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In Lexington, you can often smell woodsmoke in the air, and a light, omnipresent haze hangs over the town. Located past Asheboro on U.S. Highway 64 West, this Davidson County

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In Lexington, you can often smell woodsmoke in the air, and a light, omnipresent haze hangs over the town. Located past Asheboro on U.S. Highway 64 West, this Davidson County

5 Smoking-Good Stops for Delicious Barbecue in Lexington

Plate of Lexington-style barbecue, fries, slaw, and hush puppies in Lexington, NC

In Lexington, you can often smell woodsmoke in the air, and a light, omnipresent haze hangs over the town. Located past Asheboro on U.S. Highway 64 West, this Davidson County city self-identifies as the “Barbecue Capital of the World,” with more than a dozen spots specializing in pit-cooked barbecue. I grew up on eastern North Carolina barbecue, but my Piedmont-rooted parents prefer the saucy western style — somehow, Lexington barbecue pulls elements from both to define its own signature style: smoked pulled pork flecked with red pepper flakes and doused in a thin, red sauce. And you rarely see it unaccompanied by a finely chopped red slaw — another novelty if you grew up with the white variety. Whether you, like our associate editor, are searching for barbecue truth or you just want a quick meal on the road, here are five places to start your Lexington-style journey:

People entering Lexington Barbecue

A steady stream of customers flows through the door all day long at Lexington Barbecue.  photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Lexington Barbecue

Positioned on a hill above Highway 64 like Lexington’s crown jewel, Lexington Barbecue’s unassuming white building and massive brick smokehouse is surrounded by a crowd of cars during mid-day hours. As the name suggests, this circa-1962 establishment specializes in smoked pork, served sliced, coarsely chopped, or finely chopped, with a sidecar of red, vinegary dip for dressing the meats to your liking. Sides — French fries and red slaw, plus your choice of hush puppies or rolls — make for a gracious plenty. But if you, too, are planning a tour de ’cue, keep it light, like many regulars do, with a paper tray loaded simply with pork and slaw (and go ahead, get a side of crispy brown skins for a road snack later).

100 Smokehouse Lane
Lexington, NC 27295
(336) 249-9814

The Barbecue Center

Lexington’s oldest pit-smoked barbecue establishment began in 1955 as, ironically, a place for ice cream, not ’cue. And although its mega-scoop sundae remains a staple on the menu, this drive-through and dine-in spot has established its place as a barbecue fixture in town — keep your eyes peeled for plumes of smoke and the packed parking lot off Main Street. It’s one of the few places that offers curbside service, or you can slide into one of the fire-engine-red booths in the dining room. While smoked pulled pork with all the fixings (the fried okra is not to be missed) is a standard order, do take a chance on the barbecued chicken — your choice of white or dark meat — which is smoked until butter-soft and glazed in the peppery Lexington sauce.

900 North Main Street
Lexington, NC 27292
(336) 248-4633

Smokey Joe’s Barbecue

Operating since 1972, Smokey Joe’s specializes in Lexington barbecue, but its menu ranges from sandwiches to salads to smoked chicken and hamburgers. The main draw, however, is the smoked baby back ribs. Glazed in peppery, vinegary red sauce, these ribs come on the rack or coarsely chopped into little rib nuggets. They’re only served on Wednesdays and Fridays, so plan your visit accordingly.

1101 South Main Street
Lexington, NC 27292
(336) 249-0315

An overloaded sandwich from Speedy’s Barbecue in Lexington, North Carolina

An overloaded sandwich is serious business at Speedy’s. photograph by Travis Dove

Speedy’s Barbecue

Generous portions and efficient service have made Speedy’s a beloved Lexington institution for 61 years. The size of the bun — or plate — is merely a suggestion when it comes to the ample helpings of barbecue. Although you’ll find crinkle-cut French fries served at each of these places, the seasoned, extra-crispy ones at Speedy’s stand out. Take note that the restaurant recently relocated to Piedmont Drive after operating for 60 years on Winston Road.

408 Piedmont Drive
Lexington, NC 27295
(336) 248-2410

BackCountry Barbeque

Just when you think you’ve cruised past all the barbecue outlets in Lexington, press on for just a few more miles. BackCountry Barbeque is a hidden gem slightly south of town. Stout rolls of paper towels are poised on each table in case things get messy as customers dig in to saucy smoked chicken, pulled pork, red slaw, and the like. As the “BRISKET TODAY” sign out front indicates, BackCountry also serves barbecue brisket as a sandwich or tray. And don’t forget to ask for one of the personal-size banana puddings in the mini-fridge behind the register.

4014 Linwood-Southmont Road
Lexington, NC 27295
(336) 956-1696

This story was published on Feb 14, 2024

Hannah Lee Leidy

Hannah Lee is a born-and-raised North Carolinian and the digital editor for Our State magazine. Her contributions have appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Culture, and the Local Palate. When not parenting her Bernese mountain pup named Ava, she's visiting the nearest cheese counter.