Center St Tavern & Smokehouse, Kings Mountain, NC
Barbecue restaurant doing meats right
Gaston Gazette Review by
When I first started writing this column, one of the first things I made clear was that I would not be picking the area’s “best” barbecue joint. Folks around here are passionate about their ’cue, and as I’m not a Carolina native I just don’t consider myself qualified to give my opinion on the matter.
So what was I doing at Center Street Smokehouse, at 238 Cherokee St. in Kings Mountain?
I was there because a lot of you have told me about it via firstname.lastname@example.org
, which is how I find out about all the great local places.
Center Street Tavern has been a fixture in Cramerton for a couple of years, now, and the new business in Kings Mountain has the same friendly ambience and excellent service as the original spot. I highly recommend a seat at the bar, where Cora will keep your properly chilled beer glass full and help you decide which of the tasty offerings to pick.
Speaking of the food, I’ll now dispense with further pleasantries and get right to the meat of the matter, so to speak.
The front of the menu is identical to the Cramerton spread, but turn back a few pages and you’ll get to the smokehouse menu, where pitmaster Alex Ranucci works his magic on beef and pork.
I sampled all of the meats available except for the smoked wings, and was duly impressed. I was ready to unleash all my scorn on an Italian guy from New York who presumed to make barbecue, but the facts in evidence keep me from doing so.
Let’s start with the pulled pork barbecue, the type most identified with this area. It was very tender without being gummy, and the smoke flavor was distinct, something I find hard to get in most commercial ’cue. Of the three sauces available, it’s a toss-up as to whether the vinegar sauce, with that Eastern Carolina tang, or the house sauce, a spicy-sweet concoction a cut above most others, is more appropriate.
The pork ribs hit the bull’s-eye, pulling off the bone easily without falling apart, and the house sauce is perfect atop them.
The smoked brisket was as tender as a rib-eye, but for my palate could have used a bigger dose of smoke. One of the things on which Texas briskets are judged is the smoke ring, and the one here was a bit too light. Dipped in the spicy barbecue sauce, though, it’s quite good.
And now we come to the smoked sausage. If you’re smart, you’ll stop reading right now, go get in your car/truck/horse-drawn carriage or whatever and head for the smokehouse and buy as much of the sausage as you can carry.
I am a big fan of smoked sausage, with the concatenation of meat, spices and smoke all working together to produce a finished product with as many variations as there are tumbleweeds on the Texas prairie. The sausage at Center Street Smokehouse is as good or better as any I ate during nearly a quarter-century in the Lone Star State. The meat is juicy without being greasy, the casing has a great snap, the smoke flavor is pronounced, and the spice has just the right kick.
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t get to try the smoked wings. That’s because I visited in the evening, and they’d sold out of them. This is a good thing. I would far rather be told that a place had run out of an item and hadn’t finished cooking anymore than to learn that they were madly defrosting a fresh supply.