Rick’s Smokehouse, Lexington, North Carolina

I really enjoyed my lunch with family at The Pit in Raleigh, so I took my time edging toward Lexington. It was a solid two hours before I got to Rick’s Smokehouse.

Have you heard of Rick’s Smokehouse? Neither had I. Lexington #1, the fabled Honeymonk, justly grabs the spotlight, followed by the Barbecue Center and Smiley’s and Cook’s and Speedy’s and Speedy Lohr’s and the other 10 or so barbecue places in Lexington. No one has heard of Rick’s. But there it is, a barbecue place that everyone would have heard of in most cities, a place with much better barbecue than some more famous places.

Enter the Barbecue Bros. One of the Bros, Monk, decided to try every barbecue place in Lexington with a regimen of three lunches a day. Homeric. He liked Rick’s, and the Bros put it at #3 in the super-competitive Lexington Rankings. That’s tall cotton. From Monk’s report, I gleaned that Rick’s probably serves True ‘Cue — barbecue cooked exclusively with wood and wood coals — and that it merited recognition from the Campaign for Real Barbecue.

I arrived at Rick’s. It’s a good looking place, made all the lovelier by the smoke coming out of the pit. The smell of fresh-baked cookies has nothing on the smell of Rick’s Smokehouse.

It was about 3:30 in the afternoon, in the barbecue doldrums, but smoke was still pouring and people were waiting in their cars for food. Rick’s has curb service, a pearl of great price during the pandemic.

I tend to be the bit of grit around which the pearl forms, so I went in to order, to look around, and to ask, “What kind cooker do y’all use?” I got a look as if I had been a four year old who had just landed from Mars. They exchanged glances and seemed concerned about my sanity. The response, slowly and clearly enunciated, was, “A pit. We cook. With wood. In a pit.” Then, peering out the window, they noticed a car with Washington, DC, tags, and nodded knowingly to each other with looks that murmured, “Bless his heart.”

I placed the standard order: a tray of chopped pork with red slaw. Hushpuppies come automatically. Having just eaten, I resisted a really good looking pecan pie and returned to my car and put the food on my much-abused front seat.

Let’s zoom in.

Good. Quite good. The meat had a definite smoke flavor, and the sauce, albeit just a touch sweet for my sugar-phobic tastes, complemented the pork flavor nicely. The slaw seemed dressed with the same sauce, and tasted great. And those were excellent hushpuppies, hot, flavorful, and crunchy. I wasn’t really hungry, but I ate all eight.

I wandered around back and checked out the wood pile.

Beautiful. I was really surprised to find yet another old school barbecue place in Lexington. Well, actually Rick’s is in Welcome, an unincorporated community just north of Lexington. Welcome greets drivers with a sign on 52, Welcome to Welcome, and is the home of Richard Childress Racing and the Dillon brothers, Austin and Ty, the 3 and 13 Camaros, respectively.

Rick’s Smokehouse is a good place, with good wood-cooked barbecue, good slaw, and good hushpuppies — and pecan pie that calls seductively to you. And with COVID lurking, the curb service is a big plus. (As we shall see, Lexington is not, alas, in the forefront of social distancing.)

Do give Rick’s Smokehouse a try. You’ll love it.


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3 thoughts on “Rick’s Smokehouse, Lexington, North Carolina

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