Recently a few of us headed to North Carolina to taste and learn more about Lexington and Eastern-style barbecue. Everyone we met was very passionate about what they put out but were also humble and very supportive of each other’s BBQ styles.
If you’re not up on your North Carolina barbecue styles, there are many articles you can read about it. Some people are extremely passionate about the topic. The basics are that it’s all pork, and the two styles are named after their cities of origin. The main difference is in the sauce. Eastern sauce is vinegar and pepper based, with no tomatoes, while Lexington also contains vinegar, but relies on ketchup as well as other spices in the mix. Lexington slaw also uses this same ketchup-based sauce, which is why it’s called red slaw. The two also contain different cuts of meat – Eastern is whole hog, Lexington is pork shoulder.
We were there for four days and hit five places in total. That’s two to three BBQ spots a day. And there were donuts. It’s tough work.
When our customers ask questions about barbecue, Josh Applestone always refers them to Sam Jones’ book. We got the chance to hang with Michael Letchworth, co-owner and long time friend of Sam Jones. He fed us (don’t miss the collards; they’re sautéed with pork jowl) and told us many great stories. He also took us on a trip to Ayden to show us a pit owned by Jones’ family so old it’s impossible to date. Next we went with him to Skylight Inn, which Jones’ parents founded in 1947. Skylight is where Sam and Michael learned about North Carolina BBQ and is the foundation for Sam Jones BBQ. Growing up at Skylight allowed them to create a more adventurous menu while remaining true to their style and quality. A new spin on traditional Eastern-style BBQ.
Still owned by the Jones family, there are minor differences between Skylight and Sam Jones’s whole hog Eastern-style BBQ. Here, there’s white bread instead of potato bread. There are fewer menu items, but the recipes and spicing are similar. It’s no-frills and less expensive than Sam Jones. Both are great.
This is old fashioned, pit cooked over hardwood coals, Lexington-style BBQ. It has been around since 1930 — the real deal.
This is one of the first places we landed on arrival in North Carolina and it did not disappoint. Old fashioned, pit cooked, Lexington style-BBQ. A favorite. Locals call it Honeymonk or The Monk, after its founder, Wayne Monk. He opened Lexington Barbecue in 1962.
Another Eastern-style favorite. Here is where we discovered that we all prefer coarse chopped meat. Also, we’ll eat anything that’s on bread.
Lexington-style and awesome. The staff were lovely and so happy to show us around. The coarse chopped and BBQ slaw were terrific.
Josh Applestone has a little sweet tooth. We call these “palate cleansers.” They were all great, but the vegan Samoa doughnut was the favorite.