Charlotte Barbecue News from the Third Quarter of 2021

Monk: If there was an overarching theme for Charlotte barbecue the past three months, it would be expansion. In the second quarter roundup, I had hoped for new concepts and expansion. While we didn’t necessarily get new concepts (yet), we did get quite a bit in the way of expansion. Mac’s Speed Shop, Midwood Smokehouse, and Noble Smoke all announced new locations, (although only one of which is in Charlotte), and rumor has it another Charlotte barbecue joint may be expanding as well.

Not to mention, Phar Mill Brewing in Harrisburg expanded in a slightly different way. Pharr Mill BBQ is utilizing a Jon G’s barbecue pit and they typically serve some combination of brisket, ribs, and pork Thursdays through Saturdays.

July

7/3 Pharr Mill BBQ starts smoking on their Jon G’s barbecue pit at Phar Mill Brewery in Harrisburg

7/10 Noble Smoke celebrates 2 years in business

7/22 FS Food Group announces a Midwood Smokehouse location for Raleigh later his year

7/29 Smoke Show BBQ pivots to Tex-Mex barbecue

7/31 Charlotte-raised Bryan Furman returns to Charlotte and brings his Bryan Furman BBQ pop-up to Sweet Lew’s BBQ

August

8/9 In a nice nod to its employees, all Mac’s Speed Shop locations closed for the day to fight employee burnout

“Our people have been going way above and beyond to make our carry-out, eat-in and delivery business grow by leaps and bounds”… “I’ve never seen a team so dedicated to bringing fun and good food back into the lives of people pent-up by the pandemic.”

Mac’s President Shang Skipper

8/10 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque introduces the “Carolinas Frito Pie”: Carolina bbq hash, warm pimento cheese and jalapeños

8/14 Mac’s Speed Shop is expanding to Fort Mill

8/26 Secondhand Smoke takes over the Pete’s BBQ legacy in Fort Mill

8/27 Jon G’s gets the Axios Charlotte bump

8/30 The 91st Mallard Creek Barbecue is postponed yet another year

September

9/8 Indian Trail’s 100 Main Beef and Barbecue gets featured in Spectrum News for being both a barbecue restaurant and a country store

9/10 Barvecue, the wood-smoked plan-based barbecue company out of Cornelius, is rolling out to 12 colleges and universities and just signed a deal with Sprouts Farmers Market

9/9 Jon G’s Barbecue make this list of “Best New Barbecue Joints in the South” from Southern Living

9/16 Noble Smoke announced its second location will be a stall at the Optimist Hall food hall

9/16 More coverage on the stall from Axios Charlotte

9/24 K&N BBQ competes against Dan Good Que in Food Truck Rumble CLT

Checking In: Sweet Lew’s Barbeque

Monk: While our official (and thus far only) review of Sweet Lew’s Barbeque is from 2018, between pop-ups with Bryan Furman, Patio Parties, and new specials, there is usually a good reason to check out Sweet Lew’s every couple of weeks or months.

Lewis Donald and team are constantly making improvements to the experience and lately have been focusing on the exterior of the building. From the addition of flags from the US, North Carolina, and Texas (reminiscent of Noble Smoke) to the new covered patio providing much needed shade to the murals outside and in, the Sweet Lew’s of today is much different from how it started off in December 2018.

The murals (pictured in header image above) in particular are worth highlighting. The artist, SHE Originals, received a grant from the NoDa Neighborhood association to paint the three exterior walls as well as the inside, highlighting the history of the Belmont neighborhood. Take a look in detail next time you’re there.

Then of course there’s the menu and food itself. Lewis brought many of the popular daily specials in to the everyday menu. Of note is his take on barbecue hash. Much different than a midlands South Carolina hash with its use of beef in addition to pork (with no liver or pig offal in sight), its the only place in Charlotte that is serving any version of it. For me, this is a must order every time I visit.

On my most recent visit, the ribs were also a highlight. Each rib provided the perfect bite and were well balanced in terms of flavor.

A few years back, Sweet Lew’s moved to making their sausage in-house (with some tips provided by Garren of Jon G’s), and the recent results were really great. As was both the turkey (which I hadn’t previously tasted), the brisket (much improved from my last time), and chicken wings (perfectly done).

In all aspects, Sweet Lew’s continues to improve. The experience and ambiance is better all around and the food that Lewis Donald is putting out continues to evolve for the better. If it’s been awhile since you checked out Sweet Lew’s Barbeque, do yourself and see what they are doing on Belmont Ave. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Linkdown: 6/9/21

Featured

Southern Living Magazine, their barbecue editor Robert Moss, Home Team BBQ, and Swig & Swine recently announced the Holy Smokes barbecue festival in Charleston this November. The pitmasters are still to be announced, but expect folks from South Carolina, California, Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Texas are expected to be in attendance. Here’s hoping it becomes a fixture for years to come.

Native News

Congrats to Lyttle Bridges Cabiness of Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby for her induction into the Barbecue Hall of Fame

Mac’s Hospitality Group, parent company of Mac’s Speed Shop, adds Rare Roots alum Jay Spungin as Director of Operations

Ayden, NC, home to Skylight Inn and Bum’s Restaurant, chooses barbecue over collards for its future marketing campaign

Lawrence Barbecue finally opened at Boxyard RTP this past Saturday

Help name the new Sweet Lew’s Barbeque food truck

Non-Native News

Franklin Barbecue is reopening on 9/1

Eater: “Why Barbecue Sauce is Essential to Black Barbecue”

Barbecue Bible on “Black Smoke”

Matt Horn is on a roll in Oakland

Charlotte Barbecue News from the First Quarter of 2021

Monk: After nearly a year of various stages of lockdown and a big spike in COVID cases in January, the first quarter of 2021 had mostly positive news as restaurants managed through relaxed restrictions starting in March.

Here in Charlotte, restaurants are finding new and different ways to diversify their food offerings to attract customers and some are even in expansion mode. Let’s hope that trend continues into Q2.

January

1/5 North State BBQ announces it is opening a second location in Lake Norman off Statesville Rd

1/10 RayNathan’s in Gastonia celebrated their 2 year anniversary

1/13 Sweet Lew’s BBQ hires its first “barbecue apprentice” in Keywon Dooling from the local culinary school at Central Piedmont Community College

1/29 Jon G’s Barbecue gets their first national magazine feature

February

2/7 Pitmasters from Bobby’s BBQ, City Limits Barbeque, and Fork Grove BBQ have a “barbecue Saturday Texas BBQ Pitmaster Meatman meat-up” meet up at Jon G’s Barbecue

2/12 Jon G’s Barbecue introduces some awesome Coors Banquet Beer-inspired t-shirts

2/15 Noble Smoke launches taco kits now available every Tuesday

2/16 Bar-B-Q King makes this list of “50 must-try cheap eats in Charlotte under $10” from Axios Charlotte (formerly Charlotte Agenda)

2/24: Axios Charlotte posts their list of the 4 best barbecue spots in Charlotte, with another 4 worth the drive; we even get a brief shoutout in reference to Jon G’s

March

3/1 Jon G’s Barbecue acquired their restaurant one year ago on 3/1; they would open for business about 3 months later

3/2 Roddey’s BBQ food truck in Rock Hill changes locations

3/3 Noble Smoke introduces the “Mini Mary,” a smaller version of their “Miss Mary” platter that feeds 4

3/4 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque and Midwood Smokehouse make the Eater list for Charlotte

3/9 Mac’s Speed Shop and Noble Smoke have two of the best patios in Charlotte

3/12 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque announces a “Bootcamp and BBQ” event on April 17

3/19 Noble Smoke introduces “The Noble Smoke Pitmaster Experience” where you can learn from their pitmasters for the somewhat steep price of $500 a spot; the initial spots have since sold out

We are offering an exclusive opportunity to learn the step-by-step process of smoking meat first-hand from our pitmasters, Stuart and Ed. You get to take home the meats of your labor which includes a whole brisket and pork butt (5 lbs each). But that’s not all! 3 sauces, a hat, a pitmaster t-shirt, lunch, and a post-smoke beer are also included.

3/19 Charlotte-based Mac’s Hospitality Group, the parent company of Mac’s Speed Shop, eyes growth across the Southeast in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Florida under the leadership of recently-hired president Shang Skipper

3/19 Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ will open a location of its fast casual concept in Concord in the coming weeks