Western-NC Style, AKA "Lexington" Style
   Western-NC-Style (also know as "Lexington"-style, after the city whose core group of highly-rated Western-NC-Style BBQ restaurants perfected and popularized the genre) BBQ differs from Eastern-Style in two distinct ways: 1) it's always made from pork shoulders only, ala' Memphis-style, and not from whole-hog carcass, and 2) unlike Eastern-Style which uses vinegar and the barest traces of hot pepper and miniscule amounts of flavorings if any in a "wetting agent" a sous chef would have a hissy about if you called it a "sauce", Western-NC/Lexington-Style definitely uses a real sauce, of which heavy doses of ketchup are added to the vinegar base universally, and often a small amount of sugar is added as well.

   You'll often think you taste God-knows-what in Lexington/Western-Style sauces, because Western-Style chefs have been known to put pretty much anything you can think of edible in their own special sauces, from white lighting' (the alcohol of which is burned off during the cooking of) to turtle-meat-stock-soup (turtle meat is generally too rare and expensive for this use though), to any number of combinations of going to the spice rack and dumping stuff in the vinegar-and-tomato-catsup base to see what comes up tasty.

   Other than using pork shoulders, which gives the "base meat" less fat and more texture in the eating of than whole-hog BBQ, the way I generally explain the difference between the two styles to non-natives is this: Eastern-Style has no "help", it's just perfectly cooked meat sitting there by itself. It's got to be perfect meat prepared exactly, or it'll gag you. Western-NC-Style, on the other hand, is like Texas-style beef BBQ; you can take very average or even slightly under-average meat cooked just so-so, and with a great sauce a la' Lexington/Western-NC-Style, disguise the poor meat under/inside the taste-bud-tingling sauce.

   Don't get me wrong, I enjoy both styles equally, hell, I enjoy all great BBQ equally, whether it's pork, beef, or Cape Buffalo. And Western-Style, when the meat is great and it's cooked great and it's served blended with a great sauce, is every bit the equal of the best Eastern-Style. It's simply harder to cook Eastern-Style to a superb degree of palate pleasing because it's either great, or at least very good, or it ain't.

   When you eat at most Lexington/Western-Style restaurants, you usually (but not always) can get hushpuppies, though at Western-Style ones they tend to add fresh onions and other similar ingredients (which I personally don't like in the batter), while Eastern-Style ones are usually plain. You are also usually served some sort of home-made, hand-cut from fresh potatoes french fries at Western-Style joints, whereas most Eastern-Style ones usually give "store-bought" french fries. Both kinds often fried in the same deep-fat-fryers as the hushpuppies are, which gives them a unique (but pleasant) aftertaste. Eastern-Style restaurants a lot of times will have a signature, traditional Southern dessert, such as banana pudding, while many Western ones won't, depending. The strong, sweet ice tea should be the same west of the 1-85 & NC Highway 220 junction (as good a dividing line as anything else) as at any place east of it, weak tea equally disappointing customers no matter where within the border of The Tar Heel State they're eating at.

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