Monk: My Memorial Day weekend in the Charleston area began and ended with two great whole hog barbecue sandwiches. At the end of a weekend of drinking and eating junk food at the beach, both myself and Mrs. Monk were no in no mood to share a huge platter of meat. For a review of nearly the full menu at the Martin’s in downtown Nashville, check out our extremely positive review from last summer.
On the Monk family’s drive from the Mount Pleasant Pier to James Island, I texted Speedy to get recommendations on what to get from Nashville (something I didn’t do for Central BBQ in downtown Memphis), and he said I really couldn’t go wrong with anything. Again, seeing as how I wasn’t going to order several meats, I went with the whole hog sandwich with a hoecake as my side and a glass bottle of Cheerwine (no beer for me after the long weekend).
This was a pretty dang good sandwich that came topped with white slaw. I added a splash of vinegar sauce and Texas Pete and while this wasn’t quite on the level of the sandwich from Sweatman’s, it was still very good. Not too bad for a joint open for just a few weeks, even if it is from the well-oiled barbecue machine that is Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joints. Based on this sandwich, I can only assume that the rest of the menu would be of similar quality and thus on par with what Speedy regularly gets in Nashville.
I ordered the hoecake as my side and looking back, a cornbread pancake probably wasn’t the smartest side to order if I was trying to eat lighter. And it turns out that I had forgotten that I had actually tried one in Nashville as part of our Big Poppa Sampler platter. In our review, I did note that I would definitely get them again so thankfully, I did not regret my decision.
This Charleston location had only opened a few weeks prior to our visit but has already become a local favorite. And for good reason, as all indications point to it already being on par with other Martin’s locations due to its great food as well as its fun-looking beer garden outdoor bar area. Charlestonians should count themselves very lucky to have yet another option for whole hog barbecue (in addition to Rodney Scott and Swig & Swine in Summerville) in Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint.
Kevin’s BBQ Joints sits down with “barbecue man” Wyatt Dickson of Picnic in Durham. I actually went to elementary school with Wyatt back in Fayetteville, NC but haven’t spoken to him in probably 26 years. I’d like to make it back to Picnic again (my only visit was a bit of a mixed bag) but who knows if he’d remember me or not. In any case, another interesting conversation worth your time.
Wyatt Dickson @picnicdurham sits down to talk pig pickin', whole hog BBQ, Blackbeard, @GreenButtonFarm, & what BBQ means to him in this interview.
Jim Noble will officially enter the barbecue restaurant world with the opening of Noble Smoke in the coming few weeks, but he is certainly no newcomer when it comes to barbecue, having grown up in High Point and spent his life going to Lexington Barbecue. Noble Smoke will be the culmination of a decades-long idea that’s been rumbling around in Jim’s head ever since he got started in the restaurant business. Jim may have started off in french cuisine and fine dining, but from spending some time with him getting a behind the scenes tour of the upcoming restaurant, it’s pretty evident that barbecue (and in particular, North Carolina barbecue) is a passion of his.
We’re still a few weeks ago from the opening, but its pretty clear to me that once opened, this will be a destination barbecue joint. The touches that you would expect from a Jim Noble restaurant are there – there will be a full service bar, the design is impeccable, and the dining experience will be well thought-out – but where it will really stand out is what’s housed in the custom built smokehouse out back.
That is where there are 6 custom-built reverse-flow offset smokers (each one named for Jim’s great aunts and uncles) as well as a brick pit that pays homage to Lexington Barbecue via a slightly tweaked design of their pits. This was probably the coolest part of the tour for Speedy and me, as longtime readers will know that Lexington Barbecue is our #1 all-time favorite restaurant (Rudy too). Jim is also a huge fan and has learned from the Monks, the family behind Lexington Barbecue, for years. With Noble Smoke, he will be very much looking to continue the Lexington-style barbecue tradition that began with Sid Weaver and Jess Swicegood and their stalls across the street from the Lexington courthouse in 1919.
Besides the smoked meat, the other part of the experience that will help make Noble Smoke a destination barbecue spot will be Suffolk Punch Brewing, which shares the other side of the old bus depot that will house the restaurant. A beer garden and killer patio will make the strong case for customers to stick around well after their meals are done, and Suffolk Punch will be doing some lambic style brewing of sours onsite at this second location, which will surely help differentiate it in the Charlotte market.
Let’s not forget Bossy Beat’s, the chicken shack that will sit on the property down a small hill closer to Freedom Drive. Jim has named that after his Aunt Beaulah, whom he named a mobile smoker trailer after and whose fried chicken he grew up on. That will have a smaller menu but patrons in the beer garden will be able to order from it with the servers running up a small hill to bring them brined and buttermilk breaded fried chicken sandwiches.
Jim Noble is a North Carolina guy who is passionate about North Carolina barbecue and I am confident that he will raise the bar when it comes to barbecue in Charlotte. Midwood Smokehouse brought back wood smoked barbecue to Charlotte in 2012 and Sweet Lew’s BBQ has contributed greatly to the scene to it with its opening last December, but Charlotte has so much more room to grow when it comes to its barbecue scene. If Houston’s barbecue scene is blowing up, there’s no reason why Charlotte can’t do the same. I think it just takes more passionate folks like Jim. Noble Smoke will continue the upward trend of barbecue in Charlotte with its opening this summer and I predict will stake a worthy claim to be Charlotte’s flagship barbecue restaurant.
Forget everything you thought you knew about steak. On today's episode of the TASTE Podcast, @bbqfranklin is going to get you to rethink all of it. Also on this episode: a caffeinated conversation with some of our favorite coffee industry personalities. https://t.co/ljQ4WoexCU
For the first half of this podcast, Aaron Franklin sits down for a cordial interview about steak and his recent cookbook Franklin Steak. While the conversation is not specifically about barbecue, brisket does get weaved into it several times during the discussion by Franklin. Check it out to hear his thoughtful discussion on live fire cooking as well as a tip on how long in advance to salt a steak.
The Smoking Ho turns 6 today. It’s kind of crazy that it has gone by this fast. Thanks for for everyone’s continued support. Celebrated with this tasty 3-meat plate from @SchmidtFamBBQ. pic.twitter.com/NsLJvO1i91
Name: Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que Address: 1427 Eutaw Rd, Holly Hill, SC 29059 Order: Barbecue sandwich with hash and rice and banana puddin’ (link to menu) Pricing: $
Monk: Holy crap, you guys. I mean, holy crap. Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que has been on my list for a few years now, considering how I tend to get to Charleston a couple times a year and Holly Hill is not super out of the way if you are willing to take the scenic route off I-26 just east of Columbia around Orangeburg. Based on my visit, its a detour well worth taking.
Sweatman’s has been around since 1977 and according to Grant’s story over at Marie, Let’s Eat! in 2016, the current owners Mark and Lynn Behr bought the restaurant from their friends and original owners Bub and Margie Sweatman in 2011. Thankfully, it appears they have continued the practice of cooking whole hogs over coals for 12-14 hours.
As this was going to be a late afternoon snack, I did not opt for the full buffet line, instead ordering a a sandwich with a side of hash and rice. The waitress obviously sensed a weakness for ‘naner pudding in me by suggesting I also get it, but it wasn’t too much of a stretch considering its only $1.50 with tax.
The main building of Sweatman’s appears to have had a larger dining room added onto it at some point over the years, and that thing was like stepping back into the 80’s in the south but in the best way.
I bit into my barbecue sandwich and darnit if it wasn’t a near transcendent bite of barbecue. The wood smoke shone through each bite and was accentuated by the sweet and tangy mustard barbecue sauce. This was different than almost every other midlands South Carolina mustard-based barbecue sandwich I’ve had where the shredded pork is drowning in the sauce. The sauce here still let the wood smoke be the star and was content to act as a supporting actor.
The hash and rice was the co-star, if my forced metaphor hasn’t begun to completely break down yet. I’ve only had one other “200 mile” hash and rice before and that was at True BBQ in West Columbia. This was on par with that. I still don’t have the vocabulary to properly describe hash and rice, but this savory-gravy-over-rice-dish is a must-order at Sweatman’s.
Briefly about that banana pudding – it was quite simply one of the best naner puddings I’ve had ever. I wish I had gotten at least 2 more for the rest of the weekend (slash the rest of my meal). What a capper to the meal.
Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que is absolutely worth the detour but be aware that its only open two days a week on Fridays and Saturdays. So be sure to plan your pilgrimage accordingly.
Monk: You may have been hearing about Dave Grohl’s barbecue obsession for the past year or so, but here’s an in-depth conversation between Grohl, Bon Appétit editor Adam Rapoport, and Joe House from The Ringer’s House of Carbs podcast. In it, he discusses how he got into barbecue through tasting eastern NC barbecue at a shack (he didn’t mention a name) near the Currituck Lighthouse after he bought a beach house in Nag’s Head in the early 90’s (13:40). He also calls out when he met Elliott Moss from Buxton Hall Barbecue, whom he called “a badass” (24:14) and Sam Jones, who he “treated like a Beatle” (24:35). Grohl also gets into his barbecue venture Backbeat BBQ that started from a single Lang smoker (35:02) and how he worked his way up to feeding nearly a thousand firefighters for free during last fall’s Camp Fire in southern California (39:40).
It’s one thing to read about Grohl’s passion for barbecue (or see him hanging out during the tailgate party that is Memphis in May), but it’s another to hear the passion in his voice when he talks about barbecue. Also, now we know that he likes to drink High Life when he smokes (49:55) but won’t turn down a Coors Light if the Rockies are blue. Pretty cool stuff.
Speaking of Birmingham and Big Daddy, his daughter says he would be “overjoyed”
Southern BBQ Belt Roadtrip, per Robert Moss:
I always like mapping out BBQ roadtrips. When @TampaMagazines asked me for my picks for a tour of the Southern BBQ Belt, I broke out my map and compass and came up with this . . . https://t.co/vp7hSdjeSq
Name: Central BBQ Date: 5/16/19 Address: 147 E Butler Ave, Memphis, TN 38103 Order: Rib combo with brisket, pork, collards, chips (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Monk: I should have listened to Speedy…
Speedy: …a lesson you can never learn often enough…
Monk: Actually, to be more precise, I should have consulted Speedy’s review of the original Central BBQ location to help figure out my order and that specifically I shouldn’t have ordered the brisket. To not bury the lede, I found the rest of the meal a bit underwhelming as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself….
This year for the Memphis in May Barbecue Championship (aka Barbecue Fest), I wanted to actually go to a Memphis barbecue restaurant (or two) outside of the festival. So first things first, as soon as we (our current neighbors and former Memphis residents, Mrs. Monk, and I) landed we headed to Central BBQ’s downtown location for a late lunch before checking into our our AirBnB. And by downtown, this Central BBQ is directly across the street from the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and where the National Civil Rights Museum is currently located.
We waited in a brief line to place an order and then proceeded to the open air patio. It was already a hot day in Memphis, but the indoor dining room was still pretty packed for lunch. Usually a good sign.
I’ll start with the ribs, the meat that Speedy gave 5 hogs in his review and called “without hesitation that these were the best ribs [he’s] ever had…These are ribs that I’m going to dream about.” So, clearly the highest of praise from a man who knows his way around a rib. I…did not find them to be anywhere near that good. They were the best of the 3 meats I tried, but definitely not among the best ribs I’ve ever had. Not even close, really. I went for the dry rub ribs and while they were tender enough, I found them to be a bit bland, taste-wise.
The pulled pork was a bit dry and a slight notch below the just average ribs. It absolutely needed sauce and I wondered if it could have been from the previous day.
Now, the brisket. Or rather, the thinly sliced, dry roast beef-like meat served instead of brisket. Had I read Speedy’s review, surely I would have heeded his advice: “It was dry and lacked flavor, so just don’t order it, k?” So reader, don’t be like Monk and order the brisket. Listen to your friend Speedy, he’s a cool dude.
The collards were disappointing to Mrs. Monk (the collards aficionado), and I couldn’t agree more. The chips were recommended by our neighbors but I couldn’t quite figure out why they would recommend such a standard housemade crunchy chip instead of a more classic barbecue side.
Speedy: In talking to Monk about his experience, I was disappointed to hear it. I myself and still a frequent visitor to Central BBQ, usually focusing on the ribs and wings. I don’t think I’ve had an experience as bad as Monk describes, but I have noticed some variability among visits. I also have concerns that the expansion of the restaurant (now open in four locations, with another opening in Nashville this year) has allowed quality to suffer. That said, its the most common barbecue joint I visit in Memphis (partly due to location, but also because I’ve had good experiences more often than not).
Monk: I was quite disappointed with Central BBQ and unfortunately, this would be the only Memphis joint I got to this weekend. I know Memphis has great barbecue joints and someday I’ll get to more of them (looking at you, Payne’s!).
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