Mac’s Speed Shop lures barbecue fans to Cornelius
by Staff Writer
by Cathy Swiney
CORNELIUS – It might not be located in the most visible spot, but a quick whiff of the air on Liverpool Parkway in Cornelius gives it away.
Just follow your nose and the aroma of hickory and smoked meats to Mac’s Speed Shop, home of barbecue fare that has earned the praise and loyal following of aficionados, celebrities, visitors and locals alike.
“When people make up their minds to come to Mac’s, they’re coming,” partner David Jewell said. “It’s a destination. Great ’cue and sides, cold beer, live music and bikes. It’s a good recipe.”
Mac’s got its start in a former transmission shop in Charlotte and quickly appealed to all walks of life from bikers to bankers. It recently opened a fourth location in Greenville, S.C., and another is expected to open in August in Fayetteville.
“We say we are blue collar, white collar, no collar,” Jewell says.
No matter the demographic, the menu will appeal to a wide range of barbecue fans, whether the preference is for pulled pork, brisket or ribs and sauces that are based with ketchup, vinegar or mustard. The meats – pork, brisket, pork ribs, beef ribs, chicken and turkey – are simply rubbed with Mac’s secret blend of spices and slowly smoked sauceless at a low temperature.
“Everything is smoked in-house,” Chris Naue, general manager of the Cornelius location, said.
Naue and Jewell said the best time to feel the “Mac vibe” is on Thursday around 6:30 p.m. when bikers are there for Bike Night and a band is playing. Sundays, another night for live music, also sees lots of traffic from people coming off the lake.
“We are very kid-friendly,” Naue says. “On Friday and Saturday there are more high-chairs out.”
The space, which feels rustic with its corrugated metal accents and light wood, is divided into an ample bar at the entrance and slightly larger dining room to the side. Seating consists mostly of high-top bar tables with a few wall-hugging booths. A spacious patio also provides plenty of seating.
Don’t hesitate to start with wings, which are smoked, not fried. You can choose to coat the meaty wings in one of seven sauces. Another favorite are the spicy Tabasco fried pickles.
While waiting for your appetizer or entrée, quench your thirst with a selection from the brew menu. Mac’s has 190 beers on tap, collectively among its locations. Each one has its own selection, which changes frequently and features a number of local breweries such as NoDa Brewing Company, Olde Meck Brewing Company and Four Friends Brewing.
Like any worthy barbecue place, entrees focus on platters with choice of meat and sides. For those who can’t decide on which meat to order, opt for a combo platter, which includes up to four choices.
Mac’s serves the meat but leaves the saucing to eaters. Cartons on tables offer four flavors: western-style Red Barbecue Sauce, Mac’s original sauce; eastern-style Vinegar; S.C. Mustard Sauce; and Carolina BBQ sauce, which is a blend of red and mustard sauces.
The menu also offers a creative use of barbecue in regional sandwich favorites. The BBQ Pork Cuban sandwich brings together pulled pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, mustard mayonnaise and pickles. The Brisket Philly Wrap is made with brisket, peppers, onions and pepperjack cheese.
There is also what Jewell refers to as “Mexicue,” which includes tacos and quesadillas.
The side item roster is packed with barbecue’s best friends – baked beans, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, Brunswick stew, cheddar grits and others.
Portions are generous enough that dessert might not be an option. Still, they are tempting with choices such as banana pudding; apple bread pudding, served with whiskey sauce and vanilla ice cream; or fried apple pie, served with vanilla ice cream and powdered sugar.