Roadtrip: Western NC Barbecue and Brewery Tour


Autumn in North Carolina usually means heading to the mountains to see the leaves turn, go apple picking, or just feel true fall weather (especially when it can occasionally stay in the 90’s until late October in the Piedmont). From Charlotte, its but a short 2-hour drive to Asheville via US-74/I-26. While it may not be physically possible to hit all of the spots below, if one were to pick and choose from the list below I’m pretty confident he or she could have a pretty great time.

Monk

Heading West (Shelby)

Heading west, Shelby is a town about 45 minutes from Charlotte and home to two competing barbecue restaurants under the name “Bridges” – Alston Bridges Barbecue and my pick, which has been and always will be Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge (website) right off 74. This joint, a recent winner of both the Thrillist and Garden & Gun March Madness Barbecue Brackets in back-to-back years, is a pretty true representation of Lexington-style barbecue smoked over handchopped wood logs (check the enourmous wood pile out back).

In historic downtown Shelby, Newgrass Brewing (website) has burst onto the scene to be the first brewery in Cleveland County. While there is small plates available at the brewpub, the beer is the main attraction and they have a little bit of everything from your standard hoppy wheat or IPA to Fall seasonals to the occasional sour or gose.

Alternate – A little further down the road towards Asheville, Green River Barbeque (website) is just a half mile away from the main strip in downtown Saluda, a charming little mountain town just off the (you guessed it) Green River. Their beer list is a little on the smaller side but they keep it pretty local. If you’re lucky, snag a table on their small-ish patio and enjoy the crisp fall mountain air.

South of Asheville (Etowah/Mills River/Brevard)

Many of the apple orchards are just outside of Hendersonville, NC and in nearby Etowah the Old Etowah Smokehouse (website) recently opened in a location formerly occupied by The Barbecue Shack. While I never made it to there, the new tenants (led by Mike Moore, co-founder of Blind Pig Supper Club and former owner of Seven Sows) are the latest NC joint to smoke whole hogs the old fashioned way.

A mile or so past the Asheville Airport in the small town of Mills River, is Sierra Nevada‘s beautiful, sprawling campus (website). If you haven’t planned ahead and gotten a reservation weeks in advance, you wont be able to go on the guided tour (the shorter, unguided tour is still an option, however). But there’s still plenty to do – dine at the brewpub, play cornhole or bocce out back on the patio, walk the grounds, or sit by a firepit and listen to live music if the weather is cool enough.

Alternate – At the foot of the Pisgah National Forest, you reach the Oskar Blues Brewery’s east coast operation in Brevard (Facebook page). Here, you can try the beers from  the brewery that started the beer-in-a-can craze back in 2002 (albeit from their original Lyons, CO location).

Asheville

Buxton Hall Barbecue (website) was the first of the new wave of NC whole hog joints, opening in August 2015. Pitmaster Elliot Moss originally hails from the Pee Dee region of SC (specifically Florence) and he brings that style of barbecue to the bustling South Slope neighborhood of Asheville. Other Pee Dee influences on the menu are barbecue hash and rice and chicken bog (a gumbo-like rice dish). However, be warned that with Buxton Hall being named one of Bon Appetit’s 10 best new restaurants in America, you may find yourself waiting.

Burial Beer Co. (website) is just a block away from Buxton Hall, but there is no lack of options in South Slope. Catawba Brewing Co. (website) is literally next door and Twin Leaf Brewery (website), Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium (website), and Green Man Brewery (website) are all within a two-block radius so take your pick.

Alternate – I personally can’t  speak to the quality, but Speedy really dug Luella’s Bar-B-Que (website)

 

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Linkdown: 9/28/16

– Thrillist lists Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge as the best in the state of NC in this list of the best barbecue in each state in America

– TMBBQ tries dry-aged brisket at Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland, Texas, where “the texture is more like a steak”

– More on Charleston being the future of barbecue

– The namesake of Jackie Hite’s Bar-B-Que has passed away

– Our State visits B’s Barbecue in Greenville

Linkdown: 4/6/16

– Congrats to Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge on winning the Thrillist’s Barbecue Bracket!

– Grant makes us feel inadequate after visiting his 20th joint (out of 23) on the Historic NC Barbecue Trail

– Speaking of the NC BBQ Trail, it is included on this list of the Toronto Star’s spring roadtrips

– John T Edge is the latest to visit Sam Jones BBQ

Linkdown: 2/17/16

An interview with John Lewis ahead of his move  to bring Texas barbecue to Charleston

– Grant writes about fantastic barbecue around SC for Tabelog

– Speaking of Tabelog, Monk also wrote an article for them on underrated barbecue restaurants in NC

– Over on Marie, Let’s Eat! he revisits Old Clinton Bar-B-Q in Gray, GA

– Picnic, Midwood Smokehouse, and The Improper Pig all mentioned:

– Seoul Food Meat Co, a new restaurant with a “traditional BBQ menu…with an asian twist”, is set to open for dinner sometime this week in Charlotte

– EDIA Maps, the folks behind the Great NC BBQ and Beer Maps, is creating a Charlotte Adventure Map

– It’s been too long; I need to get back to Red Bridges

Linkdown: 1/27/16

– A sneak preview of the February barbecue issue of Our State Magazine from the Red Bridges Facebook page

Our State Magazine - February 2016 Barbecue Issue

– The issue will be on newstands next Tuesday and here’s a sneak peak

– CrossTies Barbecue in Carrboro is an upcoming restaurant that will be a full-service barbecue restaurant “specializing in authentic Carolina barbecue and a variety of smoked meats, including fresh-made sausages and bacon”; it is slated to open in May

– This person’s “best things I ate in Charlotte in 2015” list includes barbecue from Mac’s Speed Shop and I can’t give the rest of the list any credence (also: mozzarella sticks? Really?)

– For Southern Living’s 50th Anniversary, Robert Moss profiles the South’s legendary joints

– Ole Time BBQ in Raleigh (a semi-decent joint where I ate a lot in college) is closed until further notice after a car crashed into it Saturday night

– Jess Pryles has made recent updates to her guide to Austin Barbecue

– Lewis Barbecue is doing a pop-up tour of Charleston breweries the first three Saturdays of February

– Queen City Q’s Ballantyne location (in the old Elwood’s) is open for lunch and to-go orders as of Monday

Linkdown: 4/1/15

– It’s Saw’s BBQ in Birmingham, AL vs Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby, NC for the championship in Garden and Gun’s Ultimate Barbecue Bracket Challenge; vote until 10pm ET Thursday

RIP Old Hickory House – it is closing in large part due to the light rail blue line extension construction slowing down business but could reopen somewhere else; CBJ’s article on the closing

Old Hickory House BBQ will close its doors for good on April 4. The well-known, family-run barbecue joint has been in business since 1957, and has operated at its current spot at 6538 N. Tryon since 1972.

– Ed Mitchell’s whole hog barbecue is now available at Midwood Smokehouse as of 5pm on Monday:

– Speaking of Midwood, looks like things are starting to take shape at their forthcoming Ballantyne location

– A few barbecue terms you may not be aware of, including “dip” and “outside brown”

More on the recently uncovered Lexington barbecue pits from Our State Magazine

Sure, the halls of City Hall are lined with Barbecue Festival posters going back to the first one, in 1984, and there’s a little pig statuette across from the municipal cashier’s desk, but the outside is just boring, a squat one-story yawn of an office with a pointed gray roof and white stucco that sounds hollow when you tap it. And even here there is barbecue, archaeologically speaking. “They found the pit,” Vinson says, really punching the last word.

– Marie, Let’s Eat! takes in Bama Boys BBQ in Henagar, AL and Sugar’s Ribs in Chattanooga, TN

– From the sports world, the latest in the “bbq”/”barbecue” vs “cookout” debate

Linkdown: 10/15/14

Deep fried barbecue on a stick at – where else – the NC State Fair in Raleigh

– The 85th annual Mallard Creek BBQ Festival has big plans for 2014

In 2014, we expect to cook 14,600 pounds of pork barbecue, prepare 2,500 gallons of Brunswick stew, shred 2 tons of Cole slaw, brew 400 gallons of coffee, and entertain close to 20,000 people.

Shots fired at Lexington-style barbecue by Linwood Parker, who owns White Swan Barbecue; isn’t White Swan the gas station barbecue who cooks with gassers?

“Years ago, when people started moving west in their oxen-dawn carts, it took so long they forgot the recipe for barbecue,” he said.

“When they reached their destination, the only kind of hogs they had were piney wood rooters that fed off acorns. So, their hog meat was green. They just added a lot of catsup to it to cover up the green color.”

Review of Bob Garner’s latest book, “Foods That Make You Say Mmm-mmm”

The 23rd Annual Hog Happnin‘ returns to the Cleveland County Fairgrounds on Friday, October 31 and Saturday, November 1

– Austin Chronicle story on John Lewis’s upcoming barbecue restaurant in Charleston

– A Notre Dame football blog talks NC barbecue in a post before last weekend’s game against UNC in South Bend

– Sam Jones is heading to Dallas for a whole hog event in November

– Eater story (with some nice photos) on the opening of Arrogant Swine in New York

Located on the border of East Williamsburg and Bushwick near the English Kills Canal, Arrogant Swine is the brainchild of pitmaster Tyson Ho, who studied under perpetual Barbecue Block Party participant Ed Mitchell, sometimes called the Pope of North Carolina barbecue. The hulking 3,000 foot space is a former warehouse, with high ceilings, a full bar, and a counter at the rear where the smoked meat and sides are sold by the plate or by the pound. Place your order and receive a number hoisted on a metal rod; carry it to your table and your meat horde will be delivered by and by. There’s an outside seating area, too, with giant graffiti murals decorating the outside walls of the building, and an L-shaped shack out back where the barbecuing is done.

– Shame about where this photo was taken but the linked article takes a look at barbecue culture in Charlotte

– This weekend you can actually taste some of the pitmasters barbecue at the Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship ( as opposed to years past); more details here

Linkdown: 4/9/14

– The first three reviews from Marie, Let’s Eat!’s epic NC barbecue roadtrip last month have been posted: Red Bridges in ShelbyWink’s King in Salisbury, and Lexington #1

– As beef prices rise, more and more Texas pitmasters are turning to pork

– Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ, Grand Champions of the 2013 Q-City BBQ Competition, is hoping to crowdsource a portion of their new food truck

– Thrillist’s list of best barbecue in Atlanta

– The latest Carolina ‘Cue Restaurant featured in Our State Magazine is Bum’s Restaurant in Ayden

– JJ’s Red Hots is having a Bacon Beer & BBQ dinner on April 24 as part of NC Beer Month

A short article on SC’s Barbecue Trail (via bbqboard)

– Mission BBQ, a military and first responder-focused Baltimore-based chain created by an Under Armour founder, opened earlier this week in Wilmington

– Another (more promising sounding) coastal barbecue restaurant, Southport Smokehouse BBQ, is opening sometime this month:

Natives of Lexington – a town some would argue is North Carolina’s barbecue ground zero – the Hemphills’ restaurant specialized in pork shoulders cooked over hickory logs “imported” from Davidson County. The pits, Elaine Hemphill said, were modeled after those at the famous Lexington Barbecue along Interstate 85 Business.

A trio of restaurateurs, Troy Knight, Jim Sparks and Ryan Salley (who will serve as pitmaster) has taken over the spot and are returning it to its roots. They’ll offer brisket, ribs and pulled pork with both Lexington-style and vinegar sauces cooked over hickory. Salley said he’ll mostly be smoking shoulders, a hallmark of the upstate variety, but would occasionally go whole hog, the more traditional method in the Eastern region.

– Scott’s BBQ is having their annual picnic on April 19 and oh how I wish I could make it back down to Hemingway for it

Linkdown: 12/10/13

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(image via)

Our State Magazine has been profiling a NC barbecue restaurant a month and this month they turn their attention to Midwood Smokehouse, currently #1 on the Barbecue Bros Charlotte big board

Frank Scibelli just comes right out and says it: If you want good barbecue in Charlotte, you don’t have a lot of options.

But Charlotte is growing, you say. There are more cooks cooking more food, and more varieties of it, than ever before.

“Still not good barbecue,” he says.

Maybe it’s got to do with the smoker. You have to have a smoker, he says. Not many barbecue places in Charlotte have one. He does. He mentions it over and over again. He asks if I’ve seen inside it, where at least one piece of hickory is burning 24 hours a day. He makes sure I know the only thing that powers his smoker is wood.

The final report on the unfortunate Sandy Plains Baptist Church salmonella outbreak in Shelby in September confirms it was salmonella

– A look inside last weekend’s Garden and Gun Jubilee Made in the South Weekend, in which Rodney Scott had a pig roast on Sunday that had to have been amazing

– Old Carolina Barbecue set to open in Cleveland and appears to be trying to do it the right way

Before entering the business, Schafer toured the Carolinas and visited dozens of eateries to ensure his menu would be as genuine as possible.

“We didn’t invent barbecue, we just wanted to do it right,” he said. “There’s authenticity behind the recipes.”

Key to the barbecued items are large on-site smokers.

– For the uninitiated, a great primer on NC Barbecue (mostly eastern) from a man who clearly knows what he is talking about, Bob Garner (via, tambien en espanol)

– Finally, yet another plug to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter