This is Part II of our story about our visit to Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, North Carolina. In case you missed it you can view Part I here.
Now I have tell you I’ve never been a fan of chopped BBQ. Growing up on pulled pork I always thought chopping was kind of a cop out. I thought it was easy to prepare and serve, easy to mask imperfections in the cooking process. Lexington Barbecue has proven to me it’s who cooks the Q that matters most. Turns out I haven’t had good chopped BBQ up until now.
From the first part of our story you’ll remember we ordered two large trays of barbecue. One was chopped. The other was coarse chopped pork barbecue. They each came with cole slaw and hush puppies. We added a side of baked beans.
Both chopped and coarse chopped pork barbecue had roughly the same flavor. The meat was incredibly moist and still steaming from being pulled out of the pit. Lexington mixes the meat with just a little of their homemade sauce when served.
The sauce is apple cider vinegar based. I’m guessing some sugar, red and black pepper were added with very little else. Mixing the hot barbecue with a little sauce departs a great balance of flavors. The pork picks up the sweetness of the cider, spice of the red pepper flakes, and earthiness of the black pepper while leaving the pig in the spotlight. Additional sauce is brought with the meat.
There was no discernible difference to me between chopped and coarse chopped other than texture. For those purists looking for pulled pork, the coarse chopped will remind you of great pulled pork. It was juicy and tender. There’s just a hint of smokiness – not overbearing yet not absent either.
I was amazed at the uniformity of both treatments. I bet if you tried to measure each piece of pork whether chopped or coarse chopped, the sizes would be identical to each piece. This could only come from years of preparing this style of cuisine and perfecting the art that is barbecue in North Carolina.
The cole slaw had the same amazing fine chop as the pork and it too was mixed with the local sauce. Sweet and tangy, the slaw like the sauce complimented the pork without overbearing it. The baked beans are just what you want for a barbecue stand: mildly sweet, supple, and served at a comforting warm temperature.
The hush puppies were straight off the farm for me. They were light and airy not heavy and dense. Corn meal is the star rather than a sweet cake like texture you often find with hush puppies. They were not too oily and greasy either, clear positioning that the barbecue was the star attraction.
Without hesitation we ordered peach cobbler for desert. This too has been perfected for decades. Described as “made from the scratch” by the server, the cobbler was so right that I swore I heard the voice of my grandmother reminding me to pull weeds in the garden. Had I tasted the cobbler first I would not have had barbecue for lunch.
The cobbler was served hot. Scooped into the bowl by a large spoon no doubt as the flaky sugar crust on top showed the mark. It was not too sweet and had a trail of cinnamon running throughout. A square of vanilla ice cream on top was more for show than it was for eating.
There is no show at Lexington Barbecue in North Carolina. This place is the real deal and lives up to all the book and TV hype it gets. They deserve all the attention.
The entire experience reminds us of family and friends, of how important it is that their memory must not be forgotten. Having had ancestors who immigrated through the Carolina’s before settling in North Alabama the food was more familiar to me than I had anticipated. There was a strong connection to the flavors and friendly smiles.
But that’s not why Lexington is getting 4 out of 4 Butts in this review. Lexington Barbecue gets 4 Butts because they know the pig is the main event and everything they do reminds you of it. For 50 years they perfected their trade and people keep coming back. You just can’t argue with that. Certain restaurants in Raleigh or elsewhere may want conduct a field trip.
LAN Rating: 4 out of 4 Butts
Don’t drive through this region of North Carolina without stopping.
Snoots up ya’ll!