Shepard Barbecue on “Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives” S42 E34

Link to Shepard Barbecue website, Instagram

Monk: Guy Fieri was on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina earlier this year and checked out relative newcomer Shepard Barbecue in Emerald Isle. Episode 34 of season 42 (!!) actually kicks off with Chef Brandon Shepard, who with his wife Elizabeth started a barbecue joint that draws inspiration from not only eastern NC but of course all over (i.e. Texas).

Brandon, Guy, and his son Hunter kick things off by putting together the Boss Hog sandwich. They start with the prep of jalapeno cheddar sausage made from trimmings of both brisket as well as pork. After a couple of grinds, the sausages are cold smoked for two-and-a-half hours before another 3 at a higher temp. Brandon does all his smoking on a custom offset stick burner using a mixture of hickory, post oak, and pecan.

For his pork butts, he keeps it simple with just a salt and pepper rub and smoked 10 hours. He mixes in his Carolina Vinegar sauce and puts a tray of that away for service.

Back to the Boss Hog, Brandon walks through the making of his Carolina Gold mustard sauce with yellow and Dijon mustards plus his Carolina Vinegar sauce, white vinegar, Worcestershire and a bunch of spices.

For the sandwich, the bun is brushed with beef tallow (!!) and garlic before starting the stack of slaw, sausage, pulled pork, Carolina Gold sauce, pickled red onions to create a behemoth of a sandwich.

Next, onto the “Spicy Heifer,” another big boy of a sandwich made with prime brisket.

The brisket is doused with a mixture of Carolina Gold sauce and pickle juice before covering in salt, pepper, seasoning salt, and granulated garlic. It is then smoked at 225F for 12-16 hours.

Shepard’s red barbecue sauce is a vinegar-based sauce with ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Carolina Vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, and other spices before taking a smoke bath.

Shepard then assembles the Spicy Heifer starting with pickles then sausage then brisket then Carolina red sauce and finally topped with pickled jalapenos and white onion. Behold:

Among the house made sides mentioned are Helen’s collards (inspired by his grandmother), pit beans, and street corn salad. Congrats on a great showing by Shepard Barbecue to Brandon and his wife Elizabeth!

Linkdown: 11/2/22 – The Call Back Later, Anthony Bourdain Edition

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Monk: Two decades ago, Anthony Bourdain and his production team reached out to Ed Mitchell at The Pit in Raleigh to talk about getting on season 2 of his show “A Cook’s Tour.” The only issue was that it was in the middle of a lunch rush. So, Ed Mitchell being a man of the people, he told him to call back because he was busy.

Forbes contributor Leslie Kelly recently caught up with Ed Mitchell and his son Ryan in light of his recent induction into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame earlier this year. In addition to his True Made brand of barbecue sauces, he’s got a book coming in 2023 along with (hopefully) his much-delayed brick and mortar barbecue restaurant in Raleigh, The Preserve BBQ.

Native News

Shepard Barbecue will be on this Friday’s episode of Diner, Drive-In’s, and Dives airing at 9pm on Food Network

More on Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ’s expansion into Concord

Philly Bite Magazine (huh?) weighs in on NC barbecue with a half decent list

Non-Native News

John Tanner’s been making the rounds again, this time in the heartland of the country.

First up, he meets up with BBQ Tourist (and friend of the blog) Ryan Cooper at Porky Butts in Omaha, Nebraska for a platter of some Kansas City barbecue

…he hits up the Boxer Q food truck in Topeka, Kansas for a pork sandwich after a 10k walk

…he visits Chef J BBQ in Kansas City, Missouri for some wonderful by recommendation of Ryan

…back in Maryland, he enjoys Chicago-style rib tips and ribs at Uncle D’s Grill

…finally, he tries out Due South BBQ in Christianburg, Virginia for a pork sammie and the ever-rare side of hushpuppies (in Virginia, at least)

Linkdown: 10/26/22 – The “Helen Turner, Lifetime Achievement Award Winner” Edition

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Monk: A few highlights from this past weekend’s Southern Foodways Alliance Fall Symposium where the focus was on barbecue: “questions about what barbecue is, who makes it, and how the craft is changing. From sliced beef brisket to pulled pork, from tacos to fire-roasted vegetables, barbecue speaks to the past, present, and future of the South and to the stories of pitmasters—the places they work, the smoke they conjure, and the sauces they stir.”

Texas Monthly Taco Editor Gustavo Arellano was a day one speaker and compared southern barbecue to Mexican barbacoa:

George and David Barber of Fresh Air Barbecue in Jackson, Georgia were named this year’s recipient of the Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award

Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor of Atlanta’s Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que treated folks to a Korean-inspired barbecue dinner Friday night

On day two, Texas Monthly Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn explained why Texas-style barbecue is becoming the predominant style, both across the US and abroad

Food critic Hanna Raskin on the intersection of barbecue and alcohol

Soul Food Scholar Adrian Miller emceed the weekend with stories of black pitmasters

Finally, Helen Turner of Helen’s Bar-B-Q in Brownsville, TN was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award

Native News

The Lexington Barbecue Festival made a triumphant return after taking the last two years off

The Shepard Barbecue episode of Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives will air on Friday, November 4 at 9pm ET on Food Network

Dampf Good Barbecue has opened for regular hours at Phillis Farm of Cary; they will be serving their Texas-style barbecue Thursdays through Saturdays from 11am-6pm

Non-Native News

The Southern Smoke festival raised a whopping $1.6M this past weekend

The McRib Farewell Tour? Maybe not…

The Carolina BBQ Festival Delivered on its Promise to Put Charlotte Barbecue on the Map

Monk: On a perfect spring day in a perfect setting, the first annual Carolina BBQ Festival capped off Barbecue Month in style at the Boileryard at Camp North End in Charlotte in late May.

My hopes were high, as I had previously written, and I was heartened to see that first the VIP then the General Admission tickets sold out in the weeks ahead of the festival. As someone who can now be considered a longtime Charlottean (having lived here for 17+ years), sometimes you can never tell whether Charlotte is going to show up for a brand new festival but Lewis Donald and team can build off a sold out festival going into next year’s edition. 

Of course, the big selling point for the festival was the barbecue talent rubbing elbows together, and on that front it did not disappoint. 

The biggest lines on the day were for former Charlottean Bryan Furman’s whole hog served with his signature bourbon peach sauce that pulled from his current Georgia roots. Tay Nelson of Bobby’s BBQ in Fountain Inn, SC handled the sides of slaw and an almost dessert-like sweet potato side dish that seemed to be a fan favorite.

Elliot Moss built a behemoth cinder block pit on the Boileryard grounds and smoked his eastern NC (though more accurately SC Pee Dee-style) whole hogs overnight. Matt Register of Southern Smoke brought the elevated sides of a BBQ saltine cracker casserole with a tomato salad and cornbread.

Not to be outdone, Nathan Monk, the 3rd generation pitmaster of Lexington Barbecue, brought a bunch of Lexington-style pork shoulders and red slaw smoked the night before in the storied Lexington Barbecue pits while Brandon Shepherd of Shepherd’s Barbecue in Emerald Isle handled the sides of Mexican street corn and baked beans.

For those fortunate enough to snag a VIP ticket, Jon G’s brought the heat with their beef rib croissant and jalapeno cheddar grits with a burnt end garnish while Sweet Lew’s provided a pickled ramp sausage and cheesy potatoes and a side of his version of hash and rice.

Oysters were provided by North Sea Oyster Co and Crystal Coast Oysters. Oysters plus a couple of mimosas or bloody marys made for a very filling experience for VIP customers, for sure.

Before I go any further, I should pause to give props to all of the pitmasters who came from all over NC and the southeast, many of which were running off of a lack of sleep due to running their restaurants or handling catering gigs. Not to mention the hogs provided by Ronald Simmons and Master Blend Family Farms.

On the entertainment front, several local bands kept the crowd entertained. Carolina Gator Gumbo started off the afternoon with their cajun creole music before giving way to Justin Fedor & the Denim Denim. Fedor, who also spends time in Charlotte psych-rock band Ancient Cities, channels his country-rock troubadour in this band of his. Finally, Emanuel Wynter capped off the afternoon with his unique blend of his violin skills with a talented band behind him switching easily between genres. In between sets, DJ That Guy Smitty kept the crowd’s heads bopping with his mix of funky and soulful tunes.

As successful as the debut festival was, next year I’d like to see a second wave of customers enter after the initial rush moves through because while there are lengthy lines for the first hour or two, there was not as much activity at the tents in hours 3 and 4 while there was still plenty of food. No doubt Lewis and team are working through that and more tweaks for next year’s festival.

Speaking of which, Lewis told me he has even bigger and better plans for next year’s edition, and I can’t wait until he unveils them to the public. The first Carolina BBQ Festival was certainly a great start to what hopefully becomes a Spring tradition in Charlotte. For me, it more than delivered on its promise to put Charlotte barbecue on the map.

More sights from the festival: