BBQ Jew’s View: Whitley’s Restaurant

3664 NC Highway 8, Lexington, NC
Barbecue Jew’s Grade: C
The Rabbi Says: “Oy Vey.”

The menu at Whitley’s Restaurant claims to serve “Lexington’s Finest,” but I doubt even Whitley himself believes that. And you shouldn’t. Because in my book, that’s laying claim to serving some of the best swine in the state.

Whitley’s was not a sought out destination. It just happened to be a) in Lexington and b) conveniently close to another ‘cue joint to which I was early. So I thought, ‘when in Lexington…”

From the get go, there were mixed signals. A message board under aforementioned sign advertised a salmon patties special. Those abominations are not served at barbecue restaurants I frequent. More worrying, was the lack of that telltale smoky scent we’ve all learned to love. [Porky says: Months after writing this review, The Rib Rabbi and I discovered a Whitley’s website that claims the pork is cooked in a pit over wood coals, so it appears that the meat is cooked over wood for at least some of its cook time.]


Restaurant or a barbecue joint?

Given those two indications, I was not expecting to enter barbecue nirvana. Yet upon entry, I encountered a hefty gentleman in suspenders and jeans. And the brick and wood interior with comfortable booths was about right. I wasn’t sure what to make of the rack of bagged cracklins for sale—in no less than five flavors! (Honey Q, salt and vinegar, regular, BBQ and hot BBQ.)

Anyway, settling in, I noted an extensive menu. There were six salads available–Boooo–with the acceptable exception of Barbecue Salad (lettuce, tomato, barbecue and cheese). The offerings included an array of burgers, including the Whitburger (mayo, onion, lettuce, tomato), and even some seafood options. This place was trying too hard to be too many things to too many people. Then again, it is called Whitley’s Restaurant.

Lexingtons finest?

Lexington's finest?

Getting to the meat of the situation, the barbecue confirmed my theory. There are three choices in ‘cue–chopped, sliced, and course-chopped. I went with a chopped tray with barbecue slaw.

The ‘cue was somewhat bland and required a heavy hand with the dip. On the plus side, a Styrofoam container of dip was delivered hot, a nice touch. Making things better, the dip was solid and mostly ketchup-less.

The swine was chopped to the perfect size, by my standards, but it seemed a bit mushy. Most worrying was the lack of flavor and smokiness. I saw a wood pile out back, but I didn’t notice much smokiness in the meat.

The barbecue slaw was similarly disappointing, but I’m not a huge fan of that item anyway [Porky says: The Rib Rabbi and I disagree about barbecue slaw, as I love it and thought Whitley’s was just fine]. The hushpuppies were a revelation though. Especially after the previous disappointments. They somehow managed to be both dense and light at the same time. They benefited from a heavy dose of onions and a not-so-corn bready flavor. I also appreciated the oblong shape, probably because they conjure fond cheese curl memories.

On a separate visit, I’d be tempted to try the “meat and three” option. Whitley’s may fare better making some items that don’t take the tenderness and time that the divine swine requires. Also, the pimiento cheese sandwich, a special, seemed like it’d hit the spot. But those are dishes for another Web site and another day. Besides, if I’m in Lexington, I’m eating ‘cue. It’s just that I’ll probably keep searching for that city’s actual finest.

[Porky says: Let me add one more item. The restaurant is home to “Hogzilla,” purportedly the world’s largest BBQ sandwich.  Tipping the scales at more than 12 pounds (click the Hogzilla link on Whitley’s website), this sandwich looks plain scary… and spectacular.  Be forewarned though, you must call in advance to order the giant sandwich.  This will surely make for a fun follow-up visit.]

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