Now Available: Barbecue Bros “Forefathers of Lexington Barbecue” T-shirts!

Link: Barbecue Bros Forefathers of Lexington-style Barbecue Shirt

In the spirit of the pioneers and innovators of our favorite style of barbecue, the Barbecue Bros are pleased to make available our first t-shirt featuring those men in the classic Helvetica list style. We hope that Lexington-style barbecue fans will purchase and wear this acknowledgement of history proudly. The shirts are $24.99 and ship for free if you have an Amazon Prime account.

  • Lightweight, Classic fit, Double-needle sleeve and bottom hem
  • Available in Men’s, Women, and Child sizes S-3XL
  • Solid colors: 100% Cotton; Heather Grey: 90% Cotton, 10% Polyester; All Other Heathers: 50% Cotton, 50% Polyester

Click to purchase

A brief history of Lexington-style Barbecue

In 1919, Sid Weaver set up a tent across the street from the Lexington courthouse and began selling what would later become “Lexington-style” barbecue. He was the first man to sell this style of barbecue.

Weaver later teamed up with Jess Swicegood and those two men perfected Lexington-style barbecue and helped spread the technique across the Piedmont of North Carolina. Lexington-style means pork shoulders are smoked as opposed to whole hogs because shoulders are fattier and more forgiving than the leaner hams and loins found in a whole hog and yield more barbecue. They took the vinegar-pepper sauce of the eastern part of the state and added ketchup to provide sweetness to balance it out while maintaining the tang of the vinegar.

In 1927, Warner Stamey began working under Weaver and Swicegood while in high school, and for me this is where things began to pick up. After a few years under the tutelage of Weaver and Swicegood, Stamey moved 100 miles southwest to Shelby, NC. There, he taught the Lexington-style technique to his brother-in-law Alston Bridges as well as Red Bridges (oddly enough, not related). They, of course, opened their own respective restaurants in 1956 and 1946 respectively, both of which still exist today.

Stamey moved back to Lexington in 1938 and bought Swicegood’s restaurant for $300. It was there that he taught the legendary barbecue man Wayne Monk, who went on to open Lexington Barbecue (aka “The Honeymonk”) in 1962, which just so happens to be the Barbecue Bros’ collective favorite barbecue restaurant ever. Stamey would of course go on to open Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro, where his grandson Chip Stamey still owns and operates to this day. Warner Stamey is also widely credited with bringing hush puppies to barbecue restaurants.

Much of the information above was taken from Robert Moss’s seminal book Barbecue: The History of an American Institution. If you want to read more on the history of our favorite food, I highly recommend it.

The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC

Monk: I still need to work my way through the eastern part of the state (it’s been on my to-do list for 5 years and counting…) in order to be able to make a more comprehensive North Carolina-wide list, but in the meantime here’s my list of the best NC barbecue restaurants in the western part of the state.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

10. Old Etowah Smokehouse – Etowah (review); NOW CLOSED

A few years back Old Etowah Smokehouse was part of a trend of new whole hog joints opening up outside the eastern half of the state (more on that later). The trend may have cooled somewhat since – the amount of labor involved may have something to do with that – but Old Etowah is honoring the style properly in the shadows of the Nantahala National Forest hear Hendersonville. 6577 Brevard Rd, Etowah, NC 28729 facebook.com/oldetowahsmoke

9. Barbee’s Bar-B-Que – Peachland (review)

This was my biggest barbecue discovery of 2017, a classic highway barbecue joint off highway 74 where they are slinging near perfect Lexington-style barbecue. A true hidden gem in the small town of Peachland, which is outside of Marshville, which is outside of Monroe, which is outside of Charlotte. Glenn Falls St, Peachland, NC 28133 facebook.com/Barbee’s-Bar-B-Q

8. Backyard BBQ Pit – Durham (review)

Backyard BBQ Pit gets somewhat overlooked in the Research Triangle Park area, but they definitely shouldn’t be. Which is somewhat curious, considering they’ve gotten coverage on Food Network’s “Man vs. Food”. Don’t make the same mistake as everyone else, and check them out. 5122 NC Hwy 55, Durham, NC 27713 sweetribs.com

7. The Barbecue Center – Lexington (review)

This underrated joint in Lexington often lives in the shadow of Lexington Barbecue not 2 miles away but many locals claim it to be the best in the city. I don’t personally happen to agree with them, but they aren’t necessarily wrong. 900 N Main St, Lexington, NC 27292 bbqcenter.net

6. Allen & Son Bar-B-Que – Chapel Hill (review)

When Speedy and I checked out Allen & Son in 2012, we dinged them for their ribs instead of simply focusing on the pork. This was a mistake, and the hybrid of chopped pork shoulder with eastern sauce earned 5 hogs from us on that trip while the ribs knocked the overall rating down to 4 hogs. A return trip is surely in order to properly reassess Allen & Son (add it to the list…). 6203 Millhouse Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27516 facebook.com/Allen-Son-BBQ

5. Bar-B-Q King – Lincolnton (review)

Residents in the small town of Lincolnton (20 minutes north of Gastonia and 50 minutes from Charlotte) are lucky to have had a great barbecue joint such as Bar-B-Q King serving them for the past 46+ years. This is barbecue certainly worthy of a short detour if you are on driving in 321 in that part of the state.  2613 E Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092 barbqkingnc.com

4. Stamey’s Barbecue – Greensboro (review)

One irony of the #BrooklynBBQ controversy was that the following week the ACC Tournament was being hosted for the second year in a row in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center instead of in its spiritual home at the Greensboro Coliseum with Stamey’s just across the street. While I am still in the camp that there is good barbecue in Brooklyn, there just isn’t anything that approaches Stamey’s. 2206 W Gate City Blvd, Greensboro, NC 27403 stameys.com

3. Buxton Hall Barbecue – Asheville (review)

I’ve been thinking about the whole hog from Buxton Hall Barbecue for nearly two years and can’t wait to get back to Asheville. From what I can tell though, Elliot Moss and team continue to blow it out of the water in South Slope. 32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 buxtonhall.com

2. Bridges Barbecue Lodge – Shelby (review)

I rarely make it through Shelby without finding a reason to stop at Bridges Barbecue Lodge. It might more accurately be described as more of a 1a for me behind my number 1 below, and it has yet to really let me down ever. 2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28150 bridgesbbq.com

1. Lexington Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Lexington Barbecue aka Lexington #1 aka The Honeymonk is first, my last, my everything. 100 Smokehouse Ln, Lexington, NC 27295 lexbbq.com

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off my list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo Gallery: Quick stop in Lexington, NC

Monk: Mrs. Monk was bringing a good friend of ours a quart of Lexington Barbecue on the way from Charlotte to High Point. However, we arrived in town 15 minutes before it opened, so to kill time I had her stop by Barbecue Center first. Speedy and I had previously checked out (and dug) Barbecue Center almost 4 years ago but I hadn’t had the opportunity to go back since.

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This is the first of three different signs that The Barbecue Center (or Bar-B-Q Center) has on its property.

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This is sign #2 with the classic Coca-Cola signage. Note the different spelling of “barbecue”.

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And finally, the iconic sign off Main Street that is the most well known of the 3. Perhaps one day I’ll devote a post to barbecue signage in and around Lexington.

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The Barbecue Center is True ‘Cue certified and has the sticker to prove it. I was surprised to see that they also accepted both Apple Pay and Android Pay.

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Sonny Conrad was a barbecue icon who owned the Barbecue Center and was one of the creators of the Barbecue Festival. Every year, he would present the first barbecue sandwich of the festival to the mayor of Lexington. Here are some festival posters throughout the years.

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Sonny Conrad passed away in 2013 and a plaque in his memory is near the register. It is now run by his sons and his entire family works there.

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I got a chopped barbecue sandwich for breakfast and it was fantastic and just as good as I remembered. As you can see, the meat-to-bun ratio is very favorable towards the meat.

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Then, it was onto Lexington Barbecue to pick up that quart of barbecue and side of red slaw we had promised our friends.

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The smokestacks were going full throttle at 10am on a Saturday morning, which is always a good sign.

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I stepped away from the parking lot because I had never taken a photo of the street sign on the way to Lexington Barbecue and snapped this photo on the way out.

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Finally, here’s my photo of Smokehouse Lane. Then, it was onto High Point.

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Until next time, Lexington!

Linkdown: 2/3/16

– The New York Post: “Carolina barbecue is the best barbecue”

North Carolina is where you go to get the best barbecue in our defiantly local, my-barbecue-is-the-best-barbecue-of-all land of ours. You prefer Texas, or Kansas City, or Memphis? You are entitled. And I will not throw you out of my house if you bring any of them over. But Carolina barbecue is the best barbecue.

– Speaking of NC barbecue, there’s now an app for that courtesy of Our State Magazine

– Missed this from December, but Travel  Addicts made a barbecue pilgrimage to Lexington #1

– From Garden & Gun Magazine:

– The Ballantyne location of Queen City Q is now open for dinner

– Speaking of Queen City Q, managing partner Bryan Meredith, was a guest on Charlotte Talks to discuss the local craft beer scene and why Queen City Q is boycotting Anheuser Busch InBev

– Grant of Marie, Let’s Eat! visits Saucehouse Barbecue in Athens, GA, the newest barbecue restaurant to open in town

– Kathleen Purvis from The Charlotte Observer and William Porter of The Denver Post swap notes on the cuisines of the respective cities, including barbecue

– Also, the editors from those two papers have made a beer and bison or barbecue bet on the big game

-The insurance commissioners from each state have made a similar bet as well

“If we lose, we’ll treat you to the No. 1 India pale ale in America (NoDa Brewing’s ‘Hop, Drop ’n Roll’), brewed right here.” She also agreed to send barbecue if Denver wins the Super Bowl.

– Midwood Smokehouse has a Big Game Smoker package if you don’t want to  smoke your own barbecue this Super Bowl

Linkdown – 6/30/14

Another dubious barbecue list, this time from Cheaptickets.com; the only NC city represented is…Charlotte. Wait, what? (via bbqboard)

– Daniel Vaughn gets a mention in this NPR article about the traditional method of cooking barbecue: low and slow

– WRAL out of Raleigh lists the best local beers for your July 4th cookouts and while not officially listed, it ends with a suggestion for barbecue

We really can’t overlook one of the beers in the Triangle that screams barbecue and is a staple for your grill – Fullsteam’s Hogwash. This beer was made for eating Carolina BBQ and would also make a fantastic marinade.

– A couple originally from Jacksonville have opened a new NC barbecue joint called Unkl Sid’s BBQ Shack near Pittsburgh

– A list on USA Today of best southern barbecue spots includes Big Bob Gibson’s (with a location in Monroe), Lexington #1, Skylight Inn, and Scott’s Bar-B-Que

barbecuerankings also posted a review of Midwood Smokehouse this week and generally liked what he ate; he also posted a review of Mac’s Speed Shop 

I’ve been to a number of places east of the Mississippi who put their restaurant’s reputation on the line with their brisket.  Some (4 RiversFull Service, for example) totally back up their claim with great brisket.  Others…no need to mention names…don’t quite stack up.  Midwood’s staff have spent time studying, learning and eating in Texas to learn from the masters of the craft and the results are evident as they make a quality brisket.

– For our short family trip to Atlanta this past weekend, Grant of Marie, Let’s Eat! wrote a letter to Mrs. Monk when I mentioned we may only have time to head to one barbecue spot (he also had some nice things to say about this site, which was cool). Unfortunately, we only did eat at one barbecue joint (we did some smoking of brisket and ribs on our own Saturday) but we changed it from our original plan of Fox Brothers to Heirloom Market based on his suggestion:

With this in mind, I understand that you will be visiting Atlanta this weekend. Unfortunately, Atlanta is 88 miles from Georgia’s best barbecue (Old Clinton in Gray) and 311 miles from Georgia’s second-best barbecue (Southern Soul on St Simons Island), never mind the holy trinity of joints around Athens (Paul’s, Zeb’s, and Hot Thomas), and you can’t get Columbus mustard sauce anywhere here, never mind that weird mustard-vinegar stuff that they cook the pork in everywhere around Macon, but nevertheless, Atlanta and its suburbs are home to at least eighty – that’s 80 – barbecue joints, and those are just the ones we know about. At least twelve of those will provide meals amazing enough to give anybody pause, and I assure you that many, such as Mustard Seed, Miss Betty’s, Wallace, and Speedi-Pig, will provide meals quite unlike anything any North Carolinian can get at home.

Linkdown: 4/9/14

– The first three reviews from Marie, Let’s Eat!’s epic NC barbecue roadtrip last month have been posted: Red Bridges in ShelbyWink’s King in Salisbury, and Lexington #1

– As beef prices rise, more and more Texas pitmasters are turning to pork

– Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ, Grand Champions of the 2013 Q-City BBQ Competition, is hoping to crowdsource a portion of their new food truck

– Thrillist’s list of best barbecue in Atlanta

– The latest Carolina ‘Cue Restaurant featured in Our State Magazine is Bum’s Restaurant in Ayden

– JJ’s Red Hots is having a Bacon Beer & BBQ dinner on April 24 as part of NC Beer Month

A short article on SC’s Barbecue Trail (via bbqboard)

– Mission BBQ, a military and first responder-focused Baltimore-based chain created by an Under Armour founder, opened earlier this week in Wilmington

– Another (more promising sounding) coastal barbecue restaurant, Southport Smokehouse BBQ, is opening sometime this month:

Natives of Lexington – a town some would argue is North Carolina’s barbecue ground zero – the Hemphills’ restaurant specialized in pork shoulders cooked over hickory logs “imported” from Davidson County. The pits, Elaine Hemphill said, were modeled after those at the famous Lexington Barbecue along Interstate 85 Business.

A trio of restaurateurs, Troy Knight, Jim Sparks and Ryan Salley (who will serve as pitmaster) has taken over the spot and are returning it to its roots. They’ll offer brisket, ribs and pulled pork with both Lexington-style and vinegar sauces cooked over hickory. Salley said he’ll mostly be smoking shoulders, a hallmark of the upstate variety, but would occasionally go whole hog, the more traditional method in the Eastern region.

– Scott’s BBQ is having their annual picnic on April 19 and oh how I wish I could make it back down to Hemingway for it

WFAE Barbecue story

But sauces and slaws aside, it’s the distinctive smoky flavor in that meat that draws people to old-school North Carolina barbecue. And that flavor comes from pit cooking. At the pit at one of the most popular destinations in town, simply called Lexington Barbecue, the cooking process starts at 6 a.m., just like it did 50 years ago when it opened.

The wood fire heats up to around 2,000 degrees. Then, the coals are shoveled out and spread under racks of dozens of pork shoulders. As the meat cooks, its juices and fats drip down onto the coals, creating that smoky flavor. Then it’s chopped up and served to customers….a LOT of customers.

Manager Rick Monk says, “I serve between six and eight thousand people a week, and I’m closed on Sunday…so we stay busy.”

WFAE reporter (and friend of the blog) Duncan McFadyen along with fellow WFAE reporter Marshall Terry file a report on Lexington Barbecue. 

-Monk