Thursday, January 13, 2011


April: We first learned of this restaurant through the local coupon clipper magazine that sometimes finds its way to our mailbox. Noticing that the restaurant was a little new and located just up the way in Lake Wylie, SC, we decided to add it to our list of must visit places. Before we could even make it to the restaurant, we received a very nice email from the owner, Brian Rich. He had seen our blog and we had a mutual acquaintance with the SCBA. Brian invited us out to review his restaurant. We realized upon arrival that Brian, et. al. (Q2U BBQ team) were the 2009 winners of the SCBA Master BBQ Award! That means that they received the most points from all of the participating teams at all of the SCBA sanctioned events in 2009. This is no small feat and put us in a good mindset for sitting down at their table.

The restaurant is located just over the Buster Boyd Bridge on Lake Wylie near the NC border. It is tucked away in a little strip mall just past the T-Bones Restaurant. Just follow your nose because they smoke all of their meat on site and it is noticeable as you pull into the parking lot. The BBQ Pit hosts a small bar and just a few tables, but their take-out service is almost non-stop. Brian is usually back manning the grill/smoker and the lovely wives (Brian's and his business partner's) are hovering over the pans of macaroni and cheese and banana pudding.

The first thing I spotted on the menu was the Brunswick Stew. Being now the 3 time award winning team for Brunswick Stew, I always judge against my own recipe. I have to say that Brian's is ALMOST better. Almost, but not quite. The main difference that I noticed is that the broth of their stew is much thinner than mine. I like the thicker stew because it is more like stew than a thin soup. The next most important difference is that they use their smoked meat for the stew. This addition added so much more a good smokey flavor to the stew.
I next went for the pulled pork. It was well shredded with the bark mixed in. There was no fat or gristle in the meat. By itself, it was a little dry, but was greatly enhanced by the Original sauce. I detected a little cumin in the dry rub and the Original sauce is more tomato based.

I had to try the macaroni and cheese as my side dish, as usual. It was absolutely delicious. The pasta was mixed with a creamy white sauce that was very mild but the Cheedar cheese topping mixed with breadcrumbs was browned and crunchy around the edges. Just like I like it! For dessert we took advantage of the kids "Pig Cookie." It is a little sugar cookie that is decorated with icing and such to look like a pig face. They are super cute and made by a friend of the owners.
I have to also add that Brian and the other Q2U staff are super friendly and love to talk shop. It has been a real treat getting to know these folks through the BBQ circuit and seeing them out at some of the festivals and events this past year. We are hoping to jump on their cooking team for an event this next season. They have an excellent product and now that it is readily available to the general public along Lake Wylie, there is no excuse not to check it out!

Lane: I chose the sampler entree and I liked the savory eastern style pulled pork with small pieces of the "bark" mixed in (giving it a smoky flavor throughout each bite), but with the 1/2 rack of Baby Back ribs and the chicken breast (with the same sauce from the table also used on the ribs). How ever the flavors were present in the ribs but in almost too much of a way (a little too spicy, a little too sweet, etc.) but hey THIS IS STILL GOOD BBQ! I had my sampler with the spicy green beans (w/ potatoes) and hush puppies (when I look back at my notes I see I drew a little smiley face for the hush puppies =) )

Q2U BBQ Pit, Lake Wylie Plaza, 4052 Charlotte Highway

Lake Wylie, SC 29710 (803) 831-8883
Distance from home: 16.92 miles

Monday, January 10, 2011

Doc's Barbeque & Southern Buffet

April: For some strange reason there is a lack of good buffet BBQ restaurants in this portion of the state. We have to travel all the way to Columbia, SC for a belly-up-to-the-bar experience when it comes to BBQ. No problem; it is well within the 100 mile radius. One of our first stops was Doc's Barbeque and Southern Buffet just off of I-77 on Shop Road. We used the excuse of being on the way to visit the Lovegrove's to make a pit stop for dinner one night. The cool thing about this restaurant is that is housed in an old butcher shop. The loading dock and swinging doors are still in place but the smell of raw pork has (thankfully) been replaced by delicious smoked pork! The buffet is large and reasonably priced. It is stocked with a wide variety of side items (collard greens, mac & cheese, corn, lima beans, coleslaw, potato salad, etc.) as well as two types of barbeque and fried chicken. Much to my liking the BBQ is lightly sauced so that you can add your own flavor. This restaurant being in Columbia, mustard is the standard fare, but there was a hot vinegar choice and it was a fine sample but the mustard is king in these parts for a reason. You have to try it on the cue at least once before passing judgement. I am only a recent convert but have been pleasantly surprised by the nice flavor that it brings to decently smoked pork. The side dishes were all tasty and typical southern fare. Best part was that the banana pudding was on the buffet so dessert was included in the price. This made Lane very happy and the pudding was very good.

One of the best parts of this experience was running into a Winthrop graduate student from the School Psychology program and her fiance having dinner. They were just as surprised to see us there as we were of them but we got a good laugh out of it. Turns out, they are having Doc's cater their rehearsal dinner this coming spring. I think that that sort of review is the best of all.

Doc's Barbeque & Southern Buffet, 1601 Shop Road,
Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 799-1532
Distance from home: 76.74 miles

Judging for The South Carolina Barbeque Association

So here I am with Senior Judge Morrie Thomas the event Marshall for the 2010 Trojan Cook-Off for Anderson University's annual homecoming. This photo is of course me receiving my SCBA certified BBQ judge's apron upon the completion of its requirements to this level. This was a pretty great day for cue. In particular, I got to sit, stone faced and sober as a judge (which I am after all) at the big kids table so to speak. In other words, this was the first day my scores counted (you have to get four novice events under your belt before you become qualified to judge / have your votes count). We sit at our table, we get our score place mats (for the samples), we get our scoring sheet, we get a bottle of water, some crackers, and a few forks and napkins. We have a little bit of an introduction all around the table and then our table captain speaks.
The table captain is the person in charge of our samples and the one who makes any kind of ruling on problems or issues related to how we score the cue or the sample itself. A runner will bring the entry to the judges tent, a receiver will take the entry and mark it with a number. The sample gets taken to a judges table. The table captain will pass the entry around for appearance and aroma (we all get a peek and a sniff) and then the sample gets passed around for us too sample. We use our forks to select a generous portion which we place on our score place mat marked with the entry number. We have to judge the sample of different criteria, such as appearance of entry, aroma, tenderness/texture, taste, and an overall impression. All of these go on our score sheet where we keep score of all the BBQ Cooking Teams by number (since it's a blind competition we only go by team number no names) to stay objective. To the right and below are my sample place mat and my score sheet from one of my previous novice competitions, the Berkeley County Cook-off in Monks Corner, SC.

There is also a place to indicate any comments the judge may like to make. Overall becoming a certified judge for the SCBA has been an amazing compliment to 100 Mile Smoke and as I work my way towards Senior Judge I will continue to meet new people, eat fantastic food, and learn more and more about the process of barbecuing and competition cooking. In fact, one of the requirements is to spend time with a cook team, from start to finish (yes over night even) to get the full experience of what the competition is all about! Maybe April and I will become KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) Judges one day, but for right now I can't think of a single good reason to! I'm not knocking the KCBS, in fact I don't know enough about it to have an informed opinion, it's just that SC is my home and for right now, SCBA is providing me with everything I need BBQ competition wise, so to speak.
SCBA, South Carolina Barbeque Association

R. O.'s Barbeque

April: We owe the good people at R. O.'s a big apology. It has been over a year since we visited their lovely establishment in Gastonia, NC and we are just now getting around to posting our review. For a variety of reasons (fire at Winthrop University, finishing graduate degree, life, etc.) we got a little too busy over the past year to keep up with our BBQ restaurant reviews. While we ate plenty of delicious pork over the past twelve months and tried at least three new restaurants, we just never got around to adding it to the blog. Thanks to the first major snowstorm of 2011, we now have plenty of time to catch up!

All of that being said, let me get on with my reflections on our trip up Highway 274 to R. O.'s Barbeque almost one year to the day. It was a cold and rainy evening but this did not hamper our quest to visit this legendary restaurant. It came as a recommendation from our friend and former Jeopardy champion, Leland Graham. He and his lovely fiance, Emily, were our dining companions that night. The restaurant building is not much to speak of and we almost drove right past it. It has the look of an old 50's drive-up restaurant, minus the parking lot lights, girls on skates, and American Grafitti soundtrack. Once inside we were greeted warmly by a young staff that gave good recommendations regarding the menu items and we ordered accordingly.

R.O.'s is arguably not really BBQ, meaning that the pork is slow roasted, not smoked. It is one thing...pretty darn good. R. O's is well known for its sauce. This is also arguably not sauce rather a mixture of finely chopped coleslaw and sauce. Again, it is very good. I enjoyed a large sliced sandwich, a side of corn nuggets, and a grilled pimento cheese sandwich. The pork was very tender but all of the flavor came from the sauce. It seems to be a tomato based sauce with a little hint of spice and then the chopped cabbage. Delicious and messy.

The corn nuggets, for those less familiar with our love of frying all things vegetable related, are a mixture of cooked kernel corn and cream corn that is then battered and fried. The result is a sweet/salty nugget of corn goodness. I love these little things and enjoy ordering them whenever found on a menu.

The grilled pimento cheese was also outstanding. White sandwich bread grilled with homemade pimento cheese salad tucked inside. This is also one of my favorite southern dishes and this sandwich did not disappoint. One last word about the R.O.'s dining must complete your food order with a large Cherry Lemon Sun Drop. This drink is not widely available outside of the deep south and is all that the name promises. To balance the savory and salty meal that is BBQ and fried corn nuggets, the make-your-teeth-hurt sweetness of the Cherry Lemon Sun Drop is just the right thing.

We managed to roll our full tummies out the door a few hours later with a to-go cup of the delicious fountain drink in hand and find our way home to Rock Hill in the dark. A good dinner and good night out with friends.

R. O.'s Barbeque, 1318 Gaston Avenue
Gastonia, NC 28052 (704) 866-8143
Distance from home: 29.02 miles

Friday, January 7, 2011

Burnt ends and outside brown...... welcome back to the smoke!

The other night April and I went to Burk's BBQ in Rock Hill to visit our supercool friends Danielle, her husband Corey, and our partner in crime Erin. The most fun was from hanging wth our "peeps" of course! The other great thing? Fried Brownie Delights! Which is exactly what you would think them to be: a fried brownie covered with ice cream and chocolate sauce. And yes they are delightful. I passed by the instore smoker and spotted one of April's all-time favorites... a big tray of burnt ends! So April asked for and got a bag of the "burnt ends" to take home with us. They are sometimes called outside brown if you will, but are the burnt and over smoked outer layer of meat from the pork shoulder (really it can be a brisket, butt, or ham actually). They are very, very smokey and cary the intense flavor of the rub or the sauce used to baste the pork while cooking. The worst thing about a bag of "out side brown"? Having it in your car ride home (car's heater just pushes the intense smoke smell all around the car so your head begins to spin 0_O ) The best thing about a bag of out side brown? It's that you have a bag of out side brown! =)

April: What I find hilarious about this is that this picture looks absolutely digusting! I mean anything described as "burnt ends" and "outside brown" that is usually discarded by the restaurant cannot be picturesque, but it is beautiful to me! Burk's has good pulled pork on its own and to get to sample these tasty little pieces of bark was even better. Most places chop up a little bit of this stuff and toss it in with the other chopped pieces of more tender meat. The burnt ends do contain the most flavor but it is very concentrated and a little overpowering, hence the need to mix but I like it best all on its own. I did need an extra gallon of water intake the next day after a few bites of these ends, but it was well worth it!