Location, Location, Location
Even if Stamey’s food was bad (and Lord knows it ain’t), I’d have to give them plenty of credit. The members of the Stamey family are legends of NC barbecue, and smart businessmen to boot. Their grand, lodge-style building right across the street from the Greensboro Coliseum, the site of dozens of ACC Tournaments over the past several decades, is evidence of that. What better place to sell barbecue, and to spread your reputation, than across the street from a huge arena that attracts hoardes of hungry hoops fans from across the state and beyond? The fact that the Coliseum opened six years after Stamey’s did shows either that the Stamey family was a bit lucky or they were really good businessmen.
C. Warner Stamey, the founder of Stamey’s and one of the godfathers of NC barbecue (heck, he even brought the hush puppy to the NC barbecue scene), began his career in Lexington under the tutelage of Lexington pioneers Sid Weaver and Jess Swicegood. C. Warner Stamey ran a couple of BBQ joints in Lexington before opening Stamey’s at its present day location on High Point Road in Greensboro in 1953. (See more of Stamey’s interesting history here.) Almost 60 years later, Stamey’s continues to sell terrific barbecue–wood-cooked the old fashioned way–that would bring people from across the state no matter their location.
Quantity and Quality
When you see just how large a space Stamey’s occupies, and consider how much barbecue they sell, you might assume the quality of their barbecue suffers. That’s simply not the case. Stamey’s has figured out how to produce barbecue in a large volume without compromising quality, which is no easy task. Sure, it’s a different scene from a place like Grady’s in Dudley, where you feel like you are a lucky soul to eat some of the hand-crafted ‘cue. But the large, well-oiled barbecue machine that is Stamey’s is equally worthy of a visit. The menu is limited–a good sign if there ever was one–with precious few options besides ‘cue and the requisite sides. Stamey’s is not a family restaurant that serves barbecue, it’s a barbecue restaurant that serves families.
Stamey’s ‘cue is moist, tender, hickory-kissed and downright delicious. The meat really needs no more flavor when it emerges from the kitchen, but Stamey’s spicy Lexington-style dip is a must-have anyway. It has a rich flavor with just a hint of tomato, disproving again the Eastern NC stereotype that Lexington-style joints serve thick ketchupy dip with their pork. In my experience, this stereotype is rarely true.
Stamey’s barbecue plates (many a Lexington-style joint would call them trays, since they are french fry-less) come with classic Lexington-style barbecue slaw and rolls or hush puppies. I always choose the puppies, which are mildly flavored (even by hush puppy standards) but quite good. The slaw complements the ‘cue very well, though it is not as good when eaten alone. Also, the slaw is, for lack of a better descriptor, squeaky. I can’t quite explain it, but there is something about the slaw that seems to squeak on the teeth as you chew it. Hmm. Leaving that mystery aside, Stamey’s deserves its reputation as one of the best barbecue joints in the state. Here’s to hoping it still exists in 2053–if so, and if my arteries cooperate, I’ll be sure to drop in for a plate to celebrate their 100th year.