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Midwood Smokehouse Review in Charlotte: A Classic Carolina Barbecue Joint

Updated: Jul 1

What do Charlotte restaurants Mama Ricotta’s, Cantina 1511, Bad Daddy’s Burgers, Paco’s Tacos & Tequila, and Yafo Kitchen have in common? They were created by Charlotte restaurateur, Frank Scibelli. Recently, Scibelli also bought into one of the city’s hottest places, Heirloom.

Included in the impressive of list of Scibelli’s creations is one of CLT’s favorite barbecue restaurants, Midwood Smokehouse.

Scibelli’s first foray into the restaurant business was opening Mama Ricotta’s in 1992. As the chef and owner, he created a menu around family recipes and food that he enjoyed eating. He’s not a formally trained chef but instead obtained an MBA from Wake Forest University. But Sibelius is meticulous in what he does before opening a new concept. (Write about how he researches, even traveling to check out places, etc)

Since 1992, Scibelli has been involved in opening several restaurants that have been very successful. As an example, he sold the Bad Daddy’s concept for over $20,000,000 in 2016. And now Midwood is, arguably, the most successful of those concepts. With 4 locations in the Queen City, patrons have come to love the barbeque which is smoked on premised exclusively with wood. The first location was opened, in as you might guess, the Plaza Midwood area. Now Scibelli’s goal is to sell Midwood as he did with Bad Daddy’s.

While barbecue would not be Beth’s first choice of cuisine, it’s definitely near the top of my list and for our sons as well as my father and father-in-law. At an early age, I got introduced to barbecue. Our family, originally from rural North Carolina, has been here for generations. So barbecue was as commonplace to us as fried chicken and sweet tea. In my childhood, the best barbecue in Charlotte could be found at Bill Spoon’s. My dad knew Mr. Spoon and his minced pork tasted as good as Mr. Spoon was nice. Then during the first 9 years of my career, I traveled throughout the state for work. I made it a quest to eat at as many of the North Carolina’s barbecue joints as I could - places like B’s in Greenville (NC), Hursey’s in Burlington, Wilbur’s in Goldsboro, Bridges in Shelby and of course, Lexington Barbecue in Lexington.

Historically, NC barbecue came in two main styles: Lexington-style and Eastern-style. Both styles are pork but differ in the sauces used and the cut of the pork. Lexington-style, which is typically found in the western and central parts of our state, uses the pork shoulder. Its “red” sauce, as it’s typically called, has a touch of ketchup added with vinegar, pepper and sometimes other spices which can vary based on who is making it. The coleslaw is also made with the red sauce, in lieu of mayonnaise, which is why some Lexington-style longtimers called it barbecue slaw. Eastern-style, however, uses the whole hog. It’s sauce contains no ketchup - just mainly vinegar and pepper. The coleslaw is made most typically with mayonnaise. There is a very distinct taste difference between the two styles. And hundreds hours have been spent in barber shops and pig pickins’ across the Tar Heel state with people debating which style is best. Me? Well, I like them both.

While the two styles might have differed, the traditional North Carolina BBQ joint looks remarkably similar no matter where in the state it is located. Many of them were built in the 50’s and 60’s and typically have been family owned. Some type of checkered table cloths, made of plastic, often cover the tables. Walls near the cash register are usually adorned with photos of the local children’s sports teams that the restaurant sponsors. Other than pork, which comes chopped (minced) or sliced, the only other meat, if any, will usually be fried chicken. These joints do not serve alcohol, but they have plenty of Southern sweet tea. These are the type of places where you can still order tea, and they assume that you want it sweet. And that’s what most restaurants were like in Charlotte until 20 years or so ago. Dessert choices are usually limited but will almost always include homemade banana pudding.

Until 10 years ago, that would be the picture of where you might eat barbeque in Charlotte. And then came Modern Q, as a recent Charlotte Observer article called it. Mac’s Speed Shop on South Boulevard was perhaps the first of the Modern Q restaurants to open. Midwood certainly fits in this category and Jim Noble’s upcoming barbecue restaurant in conjunction with Hyde Brewery will be another.

The boys and I have eaten every variety of barbecue that Midwood offers on its menu such as the Carolina pulled pork, their award-winning brisket, smoked chicken, smoked sausages (our least favorite), and St Louis style pork ribs. Beth’s father, a lover of any meat that is burnt, loves the Burnt Ends which are crispy caramelized ends of the brisket tossed in one of Midwood’s homemade BBQ sauces. When the boys and I eat there, we like to order the Combo Platter which comes with your choice of 4 Proteins. There is a Well-Fed portion which feeds 2-3 people and the Pig-Out portion which feeds 4-5. (But when you have two tall teenage sons, who can eat you out of house and home, the Pig Out is what we order). Midwood has several tasty side dishes to accompany your entree choice. Our favorites are the Classic Mac n Cheese, Collard Greens, Creamed Corn, and Hushpuppies. For the more health conscious, there is a Hickory Smoked Salmon entree which Beth likes. And they have several salads from which to choose including a build your own option. Even a Modern Q restaurant would not be complete without Homemade Banana Pudding and another Fagan family favorite is Peach Cobbler (a la mode, of course).

So now, we invite you to try one of Midwood’s restaurants and see for yourself why it has become so successful. And we would love to hear your feedback.

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