Sunday, July 04, 2010

Tarheel Q on Highway 64 near Lexington, NC

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
(336) 787-4550

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.


Anonymous said...

A good honest review by the sounds of it, that is why reviews like yours are important to the readers, no sugar coating just a true opinion!
And I must give a big Ahhhh! re the very cute pic of the little girl carried by dad cropped more that could be framed!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cyndi, I thought it was interesting to read an objective rating of Tar Heel Q. Not growing up in the state, I guess its hard to compare BBQ for me, but I always enjoyed going there, and I do like the pie, never stopped to think its prob. not even homemade (duh) but I like the price and if its choc. merique pie I like it pretty much anyways :-) I always thought their fries were good, not real greasy and tasted fresh & crispy. I'm not a big eater, so the portions are just right to me.
Thanks for your input on Tar Heel Q.

CA said...

Tks Anon - I make the various foods at home, so that's a tough comparison point. For example, in addition to smoking pork, I hand cut my French fries, but I would not expect a barbecue joint to do so with so much time involved in working the meat with a wood fire.

Easy desserts are fine as well. I just don't order them. I try to watch my sugar, so I'm only going to buy homemade out and seldom.

I don't give star ratings, but I would put Tarheel Q on the second tier right now. My top list is a short list. So, Tarheel Q is a fine pick, but I would not make a road trip just to hunt it up. It is way better than the fast food barbecue places in the state which are not even close to the wood burners.

I hate we got a poor server on the day I went with a review in mind. I do think Tarheel Q has great service, but the reality is that we did get the short end of that on the day we went for the review. But, you can see photos mixed in from a rainy day with better service, and I do think the norm would be great service.

This one is not too far from my house, so I will probably do another visit and post. And, no, I do not tell restaurants that I review except sometimes after so that I can get some photos like of the pit but we were there after the meat had been smoked for the day.

Anonymous said...

hi cyndi,
I was just looking over what you have posted. I don't know where you are from but around "lexington" that is how a sandwich looks and that bread is merita bread and its gonna be a little messy thats the best part and you have regulars in every restaurant and they are loved. Our bbq is pit cooked everyday and around here we put dip on our sandwiches and by the way you can order it with no dip. And the $5 dollar special the chopped special is a sandwich a order of ff and a drink that doesn't come with hushpuppies that is additional....and the dishwasher is 16.just clearing up some miss understandings.....

Anonymous said...

Good review..this place burnt last night and not sure if it will reopen..and if it does not sure if it will be allowed to have wood pits..For some stupid reason NC law states that any NEW BBQ restaurant cannot have anything other than Electric..Which sucks imo..So hopefully they can salvage the building

Anonymous said...

Hi All,
My name is Jonathan Threatt and I would visit Tarheel Que about once a week and they did have the best Bar b que untill a fire that burned a portion of the building and they have been closed for a better part 6 months...but it looks like they are working on the building so hopefully they will open soon.

Anonymous said...

I live within five miles of Tar Heel Q. Of all the many, many bar-b-cue restaurants in my area, this one is my favorite. For my taste there is none better. They sell a lot of Q so they cook each day, which means there is no warmed over Q.

I've tried Bar-B-Cue all over the state including some of the best in the east, but this restaurant serves up the best.

Mary & Robert Griffin said...

First off we do not live here & stay at the rv park down the street Forest Lake. So every time you go by, you are greeted by the wonderful smells. We have eaten at every BBQ place in town and we like this one the best. No place has great sides. You go there for the BBQ. We love their BBQ chicken. ALways too full to try any dessert. Plus we have always had the best service too. Matter of fact we had dinner there tonight. My husband who is diabetic, his sugar dropped. The waitress went and got him a coke . Refilled it, offered crackers . Then even pie or cake to help bring his sugar up . But Coke and crackers was enough. We had wait staff at our table every minute or so asking if we needed any thing. Great food, moist chicken. Not greasy fries. Not a fan of slaw here. Mayo slaw fan. But theirs I;ll eat. A 1st. This place was recommended in the Thousand Trails Magazine. And we know why. Great food, great price, great service , every time.