North Carolina has long been known for its pork barbecue, and though locals will tell you the best is found in mom-and-pop joints in small towns around the state, Charlotte has recently begun staking its claim on the famed fare. At these five modern spots you can tuck into smoked, pulled, and chopped dishes for a taste of the best BBQ in Charlotte.
Queen City Q
This uptown barbecue joint serves up eastern North Carolina style (vinegar-based sauce), western North Carolina style (tomato-based sauce), and South Carolina style (mustard-based sauce). At Queen City Q, the pitmaster, who slow cooks the ’cue daily, is also the executive chef. You’ll find a menu packed with family-inspired recipes like his aunt’s mac and cheese and his mother’s baked beans, made with local sausage. And barbecue’s favourite accompaniment, beer, plays a big part on a drinks list packed with local craft brews. Stop in on a Friday when all North Carolina beers are just $3.
Mac’s Speed Shop
Fans of finger lickin’ wings and two-hands-to-hold sandwiches gravitate to this casual restaurant where lively crowds pile into picnic tables for live music and cold beer alongside the chopped and pulled barbecue. And it’s not just locals who love the laid back vibe at Mac’s Speed Shop – Mac’s has become a favourite for chefs visiting town with notable names like Anthony Bourdain and Thomas Keller making stops for a taste of its down home dishes like the oversize Big Pig pork barbecue sandwich.
The owner of this local restaurant looked to nationally renowned James Beard award winning food writer, Robb Walsh, as a resource for its tasty barbecue-centric menu. In addition to pork and chicken slow roasted for 14 hours over North Carolina hickory logs, you’ll also find beef brisket and dry or sauced ribs on the menu at Midwood Smokehouse. Grab a cold craft brew and start with one of the tasty barbecue inspired appetizers like bacon wrapped hickory smoked stuffed jalepenos or homemade cheese dip served with pulled pork.
This small red painted restaurant may not look like much from the outside, but Sauceman’s enticing aroma of pork slow smoked for more than 12 hours over hickory and white oak is certain to lure you in. This isn’t your traditional barbecue menu – sandwiches come topped with a variety of offerings from apple slices to fried green tomato – but you’ll want the tender hand pulled pork variety. Pair it with the potato salad made with smoky flavoured potatoes and wash it down with a house-made Arnold Palmer for the perfect Southern indulgence.
Located on the ground floor of one of uptown’s sleek skyscrapers, City Smoke isn’t your typical barbecue joint. There’s valet parking, tall windows facing the busy city street, an open kitchen, and a stylish bar. But peanuts on every table, a full bourbon menu, live music, and plenty of pulled pork make this a great destination to get your barbecue fix. Pair the chunks of moist meat with a few of barbecue’s favourite sides like jalapeno cheddar cornbread or fried okra and you’ll quickly forget you’re not in a small Southern town.
Written by Sarah Crosland
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About the author: SCroslandSarah Crosland
Sarah Crosland lives in Charlotte and covers the city and region for numerous publications. The North Carolina native has been a travel writer for almost a decade, but her first love has always been food. She authored the book Food Lovers’ Guide to Charlotte and her next book, 100 Things to do in Charlotte Before You Die, is available in 2014.