Monk: A little later than I’d normally like to post a first half look-back but then again, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a weird year. At least barbecue is (mostly) back. After a lot of backyard smoking (a little more on that below) and an attempt at mail order, barbecue restaurants started to reopen in late spring and adapted to the current situation with all formerly extinct practices like curbside service and carhops that made perfect sense in a pandemic environment.
A barn full of firewood out back was a sign of good things to come when it came to Backcountry Barbeque, an unassuming barbecue joint south of Lexington that landed in the top tier of my Lexington barbecue rankings.
Pork belly burnt ends and sliced pork belly from my backyard (story)
While I haven’t quite lived up to my promise that I would smoke pork belly again very soon, it is very much on my to-do list for upcoming backyard smokes. Particularly as the weather starts to cool down this fall. I still think about those pork belly burnt ends from time to time.
Beef rib, brisket, ribs, and cheddar bossa sausage from Jon G’s Barbecue (review)
You guys all know how I feel about Jon G’s by now, so not too much more needs to be written here except that you should make the trip, particularly if they have a beef rib on special (but be prepared to pay for it). I’ll also reiterate how glad I am that Garren and Kelly finally opened their store and are doing it their way.
Rick’s was the favorite of my new Lexington discoveries as part of my recent Lexington barbecue quest, landing just below my co-favorites Lexington Barbecue and Bar-B-Q Center.
Pork, ribs, and chicken from Southern Smoke BBQ (review)
Not too much more to add from my recent review other than Southern Smoke was my absolutely favorite new barbecue I’ve tried this year. I’ll repeat myself from my review: “Do yourself a favor and find time to make the trip like I did. You won’t regret it.”
What should I try in the second half (or what’s remaining of it) of 2020?Leave a comment with your recommendation.
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.
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