Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Barbecue: Are those fighting words?

Washington Post contributor Jim Shahin had some choice words for Charlotte barbecue recently. Stopping in Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, he contemplated our city while getting a barbecue sandwich from Brookwood Farms Carolina Pit BBQ:

"I was in an airport, ordering faux Carolina ’cue, and I was lost. Technically, I suppose, I was in Charlotte. But the city is itself lost, barbecue-speaking. It does not adhere to one of the state’s famously partisan styles, whether Eastern or Western.
"As a city within one of the great barbecue regions, Charlotte is regarded as a barbecue embarrassment. If Charlotte were a relative, it would be the one everyone wished didn’t come to Thanksgiving."

Is that fair? Is Charlotte that much of an embarrassment? Does someone from Washington -- the  flattest flavor spot between Baltimore and New York -- have any experience at knowing what tastes good?

Share your opinion here and we'll pass them on to Shahin. A few ground rules: Keep your response concise; don't use profanity; and keep the personal insults to a minimum. Although Shahin did call our city an embarrassment. So the personal insults have already started to fly.

36 comments:

lkmnews said...

Hmmm... Juding a city's cuisine based on what's found in an airport? Not very smart, in my view.
Meanwhile, as I sit here in Uptown Charlotte, I can picture several fine 'cue experiences within a short drive south or west.
Hmmm. Or north. Or east. ;-)

James said...

To judge a city for its food by its airport restaurants, especially for barbecue, is so far off base. The writer (?) needs to make a tour of several places to eat before he goes off on Charlotte BBQ. You can go to a number of BBQ places in town to get a better representation and probably 100% better than airport food.

Anonymous said...

Has Mr. Shahin ever eaten at Reagan Airport, in his own hometown? I would guess not, since it is not wise for one who lives in a glass house to start a rock fight.

Anonymous said...

As a critic willing to post a review based solely on an airport restaurant, Mr. Shahin is an embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

there is no reason to take a yankee's opinion about Q seriously.

Jayson Knight said...

Mac's Speed Shop (S Blvd), that is all, some of the best BBQ in the country. And Lexington is just an hour drive away for the best BBQ in the state (if not the region) IMO.

Judging what is arguably the best state in the nation for BBQ by airport food is pretty tactless. It's an airport.

And technically, CLT falls neither in the Eastern or Western NC category...it's in the middle of the state.

BBQJunkie said...

Mr. Shahin doesn't know Charlotte BBQ. Maybe there isn't a huge selection of Great BBQ joints...but there are some...not to mention quite a few award winning MBN and KCBS competition teams that call this great city home. Come on out to Blues and BBQ next year before you make your judgements Mr. Shahin...you'll get to see what Charlotte BBQ is all about.

Emily said...

Who cares about "famously partisan styles"? They're relics of the past, back before cars and, yes, airplanes. Cooking Southern is all about defying categories. Making these irrelevant distinctions is like trying to leash a cat.

Jim Laseter said...

The Washington Post generally attracts first-rate writers who know their stuff. What's more, they are used to great food as evidenced by the avails in the Washington area. But Charlotte Douglas is no more an example of the culinary offerings in Charlotte than National or Dulles are in DC. My biggest disappointment, however, is that the Observer even wasted the space to print our northern friend's comments.

agFinder said...

No one thinks airport food represents anything besides airport food, especially not people who go through a lot of airports. This guy wrote something he hoped someone would re-post and ding ding ding! He got one!

Sheldon Cooper said...

Perhaps he could provide more evidence than a horrible fast food restaurant in an airport before proclaiming CLT BBQ awful. He lacked any professionalism when he failed to provide backing to his argument.

Based on his logic I presume that all sub sandwiches in Washington DC are of the same caliber as the Subway that sits in the regional US Air terminal in Dulles. Bazinga.

David said...

Charlotte does have a vibrant food scene, in my opinion. However when it comes to NC BBQ, I would agree, Charlotte isn't the best place. Mac's is ok and I really enjoy Midwood Smokehouse, but they are not quite what I think of when you say NC BBQ. Bill Spoons place would be close. When I think NC BBQ, I think about Stameys (Greensboro), Bridges(Shelby), B's (Greenville), Allen and Son's (Chapel Hill), Short Sugars (Reidsville), etc..and if you have been to any of those places, you would know that even the "feel" in those NC BBQ institutions are different and its kinda hard to come by that in Charlotte. Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

The author is right. There is no good cue in Charlotte. Shameful! Lancaster's was decent, that place on South Blvd that closes shortly after noon is ok, Jim and Nicks and Midwood are really good but not "authentic" Carolina cue. Mac's just a place for wanna a be bikers to gather and drink beer. Their cue is wanna bd also!

Anonymous said...

I read the article on the Post's website. He wasn't critical at all - in fact, he was sort-of impressed by the airport food. His attitude was that he was surprisingly impressed by airport food, and that it did remind him of NC BBQ, which is actually a compliment. He's right, Charlotte isn't known for its BBQ like the areas all around it.

Anonymous said...

C'mon the guy's right even though he was off base judging the city based on airport food alone. Charlotte is missing the boat on this one. Making a name for itself in the que world might have a modest affect on increasing tourism. We have a lot of ground to make up though. Memphis and Kansas City are way ahead. One strategy might be to feature restaurants that outwardly tout themselves as Lexington style, Shelby, or Eastern.

I'm just sayin'.

Wiley Coyote said...

The only really good BBQ in Mecklenburg County comes from individuals like myself who smoke their own.

I'll give Mac's a thumbs up but that's about as close as you'll get to good BBQ here.... In my opinion of course.

Anonymous said...

How did Washington get between Baltimore and New York?

Anonymous said...

So true. Charlotte BBQ is lackluster at best. Everybody knows you have to go down to Lexington to eat quality bbq.

Anonymous said...

As a barbecue spot, Charlotte is about an hour east of Shelby (either Red Bridges or Alston Bridges, natch).

And Washington is not between Baltimore and New York!

--born and raised in Shelby, now living in DC

Anonymous said...

To judge a city's BBQ by sampling a corporate, homogenized airport location lacks insight and is just plain lazy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with him. The BBQ at the airport is not good. BUT, there is plenty of good BBQ in and around the city. Next time, leave the airport and see the city.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Somebody please give the author a map.

I suppose DC is between Baltimore and NY if you take a 28,000 mile route by driving South out of Baltimore first.

Wiley Coyote said...

Also...Brookwood farms is out of Siler City.

Anonymous said...

Airport fare is not the place to judge any community's food qualifications, and the BBQ at Douglas is not great, but better than the BBQ options in the Memphis and Dallas airports by far. Best airport food I have had is the southern at Paschal's in Atlanta Hartsfield. Mmmm, mm!

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Sounds like someone's trying really hard to be the next Pete Wells. If you want to judge Charlotte's barbecue, come and eat at our barbecue restaurants -- not at our airport. A visit to Midwood Smokehouse for some brisket is in order!

Anonymous said...

i suppose growing in lexington ruined me, but i have to say the yankee is right on. bill spoons is about as close as it gets to good, still too eastern for my taste - superb hushpuppies. saying macs or midwood smokehouse serves bbq is like saying mcdonalds serves burgers - they do. if bbq is meat with sauce on it and thousand island dressing is special sauce. old hickory house has those two beat.
also, if charlotte has so many great bbq restaurants why aren't any mentioned below. i also realized he ate at the airport, but the guy wasnt slamming bojangles.
yes - charlotte bbq sucks and every small town around here has at least two decent bbq joints. thats why i drive to lexington every week.

Jim Mitchem said...

He's right, in one regard - we don't adhere to one specific 'style' of barbecue. In Texas it's consistent. In St. Louis. Memphis. Gainesville. All very consistent. No wavering. So yeah, we don't have a uniformed 'style' of barbecue here. But there are a few really great places - mostly uptown.

Jimmy Dean said...

We have great 'que in the area, but I can't imagine airport food being a representation of anything but, well, airport food. Eastern and Western NC styles are represented along with SC style (mustard base sauce), however the authentic stuff will not be found in the newer BBQ restaurants around Charlotte. You have to go old school and seek out Old Hickory House on N. Tryon St., or BBQ King on Wilkinson Blvd., or Spoons on South Blvd.

Anonymous said...

I don't know; What's Franklin Graham's take on all of this?

Kathleen Purvis said...

Thanks for pointing out my error, Anon 6:59. You're absolutely right, I was working on deadline and didn't grab an atlas when I should. I was thinking of all that great food in Baltimore and got distracted by thoughts of crab cakes.

Lee Ivester said...

The only thing Charlotte has to offer in the way of barbecue is I85...to Lexington.

Anonymous said...

Q in Carlotte is horrible. People here would eat chopped spam covered in masterpiece sauce if it were called bbq.
Lexinton is the best close local for good Q.

www.thefatherson.com said...

The best barbecue in the world can be found at a little place in Fredericksburg Virginia. Alman's Barbecue is on Rt #1 Jefferson Davis Hwy. in Fredericksburg. If you can ever get to go to this little place you will remember it forever. The meat melts in your mouth and the cole slaw is to die for. They give you a plate full of meat. Best in world, I am telling you.

Anonymous said...

Please consider the source. This guy wrote for the American Way mag many years until he was let go in 2008. Worst writer ever. Even with hours to kill on long flights, it was more entertaining to read the Sky Mall or watch the peek-a-boo baby in the row ahead.

Steve Gibbs said...

Never judge a cities food by the airport. Yes Charlotte has been a wasteland of BBQ but it has started to get some very good BBQ restaurants. I have had Mac's BBQ and didn't enjoy it, their competition Q is great but at their restaurants it's mediocre at best. Uptown, there is Queen City Q and it is good. Midtown Smokehouse is another good one and there are a few others growing up. Out side the city there are others like Ranucci's in Gastonia and 521 BBQ in Indian Land. The BBQ climate is changing for the better but it takes time. Most of the restaurants don't cater to eastern or western Carolina style BBQ but let the customer decide. Airports don't have the ability to smoke the BBQ properly on site. They may be able to warm it up but that just makes good BBQ ok. The best BBQ will always be found in your own backyard or at a competition.