I’ve wanted to visit Lexington Barbecue for years. Every book I’ve read about BBQ or television program that pays homage to Q mentions this place. It is supposed to be the epitome of North Carolina style barbecue nestled in the center of the state in the town of Lexington right off of Interstate 85 (that’s “business” I-85).
Here pork is finely chopped after smoking in hickory for many hours. They’ve made it the same way for over 50 years. Only pork is offered as barbecue although there are burgers and other assorted items for kids or locals who just want fresh hot food.
The food is served on paper – paper trays, paper plates, and paper cups. This place is built around simplicity. So simple that any server near your table will make sure you’re doing fine, fill your tea, or order more Q.
It’s very evident this is a barbecue place as soon as you see it. The restaurant is a white barn like structure with a large brick pit house attached in the back. Seven, count ’em, seven smoke stacks rise above the pit house. Three of the stacks were churning magic smoke when we arrived.
The smell of a smokehouse is evident as soon as you step out of your car. Even if the wind is blowing with you the aroma is very thick in the air. Just the sight of the ground – overflowing parking lot, big white dining hall, brick pit, and rolling Carolina hills – are enough to convert any person to the Carolina style before tasting.
Excitement not contained we took a look behind the pit house and inside. Inside pork shoulders were coming out of the pit and being prepped for orders. One gentleman was pulling hot shoulders apart as if the flesh were melted butter. Around back cords of hickory were stacked. Wood debris lay everywhere.
We were fortunate when we entered the restaurant to have a table with no wait. There were very few in the place. When we departed a line of at least 50 people stretched out the front door to the side of the building.
The restaurant is totally old school: wood paneling and simple tile flooring. Porcelain pigs adorn wooden mantles on the wall in addition to old pictures of Lexington and I assume the patriarchs of the business. Concrete cinder blocks in some parts of the restaurant were painted glossy white. And they were clean as a new fallen snow!
The menu was simple too. BBQ can be ordered by the “plate” or “tray”. Trays were large or small. Pork was chopped, coarse chopped, and sliced. Trays come with slaw and hush puppies. French fries are added to the Plate.
I remember my grandmother in North Alabama making pork skins in a cast iron skillet. She would call them “cracklin’s” because of the sound they made when they cooked. Fried in corn oil the skins were a treat!
The pork skins at Lexington are amazing. It’s hard for me to put into words what the taste is like. Imagine concentrated pork flavor deep fried and crispy like a thick cut chip. Lexington’s skins are smoky so the skins are smoked pork to the extreme. I kept a few pieces to tuck into my pillow case.
And onto my pillow I must go. You see, I’m still so excited to have eaten here I’m breaking this review into two parts. Yea I know, I don’t do this for a living and it’s only BBQ. But with so little love in the world, just allow me to relive Lexington one more post please?
Have no fear, most of part 2 is written. Stay tuned for the second post.
Until then… Snoots up!