trip to Dallas, I thought it would be a good idea to pop over to Austin to visit Rudy. We both had to work my first day there, but I was able to get away for lunch and head over to La Barbecue, which Rudy previously raved about.

I got there about 11:30, and there was already a decent line. A guy behind me in line asked how long the wait was from the end – he was told 15, but the reality was 40. After 15 minutes, his order was taken (but no one else’s), so as to not make the worker “a liar.” Also, there was no free beer as there was on Rudy’s visit. Combine this with the hot weather and the business casual attire, and I was a little annoyed. The lack of urgency from the staff to serve people added to my annoyance.

Monk: I know the answer to this question, but you were mad because it was hot in July in Texas and they didn’t offer you free beer, something they aren’t obligated to do? Really?

Rudy: I believe that the free beer is only on Saturdays. You were actually able to visit La Barbecue on one of their last days as a food truck because they have since moved into a brick and mortar location. So while the wait might not be less time, but it could possibly be inside.

Speedy: At long last, I got to the front of the line, ordered ¼ pound brisket, ¼ pork, and a sausage link. Before cutting, the homie cutting the meat handed me a small chunk of brisket, which I popped into my mouth. Every annoyance, and truly every care I had immediately went away. The bit was so peppery and moist and simply divine. I quickly upped my order to ½ pound of brisket, got my food, paid, and went to find a shady spot to sit.

Rudy: They got me with the taste test too. Works every time.

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Speedy: Every bite of brisket was just as the first. This was, without a doubt, the best brisket I had ever tasted. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. It was absolutely perfect. There’s nothing I would change about it. I’m not an eloquent enough write to justly write about this brisket, so I’ll just say if you ever get a chance, get it.

Monk: I had similar thoughts when I tried Lewis Barbecue in Charleston earlier this year, which we all know is the joint that former La Barbecue pitmaster John Lewis opened about a year ago. I’d be curious how Lewis stacks up to La.

Rudy: Being a North Carolina boy, I didn’t have high expectations with the pulled pork, but digging in, I was blown away. It was tender, smoky, and tangy. I don’t know what was on it, but there was vinegar involved. It also came with pickled onions, which was a perfect pairing. Overall, this was in the top echelon of pulled pork I’ve ever had. I was shocked. If you ever get a chance, get it.

The sausage was disappointing. The flavor was fine, but it was a little dry and fell apart pretty easily. It wasn’t by any means bad – in fact, in a vacuum, i’d probably call it good. But compared to the brisket and the pork, it’s not worth ordering.

I didn’t order sides – I didn’t feel the need to.

In thinking about La Barbecue, my biggest regret is not getting a beef rib (in addition to, not instead of the other things). Yes, it’s expensive, and there’s no way I could eat it all, but damn it looked good.

Overall, my meal at La Barbecue was incredible. The next day, Rudy and I had plans to hit up Franklin’s, so I was pumped to be able to compare the two. Leaving La Barbecue, my only thought was that I had a hard time understanding how it would equal or exceed what I had just eaten.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs (bumped down due to heat, lack of free beer, and slow service)
Brisket – 5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sausage – 3 hog
Sides – N/A
Overall – 5 Hogs (the brisket and pork were good enough that nothing else mattered)
La Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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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

Swig & Swine – Summerville, SC

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Name
: Swig & Swine
Date: 5/27/17
Address: 1990 Old Trolley Rd, Summerville, SC 29485
Order: 3 meat plate (pulled pork, brisket, and sausage) with hash & rice, collards, and mac & cheese (link to menu)
Price: $24 (for two)

Monk: I have a confession, dear readers, and not one that I like to readily admit: sometimes I do get sick of barbecue. It doesn’t happen often but it usually happens after I’ve had a particularly bad meal. After having 4 meals in 6 days on the Monk family vacation I was actually completely fine with hitting something quick on the road back to Charlotte so we could just get back to real life. The last meal at Smoke BBQ had broken my enthusiasm for the week, it would appear.

However, in an unexpected twist, Mrs. Monk had looked up reviews of Swig & Swine’s Summerville location and insisted that we stick to our original plan. Her enthusiasm helped push me and on we headed about 35 minutes from Mount Pleasant to Summerville, SC. Sometimes the missus really does just get me.

This Swig & Swine, unlike the West Ashley location that Speedy previously visited, has enough room to smoke whole hogs and that was the main draw for me. Besides that, they do go the “international house of barbecue” route with a little bit of everything in terms of smoked meats.

The pulled pork single-handedly restored my faith in barbecue after the disaster of a meal the day before. The lighter meat was pulled into long strands and dare I say, might I have enjoyed it a bit more than Rodney Scott’s BBQ? Perhaps so.

The brisket had well-rendered fat and a nice tug to it. While the whole hog was the main draw, I would just as soon as go back for the brisket.

The housemade sausage was another solid entry and at this point in the meal, Swig & Swine was running laps around my previous meal at Smoke BBQ. In Speedy’s review of the West Ashley location, sausage was by far his favorite part of the meal and I found it to be really juicy with a nice snap to the casing.

My hash & rice fascination continued at Swig & Swine and I realize should take better notes when it comes to hash, because the subtle differences are probably lost on me. Still, that plus the collards and mac & cheese really brought it.

Swig & Swine capped my trip off nicely with a great meal of barbecue. This was the fifth and last barbecue meal in seven days of vacation to and from Charleston – almost certainly the most amount of barbecue I’ve eaten out in a week-long stretch. There was only one real dud, and overall most of my other experiences were really positive. But after this trip, I’m not ashamed to admit that barbecue and I decided to take a little bit of a break from each other for a week or two – and a welcome one at that.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hog
Sausage  – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Das BBQ – Atlanta, GA

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Name: Das BBQ
Date: 4/1/17
Address: 1203 Collier Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: Triple meat plate (pulled pork, brisket, and sausage) with mac and cheese and collard greens (link to menu)
Price: $22

Monk: Much to my surprise, the Monks made another barbecue stop on our Atlanta trip on the stipulation that it had to have sausage on the menu for Mrs. Monk. In my research ahead of the trip, I had come across Das BBQ on an Eater list of Best New Atlanta Restaurants and being that it’s a Texas-style smokehouse, it most definitely would have sausage.

Das BBQ has been open for only about 3 months in a former Pizza Hut (side note: I’ve had a pet theory that some of the best restaurants are housed in former Pizza Huts; there are several good examples in Charlotte alone). They’ve added a pit room to the side of the old structure and gussied it up real nice, to the point where my Pizza Hut-dar did not detect what we were in. That pit room was actually open to visitors who are encouraged to walk in, talk to the pitmaster, and observe him at work. Kind of a cool concept that may be more commonplace in Texas but less rarely seen in the southeast.

In that open pit room are housed two offset smokers that were supposedly made to the specs of those found at Franklin Barbecue. But instead of the post oak they use in Texas, Das uses a mixture of hickory and pecan wood that are more appropriate to Georgia. Meats are smoked in those smokers for about 5 hours before finishing in a Southern Pride Rotisserie, allowing for a certain amount of automation (if not what some might consider a shortcut).

I ordered the triple meat plate of pulled pork, brisket, and sausage. I’ll start with the sausage, the meat which allowed me to try the joint in the first place. Das BBQ imports two types of beef links from Meyer’s Smokehouse in Elgin, Texas – spicy and mild. We tried the spicy and it had a nice peppery kick. The case had a good snap and it was a well-smoked sausage. We tried the table side peach mustard sauce and it was a nice fusion of Texas-meets-Georgia.

The brisket was another winner, and did a solid job of replicating the Central Texas peppery bark. The fat was well-rendered and none of the bites were overly dry. Pretty good results for a joint in its first couple months of being open.

Instead of going full Texas Trinity, I opted for pulled pork. In addition to the peach mustard sauce, each table also has a thicker ketchup-based sauce. As was the case with the other meats, it was well smoked but a little sauce of your preference wouldn’t hurt.

Mrs. Monk preferred the collards here to the ones we had the day before at B’s, while the mac and cheese shells were standard. They were out of slaw on this particular day. Continuing with the Texas theme, I also ordered a Shiner which is available for the value price of $3.

While some may quibble with the method of finishing in a gas smoker, the end product at Das BBQ is of above average quality across the board. Combine that with the good prices and the open pit room and Atlanta has a nice addition to their barbecue scene.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

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

Seoul Food Meat Co – Charlotte, NC

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Name
: Seoul Food Meat Co
Date: 2/10/17
Address: 1400 S Church St, Charlotte, NC 28203
Order: Small pulled pork, small Crispy Pork Belly, small Bulgogi Sausage, ramen mac ’n cheese, soy pickled deviled eggs (link to menu)
Price: $41.75 (for two)

Monk: When Seoul Food Meat Co opened about a year ago in Charlotte’s booming South End neighborhood, my hopes were that it would be Charlotte’s version of the fantastic Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta. That may be an easy comparison to make since both are doing a fusion of Korean flavors with southern barbecue, but after finally checking out Seoul Food Meat Co I’d say that Heirloom has the edge in smoked meats while Seoul Food has the edge in the fusion of Korean flavors in its side dishes.

Seoul Food Meat Co is one of many recent additions to the South End bar, brewery, and restaurant scene and has a nice patio with garage doors that open up on warmer days. Based on the plans we’ve seen of its expansion, it’s only going to get better with dedicated karaoke rooms as well as an outdoor bar and  “adult playground” out back. Despite the warm winter, this particular Friday was on the colder side so we had no such luck to experience the patio.

The generous portion of pulled pork comes pre-sauced with a thick tangy Korean barbecue sauce. By itself, the pork is not the smokiest and perhaps lacks a little flavor while being on the dry side. I will say, it’s better with the sauce.

The crispy pork belly is exactly like its name implies. I didn’t detect a lot of smoke on them, so I believe this was more of a fried item – particularly with the crispy skin which I found myself continuing to nosh on long after I decided I was finished with my meal. 

The bulgogi sausage was perhaps a little on the dry side (as can be the case with sausage) but was pretty flavorful nonetheless and my favorite meat of the meal. Mrs. Monk preferred to dip it in the sauce and that was my preference as well. Next time I’d be interested to try their spicier smoked kimchi sausage.

The Korean influence was particularly evident in the sides at Seoul Food. I quite liked the ramen mac n’ cheese with its small pieces of cracklin’ on top to give it a nice texture. The soy pickled deviled eggs threw off the wife at first with its brown coloring of the egg itself, but in the end had a fairly classic taste just with that slight Asian spin. Looking at the menu, there are a handful more Korean-Southern sides that I hope to get around to trying eventually – sriracha cracklins, kimchi vinegar slaw, and choiang broccoli.

So its not quite Heirloom Market but all in all, the southern-dishes-with-a-Korean-spin were mostly successful. While a little on the pricey side, the portions do seem to be quite generous – we could have ordered one less meat (say the pork belly at $13) and have been more than full. I look forward to checking out Seoul Food Meat Co again during the warmer months and checking out more of their meats (particularly that beef rib) and sides.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Pork Belly – 3 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
Seoul Food Meat Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Seoul Food Meat Co

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