According to the The Dispatch, a recent article in U.S. News & World Report ranked Lexington, NC the fourth best barbecue city in the country. It’s hard to argue with the cities listed ahead of Lexington–Memphis TN, Lockhart TX and Kansas City MO. Although if good, traditionally prepared barbecue per capita had been the main criteria I’d argue that Lexington–with its 20-some BBQ joints in the “metro area” and just 20,000 people–would be neck and neck with Lockhart.
Here are my picks for top barbecue cities (and towns) in North Carolina. If you like, you can consider this the North Carolina barbecue Final Four.
Lexington – As noted in the national rankings, Lexington is the best barbecue town in North Carolina. There are more traditional wood-cooking barbecue joints in little 20,000-person Lexington than any other locality in NC by a wide margin. (Are you listening Raleigh and Charlotte?) Lexington’s annual Barbecue Festival that draws 200,000 or so swine worshippers is further evidence of the town’s barbecue supremacy.
Ayden – Home to the Skylight Inn (aka Pete Jone’s place), which serves some of the best barbecue in the state and is perhaps the quintessential Eastern NC barbecue joint, Ayden is a little town with a lot of flabor. From the food at the Skylight Inn to the rural setting, it doesn’t get much more authentic than Ayden . Better yet, tiny Ayden is also home to the cafeteria-style Bum’s, which is a classic southern restaurant featuring barbecue.
Salisbury – It plays second fiddle to Lexington, but Salisbury deserves its own acclaim, as it is (ironically) the likely birthplace of “Lexington-style” barbecue. Today Salisburyians (?) continue to cherish their barbecue and the town has a couple of solid, traditional wood burners–Richard’s and Wink’s–to back up their proud barbecue history.
Goldsboro – At one point Goldsboro was arguably the Mecca of Eastern NC barbecue, between the still-famous Wilber’s and the now shell-of-its-former-self Scott’s. Although it’s barbecue is no longer worth tasting, Scott’s still makes some of the best barbecue sauce available ($1.99 or so at your neighborhood Food Lion, or $1 more at Harris Teeter if that’s how you roll). The Goldsboro area’s proud tobacco and hog farming history add to its permanent status as a true barbecue town.