GA Pig, Brunswick, GA

GA Pig, Brunswick, GA

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gary Lee's Market, Brunswick, GA

This is the kind of place the locals know about and unassuming storefront that does little to hint at the greatness inside. We stopped in for lunch yesterday and made our way to the deli counter in the back, where we made our choices from the display case, which holds enticing cuts of smoked brisket, sausage, chicken and ribs. Even the cheeseburgers looked good. Pulled pork is also available but held in a hotel pan behind the counter. One thing Mim really likes about this place is that you order by the pound, so you can try many different things without overdoing it. We split a 1/2 rack of ribs, some smoked sausage, a couple wings each, and a side of baked beans, and took our treasure to one of the tables.

These ribs are some of the best we've had...meaty and juicy with a pronounced smokiness. They smoke over pecan and oak here, and the result is barbecue nirvana. Neither of us cared for the sauce much, which tasted like overly sweet smoked ketchup. However, this does little to detract from our opinion of this place, as the ribs are so delicious they need nothing on them. The sausage was as good as the ribs...perfectly smoked and perfectly were the wonderfully spicy chicken wings. We had read from a reviewer that the brisket was not to be missed, so we went back for more and tried that too. He was right. We shared a brisket sandwich, it was juicy and tender with a bit of bark included to give us a bit of the smoky rub. We both liked the baked beans too, which were simple and delicious, not too sweet with plenty of pork bits in them. In an area with more than its share of great barbecue, Gary Lee's Market stands out.

Southern Soul Barbecue on St. Simons Island

We often visit this area of coastal Georgia, and made our way here this week to partake of the great barbecue and beautiful sights this part of the country offers. Southern Soul was definitely a destination for us, and we're happy to see them thriving on lovely and historic St. Simons Island.

The vibe here is more hipster than divey, but still very casual. Their menu is large and varied, with ribs, Boston butt, whole chicken, turkey, sausage and wings all making their way into the smokers stationed in front of the restaurant. The woman behind the counter was helpful and patient...she could tell we were newbies, and volunteered info on what their bestseller is (pulled pork), as well as what Guy Fieri had when he visited (ribs). We both went straight for the Southern Soul Sampler, which gives you the choice of two meats, Brunswick stew and one side. The pulled pork and ribs are always our first choices at any barbecue place, and we both went for them with sides of collard greens, baked beans and coleslaw.

We get why the pulled pork is so popular, as it's juicy and tender, with a faint smokiness. There are 4 sauces to choose from on the table, and we both liked the NC style vinegar sauce on the pulled pork. Mim is going to just go right out and say this is the best pulled pork she's ever had. The ribs were somewhat less of a hit. Although far from bad, they lacked juiciness, and did not inspire the same passion that the pulled pork did, with more of a charcoal taste than a smoky flavor. The collard greens were spicy and possibly a little too sweet, and the baked beans were very good. We didn't care for the slaw with its preponderance of  chile powder, which overpowered all other flavors. Greatness is adding seasonings to elevate the ingredients and the cooks here sometimes get in the way.  All the sides we tried suffered from a little too much interference with the slaw and greens being the worst offenders of the three we tried.  Three of the four sauces impressed us as both fun delicious, with only the SC Mustard sauce failing to interest us. Both the Hot & Spicy and the Sweet Georgia Soul sauces were complex and tasty, and we detected mustard in them both, especially the Hot & Spicy, which could easily stand in for the SC Mustard sauce, and was delicious on both the pulled pork and the ribs. The vinegar sauce here would make any North Carolinian proud.

Southern Soul is a great barbecue spot, and we'll return to try the smoked sausage, Brunswick Stew and brisket. Check out their website,, which has a great community page, with links to fun and interesting things in the area.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Music Man Barbecue

We really like South Carolina style barbecue, and The Music Man in Monck's Corner, about 40 minutes from Charleston, does it up right. While there are only a handful of reviews for this place on line, they're all fairly glowing with praise. We even read one that compares this place in quality to Sweatman's, a comparison we can neither refute nor second, as we made the pilgrimage there last night only to find them closed for the Thanksgiving weekend. Drats. Anyway, we drove over to The Music Man in the charming village of Monck's Corner for lunch today and enjoyed some very good barbecue.

Barbecue in the Carolinas means chopped pork. Often places will use just the shoulder, but they smoke the whole hog here...just the way God intended, according to their website. We are definitely for the whole hog approach to barbecue, as it produces incomparable juiciness and flavor. The Music Man is a buffet (they seem to really like their buffets in SC), and you get some wonderful sides with your meal here. Today the choices were lima beans, okra with stewed tomatoes, candied yams, mac and cheese, creamy coleslaw and potato salad. The mac and cheese and candied yams were off the hook, and we both liked the slaw. They offer chopped pork done in two sauces, vinegar and the traditional South Carolina mustard barbecue sauce, plus broiled chicken, ribs and cracklins. I fully expected to like the mustard sauce, but took some of the vinegar sauced pork too, and this was great. You can top your 'cue with more sauce at the end of the line, and I really like this vinegar sauce. There was something about it that made me want more...just delicious. The ribs were tender enough, but we weren't bowled over by them. We wouldn't go back for them, but we liked the chopped pork and the sides enough to return. To finish your meal, do not overlook the bread pudding. It rocks. They put raisins and apples in it, and it has a wonderful brown sugar flavor. Yum. 

Lexington Barbecue, Lexington, NC

Lexington Barbecue has been serving smoked pork shoulder in this location since 1962. We'd say they have it down. It says it all on their menu: "We use pork shoulders only. They are cooked about 9 hours over hickory and oak coals. We salt the meat before cooking but we do not baste. This is the true Lexington Style Barbecue." What they've created for our enjoyment is a barbecue that's very simple in style; pork shoulder chopped coarse or fine, depending on your preference, and dipped in the quintessential vinegar and pepper "sauce", which is more of a barbecue bath, used both as flavoring agent and meat moistener. On many barbecue blogs that categorize the two distinct styles of North Carolina 'cue, Lexington or Western NC style barbecue is said to use ketchup or tomato in the sauce, but at this particular restaurant the chopped meat arrives at the table swimming in a pool of broth that is slightly sweet and vinegary, spiced with cayenne and black pepper. We had read the reviews before our excursion here, and knew to ask for the brown, or bark, of the meat...the slightly charred exterior, which lends such flavor to the whole. I like it chopped coarsely, so asked for "coarse chopped brown". The chopped barbecue plate comes with slaw, fries and hush puppies; I asked to substitute baked beans for the fries, and this was no problem. Doug had the large chopped barbecue tray, as he wanted more meat. The tray only comes with the slaw and hush puppies, not the fries. The coarsely chopped brown is a mix of deliciously caramelized bark and moist meat, just slightly smokey, with a good pork flavor. The coleslaw is interesting...what they call red slaw here, which refers to the color of the vinegar based sauce the cabbage is in, not the color of the cabbage itself. We both like this slaw very much. Like the barbecue broth, it's a little sweet and a little spicy, with a nice vinegar bite. The hush puppies are little torpedo shaped morsels, smaller than the ones we've had elsewhere. Doug thought the size went against them, as the interior tends to be a bit creamier when they're a little larger, as they don't dry out. I was more fond of them than he, and appreciated the perfectly fried quality they had...there was not a speck of grease in the cardboard container that held them. We both liked the baked beans very much, which were simple and just a little sweet. The portions here are not impressive, and Doug could have eaten another serving of the meat right there. My more modest appetite was appeased. One thing I like about this barbecue is that it doesn't leave you feeling like you've eaten too much of a bad thing. There's no heavy, overly sweet, thick sauce to load you down, and the vinegar slaw is light and refreshing. As we talked about it in the car after leaving, we agreed that we don't find this barbecue particularly cravable for some reason, but if we lived here, we'd be dining at Lexington Barbecue often.