BBQ in America has come to mean a lot of different things: in Texas they have beef brisket, in Missouri and Kansas it’s ribs, and here in the Carolinas it’s all about pulled pork. Whether it's chopped fine with a vinegar sauce on the side, pulled in large chunks and coated in SC mustard sauce, or piled high on white bread with slaw, we have it all. No matter what changes, the food scene in Charlotte endures, pulled pork is always the constant, and these seven restaurants do it best.
For Charlotte natives, this is the BBQ you grew up with and love. Family-run Bobbee O’s keeps it traditional: slow cooked pork shoulder with plenty of red pepper flakes and a Eastern Carolina vinegar sauce on the side. Take all of that and pile it on white bread and you have the quintessential North Carolina pulled pork sandwich.
Plaza/Midwood was a neighborhood in search of a great BBQ restaurant, and Midwood Smokehouse has filled that void spectacularly. They offer it all: ribs, sausage, brisket, but their pulled pork is something special, giving you that excellent smoked flavor without drying out the meat. This smokehouse has a neighborhood bar feel that leaves you feeling at home and well fed. Go straight for the South Carolina sauce with just the right balance of sweet and spicy.
The BBQ is well-prepared with an eye for every gourmand-centric detail in this sleek spaceship of a restaurant. The attentive staff will help tailor every dish on the upscale menu to fit your unique tastes. The sauces on the table range from Texas to Eastern North Carolina, serving as the finishing touch for your pulled pork platter or sandwich.
"Bikers, beer, bourbon, and BBQ" pretty much sums up Mac’s. One of their unique takes on the classic pulled pork is to turn it into one of the best tacos in the city. Topped with a creamy mayo/mustard hybrid sauce and slaw, abundant smoke flavors come forward from the first bite to the finish. It’s a lot of taco to handle, most people should be satisfied with two or three.
The Improper Pig is turning traditional BBQ thinking on it’s head using pulled pork as a canvas and sauces as the paint. This place brings in Latin and Asian influences to their sauces and presentation like the spicy Hoisin sauce that kicks in quick and keeps going. For something less intense, try the Thai vinegar sauce or the Kansas City sweet rib sauce.
Don’t let the name fool you, at Sauceman’s the pork has the leading role, and it doesn’t need a supporting actor. The folks behind this restaurant travel the country for BBQ competitions and that experience shows with their pork. The texture is exactly what pulled pork should be with the caramelized bits and cooked down fat left in, leaving you with a nice mix of greasy fat and lean meat. This pork doesn’t need sauce, and it knows it.
The puff of porky perfume you get upon entering Queen City Q is just one sign that the minds behind this restaurant know what they’re recreating in downtown Charlotte: Lexington-style BBQ, the king of North Carolina pulled pork. They proudly show off their homemade Lexington-style sauce, a blend of ketchup, vinegar, hickory smoke, and red pepper with a touch of a special blend of spices. You may be tempted to drink the sauce from the bottle, but settle for dousing your sandwich in it. The signature sauce is also a stand out, a blend of Texas-, KC, SC, and NC style sauces.
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Travis Mullis is a Charlotte native and BBQ enthusiast. He has a major in Creative Writing and Philosophy, so he naturally went into the Analytical Chemistry field. He lives near downtown Charlotte with his lovely fiancee and tyrannical cat. Follow him on Twitter @trex_mullis.
1. Bobbee O's9401 Statesville Rd, Charlotte
2. Midwood Smokehouse1401 Central Ave, Charlotte
3. Smoke Modern Barbeque7828-E Rea Road, Suite D-2, Charlotte
4. Mac's Speed Shop2511 South Blvd, Charlotte
5. The Improper Pig110 S Sharon Amity Rd, Charlotte
6. Sauceman's228 West Blvd, Charlotte
7. Queen City Q225 E. 6th Street, Charlotte
The family owned Charlotte institution Bobbee O's serves up classic, "that hit the spot" ribs and sides like mac and cheese and collard greens. Their logo, "It's all in da' sauce," is more than appropriate, for owner Bob Roberts has spent years perfecting his own blend. If you're tired of the classics, there are plenty of interesting BBQ takes like pork nachos or fries.
With pit masters working 24 hours a day, an impressive selection of house-made BBQ sauces, and plenty of moonshine, Midwood Smokehouse is certainly worth the hype. The all-wood smoker is hand crafted with hickory logs, leaving the restaurant's hunks of fresh, local meat with a perfect, smoky finish. The slow-smoked barbecue favorites range from smoked wings to brisket and salmon steaks, all drenched in the famous house sauce, and all of which can be served atop salads or slices of thick-cut Texas toast. When you've mostly removed the rib-residue from your face, following your sizable carnivorous entrée, try a pickle-back shot of moonshine to perk you back up.
This upscale casual BBQ mini chain's pulled pork and green chile mac 'n cheese haunts our dreams. It's at once cheesy, juicy, tender, and spicy and deserves to be savored.
Beers, bikes and BBQ... that's the M.O. of North Carolina based mini chain Mac's Speed Shop. Hop on your hog and chow down on hearty eats like the filling pulled pork BBQ platter with the restaurant's own Carolina BBQ sauce. When all the meat has been eaten, be sure to wash it all down with a cold pint from an extensive list of beers.
Traditional BBQ gets an inspired Asian twist at this Cotswold spot that specializes in bao tacos. If this sounds too good to be true, we suggest you run, don't walk, towards this food hybrid lover's paradise.
If you’re living in the South, one thing you must take advantage of is hickory slow-smoked pork. Get your fix at Sauceman’s, where high-quality pork is cooked to perfection and served either chopped or coarse cut. Each piled-high plate comes with slaw, hushpuppies, and a side of deep fried corn, fried green tomatoes, or any of the other savory dozen options.
Smoking is the name of the game at Queen City Q, from pork and brisket to ribs and sausage. If you can't make a call on your own, go ham and order the Q Platter with all the meat you could dream of, built for customizing with a table full of different sauces.