Name: The Barbecue Center
Address: 900 N Main St., Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Chopped pork plate with fries, slaw, hush puppies and a Cheerwine (link to menu)
Monk: On our way to fly out of Greensboro for our annual guys trip, Speedy and I took the opportunity to check out a joint in Lexington that is on the NC Historic Barbecue Trail but which neither of us had been to – The Barbecue Center. I personally must have passed within a half mile of it literally hundreds of times heading to and from Charlotte without knowing it was there. Nevertheless, I was excited.
Speedy: Like Monk, I had never been though I’d heard tale of some locals claiming it as their favorite joint in town, which in Lexington is a big deal. (I later found out the reason I never went growing up: when telling Mama Speedy about my lunch locale, she replied with a scoff, “why’d you go there? Monk’s is right around the corner.”)
Pulling in, things looked really good, as there’s a large smokehouse outside and piles of hickory wood. The large smokehouse was not active upon our noon arrival. Additionally, there was hickory wood outside of the kitchen in the main building, which was going, as there was a strong, glorious smoke smell present as we entered the building.
Monk: In addition to the smell, you could see thin veil of smoke wafting in the dining room, so I was definitely encouraged. We grabbed a small two-person booth as the lunch rush started to come in and before too long the waitress had taken our order. As is standard, we each ordered a chopped pork plate (with extra outside brown) that came with fries, slaw, and hush puppies and of course, a Cheerwine to top it all off.
Speedy: The meal looked fantastic – exactly as a barbecue meal should. I bit into the pork and noticed a definite smoke flavor. It was also perfectly tender. I think my biggest problem was with the dip, which seemed a little heavy on the ketchup, making it sweeter than I like.
Monk: The outside brown was very present in the pork, which I agree was very good. The oblong hush puppies were really good and almost as sweet as I like them to be, though not quite. The red slaw wasn’t quite as tangy as I normally like, and I know Speedy had some issues.
Speedy: My love of red slaw is well documented around these parts, but again, the dip really held it back for me. The cabbage was chopped perfectly, but I was just overwhelmed by the sweetness of the dip. Was it better than mayo based cole slaw? Of course. But it just wasn’t up to what I expected in the town of Lexington.
Monk: All in all, I was glad we were able to finally check out The Barbecue Center. It’s former owner Sonny Conrad (who recently passed away in June) was a barbecue icon and was one of six restaurant owners who started The Barbecue Festival in Lexington, the largest one-day festival in the state of NC. Conrad was so iconic, in fact, that he always presented the first barbecue sandwich of the festival to the mayor of Lexington. As for the food itself…
Speedy: It was very good. In fact, if The Barbecue Center were in Charlotte, I’d probably go eat there all the time. But it’s not in Charlotte, and there’s a higher standard in Lexington. At the end of the day, Mama Speedy was right – why waste your time when Monk’s place is just around the corner?
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 Hogs
Pork – 4 Hogs
Sides – 3.5 Hogs
Overall – 4 Hogs