Sunday, July 04, 2010
Tarheel Q is listed as a Lexington, NC barbecue joint, but it is out in the country and not in Lexington. Tarheel Q is on the Davidson County line right before moving into Davie county. It's close to a kayak entry area on the Yadkin River.
Here is the address information for anyone wanting to Google exact directions:
6835 West Old US Highway 64
Lexington, NC 27295
Tarheel Q is popular with the locals, so you may have to ask for a menu. They do have some, but we got about 30 seconds to look at the menus before the server walked up to the table and stood there waiting. We wanted North Carolina chopped pork, so we just ordered the special clipped to the menu which was a chopped bbq sandwich with fries and a drink for $5.
The service actually is very good at the Tarheel Q. The young boys who cleared the table so we could sit down were about middle school age and very sweet. The girls with the water and tea were friendly, and the counter crew was good as well.
We, unfortunately, appeared to get the only poor server in the joint. She did not ask if we wanted hush puppies or dessert and never checked the table other than to take the order and to drop off the bill. I did flag her down to order a side of hush puppies, and she said, "OK." I wasn't sure if we'd get any or not, but we did.
Maybe our server just broke up with her boyfriend or something, but I sure wish we had been sitting in another section.
I'd read about the large portions at Tarheel Q, but I did not find that to be the case. As you can see in the photo, the sandwich was tiny. And, it was closer to the camera than my hand, so this is a generous shot of the barbcue sandwich.
In addition, I don't know where they found such thin hamburger rolls. Again, the photo is generous. These were super skimpy buns.
Granted, the prices are low. But, I'd rather pay more and get a decent sized barbecue sandwich and a bun that is not so thin that it is soggy when it gets to the table.
I'd suggest going with the barbecue tray with white or red slaw and just using a fork versus getting a sandwich.
As far as the barbecue meat which is THE THING, this is wood smoked barbecue on a pit in the back. It is slow smoked, and the air around Tarheel Q smells fabulous. I say "hats off" to anyone still doing pork barbecue with wood. It does make a difference, and the barbecue meat was nice and smokey.
North Carolina barbecue is more art than science, and the quality varies at all barbecue joints from day to day. Tarheel Q leans to the dry side from slight over smoking on some days. That can happen at any barbecue restaurant, but I've seen that noted by other reviewers and had already made notes of my own that this barbecue place can run dry.
The barbecue sauce is usually the second thing most people consider when talking NC que. Tarheel Q has a western or Lexington style sauce. It is sweeter than average and lower on the heat, so there is less of the vinegar flavor. That will appeal to some and not to others. I like mine with more heat, but the sauce was good.
The sides are just that - sides. Since so much time is spent on the barbecue meat, it is common for barbecue joints to have heat and eat sides. That's the case here. Everything appeared to be frozen and deep fat fried. The hush puppies had a good flavor but were a tad rubbery. The French fries were hot, and they were not greasy, so it's clear they clean out the fryer and keep the oil fresh.
The size on the sides appears to be pretty good, but that's mostly because the paper trays are really small. They heap the fries and hush puppies up high, and they literally fall out onto the wrap paper when you open up the sides. We had plenty, but I'd call the amount average to below for a barbecue restaurant.
The server did not ask about dessert, but we would not have ordered. The next table over did. The pie looked like frozen thawed out or maybe the grocery store variety in the alunimum tins. The colors were bright like on the sweet potato pie which was very orange.
If you want to experience local culture and eat with and like the locals, then Tarheel Q is definately authentic. It is not a tourist trap like some of the barbecue places around the state. And, the regulars will tell you that it is the best barbecue in the state.
The barbecue meat and sauce are good, although they would not rank as favorites for me. The main issue would be the meat being a bit dry, although it is sauced in the kitchen with more sauce provided at the table. You really can't hide dry pork with sauce, although some folks wouldn't notice the difference. Than again, many people don't seem to notice a difference between wood smoked and electric.
I'd be more likely to recommend Tarheel Q for breakfast and the pork tenderloin biscuits or basic breakfast plates with eggs and meat.