I’d had a full day of barbecue at The Pit in Raleigh, Rick’s Smokehouse in Lexington, and the Barbecue Center in Lexington, with a recuperative evening in Salisbury. I woke up the next morning, drank coffee, deleted a bunch of email messages, figured out how to unsubscribe from political emails (tell them that each time you get an email you’ll send a check to their opponent) and headed south to Charlotte for a much-anticipated lunch. I was going to dine with the storied Monk of the invaluable Barbecue Bros.
The Barbecue Bros are three guys, Speedy, Monk, and Rudy, who grew up together in High Point, North Carolina, which is famous for the semi-annual High Point Furniture Market (100,000 visitors), John Coltrane, shoals of NASCAR drivers and professional base- and football players, and, not least, the Barbecue Bros.
Monk is in Charlotte, and eats barbecue across North Carolina, mainly in the Piedmont and the West. Rudy used to be in Austin, but must have done something because he was exiled to Holland, Michigan. Speedy is in Nashville, but travels a lot for work. Each reports from time to time about places they eat (the move to Holland seems to have slowed Rudy’s barbecue reporting — no review yet of the Smoke’n Tulip in Holland.) That’s understandable. But the rankings of Austin-Lockhart barbecue places remain, and stand along with rankings for Charlotte, Lexington, and Western North Carolina (including Lexington.) And they have pit master interviews and book reviews, as well as occasional product reviews (rubs, sauces). You really should go to their site and wander around. Really.
I met Monk at the Midwood Smokehouse in the Park Road Shopping Center, a big, roomy space with lots of outdoor seating. Midwood is #4 in the Barbecue Bros Charlotte rankings. John G’s is #1 (see Monk’s hat), but it’s only open Saturdays, and I’d recently reviewed #2 Noble Smoke and #3 Sweet Lew’s.
Here we are —
And here’s Monk (aka Tommy) without that other guy —
He’s a nice looking guy, isn’t he? Great smile. And just as friendly and engaging as he looks. We sat down and Tommy aka Monk asked if we should start with a basket of hushpuppies. Having eaten 19 (or so) capped with some bad ones the day before, I demurred, uncharacteristically. The plates come with hushpuppies, after all, and I figured if we needed more we could have some for dessert. Also, I had a big dinner coming up (stay tuned), and I was hesitant to keep pace with a guy who surveyed the Lexington barbecue places with three lunches a day.
I ordered a pork plate with greens and creamed corn, and it came with an abstemious portion of hushpuppies.
Tommy ordered brisket with greens and … did he get a second side? Oh, well. I was having so much fun talking with Tommy that I didn’t take notes.
The pork was nice and smoky and properly sauced with vinegar and pepper. It was just a little tired, however, as if it had been sitting around for a bit. And, indeed, Midwood has four Charlotte area locations and a fifth place in Columbia, South Carolina. Midwood cooks all of their meat for their four Charlotte locations at just two of their places — Central Avenue and Johnston Road — so the pork at the Park Road location had been on the road for a bit. Not that I didn’t eat it all. The hushpuppies were delicious — maybe we should have ordered that basket — and the collards were very good, with a nice flavor from the meat. I added some of the pepper vinegar that you can see in the background of Tommy’s plate. Note how the peppers are sliced. It really looked nice.
And the creamed corn … was sensational. The corn was fresh and mixed with a great blend of spices and, I think, a touch of jalapeño. Wonderful, just wonderful. Tommy seemed to like his lunch. Brisket is very fussy during the cooking process, but actually seems to enjoy being wrapped up and taken for a drive from wherever it was cooked, while pork, having cooperated in achieving perfection during the cooking process, deeply resents the disruption.
I’d eaten at Midwood’s Central Avenue location, where they cook on-site, some years ago with a bunch of my cousins. We all really enjoyed it, and I don’t hesitate for a second to recommend Midwood. They have a great menu, with some Mexican choices, and the sides are excellent. Note: It’s always a good idea to check your local Campaign for Real Barbecue listing to see who cooks on-site with wood.
I really enjoyed my meal, and I especially enjoyed meeting Tommy. The food, including the pork, was good, and the corn was great. He’s a great guy, and the lunch was just delightful. I’m looking forward to finding another excuse to go to Charlotte so I can try John G’s … among other places. And I’m pushing Tommy to come visit Washington to see his tax dollars at rest. I know he’ll love 2fifty Texas.
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