Tag Archives: chopped pork

Review: 521 BBQ & Grill — Indian Land, SC

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I was out and about on a Saturday in the southern part of Charlotte, NC.  I realized that I was within striking distance of a BBQ joint that I had not tried yet.  So at the recommendation of my friend Steve Gibbs, I decided to stop in at 521 BBQ & Grill in Indian Land, SC.

521 BBQ & Grill

521 BBQ & Grill

This BBQ joint is located approximately 10-15 minutes from the Ballantyne area of Charlotte, just over the NC/SC state line.  The decor of the place is very down-home, with picnic tables nestled among standard restaurant tables.

Restaurant Interior

Restaurant Interior

The menu at 521 BBQ & Grill offers pulled pork and ribs as well as items off of the grill (pork chops, chicken, etc.).  After perusing the menu for a few minutes (and soliciting the advice of the super-cute waitress who took care of me), I decided on the BBQ tray which consists of pulled pork (which ended up looking closer to chopped than pulled), fries, and hush puppies.

BBQ Tray

BBQ Tray

The first bite of pork was just a little bit on the dry side.  After that, it was absolutely delicious!  The pork had a beautiful color, with bits and pieces of the outside bark mixed in.  It had a nice touch of smoke in the taste, thus allowing the pork to be the star.

Pork Close-up

Pork Close-up

I’ll visit the sides shortly, but I want to talk about the sauces.  There are 2 different sauces available — a thick sweet Kansas City style sauce and a vinegar based sauce.

Sauces -- KC style on the left, vinegar on the right

Sauces -- KC style on the left, vinegar on the right

The KC style sauce was very thick, very sweet, with a nice touch of smoke.  It went well with the pork.  The vinegar-based sauce, on the other hand…  it was fabulous!  The color of the sauce is a darker color than most traditional vinegar-based sauces (very similar to the homemade vinegar-based sauce that I make).  This sauce really gave the pork that extra zing.  Excellent sauce!

Now, back to the sides…  the fries were fried up perfectly.  They were very crispy and flavorful on the outside.  The hush puppies were tasty as well, although I would’ve liked to have seen just a touch more flavor in them.  Nevertheless, I ate them anyway.

A Happy BBQ Tray

A Happy BBQ Tray

So is it worth the trip from Charlotte to Indian Land to check out this joint?  Without a doubt!  I’m certainly glad I checked it out.

521 BBQ & Grill is located at 7580 Charlotte Highway, Suite 100, Indian Land, SC 29707.  Their website is http://www.521bbqandgrill.com, and they can also be found on Facebook.

521 BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Review: Jake’s Good Eats — Charlotte, NC

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As far as restaurants go, this is a departure from the typical restaurant that I would review on here.  However, after seeing Jake’s Good Eats featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and  Dives”, I knew I would have to check it out (especially since it’s located within a 10 minute drive of my house).  After months of mentioning it to my wife, I finally convinced her to go to dinner there last night.

Jake's Good Eats -- Guy Ate There

Jake's Good Eats -- Guy Ate There

Jake’s Good Eats is located in a building that was originally built as a Gulf filling station in 1929.  The restaurant opened in 2008 and has quite a loyal following, especially among local residents.  Much of the original structure of the building is still in use, and the restaurant’s decor is perfectly accented to give diners the feeling of going back in time.

The menu is a blend of old Southern and new Southern cuisine, with such offerings as fried green tomatoes and crawfish/shrimp etouffee.  Their most well-known items are the venison quesadilla appetizer and maple-glazed pork chop entree.  Entrees are served after 5pm, while the lunch menu is available all day.  Entrees range from $8 for a vegetable plate to $23 for a New York strip steak, while lunch items are priced from $4 to $9.

Now… on to the food porn!  Heather and I decided to split the spinach and artichoke dip appetizer.

Spinach and artichoke dip

Spinach and artichoke dip

The dip itself was not too heavy or rich, and the spinach was very fresh!  The homemade tortilla chips were absolutely delicious, and both my wife and I concluded that we could have made an appetizer on just the chips alone.

We both decided to order from the lunch menu on this visit.  I went with the BBQ plate with white slaw and homemade chips, while Heather ordered the cheeseburger “all the way” with chili, mustard, and onions.  (Slaw is also available, but she requested no slaw).

BBQ pork plate with slaw and homemade chips

BBQ pork plate with slaw and homemade chips

Cheeseburger "all the way" with chips

Cheeseburger "all the way" with chips

My wife kept on saying “Mmmmm, that’s good!” with each bite of her cheeseburger, so I’m going to guess that she liked her meal.  The BBQ plate — -chopped pork with an Eastern Carolina style vinegar sauce — was excellent in flavor.  There was not very much smoke in it, but I did not expect there to be much smoke.  The slaw was very fresh and not overly heavy, a perfect complement with the pork.

We also splurged for dessert.  I ordered the banana pudding, and she ordered a slice of chocolate and almond butter mousse pie.

Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding

Chocolate and almond butter mousse pie

Chocolate and almond butter mousse pie

In one word: WOW!  Both desserts were very rich and delightful.  I started out with the banana pudding, and Heather had the pie.  About halfway through, we ended up switching desserts.  Either way, it was a winning proposition.  If I had one complaint to make about Jake’s Good Eats, it’s that there were several flies in the dining room that kept irritating us throughout our meal.

As we were walking out to the car, my wife turned to me and said, “You did a bad thing, Wayne, by showing me this place.”  That pretty much sums up our feelings on Jake’s Good Eats, as we will definitely be returning to dine here again.

Jake’s Good Eats is located at 12721 Albemarle Rd., Charlotte, NC 28227.  Their hours are from Tuesday thru Thursday from 11am until 9pm.  On Friday and Saturday, they are open from 11am until 2:30pm and from 5pm until 9pm.  Their website is http://www.jakesgoodeats.com.

Jake's Good Eats on Urbanspoon

Review: Midwood Smokehouse — Charlotte, NC

A couple of weeks ago, I heard rumor of a new BBQ joint opening up in Charlotte.  As I read more and more about it, I started getting excited and determined that I just had to check this new place out soon.  Well that new place is Midwood Smokehouse, and I took the opportunity today to check it out before having to head in to the office.

Midwood Smokehouse

Midwood Smokehouse

Nestled in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte, NC, Midwood Smokehouse is the newest restaurant opened by longtime Charlotte restauranteur Frank Scibelli.  Scibelli is the brain child behind several popular Charlotte restaurants such as Big Daddy’s Burger Bar and Paco’s Tacos and Tequila.  As noted in an interview with Charlotte Magazine, Scibelli’s restaurant fully intends to produce serious, authentic BBQ using a cooker fueled by nothing but wood (thank you for the correction regarding this).  To accomplish this goal, he traveled around North Carolina to research the state’s well-known pork barbecue joints, and he also collaborated with James Beard award winner Robb Walsh on the intricacies of Texas barbecue (read: brisket).  My task for today was to see how close he came to meeting this goal.

While the location of the restaurant may be in a trendy part of the city, the interior decor was inviting.  A mirror behind the bar stated the daily specials as well as some rather interesting one-liners:

The bar with its specials

The bar with its specials

Good Wood, Big Racks, Great Times

Good Wood, Big Racks, Great Times

Since Midwood Smokehouse has been open for less than two weeks, the menu was a little limited.  However, plenty of options were still available, ranging from Eastern Carolina style pork to brisket to sausage made on the premises.  After perusing the menu, I ordered a half-rack of ribs (St. Louis style) with a side of BBQ baked beans.  I requested that the ribs be sauced.  In addition, I ordered an additional side of bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cheese (which I lovingly refer to as ABTs, or atomic buffalo turds).  The server was very pleasant, taking her time to go through several of the menu options and offer her personal recommendations.  After about 10 minutes, my order arrived.

My order -- ribs

My order -- ribs

The first thing I notice is that the ribs were served with sauce on the side instead of being glazed on the ribs (as I expected).  The food certainly looked appetizing, and I will get to my thoughts on the food shortly.  As I was taking pictures of my food, the general manager came over to my table.  I introduced myself to him (as I emailed him a few days ago about arranging a time to see their smoker), and he immediately offered to bring me a sampling of their other menu items.  How could I possibly refuse?  As if I wasn’t already starting to feel full enough, out comes a sampling of pork, brisket, prime rib, sausage, and other goodies.

A sampling of meats

A sampling of meats

Smoked Prime Rib and Brisket

Smoked Prime Rib and Brisket

In addition, I also got to sample all of the sauces that Midwood Smokehouse offers as well as a small sample of collard greens.  Now on to the verdict…

The ribs had an excellent flavor. The meat was not too smoky, and I could actually taste the pork rather than an overabundance of rub to mask the flavor of the meat.  However, there were two things I immediately noticed:

  • The back membrane had been left on the rack when it was cooked.
  • The rib meat pulled right off the bone without any resistance, which signified that they were a bit overcooked.

The sausage was a very mild sausage.  It had a bit of a crumbly texture.  Since I’m not an expert on how authentic Texas-style sausage should taste, I won’t give an opinion on that.  The brisket was good, with a nice texture and taste.

The pork was, in short, PERFECT!  It had a perfect savory flavor, and the texture was on point (and not mushy like a lot of Eastern Carolina style pork can be).  Honestly, the pork did not need any sauce, but I decided to try it with the vinegar-based sauce.  The sauce added an extra dimension to the pork.

Finally, the prime rib…  why didn’t someone introduce me to smoked prime rib before?  Completely and totally droolworthy!  This one is definitely on my repeat list.

So would I recommend this BBQ joint?  Absolutely, with no reservations whatsoever!

The website for Midwood Smokehouse is http://www.midwoodsmokehouse.com.  You can also find them on Facebook here.  They are located at 1401 Central Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205.  

Midwood Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Wordless Wednesday: Groundhog Day Edition

Coarsely Chopped BBQ -- Close-Up 2

Review: Lexington BBQ #1 — Lexington, NC

Today I had the opportunity to meet up with some really great people today at Lexington BBQ #1 in Lexington, NC.  I will talk about that in a different blog post.

The first thing I observed about Lexington #1 is that YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE!  Google Maps Navigation failed me on the address that I found on Yelp, instead trying to put me at a different restaurant.  I wondered if it was some kind of conspiracy.  However, the next address I found for it was correct.  I arrive to an extremely full parking lot and a mad dash in an attempt to find an open spot.  Clearly people love this place.

Lexington BBQ #1 Signage

Lexington BBQ #1 Signage

Once we all get seated, our waitress comes around to take our orders.  While there were burgers and other items on the menu, we came there for one reason: pork!  At Lexington BBQ #1, they serve BBQ three different ways: chopped, coarsely chopped, and sliced.  I ordered the large coarsely chopped BBQ tray with hush puppies and asked for extra “brown” (which is the outer bark from the pork shoulder).  Shortly after ordering, out comes the food:

Lexington BBQ #1 Coarsely Chopped BBQ

Lexington BBQ #1 Coarsely Chopped BBQ

Coarsely Chopped BBQ -- Close-Up

Coarsely Chopped BBQ -- Close-Up

Coarsely Chopped BBQ -- Close-Up 2

Coarsely Chopped BBQ -- Close-Up 2

The pork was presented in a tray that was about the size of a 3×5 note card, and about 3/4 – 1 inch deep.  I was immediately pleased at the amount of “brown” that was in my tray, because this gave promise to lots of flavor.  As I took bite after bite, I was not disappointed.  The pork was very flavorful and moist — not dry in the least bit whatsoever.  The only thing that was somewhat disappointing was that the pieces of brown were a little tough to chew.  The flavor it brought out, however, more than made up for it.

One of my former co-workers recommended to me one time that if I ever went to a BBQ restaurant in Lexington, ask for an extra cup of dip.  In Lexington, dip is a thin mopping sauce that contains very small amounts of ketchup and sugar to go along with the vinegar and other spices.  I’m very glad that I did.  Adding a small amount of the dip to my BBQ really enhanced the flavors of the pork.

Lexington BBQ #1 Hush Puppies

Lexington BBQ #1 Hush Puppies

The hush puppies were delicious!  They were very crunchy, flavorful, and (best of all) not greasy.  I could have made myself completely full just on the hush puppies alone (which I nearly did).

Lexington BBQ #1 Slaw

Lexington BBQ #1 Slaw

Normally I am not a fan of red slaw.  I usually find it a bit too tangy.  However, this slaw complemented the rest of the meal well.  It was very crunchy with just enough tang to act as a perfect side to the slaw.

Lexington BBQ #1 Peach Cobbler

Lexington BBQ #1 Peach Cobbler

I even left enough room for peach cobbler.  The peach cobbler was good, but nothing really outstanding.  It just didn’t have that “wow” factor, in my opinion.  Plus, I’m still trying to figure out where in the world they were able to find a rectangular ice cream scoop.

All in all, the food at Lexington BBQ #1 was worth the drive up from Charlotte.  The fact that I got to partake of the BBQ with a great group of people made it even better!