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
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.