Smokey T's BBQ & Broasted Chicken (Trinity, NC)

Before making the long trip back to Michigan, I'm doing my best to take in as much of North Carolina's BBQ bounty as possible. The Piedmont region is loaded with BBQ joints specializing in Lexington (Western) style chopped pork. One of the newest additions, Smokey T's, opened this spring about twenty minutes from my current home. This evening, I met a good friend and Trinity resident for dinner to scope out what Smokey T's had to offer.

Despite being located on Highway 62 and a stone's throw away from Interstate 85, Smokey T's still feels like it's in the middle of nowhere. The joint is part of a small crop of new constructions nestled among acres and acres of corn fields. It appears that Smokey T's is banking on urban sprawl to reach the area and increase development. For now, however, they're going to have to rely on word of mouth to get people in the door.

Smokey T's is set up a like a typical fast food joint. There is a counter at the front of the house with a menu board above it. The exterior windows are lined with booth seating, while the interior features modern formica tables. The Google reviews  I'd read mentioned ordering at the counter, but we were directed to sit upon entering. A friendly waitress greeted us soon after. She took our orders, delivered our food and refilled our drinks despite there being an accessible fountain machine.

The menu at Smokey T's is pretty standard for the area. Pork shoulder and broasted chicken are accompanied by burgers, salads and traditional sides. I ordered a chopped pork plate (as is my custom) with fries and cole slaw (Sorry, no pictures this time).

When the pork arrived, it actually appeared to be pulled rather than chopped. It was already sauced and featured a nice mix of dark bark. Unlike many BBQ joints in the area, Smokey T's only offers one size of plate. The standard serving size is pretty substantial. It's comparable to the large plates I've ordered at other joints.

Since the pork was already sauced, it's difficult to judge for moistness and flavor. The sauce was a tangy, vinegar dip that I found to be a step above typical Lexington style dips served in the area. They also had three house sauces (hot, mild and mustard) at the table. The pork was very tender, but not the least bit smokey. With no sign of an on-site smoker or visible smoke ring in the meat, my guess is that the pork is roasted in commercial rotisserie ovens. Unfortunately, this is a common practice in the area.

The sides were very mediocre. The cole slaw was mayo based. The fries were the crinkle cut variety. I also sampled some of my daughters applesauce and Mac & Cheese. I can't recommend any of them.

Smokey T's doesn't stand out among the dozens of BBQ joints in the area. Without real pit smoked pork, I can only recommend Smokey T's chopped Q in a pinch. Topped with their good sauce, Smokey T's pork could make a good sandwhich. However, there are so many other good joints in the area. It may be worth your while to check out some others.

Uncle Kenny's Rib Rub

Some people were just Born to BBQ. Kenny Nadeau and Mike Smith, founders of Uncle Kenny's BBQ, have a lot of irons in the fire. In addition to running multiple restaurants, catering large parties, and marketing their products, they are also an award winning competition team.

Though I haven't had the opportunity to visit their restaurants, I'm fortunate enough to have enjoyed all three of their signature BBQ sauces. In addition to their Original, Spicy and Mustard sauces, Uncle Kenny's also offers a couple different spice rubs.

Uncle Kenny's Award Winning Rib Rub is a sweet and salty blend formulated specifically for pork ribs. The rub starts with seasoned salt and adds brown sugar, garlic, onion powder and a variety of dried herbs and spices. The spices are finely ground, but there is a fair amount of coarse herb flakes as well.

The rub is very aromatic. The sweet and salty elements are overwhelmed by the fragrant herbs and spices. The flavor is equal parts sweet and savory. The salt content is pretty high, but the other ingredients keep the salt from dominating the flavor.

I used Uncle Kenny's Rib Rub multiple times on both ribs and chicken. Each time I used the rub liberally to flavor the entire exterior of the meat and poultry. The spice blend was an excellent compliment to both meats. Though I was concerned about the salt content, it turned out to be fine.
The savory, salty rub also pairs well with thick, sweet BBQ sauces.

To learn more about Uncle Kenny's, take a look at their website.

Pigchaser Pineapple Mango

Pigchaser BBQ (Grayslake, IL) makes sweet, all natural sauces that are gaining recognition from some of the top contests in the country. With tomato bases and a sweet, smokey flavor profiles, Pigchaser sauces generally fall into the "Kansas City" style category. However, they've also taken a creative leap with their Pineapple Mango sauce.

The concept for Pigchaser Pineapple Mango was conceived after the Pigchaser himself took a vacation to Hawaii. While visiting the island state, he dined on pork with pineapple and mango sauce at a luau. After returning to the mainland, the Pigchaser set out to re-create the experience and flavors he'd enjoyed in Hawaii.

Pigchaser Pineapple Mango sauce starts with honey, mangos and tomatoes as its base ingredients. The already sweet foundation is enhanced with pineapple, brown sugar and maple syrup. It goes without saying that this sauce is ultra sweet. The honey is definitely the dominant flavor with the fruit acting as mild accents. There is no heat in Pineapple Mango, but there is an attempt to balance the sweetness with natural smoke flavor and savory spices.

I first used Pigchaser Pineapple Mango on spareribs and later on smoked chicken quarters. Each time, I paired Pineapple Mango with a Caribbean inspired dry rub. The sweet sauce brushed on the meat easily and left a nice glossy shine. The sauce is slightly chunky, but still presented well on both the pork and poultry.

When heated, the numerous sweet ingredients blend together. The honey flavor doesn't stand out quite as much. The sauce, however, remains incredibly sweet. It pairs very well with island inspired spice rubs.

Pigchaser BBQ sauces are always among my top recommendations. They are especially good for Midwestern palates. The sweet, familiar flavors make these top shelf products real crowd pleasers. Pineapple Mango may stray from the formula a bit, but it's still an exceptional product.

Sauced Up Smokers Firehouse BBQ Sauce

The Sauced Up Smokers are a competition team and catering company hailing from Carbondale, IL. After experimenting with a variety of commercial and homemade sauces, the guys from Sauced Up Smokers developed their own line of products formulated specifically for the competition circuit. Their sauces and signature rub (Ninja Dust) are now available to purchase.

I reviewed Sauced Up Smoker's Roadhouse Series BBQ Sauce several months ago. The sweet, Kansas City style sauce earned high marks for flavor and appearance. The Sauced Up Smokers also developed a spicy cousin to Roadhouse that they appropriately named, Firehouse BBQ Sauce.

Firehouse turns up the heat on the traditional Midwestern sauce with habaneros and cayenne pepper. The thick sauce is ketchup based and features plenty of sweetness thanks to the addition of brown sugar, honey and molasses. A Kansas City style sauce wouldn't be complete without liquid smoke. Sauced up smokers uses natural hickory flavor to balance out the sweet and spicy elements.

The heat level will get your attention, but not blow your mind. When warmed, the sauce is tamed to a pleasant medium burn. It's a sneaky heat that tickles that back of your throat and keeps you coming back for more.

I used Firehouse Sauce on smoked chicken and ribs. Each time, I warmed the sauce to bring out the full sweetness of the sugars and mellow the heat before brushing it on the meat. In addition to the exceptional flavor, Firehouse Sauce looks great when used as a finishing glaze. It's quite apparent that the sauce was developed for competition BBQ. The glossy, mahogany shine left on the ribs and poultry was certainly competition worthy.

Sauced Up Smokers have developed sauces that embody Midwestern BBQ tradition. Their rich, full bodied flavors elevate their sauces above backyard good to competition good. As much as I enjoyed their signature Roadhouse Series Sauce, I think I liked Firehouse even more. If your palate tends to gravitate toward Kansas City style sauces with a spicy kick, add Firehouse Sauce to your "must taste" list.

Pirate Jonny's Sweet Island Rub

Pirate Jonny's takes traditional BBQ rubs in a whole new direction. The Clearwater, FL company puts a Caribbean spin on it's entire line of gourmet BBQ rubs. Pirate Jonny's rubs have become favorites of tropical food lovers and traditional BBQ pit masters alike. I recently solicited recommendations for new rubs to try on The "Q" Review's Facebook page. Pirate Johnny's products were among the products suggested most often.

Sweet Island Rub is the first Pirate Jonny's product that I've had a chance to use. Sweet Island Rub is available in 1.5 oz pouches, 2.6 oz shakers or 5 oz spice jars. I used the pouch which turned out to be just enough rub for three racks of spare ribs.

Though Pirate Jonny's Sweet Island Rub is meant to illicit thoughts of the Caribbean, its ingredients are quite traditional. The rub is a brown sugar and paprika base. The standard base ingredients are enhanced with salt, garlic, chili powder and a variety of spices. The rub is red thanks to the abundance of paprika. It's also incredibly aromatic.

The flavor is equal parts sweet and salty. The chili powder and garlic give the rub depth and balance. The salt content is high enough that some caution should be used when using the rub on thinner cuts of meat. However, it's just the type of blend that I love to use on pork and smoked chicken.

I used Sweet Island Rub on 3 racks of smoked spare ribs. To stay true to the tropical theme, I paired the rub with a sweet pineapple, mango sauce. The rub was a fine compliment to the smokey pork. On one rack, I applied the rub too heavily resulting in ribs that were a bit too salty. However, when used in moderation, it was very good. It also paired nicely with the sweet, tropical sauce.

In addition to ribs, I could see Sweet Island Rub being very good on pork butts and grilled chicken. Though it paired well with a tropical sauce, the ingredients are traditional enough to work with any of your favorite BBQ sauces or glazes. It's also versatile enough to season grilled seafood and vegetables.

Pirate Jonny's made an excellent first impression on me with Sweet Island Rub. I can see why their products were so highly recommended. Whether cooking in the deep South or the Caribbean, Sweet Island Rub is a versatile rub that will suit your needs.

If you're the type that likes a taste of the islands, check out Pirate Jonny's website for a rundown of their full product listing. 

Picky Vicki Nice 'N Sweet

Picky Vicki BBQ sauces are steeped in Midwestern BBQ tradition. Each sauce is a play on the standard Kansas City recipe. These thick, tomato sauces run the gamut from sweet and mild to bold and spicy.

I previously reviewed Picky Vicki's Brazenly Bold sauce and recently got the chance to enjoy their Nice 'N Sweet recipe. Like their other sauces, Nice 'N Sweet is sold in 18 oz. glass bottles with Vicki's signature black labels. The sauce is a rich mahogany color in the bottle.

Nice 'N Sweet is ultra thick with a slightly coarse texture. The sauce starts with a tomato base and adds vinegar, natural sweeteners and a blend of savory spices. Nice 'N Sweet has a sweet, familiar initial flavor. Like most Kansas City style sauces, Nice 'N Sweet also features a smokey element and just a little bit of spice. Where the sauce breaks slightly from tradition is with its vinegar content. Nearly all BBQ sauces contain some degree of vinegar, but Picky Vicki's sauces finish with a very strong tang.

I used Picky Vicki's Nice 'N Sweet on smoked chicken. The thick sauce clung to the meat well. The sweet and tangy flavors complimented the mildly smoked poultry very well. The vinegar tang was subdued after the sauce was cooked leaving a sweet, mild finish. The one (minor) criticism that I have is the sauce's appearance after being brushed on the chicken. Rather than the smooth, glossy shine that I look for in a glaze, Picky Vicki's texture is slightly gritty. It doesn't affect the flavor, but if presentation is important, then it's something to consider.

Picky Vicki's sauces are also great for cooking. I've used the sauce in jambalaya, sloppy joes and tacos. The thick sauce mixes well into a lot of dishes. The flavors blend well in casseroles and can be used with a variety of meats.

To learn more about Picky Vicki's entire product line, check out their website.

Texas Butter Tex 'Chup

Texas Butter (Pasadena, TX) is a small, family owned company that makes some of the best jalapleno hot sauces on the planet. Their Mango and Chipotle sauces are among the best I've ever tasted. The company's committment to quality is evident in their entire product line. Their ketchup substitute, Tex 'Chup, is no exception.
Tex Chup is a thick blend of vine ripe tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. The sauce balances the sweet and salty flavors of ketchup with spicy jalapenos. The sauce is red and slightly chunky. The texture falls somewhere between ketchup and salsa. The spice level is just enough to provide that extra dimension of flavor without overwhelming the sauce.

Texas Butter Tex Chup can be used on a wide variety of savory dishes. The sauce is a great enhancement for eggs and potatoes. I love my hashbrowns with ketchup and jalapenos. Tex'Chup gives me both in one condiment.

My favorite use for the sauce is on grilled burgers. Sometimes, burgers call for a little more than standard ketchup. Tex 'Chup adds the necessary sweetness to balance the salty, savory beef. The additional element of spice is an added bonus.

Tex 'Chup is great on anything that regular ketchup can be used for. If you're looking to spice up your burgers, eggs or potatoes, give it a try. See the whole line of Texas Butter products on their website.

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