Noble Smoke – Charlotte, NC

Name: Noble Smoke
Date: 8/24/19
Address: 2216 Freedom Dr, Charlotte, NC 28208
Order: The Miss Mary Platter (1 lb brisket, 1 lb pork, 1 rack ribs, 1 lb turkey, red slaw, coleslaw, pickled veggies), 12 wings, hush puppies (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$ 

Monk: In 1919, the first Lexington-style barbecue stand was set up across the street from the courthouse in Lexington, NC by Sid Weaver. Shortly after, Jess Swicegood set up his own stand and both businesses thrived to the point of building permanent restaurants. Eventually, they would go on to train Warner Stamey in the ways of Lexington-style barbecue, and he continued to spread that gospel all over the Piedmont of North Carolina to owners who would go on to open such famed joints as Bridges Barbecue Lodge, Alston Bridges Barbecue, Lexington Barbecue, and Stamey’s own namesake restaurant, Stamey’s Barbecue

Exactly 100 years later and 60 miles to the south in Charlotte, Chef Jim Noble has finally opened up his passion project restaurant in the form of Noble Smoke, continuing the Lexington-style barbecue tradition (though he does offer a variety of smoke meats). Everyone knows Noble as the chef and restaurateur behind higher-end restaurants like Noble Grill, Rooster’s, and King’s Kitchen, but a Lexington-style barbecue restaurant has been 25 years in the making.

Speedy: Monk and I got to spend a couple hours with Noble before the restaurant opened and, though we didn’t get a chance to sample anything, I left that meeting confident that the man knew his ‘cue and had a true passion for it, so I was more than excited to sample the goods. The space Noble built is fantastic – rustic but refined, with ample seating, a large bar, a nice outdoor space, and a brewery joining next door. 

Monk: For our group of 5, the Miss Mary Platter was the perfect order as it gave us a chance to try just about all of the meats and in the right quantity. At the time of our visit, Noble Smoke still hadn’t fired up the brick masonry pits that were styled after Lexington Barbecue, so our pork was smoked in one of the six large offset smokers occupying the smoke room. As he is doing across the board, Noble is using high-quality ingredients (which you pay for, as the platter was $88) and in this case its Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork. On this day, the pork wasn’t quite the crowd favorite while still being very good. I can’t wait to try them now that they’ve fired up those brick pits.

Speedy: Noble clearly studied up on the Texas brisket he was trying to emulate. And I’ll say, he did a nice job. The prime brisket was moist, peppery, and flavorful. I had previously sworn off ordering brisket in the Carolinas, but Noble Smoke is joining Lewis Barbecue on the exception list. I rank it just a tad behind Lewis, but still a top ten brisket I’ve had in my life. I think any Texan would be impressed.

Monk: I couldn’t agree more, and also think that any Texan would also be impressed with the ribs that Noble Smoke is slinging. Rubbed generously with salt and pepper, I was relieved that Noble avoided the temptation to offer a saucy, sweet rib and instead something far more nuanced. North Carolina isn’t known for ribs and they can often be an afterthought, but these were more Texas Trinity than KC Masterpiece. By far, these were the favorite meats on the table in our group that day.

Speedy: I’m on record saying I don’t know why anyone would order smoked turkey at a barbecue restaurant given the choice of other delectable meats from our hooved friends. Well, I’m man enough to admit it – I was wrong. The turkey at Noble Smoke was probably the best I’ve had. Like the brisket, it was seasoned with just salt and (plenty of) pepper, but that was enough to tease out an incredible amount of flavor, all while retaining moisture. This is a hard thing to do with turkey, so hats off to Jim Noble for this. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite thing I had that day (that goes to the ribs), but it was the biggest surprise for me.

Monk: Like everything else, the wings from were delicious and well smoked, even if they were a bit on the small side. Noble gets his heritage chicken from Winston-Salem-based Joyce Farms, which is nice to see them source from a North Carolina operation. 

We ordered a side of the hush puppies made with Anson Mills heirloom grain corn (again, note the high quality ingredients) and the table gobbled them up pretty quickly. The Miss Mary’s Platter came with small sides of both eastern and western (red) slaw as well as pickled veggies in the form of onions, pickles, and beets. The beets were definitely different.

Speedy: Sometimes new restaurants take a few months to get up to speed and everything rolling, but Chef Jim Noble is clearly a pro and the meal we had at Noble Smoke was one of my top barbecue meals all year. Noble Smoke was designed to be a destination barbecue joint, and I think it will be just that. I’m certainly adding it to the list for every time I visit Charlotte. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Wings – 4 hogs
Turkey – 4.5 hogs 
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Linkdown: 11/21/18

Rodney Scott and Dr. Howard Conyers are on Southern Living’s Southerners of the Year 2018

Midwood Barbecue and Seoul Food Meat Co make Charlotte Agenda’s list of Top 50 restaurants in Charlotte:

Missed this a few weeks back, but here is Matthew Odam’s list of best barbecue in Austin

Several barbecue restaurants including Midwood Smokehouse, Sauceman’s, Seoul Food Meat Co, and Peace-N-Hominy Q Shack are represented on this list of best wings in Charlotte 

Brunswick stew was the culprit for what made nearly 300 people sick from the Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church BBQ in Concord

Awesome news:

More on Dave Grohl’s barbecue obsession, this time from Maxim

The Smoke Sheet is a new barbecue newsletter worth checking out:

Tex Mex and Barbecue equals crazy delicious:


When you enjoy a slice of juicy brisket wrapped inside a warm tortilla, you’re celebrating the marriage of our two most beloved cuisines. This is nothing new at South Texas barbecue joints, where a side dish of rice and beans is as common as coleslaw and you’ll even find the occasional fideo. But the current Tex-Mex wave is deepening the bond between the two cuisines in new ways. You’ll find a lot more than just barbecue tacos, in other words.

PREACH:

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint – Nashville, TN

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Name
: Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint (Downtown location)
Date: 7/21/18
Address: 410 4th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37201
Order: Big Poppa Sampler (Full Rack Ribs, 12oz Pork, 12oz Brisket, ½ Chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, fries) with 6 Memphis dry rub wings, 2 orders of hush puppies, and 2 cornbread hoe cakes (link to menu)
Price: $141 (for 6)

Speedy: With Monk coming to town, I had to take him to my favorite ‘cue in town – Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint. I had reviewed the OG location of Martin’s many years ago, but since then, three other Tennessee locations (as well as two Kentucky ones) have opened. While I greatly enjoy the food, I took Monk (and crew) to the downtown location, which is one of my favorite places in Nashville – barbecue or otherwise.

Monk: The downtown location of Martin’s is amazing – flat out. As soon as we stepped up into the upstairs beer garden, I knew it was going to get 5 hogs for atmosphere and ambiance. The upstairs was an airy, open air space with plenty of natural lighting and big ass fans to keep the air circulating. Besides the smokeroom off to the side, it had a small stage, two small bars flanking either side of the room, several long beer garden-style tables, ping pong, shufflepuck, and dartboards. If we ever hit it big from barbecue blogging, I will be taking photos of this space to an architect to replicate at the loft I would buy once I’m flush with all that theoretical barbecue blogging cashish.

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Speedy: With six of us in tow, we ordered the Big Poppa Platter, which consists of a full rack of ribs, 12 oz pork, 12 oz brisket, ½ chicken, and 3 pints of sides. We tacked on a few extra sides and a half dozen wings and we were good to go.

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I’ll start with the ribs. We ordered spare ribs instead of baby backs since they are bigger and we had six hungry men. The rack of ribs was massive – plenty for us all to eat. We ordered dry ribs, and they showed up heavily seasoned as a full slab. The ribs were tender, cooked perfectly, and delicious. I do wish we had ordered baby back ribs, as the quality of the meat is better. On the spare ribs, there was a big more tendon than I like, but that’s a nit-picky complaint. Overall, I could have used a little more spice in the rub, but the ribs are very, very solid.

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Monk: Martin’s is one of the few restaurants in Tennessee (or anywhere else, for that matter) that is still doing whole hog barbecue. With the purchasing power of a growing regional chain, I imagine they are able to make the economics work, but regardless I applaud them for continuing the whole hog tradition. As for the pork itself, our portion was a mixture of pork that was overall lighter than the darker meat of the shoulders predominantly used in the NC piedmont (though shoulders are also available on the menu). I’m not quite sure what the nuances are between western TN whole hog and what you’ll find in eastern NC or the Pee Dee region of SC (a topic which I’ll gladly earmark for more research later), but I quite enjoyed what Martin’s served.

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Speedy: The brisket is about as good as you can find in Tennessee. It had good bark and was cooked pretty well (maybe ever so slightly overcooked), but it is not on the same level as some of the Texas joints. Martin’s brisket does have nice tug and flavor, and has good bark, but it just doesn’t quite have the peppery goodness needed to reach the upper brisket tier. However, if I’m hankerin’ for a good brisket in Tennessee, Martin’s is the best choice there is. As a side note, while not sampled on this visit, Martin’s does offer a cheeseburger topped with brisket that simply is not to be missed. Beef on beef – brilliant!

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Monk: We don’t normally order chicken but seeing as how it came with the Big Poppa, we embraced it. Smoked chicken is not my jam but it definitely worked when dipped in the Alabama white sauce that came with the tray.

Speedy: The wings were good – using the same dry rub as the ribs (other flavors are available, but we went with the dry rub). They were smoked well, but could have stood to be a little meatier. Like everything at Martin’s, the wings were very good. Smoked wings can be a little difficult to find, so I appreciate a place that does them right, and Martin’s is that.

Monk: There were literally no complaints about any of the sides we got. Some of our group raved about the mac and cheese, others loved the green beans, and I thought the hush puppies were solidly above average. But I was most intrigued by the cornbread hoe cakes, an item I’ve not ever seen on a barbecue menu before. In western NC, our cornmeal comes in the form of hush puppies whereas in the east you’ll see cornsticks or more traditional cornbread. The hoecakes were savory and not overly sweet  but I would definitely get them again – I know Speedy gets them most times he visits. Oh, and they have Cheerwine and Sun Drop in glass bottles! So awesome.

With Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Downtown Nashville, all of the meats are consistently above average, the sides were great, and the space was awesome. One more thought on the space – after we finished our meal, our group stuck around for another hour or so, grabbing another pitcher while playing darts. I would have gladly stuck around for several more hours, but alas we were headed to Third Man Records before throwing axes in East Nashville (side note – Speedy showed the guys a great time that weekend in Nashville). I can see why Martin’s is Speedy’s favorite joint in the city and I would gladly go back for another meal at this or any of the other locations.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Chicken – 3.5 hogs
Wings – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Woodlands Barbecue and Pickin’ Parlor – Blowing Rock, NC

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Name: Woodlands Barbecue and Pickin’ Parlor
Date: 9/15/17
Address: 8304 Valley Blvd, Blowing Rock, NC 28605
Order: “The Hog” (pork, beef, ribs, and wings) with red slaw and collards (link to menu)
Price: $19.99

Monk: Let me state for the record that visiting Woodlands Barbecue and Pickin’ Parlor (quite a mouthful, that name) in Blowing Rock was neither the choice of Speedy nor me on our annual guys trip. But of course, when our Yelp Elite friend Dan chose it based on friend’s recommendation, we happily obliged. Though, just how would a combination barbecue and mexican restaurant located in the mountains of NC actually turn out? Turns out: not bad but not great.

Speedy: I had passed Woodlands on my drive in, so was definitely intrigued. And seeing a cheap combo platter on the menu made me very happy. Not as happy as when the waitress asked us what college we went to, but happy nonetheless…

Monk: …doing work at 35, son!

Speedy: For our order, we went with “The Hog” – the smaller of the two combo plates, as we were told the bigger combo (“Pig Out”) was the same plus three more sides. Well, we were there for the meat, so that didn’t seem worth while to us. The hog came with pork, brisket (both chopped), ribs, and wings, so it was basically perfect. We added on red slaw and collards.

Monk: Seriously, what two people need six sides? This was the second time in three weeks that I’ve seen chopped or pulled beef on a menu as opposed to sliced brisket. The common denominator? Western NC mountain barbecue joints. A quick search doesn’t yield much information about this style of barbecue but anecdotally I recall hearing in my travels that this was a popular barbecue meat in the mountains of NC. As for this version of pulled beef…it was actually not bad! The pulled strands of beef were smoky and had a good texture. I’m curious as to what cut of beef this was pulled from, but it was in the running with the pork for the best meat of the meal.

Speedy: The ribs, on the other hand, were a bit of a miss. They were big slabs of spare ribs, and could have been trimmed to the St. Louis cut for a much better presentation. When we ordered, the waitress asked us if we wanted spicy or sweet, telling us spicy meant vinegar. Of course, that’s what we chose, thinking it was in context of the pork. Instead, our ribs had the vinegar sauce on it and it just didn’t work that well. The cook and the tenderness of the ribs were OK, but overall, (start Randy Jackson voice) they just didn’t do it for me, dawg.

Monk: These full wings were weird and required makeshift butcher work on our part to separate the drumette from the flat from the tip. The aforementioned spicy vinegar sauce didn’t work as a wing sauce but the other option was more of a KC Masterpiece-type thick sauce so really there were no good options. I simply did not care for them and would not recommend them as an order. None of the sides rose above standard and are worth mentioning.

Speedy: I actually do want to mention the sides, Monk, because the collards were terrible. Throw some pork or bacon in there, people! Overall, however, it was a mostly pleasant dining experience, despite the fact that we had to deal with an obnoxious Yelper while we were eating (Hi, Dan! Also, thanks for the photos!). Would I recommend as worthy of going out of your way to try? No way, but I’d consider stopping in at Woodlands Barbecue and Pickin’ again should I return back to Blowing Rock.

For more reviews:
Yelp God Daniel B

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Beef – 2.5 hogs
Ribs – 2 hogs
Wings – 2 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
Woodlands Barbeque Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato