Plan a Flavorful Lexington Barbecue Tour

The Piedmont city of Lexington has become one of North Carolina's essential stops for barbecue. It’s easy to see why, thanks to a long legacy of people and places carrying on the decades-long tradition of serving up some of the tastiest 'cue and more – all with a side of Southern hospitality.

Lexington is best known for hickory-smoked pit-cooked barbecued pig shoulders and has been since the early 1900s. The pork is offered up finely or coarsely chopped or as slices – but never “pulled.” It’s typically served with “red” or “white” coleslaw and often as part of a sandwich tray or plate with hush puppies and more on the side. The famed Lexington-style sauce is generally made of vinegar, ketchup, sugar, salt and pepper.

Today, nearly a dozen Lexington-area barbecue restaurants can make for a tasty three-day exploration of North Carolina barbecue. Of course, the traditional beverage of choice at these popular establishments is oh-so-sweet tea or Cheerwine, but you’ll also want to check out wineries, wine shops and live music venues.

Day 1: First Tastes of Lexington Barbecue

You’ll want to arrive by lunch and head to either The Barbecue Center or Lexington Barbecue – or both. Open since 1955 and featuring pit-cooked ‘cue, The Barbecue Center also features barbecue chicken Wednesday to Saturday only, plus hugely popular – and huge – banana splits and homemade banana pudding. Lexington Barbecue first opened its doors in 1962 and is often referred to as “The Honeymonk” (in honor of founder Wayne Monk) or “Lexington No. 1” by locals. The barbecue is pit-cooked and the sandwiches are legendary.

Lexington Barbecue

Next, check into the Holiday Inn Express overlooking Childress Vineyards. For dinner, head to Smokey Joe’s Barbecue, which opened in 1972 and serves pork barbecue sandwiches, salads and dinner plates. Barbecue chicken is only available Thursday to Saturday. After dinner, consider dropping into High Rock Outfitters, where live music is featured several nights a week, for a great nightcap.

Day 2: More BBQ & Cheers to North Carolina Wine

The complimentary breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express is tasty, but today is meant for eating more ‘cue and visiting several local wineries. For a taste of more Lexington barbecue history, it’s hard to beat Speedy’s Barbecue during lunch service. This popular destination originally opened as Tussey’s in the late 1930s and became Speedy’s in the early 1960s. Like several other area barbecue restaurants, Speedy’s offers fun and friendly curb service. If you’re visiting Lexington on a weekend, other Friday or Saturday possibilities that are closed on Sunday include Stamey’s Barbecue and TarHeel Q.

For a brief break from Lexington-style barbecue, you’ll want to enjoy an afternoon of North Carolina wine, thanks to Davidson County’s location at the southern gateway of the famed Yadkin Valley wine region. Childress Vineyards back by the hotel is a good place to start, thanks to NASCAR team owner Richard Childress’ world-class wines, a gift shop and the award-winning Bistro restaurant. Other area wineries on the Southern Gateway Wine Trail include Junius Lindsay Vineyard, Weathervane Winery and Native Vines Winery. Lexington also features Wine Sellars, a great wine shop, and Bull City Ciderworks with 16 cider taps.

Childress Vineyards

There’s more ‘cue on the menu at Backcountry Barbecue, which is known for its pit-cooked barbecue, “skin” sandwiches, barbecue chicken and 20-ounce sirloin steaks. Then, there’s likely more live music at High Rock Outfitters.

Day 3: A Final Lunch

After a leisurely morning, it’s time for a final Lexington lunch. But you’ll want to keep in mind that many barbecue joints are closed Sundays. A final lunch option is Jimmy's Smoke House for burgers or beef brisket, or homemade soul food at JJ Mama's, where collard greens, hush puppies and fried chicken are some menu favorites.

Updated January 5, 2024
About the Author
Cele and Lynn Seldon

Cele and Lynn Seldon

Cele and Lynn Seldon miss the sunsets and walks on the beach in Oak Island, where they basked in the North Carolina sunshine for 15 years.

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