Monk’s Top 10 Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2018

Monk: Last year I provided a ranking of my 10 favorite barbecue meals eaten in 2017 so trying to make it an annual thing by doing the same for 2018. Happy New Year!

10. Brisket, sausage, pork ribs and a taste of the beef rib from Louie Mueller Barbecue (review)

I was a little let down by the brisket at Louie Mueller’s (as was Rudy) but I’ll chalk that up to a bad day. However, the beef rib and sausage more than made up for it. Plus, the number of of legendary Texas joints I’ve visited is quite low so I was glad to visit one of the OG’s.

9. Barbecue tray from Smokey Joe’s (review)

8. Barbecue tray from Speedy Lohr’s (review)

I hope to one day make a comprehensive list of Lexington barbecue joints, but in early 2018 I was able to knock two off the list in Smokey Joe’s and Speedy Lohr’s, with neither tray disappointing.

7. Whole hog from NC State BBQ Camp (link)

At the NC State BBQ Camp, I was honored to be a guest panelist for a barbecue roundtable led by none other than Bob Garner. After that chat, the campers and panelists all partook in a whole hog pig pickin’ with some dang fine whole hog. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch who did the smoking but whoever you are, well done.

6. Chopped pork plate and brunswick stew from Stamey’s Barbecue (last review from 2013)

My takeout meal the day after Thanksgiving of pulled pork and brunswick stew only proves that I need to make it a point to get to Stamey’s more often.

5. Chopped pork and brisket from Sweet Lew’s BBQ (review)

There are certainly big things coming for Sweet Lew’s BBQ which only opened in early December. I look forward to many more meals here over the coming months and years.

4. Big Poppa Sampler (Full Rack Ribs, 12oz Pork, 12oz Brisket, ½ Chicken) and 6 Memphis dry rub wings from Martin’s BBQ Joint (review)

I couldn’t have been more impressed with everything on our visit to the downtown Nashville location of Martin’s in late summer – from the space itself to the open air beer garden to each and every delicious meat. Speedy is quite lucky to have Martin’s as his local joint.

3. Whole hog platter with barbecue hash from Buxton Hall Barbecue (review from 2016)

A visit to Buxton Hall once every two years simply isn’t gonna cut it for me. With the consistently amazing whole hog, the fantastic barbecue hash, and at least a couple other items I haven’t even tried such as fried catfish and smoked fried chicken, it should be at least a twice per year affair for me.

2. Brisket, sausage, and chopped pork from Lewis Barbecue (review from 2017)

As confirmed by the #hogtripping crew of the Tales from the Pits podcast as well as The Smoking Ho during their travels in late August, Lewis truly is legit Texas barbecue in the lowcountry. The Carolinas and in particular the lowcountry should count itself very lucky.

1. Brisket, chopped pork, Porky Brewster sandwich, and taco from Jon G’s Barbecue (review)

My only complaint with Jon G’s Barbecue is that lately they’ve focused more on catering gigs instead of public servings. In any case, Garren and Kelly continue to kill it.

Honorable Mentions: Q – Houston, TX (review), LeRoy & Lewis – Austin, TX (review)

The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC – Honorable Mentions

Monk: Last week I posted my list of the 10 best joints in western North Carolina. Here’s my list of honorable mentions.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

Johnson Family Barbecue – Durham (review)

Outside of my usual digging for barbecue joints I had never heard of Johnson Family Barbecue, so it was a pleasant surprise that the barbecue was as good as it was. The makeshift smokehouse shed around back only adds to the charm of the joint, which is connected to a gas station on Wake Forest Highway between Durham and Raleigh/Wake Forest. 5021 Wake Forest Hwy, Durham, NC 27703 johnsonfamilybbq.com

Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte (review)

As the story goes, if Frank Scibelli can’t get a certain food in Charlotte, he tends to open a restaurant to fill that gap. With Midwood Smokehouse, that gap was wood-smoked barbecue; primarily central Texas brisket and sausage but also but also pan-regional smoked meats such as eastern NC pulled-pork, burnt ends, and ribs. With the latest Park Road location in Charlotte, Midwood Smokehouse is now looking to fill in the gap for wood-smoked whole hog barbecue in Charlotte. various locations midwoodsmokehouse.com

Picnic – Durham (review)

As with Buxton Hall and Old Etowah Smokehouse, Picnic was part of a trend of new whole hog joints outside of eastern NC a few years back. While I found it to be a little on the pricey side, the whole hog was still quite good and worth a return visit whenever I get another chance. 1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705 picnicdurham.com

The Smoke Pit – Concord, Monroe, Salisbury (review)

What began as a combination butcher shop and barbecue joint has developed into a small chain with locations in Salisbury and as of earlier this year, Monroe. The Smoke Pit does serve pulled pork but is a good bet for the some of the best brisket from a restaurant in the Charlotte-area. various locations thesmokepitnc.com

Smokey Joe’s Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Speedy Lohr’s BBQ – Lexington (review)

Someday, I hope to be able to properly assess all of the 18 or so Lexington barbecue joints and create a comprehensive list. In the meantime, I will say that Smokey Joe’s Barbecue and Speedy Lohr’s BBQ are quite good and in my current top 5 for the small town of approximately 20,000. Smokey Joe’s Barbecue: 1101 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292 smokeyjoesbbqlexington.com; Speedy Lohr’s: 3664 NC-8, Lexington, NC 27292

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off on either this list or the 10 best list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.

Smokey Joe’s Barbecue – Lexington, NC

IMG_1633
Name
: Smokey Joe’s Barbecue
Date: 1/15/18
Address: 1101 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Small chopped tray with hush puppies and a Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $9

Monk: Part two of my MLK Day sojourn to Lexington, Smokey Joe’s is right in downtown Lexington off South Main Street in a small brick building with a drive-thru window. This was actually my first time in downtown Lexington since most of the joints I’ve previously gone to were right off interstate 85.

In terms of menu, Smoke Joe’s was almost identical to what I had just seen at Speedy Lohr’s in terms of having not only barbecue but other southern comfort food staples in hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, chuck wagon, fried fish, etc. I’m not sure if this is just the typical menu setup for a classic Lexington joint or just a coincidence but I’ll have to pay more attention the next time I’m at a different spot.

Ordering the small tray allowed me to compare like to like with what I had just eaten at Speedy Lohr’s. The portions were nearly identical – that is, much larger than the “small” designation would indicate. In terms of pork Smokey Joe’s was smokey, tangy, and moist. I was officially two for two on the day.

As for sides, I actually preferred the slaw here since it was more vinegary and less sweet than Speedy Lohr’s. The basket of oblong-shaped hush puppies was less plentiful than the previous spot, which was welcome from me. I should note that, had I actually wanted more hush puppies it would have gladly been refilled by the friendly wait staff. This being my second meal in a matter of an hour span, I was most definitely not looking for more hush puppies.

This particular day was a good day full of really good barbecue (emphasis on “full”). Smokey Joe’s was yet another above average Lexington joint and when I am ultimately able to make a credible Lexington big list, I suspect Smokey Joe’s will be up there just a notch below my favorites.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs