Starting today, folks in and around Matthews have another option for barbecue.
City Barbeque opens its second Charlotte-area location Feb. 27 at 1514 Galleria Blvd., off Monroe Road not far from the Family Dollar headquarters.
This is the Ohio-based City Barbeque’s 29th location. The Ballantyne location opened in September and the restaurant plans to open two more locations in the area this year.
Before we talk about the food, let’s be clear: Nothing compares to the kind of ‘cue you can get at old shacks sprinkled around the state, like Bridges in Shelby or the Skylight Inn in Ayden. But for a chain restaurant in the city — City Barbeque is pretty darn good.
The ‘cue at City Barbeque isn’t pure N.C. barbecue. Instead, it takes the best elements of Texas, Kansas City, Memphis and, yes, Carolinas barbecue and puts all those wonderful, smoky flavors under one roof.
It may be a chain, but each general manager has a chance to put their mark on the restaurant. Shane Wolfe, who’s from the Charlotte-area, runs the Matthews location.
“This is our 29th location, and we try to make each of those locations a community location,” co-founder Frank Pizzo said. “We’re trying not to be a chain. We try to be a joint in every location and every community that we’re in.”
Now let’s talk about the meat. The pork, brisket and ribs are massaged with a secret dry rub recipe and smoked with one of three hickory wood smokers for anywhere between 13 and 20 hours. Your meat options:
– Brisket: I’m a pork man through and through, but this was the star of the show to me. Tender, smoky, juicy and delicious. Get it full-cut, with the bark and the fat included.
– Pulled pork: Again, I’m not going to compare it to the big boys of barbecue, but the pork had solid smoky flavor — and tasted especially good after being doused with some Swine Wine (Eastern N.C.-style sauce) and topped with cole slaw. (There are six sauce options at the table — from K.C. to S.C. to N.C. and beyond — so you can make the pork your own.)
– Ribs: St. Louis-style, here. Pizzo said the ribs are cooked to “bite off the bone” (as opposed to fall off the bone) and they were, with good flavor. But I would have loved for a little more tenderness.
– Turkey: It’s tasty, but if you’re ordering smoked turkey at a barbecue joint I’m judging you a little bit.
– Ones I didn’t get to try: 1/4 chicken, pulled chicken and sausage.
You can get the meat on plates or sandwiches, like the More Cowbell (brisket topped with peppers and onions, smoked provolone and creamy horseradish sauce on Texas Toast) and Lo Lo’s Pulled Pork (pork marinated in Swine Wine and topped with slaw).
There’s no shortage of side choices either, and everything is made-from-scratch daily: baked beans (swimming in a thick, sweet sauce with chunks of brisket), collard greens (with pork and swimming in vinegar), mac and cheese, corn pudding, potato salad, fries, salad, green beans with bacon, okra, and, of course, cole slaw.
And for dessert, there’s delicious banana pudding. There’s other stuff, but really what else matters when you’ve got banana pudding? (OK, the cobbler and triple chocolate cake look pretty amazing, too.)
Grand opening celebration
If you can’t make it out to City Barbeque during the week, you can head over to the grand opening celebration Saturday, March 4. There’ll be giveaways, entertainment for the kids, and appearances by Sir Purr, PurrCussion and the Top Cats.
City Barbeque will be selling T-shirts for $3 with 100 percent of sales going to Bright Blessings, as will 10 percent of all sales from opening day.
Photos: Corey Inscoe