North Carolina Piedmont Tour de Barbecue: Smiley’s Lexington BBQ, Lexington

After leaving Red Bridges, I drove to Salisbury and checked into the Courtyard.  I had been thinking of trying one of the barbecue places in Salisbury that cook with wood, and asked the woman at the front desk where I should go for supper.  She answered without hesitation, “Honeymonk.”  I said I’d just been there the day before.  Her second suggestion was Smiley’s in Lexington, so to Smiley’s I went.  And I’m glad I did.

Smiley’s has the austere look of a good barbecue place.

smileys sign front

You enter on the side, and pass a bench that I think would look great in our yard.

smileys pig bench

Nancy would disagree.  They also have curb service, which seems to remain popular in Lexington.

smileys curb serivce

The interior was classic barbecue place,

smileys interior counter

with an important addition: a NASCAR theme.  There were silhouettes of cars, and a poster touting the Earnhardts, #3 and #8,*

smileys earnhardt

and a memorial of Dale Sr.’s final ride, home from Daytona after the fatal crash.

smileys final ride

I liked that.  Dale, Sr., won the NASCAR Championship seven times, and is tied for the most ever with Richard Petty.  He’s from Kannapolis and his garage was in Mooresville (now the site of his Foundation), both nearby Piedmont towns.  A picture of Dale, Sr., in a Piedmont barbecue place is a lot like having a picture of Bear Bryant on the wall of an Alabama barbecue place.  It lets you know the place is connected.

I ordered a chopped pork tray with red slaw and corn sticks instead of hushpuppies.  The waitress suggested hushpuppies, but I was ready for a change.  I also ordered a pimiento cheese sandwich, because it said, “Pimento Cheese” on the menu outside and “Pimento Cheese Sandwich” on the menu inside.  You don’t have to tell me three times.

smileys tray

The barbecue was really very good.  It had a medium chop and a good, smoky flavor.  It was moist and tender, but never mushy — al dente.  The red slaw had a good tang, with just the right amount of vinegar.  It could have used just a touch more red pepper, but that’s just me talking.  Most people don’t want as much red pepper as I want.  The corn sticks were tasty.  They were very good, but not Parker’s good: three was enough.  Maybe I should have listened to the waitress.  The pimiento cheese, like all bought pimiento cheese on earth, had more mayonnaise  than I prefer, but I enjoyed the sandwich.  It was a nice counterpoint to the rest of the meal.

I liked Smiley’s a lot, and recommend it.  Go there.

And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box.  Or bookmark us and check in from time to time.  If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event).  Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome.  And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.

*Now #88, of course.

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