Last weekend, I took a little BBQ road trip up to Lexington from the Charlotte area. I’ve heard so much about Lexington style BBQ, but never actually experienced it!
Where else to try Lexington style BBQ than at a place named Lexington BBQ! I searched Google and Yelp for the best reviews in Lexington, and this place was very popular. Lexington BBQ has been featured in USA Today, Huffington Post and more.
About BBQ in North Carolina
I am a Georgia boy, born and raised. I was brought up with sweet, thick BBQ smoked with sweet fruit wood. Us Georgians like it thick and sweet! When I moved to NC, I discovered the BBQ restaurants had mostly vinegar-based sauces. After trying it for the first time, I was hooked! North Carolina as a state is well-known for it’s BBQ and its deep history.
As I settled into North Carolina, I started hearing about Eastern style and Western style BBQ! As an outsider, I thought this meant East Coast vs. West Coast at first! Wrong! Eastern Carolina and Western Carolina have their own distinctive styles!
Depending on who you speak with, one is superior to the other. For me, I enjoy both styles. For the North Carolinian, it depends on where in North Carolina they were born and raised! Taking a look at this map, you can see North Carolina is deeply divided when it comes to BBQ! I live in the Charlotte area, and we’re very close to the cutoff line for the styles. Unfortunately, there aren’t hardly any good, long-standing BBQ joints in the area.
As a North Carolina BBQ newbie, I initially thought the tomato region meant thick sauce! Wrong again! The Western North Carolinian still loves his vinegar, but with a touch of ketchup! While the Eastern Carolinian is strictly vinegar-based when it comes to BBQ sauce.
About Lexington BBQ (the style)
After asking around, I learned that Lexington style BBQ is the most popular in Western North Carolina. Lexington style BBQ uses a red sauce made with vinegar, ketchup, pepper and some spices. In comparison to Eastern style BBQ, Lexington style BBQ sauce is a slightly thicker and redder.
Lexington style usually means the shoulder portion of the pig, while Eastern North Carolina BBQ is popular for it’s whole hog approach.
No matter where you are in North Carolina, it seems pork is ALWAYS chopped and not pulled! When eaten on a sandwich, coleslaw is a must. When the chopped BBQ pork is served on a tray, the coleslaw is served as a side.
Lexington style also has its own coleslaw style! Some call it “red slaw”, others call it “BBQ slaw”. Red slaw is flavored with its ketchup and vinegar BBQ sauce, which gives it a red color. The taste is tangy, and may have a kick depending on the recipe. I can tell you, this Georgia boy loves the red slaw!
About Lexington BBQ (the restaurant)
At Lexington BBQ, I ordered the “thick chopped” plate, with red slaw and fries. The thick chopped plate provides thicker chunks of meat. As with any BBQ restaurant, my first bite is always without the sauce. In the first bite, I could taste the seasoning and the hickory smoked flavor! There really was a lot of flavor in that bite, and I was immediately impressed!
With the Lexington style BBQ sauce, the pork tasted even better! It provided a tangy and spicy flavor, mixed in with the hickory flavored meat! What really impressed me the most was that the meat was still moist and juicy. There are too many BBQ restaurants out there serving dried out pork!
The BBQ sauce was a little spicier than I normally like, but it was manageable with a glass of sweet tea!
As for the restaurant itself, you can tell it’s a staple in the local community. There were several elderly folks there, and it was crowded. Hint: If there are elderly folks eating at a restaurant, it’s going to be good! The interior was basic, which is what I like in a BBQ restaurant. It’s simple, and comfortable. Admittedly, I’m not one to go to restaurants because of its ambiance, unless I’m on a date night with my wife! Otherwise, just give me some good BBQ!
Lexington BBQ, the style AND the restaurant, really delivered! I can’t wait to hit the North Carolina BBQ trail and get to the next one!