Host (and from the looks of in, relative newcomer to barbecue) Frank Pinello spends a Friday night at Snow’s BBQ with the legendary Miss Tootsie, pitmaster Clay Cowgill, and owner Kerry Bexley. From basting pork steaks, chicken, and ribs to picking out the done briskets to taking orders in line, he tries just about every task at Snow’s, even if very briefly. He even gets scolded by Miss Tootsie for slamming the smoker door too heavily.
Description: Frank Pinello is back in Texas with another episode of A Frank Experience. This time, he’s in Lexington, TX and is learning what it takes to make world-class barbecue for the masses at the legendary Snow’s BBQ.
Famous for their dry rub and onion-based mop, Snow’s specializes in barbecue brisket, but also makes world-famous ribs, jalapeño cheddar sausage links, chicken and pork steak. Frank works the pit all night, trying to keep up with 84 year-old pit master Tootsie Tomanetz, who’s been making barbecued meats for the people of Lexington for over 50 years. After mopping the meat, Frank tries his hand working the counter (and an electric carving knife) with the Snow’s staff to serve the lengthy line of customers who start queuing up at 8am for proper Texas BBQ.
Name: Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro Location: 4524 NC-150, Lexington, NC 27295 Order: Regular chopped tray with “extra brown” and red slaw (link to menu) Pricing: $
While my first two stops on the “Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor” were a bit mixed, my last stop unfortunately ended the mini-tour on a down note. I recall that Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro was at some point on the NC Historic BBQ Trail (which is how I became aware that there was another joint named Stamey’s) but that is no longer the case. Unfortunately, the Stamey’s in Tyro doesn’t compare in the least to the Stamey’s in Greensboro.
As a quick aside, while longtime owner Dan Stamey has been involved in a lawsuit due to similar naming, it apparently hasn’t been because of the Greensboro restaurant. In 1992, one of Dan’s other restaurants was Stamey’s Hog Rock Cafe and featured “pig-faced likenesses of Elvis, Tina Turner and The Rolling Stones” on the wall. Apparently, the name was too similar for the Hard Rock Cafe’s liking, and they sued owner Dan Stamey and forced him to change the name of the restaurant which resulted in a cost of $10,000. It was then changed to “Hog City.”
As for the barbecue, it was my least favorite of the afternoon. The extra brown on the barbecue was rather chewy and the barbecue was heavy on the dip. Curiously, no ramekin of dip was provided (the only one of the three that didn’t provide), but I wouldn’t have used it anyway.
Similarly, the hush puppies were not as successful as the previous two restaurants. I will note that this was the third different shape of hush puppy that day, with small orbs compared with the long cylinders of Arcadia Q and the more typical hush puppy shape at Tarheel Q.
One thing I’ve neglected on the past few reviews is the history and intertwining of these restaurants with other Lexington barbecue restaurants. This is worth pausing on for a bit. Dan Stamey’s father was Herman “Smiley” Stamey and the original owner of Smiley’s Barbecue on Highway 8 (which unfortunately will soon be closed due to highway expansion). The father of Roger Lohr, the former owner of Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia (now Arcadia Q), was Herman “Speedy” Lohr and trained under the legendary Warner Stamey at Stamey’s Drive-In in Lexington and Old Hickory Barbecue, also in Lexington. Speaking of Warner Stamey, there is no direct relation between him and Smiley and Dan Stamey, but there is a belief that they are distant relatives.
Stamey’s BBQ of Tyro has been in business since 1973 and was not thought to last very long in that small unincorporated area west of Lexington which for a while didn’t even have a stoplight. While I wasn’t the biggest fan that day, they have served their community for over 46 years and it doesn’t seem like that will stop anytime soon.
Name: Tarheel Q Location: 6835 West, US-64, Lexington, NC 27295 Order: Regular chopped tray with “extra brown” and red slaw Pricing: $
The second stop on the “Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor” (it’s going to be a thing) was Tarheel Q, just 9 miles away from Arcadia Q (although more directly on Old Highway 64) and also owned by Leon and Becky Simmons. Based on this visit, Tarheel Q definitely has its own set of customers, as indicated by a packed dining full of workers, locals, and maybe a few out-of-towners like me.
On that day, I wasn’t yet aware that Arcadia Q and Tarheel Q were owned by the same husband and wife duo (though looking back there were definitely clues in the logos of each as well as the use of a #GR8BBQ4U hashtag), but I also never would have guessed based on the barbecue. Tarheel Q’s barbecue was fresher and tastier than the tray that I had just had at Arcadia Q. The smoke flavor was more intense, and I preferred this pork by far. I’m curious if the barbecue at Arcadia Q is smoked on site or is perhaps trucked in from Tarheel Q (my experience that day might suggest just that, but this would be me speculating).
The hush puppies, however, were a different story. I preferred the hush puppies at Arcadia Q, though the ones at Tarheel were still above average, with the shape being more typical. As was the case at Arcadia, the red slaw was fine.
As I was leaving, the smokestacks were going full bore as more wood and pork was being added to the brick masonry pits out back. Any experienced barbecue traveler know this is a welcome scene, in the middle of the day and on this day, Tarheel Q definitely had the upper hand of the first two places I tried on the Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor.
Name: Arcadia Q Location: 8000 N, NC-150, Lexington, NC 27295 Order: Regular chopped tray with “extra brown” and red slaw Pricing: $
Monk: Lexington, NC is mentioned in some circles as the “barbecue capital of the world” with its ratio of roughly 1 barbecue restaurant per 1,000 residents. However, up to this point I’ve mostly focused on Lexington Barbecue and more recently, the Bar-B-Que Center on my barbecue visits to the city. Recently, I’ve decided to expand my horizons to see what else the other 16 or so barbecue options in Lexington have to offer. On a Friday in November, I decided to take on three Lexington barbecue restaurants on what I have dubbed the “Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor:” Tarheel Q, Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro, and my first stop, Arcadia Q.
Arcadia Q was known until recently as Speedy Lohr’s BBQ of Arcadia before owners Roger and Lisa Lohr retired earlier this year and reached out to Tarheel Q owners Leon and Becky Simmons to see if they’d be interested in opening a second location of their restaurant. Both Simmonses worked for the Lohrs approximately 25 years ago, and Tarheel Q is located just 9 miles southwest of Arcadia, just off Highway 64. The result is the now-renamed Arcadia Q.
For my tour of three barbecue joints on the Highway 150 Corridor of Barbecue, I decided to make the same order at each restaurant as a means of comparison: a regular chopped tray with extra brown, red slaw, and hush puppies. I did order a Cheerwine at Arcadia Q before deciding that would be the only soft drink order of the day because as much as I like Cheerwine, I didn’t want the empty calories along with all the food I’d be eating for lunch that day.
The hush puppies at Arcadia Q were a shape I hadn’t come across at a Lexington-style barbecue joint before. They were longer cylinders than the typical hush puppy, as if perhaps they were squirted out of an icing squeeze bag directly into the fryer (this is only my speculation). They are somewhat reminiscent of the shape of corn sticks in eastern North Carolina joints like Parker’s, though I don’t have any personal experience with those (yet). Regardless of the curiosity of the shape, these were my favorite hush puppies of the mini tour.
As for the barbecue, I didn’t get a lot of smoke on it and the temperature was slightly lukewarm. Unfortunately, the outside brown was chewy and tough and not until I dug into the tray below the top layer of outside brown did I start to enjoy the texture of the barbecue. Of all the red slaws I tried that day, none really stood out more than the other so I won’t be commenting too much on them other than the say that they did the job they were supposed to.
So my mini-tour on the “Highway 150 Barbecue Corridor” (it’s going to be a thing) was off to an inauspicious start at Arcadia Q. From here I would head southwest along the aforementioned Highway 150. Of my next two stops, one was a bit better and one was a bit worse. Which would be which? Tune in next Monday to see…