Lexington, North Carolina - Barbecue
Lexington, NC BBQ Festival
Vinegar Based Sauce
Enjoying the Barbeque
Fried Apple Pies
Folks in North Carolina are pretty serious when it comes to barbeque. You'll find slow-cooked, pit pork restaurants all across the state, but Lexington reins supreme. In fact, you'll see signs saying "Lexington-style" barbeque even when you're not in Lexington. The barbeque from Lexington REALLY is that good.
Lexington is a small town located off I85 and near the middle of the state both long and side-ways. Though there are only 20,000 residents in the town, they have 20 restaurants serving barbeque.
The barbeque from Lexington is different from barbeque in other parts of the country. The meat (pork) is slow cooked and then usually chopped (though you can generally get it sliced as well). The sauce is vinegar based and has seasonings including some red pepper. It's a thin sauce with a nice kick.
Lexington barbeque is served with a bun (or white bread) and with slaw. There are a variety of different slaws ranging from the traditional mayonnaise-based white slaw to a spicy red barbeque slaw. Most people eat the slaw with the meat sandwich-style. A common side dish included is hush puppies. These are small cornbread pieces fried crisp and dipped in butter. The story behind the name is that cooks on the trail would fry these up and toss them to the traveling dogs to keep them quiet.
Lexington is a great stop for anyone traveling along I85. The historic town is slow paced and very friendly. The Bob Timberlake gallery is fun to visit. Bob's the artist who does beautiful house/garden scenes. If you check out his art, note that he always has light in at least one window. He was adding his welcoming home window light in his paintings long before Motel 6 started "leaving the lights on."
The best time to visit Lexington is during the annual barbeque festival. This festival is ranked one of the best in the nation. It's always in October—mid to late in the month. Exact dates are available at the Lexington online home page or by calling 336-248-3950.
The highlight of the barbeque festival is, of course, the barbeque. The local restaurants get together and make up tons of barbeque. There are several barbeque tents scattered through town, but they all have the same recipe. This is the official festival barbeque. It's neat to try the festival meat and then hit a restaurant or two for different variations. In Lexington, all the barbeque is first rate.
In addition to barbeque, the festival includes all sorts of other taste treats. One of the best things served up are the fried apple pies. They are old style like my Grandma used to make.
Another neat offering are the dips. Various venders have dips made up to try out. I don't even like dip that much, but I found a spicy dip that made me a convert. I bought enough packs to last the year and will restock this October.
While you're enjoying your barbeque sandwich or a snack, find a seat and soak up the entertainment. They have music going all day. Bluegrass and southern gospel are sprinkled in with rock and kid music. There are 5 stages, so it's non-stop fun from morning to late afternoon. It's a good introduction to the local music styles.
Kids (and adults) enjoy the various games and educational booths at the festival. These vary from year to year, but they have things like pig races, pig sand sculptures, bicycle stunt shows, and a lumberjack show. It's non-stop fun with events going on up and down the street. Be sure to grab a schedule and pick out some events to watch or take part in.
Since the Lexington BBQ festival is in October, it's a great place to do Christmas shopping. There are so many unique items that you don't see in the stores. My boss does Christmas programs at the local schools, and he's also the announcer for the college football games. I found a tie that had footballs wearing Santa hats. My boss loved his Christmas tie, and a lot of people asked where I found such a cute tie.
My boys were thrilled with marshmallow shooters. These are PVC pipes put together so that you can insert a miniature marshmallow and then blow that at friends. All the neighbor kids enjoyed those, and I am still finding marshmallows in strange places around the living room.
If you happen to collect pig memorabilia, then you'll also find loads of cute pig items including the official festival shirts.
The Lexington Barbeque is always on one of the last two Saturdays in October, so it's close to my birthday. We count the trip as part of my celebration and mark it as one of our yearly traditions. It's one of our favorite family outings, and something we look forward to all year.