Linkdown: 10/6/20

Featured

The Barbecue Center is often overlooked in the shadow of Lexington Barbecue but those who are in the know believe that it’s every bit as good as its more popular counterpart (perhaps better?).

The late Sonny Conrad started out as a carhop before purchasing the restaurant in 1967 (it originally opened in 1955) and his family has run it ever since, with sons Cecil and Michael taking over day to day activities since their father passed in 2013. More on their family story at the link below.

Next time you are passing through Lexington on Business 85, consider stopping at The Barbecue Center which is just two miles away from Lexington Barbecue off N. Main St.

Native News

More from Lexington: a profile of the city’s history with barbecue with some quotes from the Conrads and the Monks of Lexington Barbecue

Barbecue-gate for Democratic candidate for NC Senate Cal Cunningham, born and raised in Lexington of all places (yes, I’m aware of the more recent scandal)

Parker’s Barbecue in Wilson found itself in the news this week after a customer complained about employees not wearing masks.

I’m going to file this in the “Native News” section even though its from Texas writer J.C. Reid

Non-Native News

Robert Moss finds a mention of pork steaks in Charleston from a menu from 1851

That very same Robert Moss has an updated version of his book out now, and he spoke with The Smoke Sheet last week

Doveshack BBQ is well worth a stop-off from I-95 during the eventual back-up, writes John Tanner’s BBQ Blog

Kevin Bludso of Bludso’s Bar & Que and “The American Barbecue Showdown” talks to the Washington Post about the neglected contributions of black pitmasters among other topics

John Brown Smokehouse’s original location closed this past week, but it will be reopening in a new location this Thursday

Another hard lesson learned in the form of Prause’s Meat Market: don’t take your favorite classic barbecue joints for granted

Linkdown: 9/16/20

Featured

Monk: When I moved to Charlotte in 2005, I was surprised at the lack of barbecue options in town. Though had I been paying attention then as I do now, it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise. Mac’s Speed Shop was a fun option for awhile but eventually fell off a cliff after it jettisoned its original barbecue partner and began to expand too quickly. It wasn’t a few years living in Charlotte until I finally checked out Bill Spoon’s Barbecue on South Boulevard, and while the style of barbecue seemed out of place (eastern NC whole hog in the Piedmont?) it was clear to me that it was Charlotte’s classic barbecue joint.

Unfortunately, as of close of business today after 57 years in business, that will no longer be the case. It was announced on Facebook Monday by current owner Steve Spoon, who in 2006 bought it from his grandfather Bill and began operating the barbecue joint in much the same way he had since he opened it in 1963 (albeit in a different location than their current one on South Boulevard). Screw you 2020, and screw you COVID-19.

Kathleen Purvis summed it up perfectly with this poignant quote that doubles as a warning for us lovers of other classic joints: “If all the hard lessons of 2020’s season of terrible teaches us anything, it’s that: Those places don’t last, can’t last, if we don’t make sure of it.

Charlotte Magazine’s Greg Lacour also pitched in, noting that the restaurant was struggling before COVID and had been operating in takeout only mode for the past few months

Sadly, its taken the restaurant closing for Charlotte to show up again

Native News

Seoul Food Meat Co will open a second location in the Optimist Park neighborhood (not NoDa as noted in their post) as part of an adaptive-reuse project called Lintmen’s

Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ is a small Connecticut chain that will open a Kansas City-style barbecue restaurant in Asheville’s South Slope

Non-Native News

Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston has been getting a big bump from “Chef’s Table: BBQ”

Home Team BBQ’s smoked wings makes the list

The best barbecue options in Virginia, according to Virginia Living

Solinsky’s in the Catskills of New York is serving some “epic brisket”, says Eater NY critic Robert Sietsema

I like this guy’s style

Linkdown: 3/11/20

Mr. Barbecue is still on track to reopen in mid to late-May and the block mason started working on the pits as of early last week

Charlotte-based Mac’s Speed Shop names former Del Frisco’s vice president of operations George Shang Skipper as its president with the charge to expand their barbecue business

Duke’s Mayonnaise expands to barbecue sauce

Pik-N-Pig in Carthage is the rare combination of an airport-slash-barbecue joint

Franklin Barbecue Pits is targeting to begin shipping their first units by Memorial Day

Picnic is an essential restaurant in Durham, according to the News & Observer

The 10 best barbecue spots in Richmond according to travel site Trip Savvy

Micklewaith Barbecue’s Smithville location has closed after one year

Details on Carey Bringle’s new barbecue restaurant, called Bringle’s Smoking Oasis, which will focus on barbecue not-native to Tennessee and is eyeing a September opening

The stories behind six Charlotte-area barbecue joints; a re-up from last year from Charlotte Magazine

On Mallard Creek Barbecue’s Brunswick Stew

Everyone knows that Brunswick stew originated in Brunswick County, Virginia. Or was it the city of Brunswick, Georgia? According to this article on the “complicated” history of the stew by barbecue historian Robert Moss, a claim in 1946 even claimed that the stew was a favorite of Queen Victoria and hailed from Brunswick, Germany. There’s also a Brunswick County in North Carolina but no one really tries to assert that the stew was first made there.

I’m not looking to wade into that war between Virginia and Georgia (for what it’s worth, Moss seemed to come down on the side of Virginia but says that Georgia perfected it). Instead, I’d like to focus on a local version of Brunswick stew served at the venerable Mallard Creek Barbecue. Every year as that 4th Thursday approaches and I link to an article about the preparation for the barbecue in my Wednesday linkdowns, a commenter either on this site or our Instagram or on our Facebook page inevitably comments on the Brunswick stew. Or rather, how the version served at the Mallard Creek Barbecue isn’t really Brunswick stew.

But first, for the uninitiated, the Mallard Creek Barbecue is a one day church barbecue held the 4th Thursday of October every year for the past 90 in North Charlotte. Think about that – in a city where very few things are old, this is a tradition that has been going on for 90 years. Granted, back then the land containing an old school house was vacant farmland not actually a part of Charlotte and has been incorporated in the years since. But my point remains: in a city that doesn’t have many – possibly any – institutions that are 90 years old much less much of a barbecue heritage, Charlotte somehow has a 90 year old annual barbecue. The barbecue is great and any serious barbecue fan in the area should try to attend just once. But back to the Brunswick stew…

Traditional Brunswick stew is a tomato-based thin soup or thick stew that originally was made with squirrel meat along with other a few other meats depending on the location in which it was served (shredded chicken in Virginia, pulled pork and shredded beef in Georgia, shredded chicken and beef and pulled pork in North Carolina). Then, it would have some mixture of potatoes, lima or butter beans, corn, okra, tomatoes, plus potentially a variety of other vegetables. So, to summarize: its either a thick or thin stew but maybe a soup, its made with any number of meats, and its got some veggies but who knows which ones. As you may have gathered, there really is no official recipe.

The recipe for Mallard Creek’s version uses ground chicken, beef, and pork instead of shredded versions of those meats. Lima beans are nowhere in sight and instead only corn and tomatoes are found in the stew. And perhaps most controversially, instead of potatoes, they use rice. Critics argue that the use of rice is filler to make the recipe go longer, but as Charlotte food writer Kathleen Purvis wrote in 2014, their recipe has been used since the 40’s and was more than likely made up by Rebecca “Beck” McLaughlin according to her son Dale since, as he notes “[s]he didn’t go by recipes on hardly anything.” Purvis’ article notes that the breaks from traditional Brunswick stew may have simply been a matter of preference since potatoes got too mushy and lima beans tasted too strong, according to Beck.

The official Mallard Creek Barbecue FAQ even has a question dedicated to the stew, noting “[o]n the practical side, some stews have potatoes – but don’t store/freeze/reheat well, [so] your Mallard Creek Stew will not break down as much, since the rice holds better.” It also notes that rice can’t possibly be used to stretch the recipe since there is “6 times as much meat vs rice (by weight) in each serving of stew.”

While I am really only versed in North Carolina versions of Brunswick stew, I quite like Mallard Creek’s version particularly on days when the sun is shining but the temperature is cooler. Were I to travel extensively in Virginia or Georgia, I have a feeling I’d like those respective versions as well (perhaps Georgia more so than Virginia based on what I’ve read). Regardless, my curiosity is officially piqued and as such, I will be ordering Brunswick stew any chance I get in my barbecue travels now.

I just wish I had gotten a gallon or two from this year’s Mallard Creek Barbecue.

For more on Brunswick stew:

More photos from this year’s 90th Mallard Creek Barbecue: