Monk: On the first day of their soft opening dates, I made what is sure to be the first of many trips east to Peachland out to Jon G’s Barbecue. Assuming there was going to be a line for a 4pm start, I arrived at about 3:25 and found that indeed there was one. Once in line I confirmed that I was 12th in line (behind Adam and his wife of Apple City BBQ nonetheless!). I cracked open a beer with my (actual) brother Andy and friend of the blog Chris and happily began our wait in line.
For this first day at least, Jon G’s was just letting one group in at a time to order at the counter so the line moved a little slower than it ultimately will once things are normal (whenever that may be). No matter though if you’ve got a cooler full of beer, which I can’t recommend enough.
Once through the line, we headed out to the picnic tables with our food. On this warm day, some intrepid patrons ahead of us in line set up a tailgate tent over one of the tables and I was immediately jealous. The heat was not unbearable despite it being late June, and between the intermittent breeze and the cold beer we managed. Of course, the barbecue helped.
If you’ve been paying attention, you already know howIfeelabout Jon G’s Barbecue, so I won’t dwell too much on the food. But as expected, the Texas Trinity of brisket, ribs, and sausage each hit the mark. The mix of lean and moist brisket was buttery soft with a great pepper crust, the ribs are rapidly becoming my second favorite meat there, and the sausages (their signature Cheerwine hot link and a jalapeno cheddar) each had a nice kick with a great snap.
Kelly and Garren will be understandably focusing on the restaurant for the foreseeable future at the expense of the food truck so if you want to try the best barbecue in Charlotte, you’re just going to have to make the trip to Peachland to try Jon G’s Barbecue. I would recommend getting there early if you can, as the line had grown to upwards of 60-70 as I left. Regardless, make the trip, bring a cooler, and I promise you won’t be mad that you did.
Name: Black’s Barbecue Order: Black’s Sampler (2 lbs lean brisket, 2 lbs ribs, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage – Jalapeno and Cheese, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage – Garlic) Pricing: $$
Speedy: Like most of you, Monk and I are sheltered in place (right?! right?!), so unable to visit our favorite ‘cue joints for more than takeout. But despite this, the blog must go on. What better time to try something I’ve never had before: mail order barbecue? I know many of the more famous joints (and some perhaps not so famous) offer this, and I’ve always been curious. So if I can’t make it to Texas, let’s bring Texas to Tennessee. Rudy and I had ventured to Black’s back in 2014, and loved it, so that seemed like an appropriate order.
Monk: Though I unfortunately didn’t make it on that trip with you and Rudy, from the report it sounded great (particularly the brisket). So yes, I was in on this idea because as Chip Douglas told Steven Kovacs “necessity is the mother of invention,” Speedy.
We each placed our separate orders earlier in the week but the barbecue is not overnight shipped from Black’s in Lockhart until Wednesday. Open the styrofoam box and each meat is vacuum packed separately with dry ice that evaporates as it warms. And wow, is there ever a ton of smoked meat in that box.
…turned into all this…
Speedy: With all this meat, it took me three sittings to eat the brisket, two on the ribs, and one for each type of sausage. I started the place you should start with at any Texas joint – the brisket. Living in an 800 square foot apartment with all communal space shut down, I had no choice but to heat the brisket in an oven. So I wrapped that 2 pound brisket in foil, added some Worcestershire to retain moisture, sprinkled on a little extra pepper, and let it heat for 45 min. I was very concerned with what the product was going to taste like, given it was lean brisket (I generally prefer fatty) and reheated in an oven, but holy hell was it good.
The brisket was plenty moist and had amazing flavor and good bark. I was immediately transported to Texas and can say this was better than any brisket I’ve had in Tennessee and rivals what you get straight off the smoker most places. I could not have been happier with this. I ended up chopping leftovers for sandwiches the next day (lunch and dinner), and the brisket remained very good. Overall, a great experience.
Monk: I definitely was a little wary of lean brisket shipped frozen overnight and then reheated in an oven (I have access to my smoker but still went the oven route for ease). Worst case, I imagined it would end up dry no matter how well I reheated it and I’d have to chop it up and add sauce for chopped brisket sandwiches as Speedy did. I didn’t add anything into the foil wrap like but what came out was plenty moist and had that same peppery bark described above. I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of brisket that Black’s delivered.
As far as the ribs, I took the same approach as the brisket and simply wrapped them in foil unadorned and they also came out solid. While I like ribs, I don’t like them as much as Speedy and also don’t have a preference between dry and wet. My first time I ate them dry and found them to be flavorful and smoky and not too dry. My second time a few days later, I added sauce and while I personally didn’t find it necessary, it worked well. All in all, I believe I ended up liking the ribs more than Speedy.
Speedy: I did the ribs in two sittings. The first one I didn’t add anything to the foil to reheat. I thought the flavor was good, but the ribs were under-seasoned. The second time, I added sauce before heating, and I thought that served the ribs much better. Even reheating, I could taste the smokiness and recognize the quality, but I think adding the sauce was necessary.
At the time of writing, I had only tasted the garlic sausage. I thought the flavor of the sausage was really good, but I didn’t get the much desired snap from the casing. I blame this on the oven reheat, as I don’t feel sausage is made for that as opposed to the grill. But I was still happy with the sausage.
Monk: I thought each of the three sausages had good flavor, particularly the jalapeño cheddar. My major complaint about the sausage was that it was perhaps a little greasy and crumbled apart when I sliced. For me, it was my least favorite of the meats. Upon reheating in the microwave on subsequent eatings, the casing was rubbery and almost inedible. Perhaps some pan frying or grilling is in order to crisp up the skin for the remaining links.
Speedy: Overall, I was pretty impressed with the order from Black’s. It was fairly pricey ($95 including shipping), but there was A LOT of food there – probably enough protein for 8-10 meals. I definitely prefer the experience of going to a restaurant more, but if we’re stuck in quarantine much longer, I may end up a repeat customer.
Monk: Even with the slightly different experiences in reheating between Speedy and me, I would also consider ordering from Black’s Barbecue again, even though shipping was even pricier for me in NC than it was to Speedy in Tennessee. Speaking of which, may I propose we try White Swan or Morris Barbecue or Parker’s for our next mail order review to give NC barbecue equal time? After all, it does indeed look like we’ll be in this circumstance for a bit longer.
Name: Little Miss BBQ Date: 3/7/20 Address: 4301 E University Dr Phoenix, AZ 85034 Order: 1 beef rib, 3/4lb brisket, 1/4 lb pork, ¼ pound turkey (link to menu) Pricing: $$$
Speedy: A weekend trip to Phoenix had me searching out the city’s best barbecue spot to find. We ended up choosing Little Miss BBQ largely thanks to a spring training guide by sportswriter Keith Law, claiming that it was the best brisket he’s had outside of Austin – high praise indeed.
Speedy: My friend James and I arrived at Little Miss BBQ around 10:30 AM, ahead of their 11 AM opening. We were around 60th in line (a good sign). The building itself wasn’t much to look at, but there was a decent amount of outdoor seating and there were a lot of people milling around, though no line, per se. We quickly learned that upon arriving, you’re handed a ticket to hold your place in line, and they start lining people up in order around 10:45. There’s plenty of water available, but unfortunately, no beer. Still, it was a very organized affair. While waiting in line, just looking at the impressive Camelback offset smokers got me hungry, and I knew these guys meant business.
Workers come through the line explaining how the process works (essentially a Texas joint where meat is sliced in front of you), and expecting it to take 90 seconds per person in line (bummer). They also handed out samples of their house made pork/beef/jalapeno sausage, a nice touch. The sausage had really good flavor, and the jalapeno flavor was evident, but with the volume of meat we were about to consume, we decided against ordering a link. The 90 seconds per person ended up being about right, so it was around 12:30 before we made it to the front of the line.
After ordering enough meat to feed a small army, we were ready to dig in. The first thing I tried was the brisket, which was impressive indeed. We chose fatty brisket, and it was really nice and moist. My only complaint is it could have used a little more pepper to create more of a bark, but this was still a top ten brisket of my life. A step below Franklin, Pecan Lodge, La Barbecue, and Killen’s, but impressive none-the-less.
Monk: Wow, top 10 brisket for you, Speedy, is impressive, as you are definitely our Senior Brisket Correspondent at this point.
Speedy: I am often a tough critic on pulled pork, but these guys did a nice job on that as well. It was definitely more similar to the pulled pork I’ve had in Texas, as the butt was wrapped during the cook to retain more of the natural juices. This certainly helps keeping it from drying out, and enhances the flavor, but also gives the pork a greasier feel, making it difficult to eat in large quantities.
Historically, I’ve been mostly anti-poultry at ‘cue joints, but some recent excellent smoked turkey has changed that, and Little Miss BBQ is only going to add to that. The turkey was cooked perfectly, moist with great flavor. It passed the pull test easily and was seasoned well, and definitely worth ordering.
Monk: I’m also coming around more and more on smoked turkey at barbecue joints and think its worth considering more often in my barbecue travels.
Speedy: Saving the best for last was the beef rib. Goodness gracious. The flavor of the meat itself was outstanding, and the quality of the cut was apparent. It was perfectly seasoned to create the peppery bark that I have learned to love. This, to me, was a must get item at Little Miss BBQ. Make sure you’re there for a weekend, as the beef rib is only available Friday and Saturday. At $22 per pound (ours came in at 1.1 pounds), the price was more reasonable than I’d seen elsewhere as well.
Overall, this was the only ‘cue joint I tried in Phoenix, but you’d be hard pressed to find any place anywhere that tops it. This was also the second longest I’d ever waited in line for barbecue (behind Franklin’s) and I do think it was worth the wait. I think the line could have moved faster if the slicers had been a little more efficient. Don’t get me wrong – they were good and knew what they were doing, but took some time to talk to customers, which, though a nice touch, adds 15-30 seconds per person. So if you’re going to visit Little Miss BBQ, and you should, it’s worth getting there a bit early.
Monk: Christopher Prieto and Prime BBQ will be joining a Raleigh barbecue scene very different from when they announced their intentions to open a restaurant 4 years ago. In 2020 alone, the scene will be joined by heavy hitters like Sam Jones of Sam Jones BBQ, Ed Mitchell of The Preserve, Wyatt Dickson of Wyatt’s Barbecue, and Jake Wood of Lawrence Barbecue (plus several more). The difference with Prime BBQ is that it won’t actually be in the city limits of Raleigh. Instead, it will be 13 miles to the east in the suddenly booming town of Knightdale.
Knightdale Station Park is a new planned community that has a 76 acre park, 2 miles of paved trails, a splash pad, a farmer’s market, soccer fields, an amphitheater, a veteran’s memorial, and probably even more amenities built just in the past week. And it just so happens to be on the doorstep of Prime BBQ, though that was not the case when Christopher Prieto and team broke ground nearly 2 years ago.
On a sunny but chilly Saturday in February, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a hardhat tour hosted by owner and firemaker Christopher Prieto as well as a lunch catered by the Prime BBQ team.
During the hour-plus long tour of the still unfinished restaurant, Prieto wove into the tour his story of how he was called to barbecue after visiting a meat market with a barbecue stand out back at a very young age while living in College Station, TX and getting that first taste of Texas barbecue. His path eventually led to competing (and winning) on the KCBS barbecue competition circuit as a teenager before getting into the restaurant industry in his 20’s (though in a different cuisine). As he tells it, his life was turned around when he began hosting cooking classes with the Wounded Warrior Project for veterans. This led him down the path of honoring veterans that will continue in a few different ways with Prime BBQ.
The tour started on the patio before being led to the main dining area where Christopher explained the flow of customers that he and his designer designed from years of barbecue research. The space itself is full of beautiful touches, and if you make it to Prime BBQ be sure to look up at the custom wood ceiling and chandeliers reminiscent of a church or cathedral.
Prime BBQ is large at over 8,000 square feet but it also has one of the largest kitchens and dry storage rooms you will ever see in a restaurant. From there, we got to the main attraction – for me, at least – in the smoke room that houses three J&R Manufacturing Oyler smokers (with room to add more if needed) and will have two BQ whole hog smokers. Prieto will be smoking using a “cocktail” of wood (as he puts it) that will include local oak (not imported post oak), pecan, cherry, sugar, or maple depending on the protein.
Also forthcoming in the pit room will be a “chef’s table” of sorts for private tastings exclusively for veterans. A very cool idea that continues his practice of honoring veterans.
After the tour wound down, it was lunch time. Fittingly, Prieto and team served us the Texas trinity as well as a beef chuck rib and three of their sides – Big Boss beans, smoked sweet potato salad, and a slaw made with vinegar and honey mustard.
The brisket served honored the central Texas version of the meat, and was made with Creekside Farms beef from Missouri. Prime BBQ will be smoking in Oylers from J&R Manufacturing out of Mesquite, Texas and Prieto is very familiar with them, having owned one of their first manufactured smokers with a serial number in the single digits. As you would expect from a joint owned by the Texas-raised Prieto, the brisket will be a big focus at Prime.
Prime BBQ will be making their sausage in-house with a specific blend of pork and beef and spices that Prieto has honed over the years. For me, the sausage was a little on the dry side that day but I have no doubts that they will get it right once the restaurant is up and running.
The star of the show for me was the pork spare rib, which was perfectly smoked with a simple rub and finished with a glaze of a sweet barbecue sauce.
They had a limited number of chuck beef ribs and having already been stuffed, I grabbed one on the smaller side and shared with my neighbor. I’ve not had a chuck rib before but it had the powerful, peppery bark of the larger plate ribs I’ve tried and tasted great.
The sides were variations on traditional barbecue sides. Prieto said he hates potato salad, so his version smokes sweet potatoes and adds tons of bacon and pimento cheese. Works for me. The slaw is made with vinegar and honey mustard instead of mayo, yellow mustard, or ketchup. It wasn’t overly sweet, but I found myself wishing it was more traditional. The big boss beans were not made with beer from Big Boss Brewing (as I suspected based on the name) but were an above average barbecue side.
Even though he is lactose intolerant, Christopher Prieto has a Blue Bell Ice Cream tattoo on his calf. He loves it that much. This being my first time trying any Blue Bell, I gotta say I see where he is coming from. The capper to the meal was a small tub of vanilla Blue Bell with some peach cobbler. It only served to remind me that I don’t eat deserts at barbecue restaurants enough.
The one thing that we didn’t get to try that day that intrigued me the most was the whole hog lechon that Prime BBQ will serve. Rather than directly competing with the eastern NC whole hog pitmasters that will be coming to Raleigh, Prieto will honor his Puerto Rican heritage with a different spin on whole hog. I can’t wait to eventually try it.
Also of note is that Prime BBQ will be a BYOB establishment (like famed Texas establishments such as Louie Mueller Barbecue) which runs contrary to the trend of full service barbecue restaurants.
Christopher Prieto and the rest of the Prime BBQ team are building something special in Knightdale. Their opening date is currently slated for April 18, and in the crowded Raleigh barbecue scene of 2020 I predict that they will do quite well.