Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lexington Barbecue Gets Straight Outta Compton

Lexington Barbecue 
10 US Hwy 29 70 S
Lexington, NC 27295
(336) 249-9814

When God was handing out teeth to all us humans, He neglected to give me a sweet tooth.

Instead, I got two salty teeth.

I'm not saying God made a mistake. 

After all, I was lucky enough to get a full set -- unlike some poor folks in West Virginia.

But it's no exaggeration to say I'd rather people sing happy birthday to me around a bag of potato chips than a cake.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that I like North Carolina-style barbecue.  A lot.

I like the saltiness.  I like the smoked pork.  I love the way the heat from the red pepper flakes work with the vinegar to dance on my tongue.

In fact, North Carolina-style barbecue may just be my favorite food in the world.

Despite all that, I had never been to Lexington Barbecue.

If you travel and know anything about barbecue at all, you have to be living under a rock not to know about this restaurant.

It has been featured on the Food Network, makes all the "Top Ten" barbecue lists, and is virtually always the only representative from North Carolina.

I may have a chip on my shoulder, but I believe this is because some folks are North Carolina-style barbecue bigots.

I think they look down on this particular regional variation.

It's too hot for some.  Too tangy for others.  Others think it's not sweet enough.

So whenever I see one of these lists, I think to myself the authors just included Lexington Barbecue because they think North Carolina-style barbecue HAS to be represented.

They need a "token."  They need an affirmative action pick.

So naturally, walking into Lexington Barbecue, I had some questions about the place.

Did Lexington Barbecue sell out and cater to Da Man to get on these lists?

Was dey house barbecue?

Or did Lexington Barbecue make it out of 'cue Compton and into the Big Time by sheer will, determination, hard work and flavor?

Well, I was about to find out.

It was late Friday afternoon when I arrived at the restaurant -- after the lunch rush, but before the dinner crowd.

At that point, only about a quarter of the tables in the restaurant were filled.

I was happy about that.  Suit 69 likes eating at good places, but he doesn't like dealing with huge crowds.

The very friendly waitress walked over and handed me a menu.

While looking it over, I couldn't help but notice there was no sauce choices on the table.

You were going to get their one sauce and either like it or not.

That's a good sign, I thought.  We gots North Carolina-style barbecue militants up in here!

You could get their barbecue sliced, chopped or chopped thickly.  I opted for the thickly chopped version.

The dinner also came with a choice of hush puppies or rolls, so I opted for hush puppies.

It didn't take long at all for my food to arrive, which was great.  I was starving.

My first bite was of the hush puppies.  They were nice and crispy and had good flavor.

The second bite was of the slaw.  It wasn't the mayonnaise-based white slaw most folks are used to.
Instead, they serve North Carolina red slaw, which is vinegar-based and bites you back.

Third, I tried a fry.  It tasted like a fry.

Then I had a sip of sweet tea before I dug into the barbecue.

Since North Carolina-style sauce is very thin, it doesn't coat meat.

Instead, it gets absorbed.

For that reason, the chunks of barbecue on the top of my plate were the least likely to have much sauce flavor, so that's where I started.

For that first bite, I just wanted to taste the meat.

It was great.  It had a solid smoke flavor -- but not too much.  It wasn't dry either.  It was just about perfect.

For the second bite, I mixed the meat up in the sauce.

It was awesome.  It had a touch of heat, a nice vinegar tang and was just salty enough to bring out the smoky pork flavor without killing it.

I couldn't help but beat back a smile.

Yeah.  Lexington Barbecue deserves it's place on those lists.  What's better is that they got there staying true to NC 'cue.

I'll admit they've got street cred with this North Carolina-style barbecue lover. 

They ain't sold out to Da Man, so count Suit 69 in as a fan.

I finished my meal as slowly as I possibly could to savor every last bite and walked up the cash register to pay.

While I was up there, I asked for a shirt.  "That'll be $7.00," the lady behind the cash register said.

$7.00!   Wow. 

For the folks out there that haven't been to Lexington Barbecue yet, next time you're cruising down I-85 in North Carolina, stop at Lexington Barbecue.

You'll be glad you did -- and I bet you'll be walking out with a shirt too.

Rating:  Bought the Shirt!

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