The mid-state Piedmont town of Lexington has become almost synonymous with North Carolina barbecue at its best. It’s easy to see why, thanks to a long legacy of people and places carrying on the decades-long tradition of serving up some of the tastiest barbecue and more – all with a side of Southern hospitality.
Lexington is best known for hickory-smoked pit-cooked barbecued pit shoulders and has been since the early-1900s. The pork is offered up finely or coarsely chopped or as slices – but never “pulled.” It’s typically served with “red” or “white” coleslaw and often as part of a sandwich tray or plate with hushpuppies and more on the side. The famed Lexington-style sauce is generally made of ketchup, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.
Sid Weaver was a pioneering pit master who originally barbecued on his farm for friends, family and farmhands before moving his operation to a tent at the corner of Greensboro and West Center in downtown Lexington.
Next came Will Johnson and Jesse Swicegood in the 1920s, running popular pits near Lexington’s old courthouse. Later, Warner Stamey can be credited with furthering Lexington’s status as a barbecue center, sharing his expertise with the friendly folks who opened Lexington Barbecue, Henry James, Jimmy’s, The Barbecue Center, Speedy Lohr’s, Smokey Joe’s and more.
Today, more than a dozen Lexington-area barbecue restaurants can make for a tasty three-day exploration of North Carolina barbecue at its most historic. Of course, the traditional beverage of choice at these popular establishments is oh-so-sweet tea, but you’ll also want to check out several area wineries and wine shops, as well as drinks and live music at always-rockin’ High Rock Outfitters right downtown.
Anytime is a great time to visit Lexington for barbecue but it becomes extra special each October during the city’s annual Barbecue Festival. And for those who want to see a Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned barbecue competition plan to visit in April for the city’s annual Capital City Cook-off. Fly High Lexington hosts an annual fly-in for these events with transportation to the venue.
Capital City Cook-off
101 West Center St. Extension
Opened in 1962 and is sometimes called “Lexington #1” or “The Honey Monk” – served President Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and others at a Presidential State Dinner
4014 Linwood-Southmont Rd.
Opened in 1984 and is known for its 20 oz. sirloin steak and skin sandwiches
900 North Main St.
Opened in 1955 and is known for its huge banana splits
366 Valiant Drive
Opened in the late 1960s and is the only restaurant serving beef brisket and pork
917 Winston Rd.
Opened in 2002 with a rich history in barbecue
1101 South Main St.
Opened in 1972 and was featured in several Southern Living magazine
1317 Winston Road
Opened in the 1930s as Tussey’s Barbecue, Featured in Southern Living magazine
* Lexington Barbecue, Speedy’s, Smokey Joe’s and the Barbecue Center are closed on Sundays
All tours and rates are subject to availability and change. Please contact Fly High Lexington to verify and reserve.