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
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
Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston has been getting a big bump from “Chef’s Table: BBQ”
Monk: Earlier this year, Anna from The White Sauce out of Flintstone, GA (right across the state line from Chattanooga) reached out to me about her family’s White Sauce that was created in 1978 but had just recently begun to be bottled. While I’m not normally a white sauce kind of guy (though I have dabbled in making my own), I figured something that’s stuck around for over 40 years is worth trying.
For a white sauce, chicken wings made the most sense and I just happened to buy a 2.5 lb bag of frozen chicken wings at the beginning of the “shelter at home” order here in NC. I was inspired by Sweet Lew’s in Charlotte, whose smoked chicken wings I’ve tried before are also finished with an Alabama white sauce (though that doesn’t appear to be on the normal menu, just a smoked half chicken). I sprinkled the wings with Matt’s Rub from Midwood Smokehouse and put them on the grill. Once they were nearly done, I tossed the wings in The White Sauce and finished them back on the grill.
The wings came out fantastic. The tangy white sauce was not overly sweet and perfectly counteracted the slight heat of the Matt’s Rub. It also provided a nice change of pace from a sweeter, ketchup-based sauce like Sweet Baby Ray’s or Stubb’s that I tend to use for grilling chicken. I’ve since used it on grilling bone-in chicken breasts and it only cemented how much I enjoy the sauce.
The White Sauce boasts that you can use it on “salads, dips, veggies, potatoes and more” and while I haven’t done that quite yet, I will definitely be using it on wings again. And perhaps eventually on some actual smoked chicken.
Alabama is famous for its “White Sauce”. The traditional white sauce from Alabama is horseradish based and pretty tart, but our white sauce is the perfect blend of creamy and sweet. The White Sauce was first created back in 1978 by our mom as a sauce to put on smoked chicken but over the years it has been used to compliment not just meats, but also salads, dips, veggies, potatoes, and much much more!
Our dad was a baseball coach in Chattanooga, TN, where the baseball team was responsible for running the concession stand at all home basketball games. Basketball games became synonymous with “Coach’s” smoked turkey sandwiches and white sauce. Even fans from visiting teams would come to games asking if we had the white sauce. We have never seen anyone try it and not like it! No lie!
We have sold The White Sauce out of our family’s restaurant in Chattanooga for years, but had not bottled it…until now! The White Sauce is now available for you to purchase and enjoy in your own home!! So order some today!
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.