Name: Randy’s Restaurant Date: 1/21/20 Address: 3129 US-64, Lexington, NC 27292 Order: Chopped barbecue tray with hush puppies, red slaw (link to menu) Pricing: $
Monk: Three barbecue restaurants in on this latest Lexington run, and this was the worst of the bunch. Randy’s Restaurant is on the side of highway 64 just off I-85 in eastern Lexington. While it it says on the sign above the restaurant “Lexington style BBQ” it really is more of a country style cooking diner. In theory, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have good barbecue.
…Except in the case of Randy’s, it actually does. The lukewarm chopped pork had a bad taste and no hint of real smoke. It did have a hint of something bitter and off in the after taste, and unfortunately I suspect that I may now know what liquid smoke tastes like in barbecue. This truly was one of the worst barbecue experiences I’ve had in recent memory, going back at least a couple of years.
Not much better can be said for the minced slaw or the hush puppies, which were almost certainly from frozen. I politely boxed up 90% of my food with the ready-made excuse that I was full in case the waitress inquired (she didn’t). I would promptly toss that box of leftovers as soon as I hit the parking lot.
I can’t speak to the other food on the menu, but avoid Randy’s Restaurant for barbecue. On the plus side and looking at the big picture, another barbecue restaurant down and I’m getting closer than ever to publishing my Lexington barbecue big board. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for that.
Name: Kerley’s Barbecue Date: 1/21/20 Address: 5114 Old U.S. Hwy 52, Lexington, NC 27295 Order: Chopped barbecue tray with hush puppies, red slaw (link to menu) Pricing: $
Monk: Down the road from Rick’s Smokehouse is another barbecue joint, Kerley’s Barbecue. Kerley’s opened in 1978 and certainly looks the part of a classic NC barbecue joint. Unfortunately, looks are deceiving in the case of Kerley’s as the brick pits in the back corner of the large brick building sit dormant, having long cooled.
And unfortunately, you can taste it in the barbecue that Kerley’s serves. Whatever gasser they use doesn’t impart a lot of smoke onto the chopped pork that came with my tray. As a side note, shouts to the the waitress who allowed me to order a smaller-sized kid’s tray even though she wouldn’t have realized I was on lunch #2. And this way, I didn’t have to feel nearly as bad if I were to not finish anything.
The red slaw was minced finer than I’d prefer and was on the sweeter side. A large tray of their small orb-shaped hush puppies was filled to the brim and those pups were the best ones I had that day. And the ramekin of sauce that came with the tray had a pronounced vinegar kick, even more so than a typical dip.
I’m not sure when Kerley’s Barbecue made the switch over to gas (or for what reasons), but as a North Carolina barbecue purist I certainly wish they hadn’t. When in Welcome, I’d recommend you head to Rick’s Smokehouse instead.
Videographer/photographer Tarik Sykes spends some time with rising star Tyler Harp of Harp Barbecue at his weekly pop-up at Crane Brewing in Raytown, MO (about 20 minutes outside of Kansas City). Sean Ludwig from The Smoke Sheet and NYC BBQ even makes an appearance towards the end of the video.
Description: I shot this video over 2 Saturdays visiting with Tyler at Harp Barbecue which is every Saturday from 11-Sellout at Crane Brewing in Raytown, Mo. (Unless posted they will be closed).
Tyler talks about when they started their Pop-up at Crane Brewing and hits on how BBQ is broke up into Regions and KC being a hub of the different Regions in BBQ. Also touches them making Pork Belly Burnt Ends at the Pop-up !
Monk: For this Pitmaster Profile, we are staying in Western North Carolina. Jordan Smith is a second-generation pitmaster at Bar-B-Q King in Lincolnton, who we recently re-reviewed. Much like Spencer Purcell, our last profile, Jordan is a new and different voice in North Carolina barbecue, and I hope you enjoy hearing from him.
If you know of a pitmaster who we should feature next, let us know!
How long have you lived in Lincolnton and what’s your family’s history there?
I’ve lived in Lincolnton my whole life, I was born and raised here. I only left for college where I played basketball. My dad Keith, has worked at BBQ King for 40 years. He started working for Steve (owner and founder) when he was 15 years old. Keith quickly became Steve’s right hand man and bought into ownership in the late eighties.
How did you become a pitmaster?
I started working on and off at the King at 15 years old. After college I became a full time pitmaster/manager. Barbecue has always been a passion of mine since I was a child and I was excited to dive right into the business after college. I’ve always said barbecue is a labor of love because it is not a quick process. Smoking ‘que the right way takes time but it is well worth it.
What other types of roles do you do for Bar-B-Q King?
Other roles than pitmaster/manager include social media manager and catering manager. I do a little bit of everything around here and I love it!
What is your favorite meat to smoke? What type of wood do you prefer?
My favorite meat to smoke is pork shoulder over hickory wood coals. We’ve smoked over hickory wood for almost fifty years and have always used a pork shoulder for the restaurant. Although for caterings we have smoked whole hog and briskets and I thoroughly enjoy those meats as well.
What are your barbecue influences?
My barbecue influences are my Dad (Keith Smith) and Steve Abernethy. They have taught me everything I know about barbecue. I’ve read plenty of books about barbecue but nothing compares to someone actually showing you the process from start to finish.
What is your favorite barbecue joint or style?
BBQ King is obviously my favorite joint and I love Lexington style barbecue. Pork shoulders with a tangy sauce is my go to. I have an appreciation for all styles of barbecue though and have tremendous amounts of respect for old school joints that have been in business for many years. And I also appreciate the new school barbecue joints smoking barbecue the old school way!
What is your earliest memory of barbecue?
When I was around 5 years old I can remember riding up to BBQ King in the wee hours of the morning to “help” my dad smoke barbecue, and I’ve been in love ever since. There is nothing better than that primal feeling of standing in front of a fire and smoking meat. Many employees/friends that I met at BBQ King as a child still work here to this day. Employees like Kelly Lineberger and Charlie Reep, who have been here for many years, have played a pivotal role in my life and the restaurants success.
What is the best thing about barbecue in western North Carolina?
Western NC BBQ has many great qualities but my personal favorites are the meat, sauce, and wood. The meat is usually pork shoulder or butts. The sauce has just enough vinegar with a hint of ketchup. And the wood is usually hickory or oak. These techniques are tried and true in this part of the state and I’m thankful to be a part of it.
What is a weakness or opportunity of barbecue in western North Carolina?
Weaknesses of western NC BBQ are restaurants that don’t smoke BBQ over wood. Oven baked pork is not barbecue. Another weakness is some restaurants use too much ketchup in the sauce and not enough vinegar. Barbecue smoked over live wood coals and a well-balanced sauce is a recipe for true success!
Anything else you’d like everyone to know about you or Bar-B-Q King?
My younger brother, Jared, is also a pitmaster/manager and has a passion for BBQ just like me. My fiancée, Stephanie, works at BBQ King as well. Stephanie is great with customers and she is a staple up front at the counter. Her parents (Steve and Becky Abernethy) are the founders of BBQ King. My mother, Kelly Smith, does the payroll. Stephanie’s mother (my future mother-in-law), Becky, helps decorate the restaurant for different seasons. BBQ King is family run from all angles. It is a blessing being able to work with family and share the workload. We are excited to celebrate 50 years in September 2021!
Thanks again to Jordan for his time, and if you ever find yourself in the Lincolnton area stop by BBQ King and say hi.
If you know of a pitmaster who we should feature next, let us know!