JODI HELMER IS A NORTH CAROLINA-BASED FOOD WRITER WHOSE WORK HAS APPEARED IN
HEMISPHERES, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER, FARM LIFE AND AMERICAN WAY, AMONG OTHERS.
The issue wasn’t just a lack of great barbecue, it was a lack
“North Carolina has been famous for barbecue, but
Charlotte was left out of the conversation,” says Utt at Queen
City Q. “When we opened in 2012, there wasn’t much barbecue
in Charlotte. The scene has exploded over the last five years, and
Charlotte is starting to get more recognition.”
In Charlotte, the options range from small independent
barbecue joints, where pulled pork is served on paper plates,
to upscale concepts taking an elevated approach to the iconic
dish and chain restaurants serving up barbecue from multiple
regions, Texas to North Carolina.
Reed believes that the “international house of barbecue”
approach of some restaurants, allowing customers to mix and
match cuts and meats and sauces, is problematic for the identity
of North Carolina barbecue. “The result is barbecue from
nowhere, and it encourages the view that a thick, red, sweet sauce
is required if a dish is to be called barbecue,” he says. “Memphis,
Austin and Kansas City—and, for that matter, Lexington, North
Carolina—are barbecue meccas because they cook a distinct
local style.” Charlotte, Reed believes, lacks its own style.
But a growing local culinary scene that includes a devotion
to barbecue will help put Charlotte on the map, according to
Sauceman’s Gray. “You’re never more than a couple miles from
a barbecue restaurant anywhere in Charlotte,” he says. “People
are passionate about it, and know that if you want the real deal,
North Carolina is the place to get it.”
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ABOVE: The ribs at Sauceman’s are served with traditional sides such as potato salad.