Thursday, October 31, 2019

Smiley's Barbecue Restaurant in Lexington, North Carolina

Traditional Chopped Pork Sandwich Lexington NC Style from Smiley's BBQ Restaurant

When I am in Lexington, NC (about 45 minutes from my house), I have to get some real down home barbecue which is what Lexington is famous for. There are quite a few great barbecue restaurants in Lexington, and one of my favorites is Smiley's.

Smiley's Barbecue is a fixture in Lexington. It opened in the early 1950s and changed owners and names a few times over the years but has always kept the wood fire burning. That's what sets Lexington BBQ apart from barbecue in other areas - the meat is cooked slow over a wood fire. Well, it's one of the things that sets it apart.

If you are not familiar with North Carolina barbecue, then you need to know that it is chopped pork (shoulders or butts) served on white bread buns with red slaw and with a vinegar based sauce. While your sauce at Smiley's is reddish, it is still thin. That's because it's vinegar based. If someone tries to tell you that Piedmont barbecue sauce is tomato based, they do not know what they are talking about. You can tell them I'm from here, and I said so.

North Carolina BBQ Sauce - AKA Dipping Sauce

The sauce at Smiley's is extra good. It's one of my favorites. It has that nice vinegar twang and just a touch of heat. They heated it up to serve at the table, and I was in heaven. I poured a good splash on my sandwich and dug in. Absolutely divine.

While I was eating my barbecue sandwich I was enjoying looking at the wall art. They had the traditional white board with specials and desserts posted. Someone had drawn peanuts characters on there in dry erase marker and religious messages. Over my shoulder was a painting of moonshiners. Another painting had an old car and Kerr jars which are basically southern Mason jars.

 Barbecue, Moonshine, and NASCAR are Close Relatives in North Carolina

A kid at the next table was getting an etiquette lesson from someone who probably was his MeeMaw. "You cain't be pullin' up your shirt at no restaurant," she advised the little man. That's good advice I'd say.
Across from our table, two beefy men were eating big, old bologna sandwiches. Though I've never bought a bologna sandwich out at a restaurant, the Smiley's bologna sandwiches looked very tasty. I almost wanted one, but I was getting full off my chopped pork sandwich which was great. The chop at Smiley's is a little coarser than some restaurants in the area, and the meat is moister than some of the competition. I'd definitely call Smiley's a front-runner. I can't really pick a number one. I just know which ones are top notch. Smiley's is that.

 Authentic Barbecue Joint Decor at Smiley's BBQ in Lexington, NC

Before leaving we got a big piece of homemade chocolate cake. It's hard to eat dessert after southern pork sandwiches which are filling, but it's hard to pass up desserts made from scratch. The cake looked amazing, and it tasted just as good. I'd also recommend the banana pudding which is a southern favorite.

Smiley's is what I'd call an authentic barbecue joint. Heck, you can blow your horn and get service outside (maybe). The building is unassuming and decorated with stuff that you'd likely see at a southern aunt or uncles home. The ladies waiting tables are going to ask how you're doing and care, and they are likely going to "honey" you at least once.  That's a good time and good eating.

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