Monday, July 01, 2013

Lexington Barbecue

There are two main styles of barbecue in North Carolina: Eastern and Western. As I remind everyone of every now and then on this blog, I'm not a fan of Eastern. Western is still far from my favorite, but it's better. There are several differences between east and west, but as far as my tastes are concerned, the main difference is the sauce. Eastern sauce is vinegar-based; Western sauce is tomato-based, with a hint of vinegar.

So on Saturday, while roadgeeking with some friends, we stopped at ground zero for authentic Western North Carolina barbecue: Lexington Barbecue, in Lexington, NC. (Note: "Western" style can also be referred to as "Lexington" style. I've gathered that they're basically the same thing. Some may object to you calling it anything but Lexington style. Barbecue is a really touchy subject among many North Carolinians, you know. Actually, that's pretty much true in any part of the country with well-regarded barbecue.)

Normally when I go to a new barbecue place, I take a bunch of pictures of the building and food and such. Unfortunately, I completely failed this time. (What can I say? I was hungry. And focused.) Suffice to say, the building is a decent size, they almost always have a good crowd (although we were seated immediately), they're closed on Sundays (and all next week for vacation!), and the smell in the parking lot is just terrific.

So, the food. As always, I ordered a plate of pulled pork. I prefer my barbecue sweet, not spicy, which unfortunately for me is the exact opposite of how North Carolina serves it, no matter which half of the state you're in. Many authentic North Carolina barbecue joints spice the meat itself, and only expect you to need a little bit sauce. Lexington is no exception. We'll never agree on this. As far as I'm concerned, the sauce is the most important part of it all.

As for the sauce, the trademark Western/Lexington sauce is also somewhat spicy, of course. But the good news is that while I don't care for vinegar-based sauce, the Lexington sauce actually works for me, on some level. It's spicy, but not too spicy; and it only has a hint of vinegar, as opposed to being overly vinegary. And it makes the meat taste better, which is the whole point of the sauce. Still, I'd prefer it sweeter. And it should be said that aside from the extra spice, the meat itself was excellent.

But for me, Lexington Barbecue's legacy will always be this. Despite seating us way in the back, they served us our food in 2 minutes, 53 seconds, which is the second-fastest restaurant serving time of ALL time, only trailing another Western North Carolina barbecue joint, Stamey's. Ideal Hot Dog has posted the fastest serving time of the year each of the last two years, and we'll be going back there later this year, but they have their work cut out of them this year. I'm not sure they can crack three minutes.

So, anyway, Lexington Barbecue is excellent if you like the style. For me, it's probably a good once-a-year thing. Really, it's the timing ramifications that will have me coming back again. Can Lexington approach Stamey's thought-to-be-untouchable time of 1:35? Will they go below four minutes again next time? Will Ideal Hot Dog win another annual title ever again?

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