If you’re having trouble finding Belmont Charlotte’s new barbecue restaurant, just follow your nose. It will lead you to Sweet Lew’s BBQ, which opens Wednesday to the public with wood-smoked meats and sides made up of all the staples you’d expect.
The daily Lexington-style chopped barbecue will include all-natural North Carolina pork shoulder, dry-rubbed ribs and smoked chicken. Try their Alabama Chicken, marinated with house-made pickle juice brine, house-made dry rub and Alabama white sauce. Other meats include brisket, fried fish, prime rib, hash, and fried chicken at least once a week.
Sauces are all homemade as well and are meant to go with certain meets. The vinegar-based sauce is meant for pork, the mustard-based for brisket, the sweet barbecue sauce for ribs and the Alabama white sauce for chicken. Of course, any sauce can be used on any meat (our favorite was the white sauce — on everything).
Daily sides include collards, baked beans, mac and cheese, Carolina boiled potato, cornbread — and even boiled peanuts. Don’t forget to save room for dirt pie or banana pudding. All of the food is made on site.
Located at the corner of Belmont Avenue and Harrill Street, owners Laura Grice and Lewis Donald converted an old gas station and car repair center into the neighborhood’s latest lunch and dinner spot — open daily except for Mondays.
The all-wood Myron Mixon smoker has no gas or electric assist. “We’re cooking with wood consistently all night long,” Donald said. He is manning the smoker 18 hours a day right now — and he’s not even sleeping on site.
It’s all in the name of uncomplicated, good barbecue, he said.
“When you think about it, it’s simplicity. It all sounds hard and glamorous, but it’s simple when you think of collard greens versus asparagus mousse. I’ve been down that road in my career and I’m over it,” said the former corporate executive chef of Reid’s Fine Foods. He also worked at Carmel Country Club and Charlotte Country Club. “For 15 years, I chased James Beards and Michelin Stars. That’s not what I want anymore. We want to cook good food for everybody.”
There’s definitely room for the hip and trendy in the future, he said. They’ll eventually experiment with smoked shrimp, salmon, prime rib and meat loaf sandwiches. But ultimately? “We’re just trying to do what barbecue is. It’s not all that fancy stuff.”
Grice said the restaurant is eco-friendly, including details such as recycled paper towels and compostable straws.
Although they are hoping for and expecting lines out the door, there’s also room to sit and stay for a while: USB ports are installed under the bar in front of one of the garage windows.
Games on the outside patio will invite family fun with Connect Four, Dominos and the typical restaurant kid-pleaser: crayons and paper.
Sweet Lew’s will join next-door neighbor Siggy’s Good Food and a future animal hospital in Belmont Charlotte’s creation of a walkable corridor, offering neighbors places to visit, relax and enjoy local fare.
Sweet Lew’s brought Siggy’s employees trays of food last weekend, so they could sample the brisket, ribs and chicken. “It feels like family,” Grice said. Neighbors have popped into the restaurant, checking in to find out when they will be open and welcoming the restaurateurs to the neighborhood.
Grice said that when Donald first brought her to the location, she knew it was perfect for their vision. “It felt like this is what would happen back in the day — someone selling barbecue out of their garage,” she said. “We didn’t want to be in SouthPark. We didn’t want to be in Uptown. We wanted to be part of the community — this is a fabulous neighborhood.”