Every now and then I look up from my plate and try to take a broader view of barbecue and other great issues. As you’ll recall, not all that long ago, Nancy and I headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a family wedding. I, of course, left a day early because driving to Charlotte means going through Lexington, North Carolina. The drive to Lexington gave me time to look at the big picture. Metaphorically speaking, that is. While I was driving I was looking at the highway and trying to find a decent radio station.
And my mind has kept wandering back to the big picture. There’s something about the name Lexington that seems to attract good, often great, barbecue. Barbecue is, of course, a distinctly American cuisine, and the Battle of Lexington inaugurated American Exceptionalism. How’s that for a pronouncement? At any rate, I’ve been struck, as I’m sure have many others before me, by the connection between great barbecue and towns named Lexington.
Regular readers also will recall that I was recently in Lexington, Tennessee, during the Great Memphis Region Barbecue Sandwich Tour. I stopped at B.E. Scott’s Bar-B-Que
and had a truly great sandwich. A half hour later, just down the road in Parsons (which I have decided is the Friendliest Town in the USA, which, for present purposes, I will place within the Greater Lexington-Parsons Metropolitan Area), I had another great sandwich at another sensational Top Place, Ramey’s Bar B Que, a monument to whole hog barbecue. You really need to go there. I need to go back.
And, of course, there’s North Carolina. Lexington, North Carolina, has fewer than 20,000 residents, but, as regular readers well know, it’s home to half a dozen truly excellent barbecue places — just look at the Campaign for Real Barbecue North Carolina page — including the great and wonderful Lexington #1.
Just type “Lexington” into the Blog’s search function for my Piedmont Tour de Barbecue, when I ate at as many barbecue places Lexington, NC, as I could try in three days (with time for meals at Stamey’s in Greensboro and the truly magnificent Red Bridges in Shelby). There’s so much good barbecue in Lexington that barbecue places in other cities advertise Lexington or Lexington-style barbecue.
And Lexington, South Carolina, is another barbecue Mecca, with Belly’s, True BBQ, Hite’s, Hudson’s, Hudson’s Smokehouse Express, Jackie Hite’s, and a whole bunch of Maurice’s in or near Lexington — in Lexington County, at least — all listed on the excellent True ‘Cue website. I bow my head in shame that I haven’t taken a barbecue eating trip there. Soon. This year.
Think of Texas. Lexington, Texas, only has 1,282 residents, or 1/22,387th of the Texas population. Still, the best brisket in all of Texas is cooked by the wise and wonderful Ms. Tootsie Tomanetz at Snow’s in Lexington, Texas. The Texas Monthly usually names Snow’s the best in Texas and thus, with the deep-seated humility for which Texans are famous, the best barbecue in the world. The James Beard Foundation has said grace over Snow’s. And Snow’s made the best brisket I had during my multi-month long tour of Texas barbecue places (using the clever disguise of a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Baylor Law School). After extensive research at home and abroad, I will not dispute that it has the best brisket in the world — not that I’ve stopped looking.
Things do taper off some after that. Lexington, Kentucky, has the Wagon Bones Grill, a True ‘Cue place, and the Blue Door Smokehouse, which misses True ‘Cue certification because gas kicks in if the temperature of the wood fire gets too low, but which tastes good and smoky, as discussed here. No less an authority than Hal Kirtley tells me their barbecue tastes very good. I wish they’d just shut the gas off.
There are a couple of barbecue places in Lexington, Virginia, but neither has tempted me. Perhaps I should give them a try, one of these days. It’s only about three hours away. But then once I got there, I’d only be another three hours from Lexington, North Carolina, so why bother? There are only a couple of hundred people in Lexington, Georgia, and few more in Lexington, Alabama, and Lexington, MS, all of which seem to be disappearing. Neither Arkansas, Florida, nor Louisiana is blessed with a Lexington. Perhaps each of those states should pick a town, one that has promising barbecue, and rename it Lexington. If you name it, they will come. The spirit of ’76 will animate them, raise them to greatness. Maybe.
If any of these deprived Lexingtons do pick up that gauntlet, let me know. Meanwhile, go to the nearest “established” Lexingtons near you and have a great meal.
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