A sign on the front of Bill Spoon’s announces “We’ve cooked the whole pig since 1963.” Whole pig really is a big deal. As swell as butts may be when they are slow-smoke-cooked, they cannot match the rousing diversity of hacked-up whole hog, from creamy to crunchy, which you can here have on a partitioned plate with a couple of side dishes or packed into a bun and crowned with bright, pickly mustard slaw.
Spoon’s Brunswick stew is so dense with meat and vegetables that you can clean the bowl using only a fork; and tubular hushpuppies with vivid onion punch provide cornmeal counterpoint to the spice of barbecue or barbecue-laced beans. If there is a pork-frowner at your table, Spoon’s chicken, cooked moist and ultra-tender, encased in succulent skin, is a fine alternative.
To drink: sweet tea, refilled approximately every 90 seconds by a roving member of the waitstaff. For dessert: banana pudding loaded with slices of ripe banana and streaks of cookie that had me excavating for more with every spoonful.
It all adds up to an archetypal barbecue meal, just what you’d hope for in a place that’s built a grand reputation for more than half a century. Founder Bill Spoon learned the barbecue trade from John Skinner, who learned his craft at North Carolina’s first sit-down barbecue restaurant, opened by Bob Melton in Rocky Mount in 1924.
Note: Dinner is now served Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings until 8pm.
We’ll never understand why Spoon’s isn’t included on the Historic North Carolina BBQ Trail, for this venerable smokehouse has been a South Boulevard tradition—proudly accepting only cash and checks—since 1963. Founder Bill Spoon passed away in 2007, but his family took over the business and extended the weekend hours to further accommodate the legions of Charlotte-area regulars.
This Eastern North Carolina BBQ is among the Queen City’s finest, and the requisite plate spotlights chopped pork, made perfect with liberal shakes of Spoon’s piquant vinegar sauce. The excellent BBQ baked beans are cooked with a little chopped pork for texture and smoky flavor. The mustard cole slaw is one of the best examples of such, as its tangy flavor never overpowers the crispiness of the minced cabbage. A basket of darkened hushpuppies provide the optimal starchy crunch.
Brunswick stew is an item that is always prepared differently in every restaurant, and Spoon’s version is thick and flavorful with chopped pork, corn, and tomatoes. The iced tea is deftly sweet, never sugary, and our only disappointment was the banana pudding—and only because we prefer the vanilla wafers to be pre-softened by the pudding, not crunchy as they are here.
Spoon’s Barbecue should be part of every Charlotte visit, but they’re only open for lunch until 3 p.m. Gone are the days when Bill Spoon himself manned the register and would chat with you as you paid your bill, but bottles of his fabulous vinegar sauce, cloudy with pepper dregs, are still available at the front counter to take home.