The Cuegrass Festival is a Must for Raleigh Barbecue and Bluegrass Fans

Monk: Every April, the streets in front of The Pit in Raleigh shut down for a block party featuring the always undefeated combination of barbecue, beer, and bluegrass music. This year, the festival took place on April 20th and offered smoking of the pig kind on a near picture-perfect day in downtown Raleigh.

I had previously attended one other Cuegrass back in 2014 on a similarly sunny and picturesque day (although my memory is that it was a little warmer that year). This year, friend of the blog Susong and I stopped by Lexington Barbecue for lunch on the way so weren’t particularly hungry for $6 barbecue sammies from The Pit. I did take note that they had gone up in price from $5 some time in the past 5 years and that they are still served in the same foil paper packaging that Chic-Fil-A uses.

While I was too full for barbecue I did, however, partake in some beer as well as the bluegrass music, catching Alan Barnosky solo on the Beer & Banjos Stage on the side street Commerce Place once I got settled before checking out local 4-piece bluegrass group Old Habits on the Main Stage. Old Habits were a fun band of 40-something year old (presumably) dads who did play some originals but also mixed in some crowd-pleasing covers such as “The Weight” by The Band.

Plenty of other folks made it out to watch Old Habits as well.

After catching the full set from Old Habits, Susong and I wrapped it up with a few minutes of Billie Feather back on the Beer & Banjos stage before catching a few minutes of the decidedly non-bluegrass Will Hoge before heading out.

Cuegrass is an extremely family friendly event, from the face painting and games on the side street to the low key environment of watching the bands on blankets and tailgate chairs at both stages. Several kids were dancing and enjoying the sounds of Old Habits, who noted that it was the first (and perhaps only) time that anyone had ever flossed to one of their songs (sadly, I did not capture this ). I can’t recommend the event enough and hope to be back much sooner than the 5 years it took me between my first and second visit.

More photos after the jump:

Friday Find: Kevin Pang interviews Ed Mitchell during BBQ Road Trip ’10

The last of the videos from Kevin Pang’s BBQ Road Trip ’10 (Keith Allen here, Wilber Shirley here), here’s a short conversation from Ed Mitchell back when he was still part of The Pit in Raleigh.

And while Wilber Shirley didn’t take Kevin’s bait on eastern vs Lexington-style, Ed Mitchell answers the question by claiming that smoking a whole hog is the “true heart of barbecue,” albeit after diplomatically saying he’s “never had bad barbecue.”

Linkdown: 8/29/18

– Brett Martin (for GQ) on how Houston got cool

– According to this article (which is about a new Jim Noble fried chicken concept), Noble Smoke is now being targeted to open in March 2019

– You can now vote for the best barbecue joints by state in Southern Living’s “South’s Best 2019” poll

– Texas Monthly on the Barbecue Nation exhibit in Atlanta

– According to this list, The Pit is one of Raleigh’s best soul food restaurants

– Yea…I’m gonna need to try this out soon on my own Weber

– A comparison of the two out-of-state whole hog joints coming to Birmingham in the coming months – Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint and Rodney Scott’s BBQ

– Your move, Texas Pete:

Linkdown: 3/21/18

– Glad to finally see a new review on Marie, Let’s Eat! for Hugh-Baby’s BBQ and Burger Shop though Grant *gulp* doesn’t order barbecue?!?

– John T. Edge of Garden and Gun also profiled Hugh-Baby’s in their February/March issue

– Meet Chef Kelly Tam, the new-ish pastry chef at Midwood Smokehouse (as well as several other FS Food Group restaurants)

– Buxton Hall Barbecue gets a mention on a Charlotte Five guide to Asheville

– A chef born in Charlotte is part of a trio running Liberty Smokehouse in Falls Church, VA, where they got a favorable review from The Washington Post

– Remember Taylor Hicks? The season 5 winner of American Idol has his own food show and the NC episode featuring barbecue from The Pit aired earlier this week

– Side dishes continue to get better at Texas barbecue restaurants, says Texas BBQ Posse

– R.O.’s Bar-B-Cue, started in 1946, is one of the oldest restaurants in Gaston County

– Smoked whole alligator is on the menu at Black Sugar Rib Company in Los Angelos

– Congrats to Rodney Scott, who received a James Beard nomination for Best Chef: Southeast

– Mmm, dessert!

Friday Find: The Durham Barbecue Trail

This video produced by the Durham Convention & Visitor’s Bureau explores The Pit (our review), Bullock’s Bar-B-Que, Backyard BBQ Pit (our review), and The Q Shack (our review). I do think they should have gone to Johnson Family BBQ (our review) as well.

Barbecue is a famous part of North Carolina cuisine, and Durham’s pit-cooking elite have garnered national praise. Hear about four of the five celebrated barbecue joints located in the Bull City with this video, and head to durh.am/durhambbqmap for an infographic overview.

Linkdown: 4/12/17

– Robert Moss on “The Tyranny of Texas Barbecue”

– …and TMBBQ with the retort; claims that Moss is “jealous of neighbor’s popularity”

– The 15 pitmasters for the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party have been announced; Sam Jones and Rodney Scott represent the Carolinas

– Cuegrass ’17 takes over Davie Street in front of the Pit this Saturday for a day of barbecue, beer, and bluegrass

– Henry’s Smokehouse and the Greenville BBQ Trail Tour are in this Charlotte Five article on what to do in the SC town about 1hr 40 minutes away from Charlotte

– BBQ Hub also has a Charleston barbecue tour for the burgeoning barbecue capital

– Marie, Let’s Eat! is pleasantly surprised by some barbecue in Pigeon Forge from Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que

– The Smoking Ho went to the Houston BBQ Festival last weekend and took some great photos

– Wayne Mueller BBQ is eyeing a Houston-area location for expansion

– Don’t forget about the fried chicken

Linkdown: 11/16/16

– Kings BBQ in Kinston has reopened for the first time since Hurricane Matthew

– A trip to Raleigh should include a visit to The Pit, says this writer for the Columbus Dispatch

– Dallas News documents a roadtrip to Lexington for The Barbecue Festival and then to Asheville for Buxton Hall Barbecue

– Daniel Vaughn with a little shade for David Chang’s ssäm

– Grant visits Nooga-Q Smokehouse in Chattanooga and likes the chicken a lot more than everything else he tried

– Poogan’s Smokehouse has been open for one year in Charleston’s East Bay

– How John Lewis made his way from Texas to Charleston

Linkdown: 10/12/16

– Hurricane Matthew causes some supply chain issues for the whole hog barbecue at Buxton Hall Barbecue

– Once again, the train will stop in Lexington for The Barbecue Festival on October 22

– Grant’s latest barbecue stops: Dead End BBQ in Knoxville and The Hickory Pit in Chattanooga

– Thrillist on John Lewis: This Man Spent 10 Years Perfecting America’s Best Brisket

Lewis figured out the exact thickness and material to insulate the walls to keep the heat in too. And because the long, round tanks and smooth edges on Lewis’ smokers are the perfect shape to keep heat and smoke circling consistently through, there’s no need to get up and move product around. Smoke stacks are rolled to a specific diameter. When I asked Lewis what that diameter was, he demurred. These specs are top secret.

– Lewis Barbecue makes the list of Eater’s Heat Map for Charleston for October

– Next year’s Cuegrass will be April 5 in front of The Pit

– Speaking of downtown Raleigh, will they be getting more Ed Mitchell soon?

Linkdown: 9/21/16

– Pulled pork v brisket: who you got? John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue and Aaron Siegel of Home Team BBQ weigh in

AM: Which is better, beef brisket or pulled pork?  

Siegel: There is no argument there, really. It’s just a matter of preference, which seems to vary regionally. But even now, regional lines are getting blurred. We’re supposedly a pork town. But we’ve been doing beef brisket with salt and pepper and it’s one of our best selling products. So at the end of the day, it’s a fun argument. But it’s not valid.

Lewis: I think there are things about both that make them stand out. Beef has a stronger flavor than pork. But what pork has is marveling, which gives it a juicier taste. In Texas, there’s an order called the “Holy Trinity,” which includes sausage, beef and pork on the same plate. So I’m really just a fan of it all. It’s all about personal preference.

– The Charleston Post and Courier likes what they eat from  Lewis Barbecue

– Buxton Hall recipes online (presumably from the upcoming cookbook): hush puppies at Bon Appétit and chicken bog at Garden & Gun

– The North State Journal previews next month’s Barbecue Revival (paywall)

“Barbecue is sacred to the people of North Carolina,” says Dickson. “If you’re going to do this, you have an obligation to be a good steward of our state cuisine. I can’t think of a better way to do it than this.”

– I may have missed this, but The Pit is servicing barbecue sandwiches at NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium this football season

– Grant makes an unplanned stop at Countryboy Cafe in Pennington, VA

– Texas Pete is getting a new look

– Finally, I  spotted an appearance by NC barbecue on last week’s episode of “Mr. Robot”

Linkdown: 8/3/16

– Congratulations to Buxton Hall on being named one of Bon Appétit’s 50 Best New Restaurants (full list here)

– Washington Post critic Jim Shahin visits the barbecue scene in Charleston and calls it “the future of barbecue”

– Extra Crispy has a new bacon critic and he leans on two folks for advice heading into the job: Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn and the Denver Post’s cannabis critic Jake Browne

– The Raleigh News & Observer is doing a “Best-Kept Secrets” series of articles and has one on barbecue

– The story of a “cowboy barbecue” at the Fortuna Cowboy Rodeo in California

– While Grant and his family moved to Chattanooga a few weeks back, his impressive backlog of stories about Atlanta-area restaurants is just now winding down; as he now shifts his focus to his new home, he looks back on his favorite Atlanta restaurants, including two barbecue joints: Old Brick Pit and Heirloom Market

– The Smoking Ho joined the Chicago-based Man Meat BBQ podcast for a conversation recently

– City Barbeque is opening their first Charlotte-area restaurant later this month; check out Speedy’s review of the Cary location here

– Beer and barbecue, pt 1

– Beer and barbecue, pt 2

– A Toronto Star travel writer visits Picnic in Durham and calls it a “bellwether for social change”

House Bill 2 (a.k.a. HB2, a.k.a. “the bathroom law”) exploded out of nowhere in March. Dickson promptly ordered new bathroom signage showing Picnic’s disdain for the state government edict that people must go to washrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate.

Thing is, the law only applies to public buildings and schools, not private businesses. North Carolina, he says, has a “proud tradition of being a progressive Southern state,” and HB2 is not a true reflection of it.