Speedy: Recently, I got a surprise call from John Tanner of John Tanner’s Barbecue Blog letting me know that he and wife Nancy were coming to Nashville for a weekend and wondered if I wanted to join him for a meal. We initially decided to go to Shotgun Willie’s – a joint I’ve been meaning to get back to, with Edley’s as a backup plan if there was rain (as Shotgun Willie’s did not have indoor tables last time I was there). Well, sure enough, it was a pretty nasty Saturday, so we moved our lunch to the backup spot.
Monk: John and I grabbed lunch last October at Midwood Smokehouse while he was in Charlotte visiting relatives so I was happy it worked out for Speedy to meet up with him. John’s a smart, cultured guy who knows his barbecue but also a heck of a lot more. I was certain he and Speedy would get along famously.
Speedy: I don’t go by Edley’s often, as it’s not among my favorites in Nashville, but the last time I had gone, the brisket sandwich was above average, so it was time to go for a proper review. The restaurant now has four locations (three in Nashville, one in Chattanooga), and this visit was to the East Nashville location, which is a decent sized restaurant with a nice patio and good craft beer bar.
Even arriving by 11:30, the restaurant was starting to get a little crowded. John and I went up to order while Nancy secured a table.
John and Nancy both opted for the pork plate, but I chose the half rack of ribs, as I’ve never ordered that from Edley’s before. The food came out quickly and it was time to dig in.
Unfortunately, this meal didn’t do anything to change my opinion of Edley’s. The ribs came well seasoned and drizzled with sauce, but were a bit overdone. The flavor was fine, but didn’t stand out as anything special. I did have a bit of pork as well, which came sauced with a brown sugar-y sauce that sweetened the pork a bit too much. Another average offering. The green beans were good, and included chopped bacon, and the cornbread was very good (and a little spicy!).
The highlight of the meal was definitely the company; I enjoyed hearing about John and Nancy’s travels, and particularly their visit the previous day to Ramey’s – a whole hog joint between Nashville and Memphis that I haven’t had time to visit yet (but definitely will). John, I hope we can have another ‘cue meal soon.
Name: Jon G’s Barbecue Address: 116 Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133 Order: 1.5 lbs brisket, 0.5 lbs pork, 0.5 lbs bacon burnt ends, 1lb rib, 2 Cheerwine hot links, jalapeno cheese grits, apple crisp (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Speedy: Finally, I was in the Charlotte area on a Saturday and able to make it to the Jon G’s Barbecue brick and mortar location, after Monk’s continual praise and an impressive experience with the food truck a few years back. As a non-NC resident, I am only able to pop in and out of Charlotte a few times a year, and Saturday’s are not always convenient times for a trip over to Peachland, so I have one plea: give the people what they want! More barbecue! But I digress.
Monk: I’m pretty sure Speedy gets it now, but even though they are only open Saturdays it’s not like Garren and Kelly are sitting around the rest of the week between prep, catering gigs, and the food truck. Plus, the Saturday only aspect makes it more of an experience.
Speedy: After loading up from Charlotte around 9:15 AM, we arrived at a small building off highway 74 with a picnic shelter out back around 10:00 and found our place in line for the 11:00 opening. Even an hour early, we were about 10th in line, but we didn’t mind the wait, as we were greeted with a cooler full of (free) Burial beer. A nice touch.
Monk: You know I love free beer and the fact that it’s one of my favorite breweries (NC or otherwise) only adds to it. We each grabbed and beer and joined in on the tailgating atmosphere. This is the one thing I try to convey when convincing anyone to make a trip to Peachland – it’s an experience that’s worth the trip. After all, Saturdays are for the boys!
Speedy: Let’s start with the brisket and not bury the lede. Similar to my experience with Jon G’s food truck a couple years ago, the brisket was fantastic. With apologies to both Jim Noble and John Lewis, this is the best brisket I’ve had in the Carolinas, and rivals Owlbear for the best outside of Texas. The peppery goodness pleased me greatly. I was actually a little worried about the brisket when I saw that Jon G’s uses a rotisserie smoker instead of the Texas standard barrel offset, but it worked out just fine.
For some reason, Jon G’s brisket is still ever so slightly behind my personal Holy Quadrumvirate of brisket (Franklin’s, La Barbecue, Pecan Lodge, Killen’s) but maybe because there’s just something different about eating brisket in Texas.
Monk: Of course that rotisserie smoker is an Oyler from Texas-based J&R Manufacturing, but I get Speedy’s concern when it’s not coming from an army of offset smokers made from old propane tanks (like the original Jon G’s smoker).
I don’t always get the pork at Jon G’s, but that’s not to say they don’t do a good job with it. And on this visit, it was up to par even if it’s not what we were there for.
Speedy: As you loyal readers know, I’m very much a rib man. When I visited the food truck ribs were not on the menu, so I had been salivating thinking about ribs the whole drive over. The dry ribs served at Jon G’s were seasoned well and cooked nearly perfectly. I don’t think I’d change a thing and would consider this a must order meat.
I think they’ve really dialed in their Cheerwine hot link but I know Garren is really high on their newish Cheesy-Tex sausage made with cheese from Brown Creek Creamery in nearby Polkton So I’ll have to try that next time around when I’m not around Speedy, who is unyielding in his lack of tolerance for lactose.
Speedy: The bacon burnt ends were a special of the day. They had great flavor, as expected, but weren’t totally consistent. There were a couple pieces in our order that were a little dry. Overall, I’d still order again, but in a near perfect meal, this was my nit to pick.
Monk: My experience with smoking my own bacon burnt ends is that the variance in cubing leads to some getting overdone while they larger ones cook through. Unavoidable but understandable.
The jalapeno cheddar grits had a little more heat than usual on this visit, which was not unwelcome. Speedy ordered the apple crisp which I’m not sure I’ve ever had from them. It’s a simple but delicious way to end the meal.
Speedy: Like all Texas-style Barbecue, it’s not something I can eat every day, as I was left with a bit of a gut bomb later in the day. So maybe Jon G’s has it right with the Saturday only thing. But overall, Jon G’s Barbecue is ridiculous. One of the best barbecue meals you’ll get anywhere. If you get the chance, don’t just stop by; make a plan to get there early and spend a Saturday morning out there.
Name: The Smoke Pit Address: 421 Cox Rd, Gastonia, NC 28054 Order: Tres Amigos combo (brisket, pork, and ribs) with turkey, sausage, hush puppies, fried okra (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Monk: Since the last time Speedy and I visited The Smoke Pit’s original location in Concord four years ago, they’ve steadily expanded into other cities across the Piedmont of NC. I visited the downtown Salisbury location in early 2017 and they’ve since opened up in Monroe and more recently Gastonia about a year ago. I’ve always enjoyed my visits to The Smoke Pit but for whatever reason tend to forget about them a little bit. However, with BIll Spoon’s closing in September and Speedy in Charlotte for the day, it was time to figure out if The Smoke Pit was worthy of a top 5 spot on our Charlotte Big Board.
Speedy: Well if we must eat more delicious barbecue, Monk, then we must. We pulled up to The Smoke Pit Gastonia, which was a stand-alone building in a larger shopping center. Barbecue in commercial shopping centers always worries me, and this was a pretty ugly building, so the real question was whether this incarnation of The Smoke Pit could overcome these challenges. So Monk and I entered, waited in line for a few minutes, and placed our order to find out.
Let’s start with the star of the show: the St. Louis-style ribs. When tasting ribs, you always hope and pray, but rarely receive, the perfect bite. Tender meat that is easy to bite through but doesn’t fall off the bone. That’s what we got at The Smoke Pit. Monk and I ordered the dry ribs, which were meaty, well seasoned, and flavorful. A truly outstanding effort.
Monk: Definitely glad we went for dry over sauced. One of the better pork ribs I’ve had recently, and agree that it did have that perfect bite.
The brisket came out a little on the dry side and was mostly lean even though we asked for a mix of both lean and fatty. Still, it had a nice bark and a good taste. The sausage at The Smoke Pit appears to rotate regularly and on this day they had a solid jalapeno cheddar version, which Speedy sadly couldn’t partake in. All in all, I think what he did miss out on was a solid but unspectacular sausage.
Speedy: The chopped pork was cooked well and had a bit of smoke flavor, but was a little dry. Adding some Lexington style sauce quickly remedied this, but I would have liked a little more bark chopped in. Still, the pork was quite good and worth ordering. Not to jump the gun on the sides, but Smoke Pit also has a good red slaw, so the pork sammie would make for a strong order.
On the drive over to The Smoke Pit, Monk and I had a conversation about how smoked turkey tends to be a little underrated at the best ‘cue joints, and can be incredibly flavorful. So we decided that if Smoke Pit had turkey, we’d order it, and sure enough, it was listed as a new menu item. It was worth it. You always worry about turkey being dry, but that was not the case at Smoke Pit. Their turkey is cajun seasoned, which is a nice touch. My one complaint is that I wish the seasoning penetrated the meat a bit further, as there were some bites where I wasn’t able to taste the seasoning.
Monk: Speedy already touched on the red slaw, which complimented the slightly dry pork perfectly. We also got hush puppies (of course) and fried okra, which was a bit of a last minute audible. Both were above average, though I was unable to tell if they were scratch-made or not.
Speedy: The meal at The Smoke Pit’s Gastonia location was solid all-around. There wasn’t a single item that I wouldn’t order again, and we had a standout meat in the ribs. For my money, it’s worthy of the big board.
Name: Honeyfire BBQ Date: 11/13/20 Address: 8127 Sawyer Brown Rd #304, Nashville, TN 37221 Order: Three meat combo – brisket, pork, ribs, baked apples, fries (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Speedy: I recently heard about Honeyfire BBQ when talking to a friend about restaurants with good whiskey selections. Honeyfire sits in the Bellevue neighborhood, which is in the western part of the city. I don’t frequent this part of town too often, but I found myself with a leisurely Friday afternoon and decided to bring back one of my favorite work traditions – long lunch Friday.
Honeyfire sits in a pretty sizable shopping center, which is a bit of a red flag for me from a barbecue perspective (where do they do the smoking???), but seeing a sizable woodpile walking in made me feel better.
Monk: But is the wood pile for show or for realsies? If its all the way in the front of the restaurant then surely its not the wood they are using for smoking. My guess is they are probably using a Southern Pride (or similar gasser) and throwing in a stick or two occasionally from a similar wood stack in the back to get a little wood smoke on the meats.
Speedy: The restaurant is sleek and clean, so I walked up to the counter and placed my order. I was asked wet or dry ribs (dry, duh) and fatty, lean, or mixed brisket (mix), which I also consider to be a good sign.
The food was brought out quickly and it was time to dig in. I’ll start with the ribs. The three bones that came were St. Louis style cut, dry with visible rub sprinkled on. They were meaty and cooked well (maybe slightly overdone), but the rub was a little challenging to me. This will be a theme of the review, but the rub was just very sweet. It seemed to be brown sugar based and mixed decently with the flavor of the ribs, but the sweetness was just too much to handle. The pulled pork was a similar story, as it was finished with a dusting of the same rub. The pork was tender, had some good bark mixed in, but was just too sweet for my liking. There was a sauce provided on the side, so I thought maybe some good vinegar sauce would offset the sweetness. Well one taste and I learned this was no vinegar sauce – it was actually a honey barbecue sauce. So what started as a little too sweet became way too sweet.
Monk: Wonder if the folks behind Honeyfire have a competition background, where the winning flavor profile tends to be on the sweeter side. Sounds like they could stand to add a vinegar sauce alternative.
Speedy: The brisket was a different story. Rubbed with just salt and peppery, there was (thankfully) no sweetness. The bark on the brisket was tasty and the overall flavor was good. The brisket, like the ribs, was slightly overcooked, so just a touch dry, but overall, it was a pretty nice effort.
As far as sides go, mine were fine. However, one reason I like to get baked apples with barbecue meals is to have a little sweetness to go along with savory meat. In this instance, the meat gave me all the sweetness I could handle, so the apples remained unfinished.
Overall, Honeyfire BBQ is a tough one to rate. I think they actually do a pretty good job hitting the flavor profile that they want to – it’s just not the right profile for me. However, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, I’d definitely recommend checking it out.