‘Cue the Flavor! Lexington Barbeque, NC

Chopped 'cue and slaw flanked by hush puppies and pork skins

Oh, the sweet and sour sacredness of Lexington-style barbecue! Forget the sloppy sauced stuff from out West that ends up as much on your lap as on your waistline. This North Carolina speciality, celebrated annually at The Barbecue Festival of North Carolina, is the refined lady of this nation’s sprawling barbecue family. (The pork skins also pictured above, however, are another story.)

A recent trip to NC found me roadside at Lexington Barbecue, a place so popular that out-of-towners I met admitted to carting away carloads of ‘cue-to-go (chopped BBQ weighs in at $10 a pound, whole nine-pound pork shoulders roughly $45). From lunch onward, the parking lot is packed, as are the two simple dining rooms that serve up the succulence under homestyle fluorescent lights.

What exactly is the mouthwatering all about?

Lexington-style barbecue hails exclusively from smoked pork shoulders and is prepared in a base of ketchup, vinegar, and each chef’s special seasonings. As Lexington Barbecue’s menu explains:

[The pork shoulders] are cooked about nine hours over hickory and oak coals. We salt the meat before cooking but we do not baste. This is the true Lexington Style Barbecue.

My NC native pals instructed me to get a “chopped” ($5.90-$9.50) vs. “sliced” ($6.20-$10) BBQ tray. The cardboard trough arrived packed with minced meat and a helping of the region’s famous “red slaw” (a vinegar, not mayo, base). With a steamed burger bun in one hand and a spoon in the other, I layered the items and took a bite.

Ooooo.

Each mouthful marries crunch with chew, sweet with sour, OM with G. What impressed me most about this meal was its decorum and restraint; the meat is simply and subtly flavored. The endless flow of hush puppies (included with the price of your plate), fantastic fingerlings of cornmeal, found the perfect ratio of crispy, fried outside to soft, cakey inside. These might be the best hush puppies I have ever eaten.

So one would think you’d stop there, right? Slurp it all down with a glass of sweet tea or cheer wine (cherry-flavored soda) and call it a night?

Heck no! Because I had yet to have the best part of any meal – the Divine Excess. I think of this as the moment when you could say no to an epiphany on a plate, your sides full and aching. But why on earth would you? To do so would be an attack against bliss!

Thus, the basket of pork skins. Yes. PORK SKINS. You know I don’t joke about delicious fried things, and when I saw these on the menu, I swear a piece of my soul snipped up and flew to heaven to thank the angels. For $2.80, you get a side of deep-fried sheets of the epidermal exterior that tops the puffy fat rinds normally found at gas stations. It comes with a dipping cup of vinegar and the crispy skins soak it up without losing their crunch.

Now, if only a gym membership came with the meal.

For More Information

Lexington Barbecue
10 US Hwy 29 70 S Lexington, NC 27295

(336) 249-9814