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Lexington, NC


ol_ironstomach
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Since it looks like Gubeen and I will be driving directly through the self-proclaimed Barbecue Capital of the World on our way to visit relatives this Xmas, a pork-fueled sidetrip seems imperative. Any particular 'que recommendations? I'm partial to dry rubbed ribs, pulled pork shoulder and tomato-based sauces in moderate amounts, but will try any barbecue of good repute...chopped, vinegar-sauced, beef or otherwise.

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A site I've read for Carolina BBQ is Holly Eats. The place that is recommended for Lexington is appropriately enough called Lexington Barbecue. I haven't actually made it to Lexington for BBQ but the recommondations for other areas of NC have proven spot on so it'd be the first place I'd try.

BTW, basically all Carolina BBQ is vinegar based sauce, though Western BBQ (which Lexington is the defining area for) has some tomato base added to the sauce and typically roasts just the shoulder as opposed to the whole pig.

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Lexington BBQ is the place to go. Best BBQ in NC. Voted on by the number of NC State Police cars you see in the parking lot at lunch time.
Ah, no! It is damned fine BBQ but might not even be the best BBQ joint in Lexington, I have one friend local to the area who claims that Cook's is the best and another who says that Smiles rules Lexington (Back Country and John Wayne's also get mentioned quite a bit). I wish that this was a problem that we had around here, but as long as we have to debate which is less crappy Urban BBQ, or Rockland's, we are screwed. For my tastes, I believe that you must travel a good deal east of Lexington to Ayden or Goldsboro, where whole hog is king, to find the very best of North Carolina BBQ.
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Any BBQ places to hit on the way from NoVA to Lexington (beside Buzz and Ned's)? I'd love to take a few days to do a "BBQ Roadtrip" with Lexington as a destination (sadly, we probably won't have the time to include Memphis, Kansas City and Texas, so those will have to wait for subsequent BBQ roadtrips).

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Any BBQ places to hit on the way from NoVA to Lexington (beside Buzz and Ned's)? I'd love to take a few days to do a "BBQ Roadtrip" with Lexington as a destination (sadly, we probably won't have the time to include Memphis, Kansas City and Texas, so those will have to wait for subsequent BBQ roadtrips).
Short Sugar's in Reidsville, NC, just across the border from Danville, VA. You might also check Stamey's in Greensboro, Jimmy's in Lexington (after you've been to Lexington #1), Bullock's in Durham (damn fine), Mountain Smokehouse in Asheville (again damn fine), Blue Mist BBQ in Asheboro on Rt 64.

If you want more, let me know. I've eaten my way across NC a couple of times listening to recommendations at truck stops and gas stations. Never been disappointed so far (and if you happen to be going to the other side of the gnat line, I can give you some recommendations for Goldsboro, Gold Rock, Little Washington, and Wilmington)

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Ah, no! It is damned fine BBQ but might not even be the best BBQ joint in Lexington, I have one friend local to the area who claims that Cook's is the best and another who says that Smiles rules Lexington (Back Country and John Wayne's also get mentioned quite a bit). I wish that this was a problem that we had around here, but as long as we have to debate which is less crappy Urban BBQ, or Rockland's, we are screwed. For my tastes, I believe that you must travel a good deal east of Lexington to Ayden or Goldsboro, where whole hog is king, to find the very best of North Carolina BBQ.

Listen to Sthitch. When he mentions Ayden he is talking about Pete Jones' Skylight Inn which Southern Living magazine a year or so ago labelled the "best bbq joint in the South." This is Hollyeats take on it: http://www.hollyeats.com/SkylightInn.htm Lexington is western Carolina q. If you do go to Lexington #1 order extra hush puppies.

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Within an hour one afternoon, I ate at both Bullocks and Allen and Son. Bullocks is, as it were, bollocks. Allen and Son is the only choice Triangle-way.
I guess it depends on which you get to first. I like Allen and Son but the last time I was there, Bullocks just satisfied that special something. I agree that Allen and Son are good, no doubt (and compared to here, BBQ heaven), I just got to Bullocks first last trip.
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I found Bullock's pork undercooked. I gather, however, that they are justly famous for other items (particularly fried items).
The hushpuppies and fried chicken are great.

Here is a quote from AOL City Guide for Raleigh/Durham: "Family-style is the only way to go at this mecca of North Carolina barbecue. Get a group of friends, and don't even crack open the menu. Just order ''family style,'' and the buffet comes to you. Bottomless bowls of barbecue, fried chicken, green beans, slaw, french fries, Brunswick stew and all the hush puppies you can eat magically appear (and reappear) on your table."

Now, I don't take anything that AOL says too seriously, but I do agree with this. Three of us spent the better part of an afternoon trying to eat the kitchen empty. Didn't work (but the 5 Tums © I took definitely did).

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I've eaten at Bullock's a number of times over the years (living in Raleigh and Durham for 6 years didn't hurt). While I love the place and eat there often, the BBQ isn't why I go. It's decent BBQ but not anything particularly special. However, the family style meal is something else. I've never ordered anything else and on any given night probably 50-75% of the people are having the family style meal. Oftentimes there's a line to get in, especially on the weekend; though it does move pretty quickly.

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Battle Lexington Pork, Round One. Your on-the-scene correspondents reporting.

Lexington Barbecue #1 struck first. You can't miss the place - it's right next to US29/70, and if you can't smell 'em, you can see at least three sheetmetal chimneys rising over the pits at the back of the building and smoking up a fury. The parking lot was packed at 6pm, although most of the people seemed to be waiting for carry-out. The coarse chopped tray holds a small pile of uniformly tan 'que, and a matching pile of "barbecue slaw", which is a sauced slaw. We chose hushpuppies for the side. The meat was dripping wet, and tasted of hickory smoke despite the uniform tan color. I found the pork flavor to be weak though, and easily clobbered by even small amounts of the house sauce (if applied). Excellent hushpuppies, but I was disappointed by the 'que.

Gubeen, bless her heart, let me drag her to a second place. That way, counting the return trip, I figure we'll get to hit at least 3 or 4 Lexington pits this week :P

Smiley's was fairly close-by on Rt 8, a bit north of Lex #1, so we backtracked and plunked ourselves down in the non-smoking section. And were rewarded with some excellent 'que. A bit less smoke flavor, but obvious smoke ring development in about half of the pieces. Moist, but not nearly as wet. Some outside bits with nice crust development, and great pork flavor throughout. Smiley's serves up a white slaw, but it complemented the meat well if eaten together. There is no bbq sauce at the table, just a small bottle of pepper sauce, but I wouldn't have sauced the meat anyway. Portions were also rather more generous. The menu also lists "skin" available two ways for a trivial supplement, but they were already sold out at 6:30.

Round One Judging Totals: Smiley's 2, Lexington BBQ 0

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On Thursday I followed Dave's lead and tried Lexington #1 (which I have been to in the past), and Smiley's (which I have not). Smiley's does win for the better flavored pork, but only by a hair. I do prefer the sweet and sour slaw at Lexington, and think that it is a very good compliment to the fine chopped pork (my preference). But what will always get me to go back to Lexington is the charming staff and the hush puppies that I have ever tasted.

All-in-all it was worth the quality time I spend with the nice Virginia State Trooper on the Lynchburg bi-pass.

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All-in-all it was worth the quality time I spend with the nice Virginia State Trooper on the Lynchburg bi-pass.
:lol:

As someone who drives to Lynchburg quite often, I've learned the hard way that the stretch of 29 from just North of Amherst through to Lynchburg is quite heavily patrolled. It used to be even worse when the speed limit was 55 the whole way through.

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Round One Judging Totals: Smiley's 2, Lexington BBQ 0

Hey, wait! You sent us to the BBQ place you gave a *zero* to? Man. OMGWTFBBQ. I'd totally not be talking to you, except that the coarse browns plate was fantastic, as were the hushpuppies. Apparently I like Lexington-style BBQ. (but I still don't like slaw.)

The parking lot was a nightmare, even at 1:15 in the afternoon in the middle of a rainstorm; we didn't even try to go in the lot but ditched the truck and trailer on the neighborhood streets up the hill. Fortunately, our friends got there 15 minutes earlier and had made it through the long line out the door to snag a booth just before we got there. The line was a fast-moving constant over the next hour.

Service was great and friendly, with frequent refills and occasional checks to make sure we had everything we needed.

And fortunately, we made it up and back with no tickets. Whew.

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Hey, wait! You sent us to the BBQ place you gave a *zero* to? Man. OMGWTFBBQ. I'd totally not be talking to you, except that the coarse browns plate was fantastic, as were the hushpuppies. Apparently I like Lexington-style BBQ. (but I still don't like slaw.)

It's true, they lost Round One. I owe them an apology for never having got around to writing about Round Two, in which we discover the secret to happiness at Lex #1. That is why I left C specific recommendations on what you four should order :rolleyes:

About 10 months later, jparrott and I found ourselves planning a trip through the same area, and it was only natural that we should try a sampling of the local wares again. I'm an on-a-whim kind of planner who hastily browses reviews in hopes that a name will ring a bell if I should see it again, but Jake - steeped in the lore of Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance - took no chances and showed up with a printed spreadsheet he'd compiled of a dozen or two 'que joints of repute within roughly 30 miles of Lexington, with names, numbers and addresses. He was Prepared.

We ate at Snook's (great 'que, middling slaw), Red Pig (meh), and Tarheel (good pig, great sauce!) before arriving at Lexington #1 nearly two hours later, our final selection for this trip. Grabbing a pair of seats at the counter, we ended up next to owner Wayne Monk and talked with him a while about the Lexington style, and in particular about why they chop when it's just the shoulder, versus the eastern Carolina whole-hog style.

There's one important phrase a visitor needs to know when ordering at Lexington #1: "coarse browns". The chopping is meant to integrate the flavors of each finished shoulder - the mild white interior meat, the crisped and partially-rendered fat, the smoky exterior, the skin. At Lexington #1 though, the entire shoulder isn't just chopped together. If you don't specify, you'll receive the blend known as the standard chop, the one I ordered on my first visit. But all of the smoke is bound up in the exterior of the meat, and ordering "coarse browns" will skew the ratios toward a fattier, smokier, more flavorful blend. The resulting 'que was superb and well-rounded in flavor, had plenty of texture, and fully addressed my previous disappointment. I've made it a point to order browns, coarse or not, on every visit since. Naturally, folks who may prefer the milder white meat of the interior can ask for theirs that way too.

Afterwards, Wayne was kind enough to give us a tour of the pits, where we met Rick, one of the two senior pitmasters. They practice the time-honored art of live ash barbecue here: a separate firebox is fed with logs to produce a steady supply of fiery embers, which are then transferred by shovel and well-practiced eye to the floors of the fireboxes under the smoke chambers. There are no thermometers; the pitmaster judges the heat and adjusts the layer of embers as needed. The boxes are huge, each easily holding 30-35 whole shoulders at a time. Yes, the 'que tastes even better pulled fresh from a well-rested shoulder!

post-710-1235975811_thumb.jpg post-710-1235975084_thumb.jpg

There's also an excellent narrated slideshow about them on the BBQ Pilgrim website.

I haven't tasted Smiley's back-to-back with Lexington #1 since learning how to order at the latter, but it'll be a much closer race next time. I still love the 'que at Smiley's though...gubeen and I polished off a couple of trays last October, and then brought a few more pounds down to her family.

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