Kevin's BBQ Joints

Kevin's BBQ Joints Blog

John Markus – BBQ Pitmasters – My Favorite BBQ Joints – Volume 33

If you’re a fan of BBQ you are quite familiar with John Markus. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, the show he created, BBQ Pitmasters should as it’s been a strong force in bringing the BBQ world (both competitive as well as BBQ chefs from BBQ joints) to TV screens across the nation (the third season began airing on December 16th on Destination America). I appreciate anyone that champions the BBQ cause. Moreover, being an Emmy-winning sitcom writer whose credits include “Taxi,” “The Cosby Show” and HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show” I was excited to see what direction his contribution would go in. I was not let down.


Here are John’s favorite BBQ joints in his words (with a little intro that I thought you’d find fun).

“I was just asked by writer Jim Shahin of The Washington Post to name my last meal. You know, as in before the last mile. That’s easy, I said. It’d be a combo plate. So, I will recreate that combo plate with dishes from my favorite BBQ restaurants. But it’s simplest to say, these smoked meats come from the most talented Pitmasters on God’s earth. So, bring on the chair, that is, if I get…

Big Bob Gibson – Decatur, AL – Chris Lilly remains the most gifted pitmaster I have ever encountered. HIs slow cooked, pulled pork shoulder remains the Mt. Everest of succulence and flavor. He’s reached that zen level of mastery with meats. He lays out the raw product on the cutting board, and these primal cuts actually speak to him. I’ve seen it. Also, the original Big Bob Gibson on 6th Ave. in Decatur, remains a cathedral of superb barbecue. Go in there at any lunch, and you’ll see all of professional Decatur sitting there, tucking into their meals, enjoying sublime ‘Q. And the gracious McLemore family represents all that is good about the South. Gracious, fun, and fantastic hosts and keepers of the flame.


Photo of Big Bob Gibson’s courtesy of Serious Eats

Franklin Barbecue – Austin, TX – That perfect balance of down home and hip. In its retro way, the hippest BBQ joint. Since he joined us as a judge of BBQ Pitmasters, I have gotten to know Aaron as a gifted, Old School-style Pitmaster. At the grand old age of 35, Aaron as evolved into a classy chef who’s driven to deliver his customers the moistest, most tasty brisket in this country. Astonishingly, the man can always be found in his own restaurant, on the serving line HIMSELF cutting meat he’d put on the pits that early morning! In addition, Aaron has a deep understanding of pitbuilding. He has truly discovered the Holy Grail of fire, smoke, and heat flow. He’s like a renaissance man of ‘Q.


Photo of Franklin Barbecue courtesy of Mark P. Schram

‘Q Restaurants – Richmond, VA – Tuffy Stone runs one of the best all-round BBQ restaurants in the country. He is meticulous about ingredients, freshness, and authenticity. Therefore, every dish at Q, including ALL the sides will always be delicious, and deeply satisfying because many dishes are crafted from actual old time recipes. I would pick the ribs and all the sides for my final meal from Q.


Photo of Q Barbeque

Follow John on twitter HERE
Check BBQ Pitmasters on Facebook HERE

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Rum Cocktails Back in Fashion

Rum is a drink that has gone through something of resurgence in popularity lately. The recent craze for cocktails, especially the mojito, has led rum to become a much in- demand spirit.

Rum has long been associated as the drink of choice for pirates and sailors. The fact that many of the world’s most popular rums are produced in Latin America and the Caribbean does give the drink a more exotic brand image. Rum became extremely popular during the 1960s thanks to the Cuba Libre (meaning Free Cuba) cocktail. This cocktail of white rum, cola and lime was one of the most popular drinks during the 60s and now that cocktails are back in fashion the demand for rum has grown once again.

Popularity of Rum
In some countries, such as the UK, rum has become one of the fastest selling spirits overtaking traditionally popular spirits such as vodka. Major supermarkets are stating that sales of rum have jumped by 22% for 2012/2013.

The white rum produced by Bacardi has always been consistently popular but now consumers are also trying dark rums in cocktails such as the Zombie, the Hurricane and yes, even the Pina Colada. Younger drinkers have given rums such as the spicy Captain Morgan a boost in popularity recently and niche rums are also making their mark.

The Best Rums
Consumers are appreciating and seeking out for high quality drinks, and niche rums are filling this demand. Dark rums, which are aged longer, tend to be of higher quality and are being sought out by cocktail enthusiasts.

Niche rums will usually come with a higher purchase price and a bottle of Apple Estate 30 Year Old will set you back around $395. If the Apple Estate 30 Year Old is beyond your price range then you could try a Ron Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva Familiar at $45 or the El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve at $92. These rums may be a little pricier but for the additional cost you are obtaining rum made by producers with hundreds of years of experience. These rums are sure to impress your friends if you are mixing cocktails at home and looking for something a bit special.

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5 Great BBQ Joint Pictures

Here are five BBQ joint pics to entice you to visit one in your neighborhood this weekend:


Photo of Lockhart Smokehouse – Dallas, TX


Photo of Nancy’s Bar-B-Q – Sarasota, FL


Van’s Pig Stands – Oklahoma


Photo of Sweet Checks Q via Pigtrip.net


Photo of Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew – Austin, TX

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What are the main options for buying a BBQ?

Even though summer’s been here for a while now, it’s not too late to start thinking about hosting a BBQ or two. But with disposable BBQs becoming a quick an easy fix for weekend dining, there are a few more options than used to be the case. Here are a few tips about the different types of BBQs on the market to help you decide which one to go for.

First of all, you should consider whether you want to make a long-term investment in your BBQ or whether you’d prefer to go for a disposable option. Recent years have seen the popularity of the disposable BBQ rocket as a more flexible, low-cost alternative during the recession. Even across the Atlantic, the UK has seen a big rise in disposable sales, thanks to the surprise heatwave enjoyed there this summer.

When it comes to which type of BBQ to choose, both have their perks. Obviously a disposable BBQ is easy to clean up after, quick to heat and, if you’re only looking to BBQ as a one-off, much cheaper than buying something permanent. They’re also portable, which is great if you’re hoping to BBQ on the beach, or if you’re heading out camping and want an easy way to heat food.

Most disposables come with a lighter paper that gets them going pretty quickly and they’ll usually burn for up to an hour. They also need to be set up on the ground as they’ll mark any surface they’re placed on. You need to be extra careful with kids around, and keep them well back from the cook area as the whole tray heats to a high level. When you’re finished with the BBQ, be sure to let it cool properly before you throw it away – the last thing you want is a fire in the bin!

When purchasing a permanent BBQ, you’ll have to decide between gas, electric and charcoal. Gas and electric heat up much quicker, but some people are convinced you can get a more authentic taste from a charcoal burner. With all three, you need to consider the extra costs to be incurred – gas canisters can be pricey as can top up bags of charcoal. However, once bought, you don’t need to worry about spending money on the BBQ itself and over time, these can work out as better value for money, particularly if you’re a frequent garden-griller in the summertime!

Really it’s about finding the right product to suit your needs, but if you’re going permanent, make an investment in something you know will last and be a valuable addition to your garden area. For the holiday crowd, or anyone who lives in the city without access to outdoor space, it may be smarter to go disposable for the time being.

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Erni Walker & Chris Cantey – Meat Week Co-Founders – My Favorite BBQ Joints – Volume 35

Every week is unofficially meat week for me, but it took two forward thinking co-workers, Erni Walker and Chris Cantey, to create an entire week long event devoted to specifically to meat, and more importantly, barbecue. Per their site, “Meat Week is a national holiday that started in 2005. Each January, for 8 consecutive nights, people across the country gather over piles of BBQ. In every participating city, there is a devoted Captain who creates the schedule of restaurants. Each city develops their own traditions, but Meat Week typically focuses on good ol’ American BBQ: Pork, ribs, brisket, barbecued chicken, and anything else you can smoke and smother in sauce.”

I had the pleasure of meeting the two of them last year at Smoke City Market and this year I plan to hit up at least three of their stops. Meat week begins Sunday January 27th in cities across the United States. If you’re reading this, you like BBQ, so you pretty much have to go to at least one night. You can find your local chapter HERE.

So here are Erni and Chris’ favorite BBQ joints in their words:

“When we moved to Los Angeles, people said there was no way we’d scrape up enough restaurants to have an entire week of BBQ. When we came up with more than enough, they said none of them would be any good. We beg to differ! Most of the BBQ on our list comes from L.A. and the surrounding areas, because even though we grew up in the south, we have felt like we hit a huge payout at castlejackpot.com with some of our favorites right here on the west coast. Very happy. (Granted, some of them are southern transplants, but still…) Meat Week and all its cross-country chapters has proven to us that BBQ isn’t relegated to one region. Where there’s a person with a meat smoker, some patience, and a special touch, there will always be great BBQ.

Mom’s BBQ House – Van Nuys, CA
The food, atmosphere, and service at Mom’s makes this our favorite in LA, hands-down. The first time we went here, our minds were blown, and we’ve never had a less-than-incredible experience. The ribs fall off the bone, the pork is amazing, the links…my god the links! This BBQ has a real weight to it, in a good way. It’s usually smothered in sauce, but somehow the flavor of the meat shines through, and the sauce becomes an aftertaste.
But fighting for the spotlight in this show, is the mac and cheese. There’s a sweetness to it that makes it totally unique. We have friends who hoard it for weeks after our visit. They even know to make excess when we’re coming. Mom and family are from Louisiana, so they put some swamp flare into the food. Greens, fried chicken, and gumbo are also menu favorites. Our group is too big to fit in their tiny storefront, so every year they open up the storage room next door and let us set up tables and chairs! It’s amazing, eating between shelves full of Crisco and cake mix. It creates a special atmosphere that no one else gets to experience, and that’s southern hospitality at its best.

Hambone’s BBQ and Po’Boys – Bellflower, CA
Last year was our first time visiting Hambone’s, and it couldn’t be more worth the drive! There is some kind of magic going on in that kitchen that we’ve been thinking about all year. The Combination Platters are the best way to experience everything here. They’re basically catering tins full of links, pulled pork, ribs, and brisket, all swimming in delicious, slightly-sweet sauce. Bring your friends, pitch in, and go to town! The meat has some very special flavors that captured our memories, but the peach cobbler was almost the most unique. It’s like the best Georgia peaches you’ve ever tasted got together with a cinnamon roll and created a delicious, gooey baby. It’s addictive. They have a big back patio with heaters and televisions, great for watching football. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, they switched on the radio and cranked some Mariah Carey slow jams. Heaven truly is a place on earth.

Kansas City BBQ Company – North Hollywood, CA
This place (formerly located in Toluca Lake) is run by brother and sister Nabeel and Shireen Kort. They’ve been at the Magnolia location for a few years now, and are constantly improving the place. The bar they added on makes it a great hangout for locals. Most importantly though, the food and service are amazing. I’ve never seen slow-cooked food move so fast! A lot of BBQ fanatics look down upon the humble sandwich, but these guys do it right: Sliced pork layered between three (three!) pieces of good ol’ white bread, stacked high and spiced just right. All of their meat has a spiciness to it that can take a back seat to sweeter sauces, but they’ve found some magical algorithm for combining sweet and spicy perfectly. The hot links get special mention here, because they up that spicy quality without sacrificing flavor.

Sonny’s Real Pit BBQ – Southeast Region
Okay, so Sonny’s is a chain. But it’s also the birthplace of Meat Week itself. Sonny’s first opened up in Gainesville, Florida, and then spread throughout the state, and eventually up through Georgia and a little beyond. Both of us grew up eating at Sonny’s once a week or more, and it really fostered our BBQ obsessions from an early age. When we met at college in Tallahassee, we both missed that warm feeling of gathering over great BBQ and bonding with friends and family. That’s a big part of what spawned the whole Meat Week idea, so naturally we began our holiday at the birthplace of our love for BBQ: Sonny’s. Although the menu is ever-expanding to include new sauces and different rubs, the sliced pork and sliced beef at Sonny’s are the standouts. They’re so tender, full of smokey flavor, and always sliced perfectly thin. Pile ‘em on the garlic bread with Sonny’s Sweet Sauce for a flavor explosion that’ll make you slap your mama. They’re experimenting with some new rubs, but their classic pork ribs have a flavorful stickiness to the bark that lingers long after they’re gone.

And the sauces. Oh, the sauces! There’s Original Mild, Smokin’, Mustard, Sizzlin’ Sweet, and the mother of all: Sonny’s Sweet Sauce. This is the sauce that haunts our dreams. Since we can’t get to Sonny’s out here in Cali, we buy gallons of Sweet Sauce from their website. It’s measured out and treasured for as long as we can make it last. It’s a holy grail constantly sitting on the counter, reminding us of what awaits us on our next trip back south.

Low Country Dining – Marion, NC
This is Chris’s father’s restaurant, which he opened in 2010 after years of making BBQ for other people. Mike Cantey has been in the restaurant and catering business with the rest of the Cantey family for decades, and BBQ’d meats have always been at the core. Western North Carolina knows him well.

Mike is inventing new types of brisket over here, including a garlic and rosemary brisket. The meat just falls apart and melts in your mouth while delivering a complex, amazing flavor that’s just outside of the usual range of BBQ tastes. His pulled pork is classic North Carolina style, with a sweet vinegar kick and just as much tenderness as the incredible brisket. All of the sides here are to die for, including the fried green tomatoes and tomato pie, made with fresh local tomatoes. An important addition and HUGE seller recently added to the menu is the banana pudding, based on Chris Cantey’s own personal recipe! Chris has been making this banana pudding for years, and we can’t keep it on the table. No matter how much he makes, it disappears in no time. Like BBQ father, like BBQ son!”

Follow Meat Week on twitter HERE
Get a cool Meat Week t-shirt HERE

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Wayne Monk and Lexington Barbecue – BBQ Joint Review

With the nights long and the earth warming up around us it’s apparent that it’s finally (and officially) grilling and barbecue season across the nation (and world). I have another great BBQ joint below, but if you’re looking to purchase a grill in the near future (and really who isn’t), you should check out the range of BBQ’s. Now on to the review of one of my all time favorite BBQ joints:

If Arthur Bryant’s BBQ was the first place I learned what real BBQ could be, then Lexington Barbecue was where I was indoctrinated into the cult of BBQ. I was changed forever.

Wonderfully, we have an incredible guest review of Lexington Barbecue by Dave Raymond from Sweet Baby Ray’s. He himself has two BBQ Joints in Wood Dale and Elk Grove Village, Illinois. It’s a bit longer than most of our reviews, but once you’ve read it, you’ll realize not only the passion Dave has for BBQ, but also what a great establishment Wayne Monk has created.


Photo courtesy of Mukur H. – Yelp

We went to meet Wayne Monk and of course eat his Lexington Barbecue. The group was Duce, my nephew and business/competition barbecue partner, Ron Nunes, our friend and competition barbecue partner, and my brother Larry, who is the chef who created Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce (and Duces’s father).


Photo Courtesy of John B. – Yelp

I had read in Mike and Amy Mills’ book Peace, Love, And Barbecue as well as John T. Edge’s Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South how great Lexington Barbecue was as well as seeing Wayne, his family, and his operation on the Food Network. We sell regional barbecue at our place and I am always interested in learning more about bbq, meeting bbq folks, and of course eating barbecue with my friends.


Photo courtesy of Buffetbuster via Roadfood.com
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Phil’s BBQ – San Diego – Photos

Here are some initial photos from my visit to all three Phil’s BBQ (Pt. Loma, San Marcos, and Santee locations two weeks ago. Official write up to follow.

Just Leave the Bones BBQ Sauce – Smokin’ Skullies BBQ

I was lucky enough to receive a sample of “Just Leave the Bones” BBQ sauce from the Smokin’ Skullies BBQ team. Here are initial photos from a 3 part sauce review that I’m going to be doing.


The bottle.


The sauce with pulled pork.


Closer shot.


The sauce with brisket.

This is hands down one of the most balanced, satisfying sauces you can find. I tried it will pulled pork, brisket, sausage, and even some secret items (to be seen later) and they all matched perfectly with this vinegar based sauce with a slight kick (not too much though). Let’s just say I am incredibly impressed by this Carolina based sauce that goes on thin enough to cover a large surface area, but with enough thickness to not be considered watery.

Purchase some for yourself HERE

Check them out on facebook HERE

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Virginia Willis – My Favorite BBQ Joints – Volume 34

I don’t know what’s harder for me to fathom. The fact that I’ve been corresponding back and forth with THE Virginia Willis for a couple of months or that she actually agreed to participate in one of my favorite features on my site, “My Favorite BBQ Joints“?

Virginia Willis is a food icon. Truly. To pin her down to just one hat would be a sin, so know that she is all at once a chef, food writer, spokesperson, and extremely prolific blogger. She also is a culinary TV producer, a professional recipe developer, and social media food authority. “Her legion of fans love her knack for giving classic French dishes a down-home Southern feel and re-imagining homey Southern favorites en Française.” She’s definitely an authority of food (more specifically Southern Food), but what makes me proud is her devotion to BBQ.


Here are Virginia Willis’ favorite BBQ joints in her words:

Current Faves:
Heirloom BBQ – Atlanta, GA
Smoky wonderful goodness. Located in the other half of a convenience store, this BBQ spot has exploded onto the ATL dining scene. It’s a perfect mash-up of hillbilly and haute cuisine. Both of the owners, a husband-wife team, have fine-dining backgrounds. Jiyeon is a trained pastry chef and Korean, so there are also Korean influences that are surprising and wonderful. It’s not fusion in the train-wreck sort of way. It’s works. The Korean Sweet Potatoes are absolutely addictive.


Photo courtesy of Becky Stein – Special

Fox Bros – Atlanta, GA
It’s the best place for Texas style BBQ in Atlanta. They like to call it “Texas with a Southern influence.” The meats are smoked over hickory and it’s nice to see the smoke when you pull up in the parking lot. They’ve got really good vegetables, and use only seasonal and local farmers. I’ve taken out of town guests here and met with great success. It’s the place for brisket in Atlanta.


Photo courtesy of Kevin Pang & Keith Claxton – BBQ Road Trip ’10

Fat Matts Rib Shack – Atlanta, GA
This is where I take the uninitiated for real Southern style BBQ. They’ve got meaty, thick, rich Brunswick Stew, one of my favorites. It’s thick enough to hold a spoon straight up. This is the close as it gets in Atlanta for a real BBQ “joint”. The collard greens are tender and suspended in smoky, salty pot likker.


Photo courtesy of Yelp

Community Q – Decatur, GA
Dave Roberts, the former chef de cuisine under Gunter Seeger now is a pit master. His attention to detail is awesome. Homemade, amazing food. No gallons of pre made corn-syrup fake smoke sauce will be found here. The pulled pork is sweet pink and smoky. He sells local seasonal vegetables out front and it’s truly a local, community place.

Follow her on twitter HERE
Catch up with her on Facebook HERE

Check out Virginia’s blog HERE

Gus’s BBQ – South Pasadena, CA – Photos

Here are some photos from my recent visit to Gus’s BBQ in South Pasadena, CA. Note I ordered the brisket without sauce as they generally cover with their signature sauce.

You can find Gus’s BBQ here:

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