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Chapel Hill to Lexington, A 6-Stop Barbecue Extravaganza

BryanZ Apr 29, 2008 05:45 PM

O M F G. As I'll be leaving the South for good in a matter of days and don't have finals during exam week it seemed necessary to hit some of the 'cue places I'd heard about but never got around to visiting. Naturally, I'd have to eat at all of them in one day. Mayhem ensued.

So, six stops, six trays, all solo, over 4.5 hours. It was intense. I'm in pain. But I think it was worth it.

Starting in Durham, I ventured to Chapel Hill to visit Allen & Son. Then to Mebane to eat at A&M Grill, then Graham for Hursey's, then Greensboro for Stamey's, then finally to Lexington for Barbecue Center and Lexington Barbecue.

My rankings and brief comments follow.

1) Stamey's - Perhaps the surprise winner, the outside brown, sliced was near perfect. A great balance of smoke and salt and just enough contrast between chewy exterior and firm yet still tender interior. Service here was also great. Super fast and super friendly. I also like that they serve pretty much only 'cue and no fried chicken, fish, etc. The Brunswick stew was an unnecessary, but surprisingly tasty addition to my fourth meal of the day.

2) Lexington Barbecue - A great product and really nice balance between smoke and texture. I actually thought the sauce was too overpowering for the meat and preferred the rendition of Lexington-style sauce at Barbecue Center. I ordered soft outside brown, coarsely chopped and it was really very nice. Had I not been so surprised with the quality and experience at Stamey's, Lexington Barbecue would've taken the prize. I could see craving either depending on the day. Also, despite the fact that this was my sixth meal and I was in terrible pain, I NEEDED to order the basket of hot, fried pork skin. These were super-duper porky. Like porkiness verging on gaminess. Best in small quantities or crumbled atop one's 'cue.

3) Barbecue Center - I really "got" Lexington-style 'cue here. The sauce was still NC-style, but the addition of tomato gave the sauce a freshness that worked well with the acidity and pepper. Here, I had outside brown, chopped. A really solid spot, no complaints at all.

4) Allen & Son - I had been to Allen & Son once before and sampled much of the menu with a large group. It was my standard bearer of NC barbecue until today. Allen & Son really ups the smoke, which I quite like, but at the expense of porkiness. The former three find a great balance between rub/seasoning, smoke, and natural flavor of the meat, not to mention texture/moistness. Allen & Son puts out a great and unique product, but I found it too one-dimensional today. Too smokey, too dry. I enjoyed eating it, sure, but it wasn't new heights. At first I thought it was because I had ordered outside brown, chopped, but my experiences at the other restaurants proved that the balance I was looking for could be achieved.

5) Hursey's - Taste-wise this was actually my least favorite. It was, however, a very unique product. Not much smoke at all, but the chopped meat--they don't do outside brown here--was unbelievably moist. Not watery, as in sitting in its own juices on the place, but as soon as it hit my mouth it just exploded with porky juiciness. If one could serve a pork roast with this same juiciness you'd have a hit. This was, however, not barbecue to me because the smoke just wasn't there. Think of it like a better version of Bullock's The slaw here was actually not good, perhaps the only objectionable side I had all day.

6) A&M Grill - All in all, not bad, but not that great either. I had the sliced barbecue--no outside brown here either---as the waitress informed me that this would be the best option. This was more like roast pork, also light on the smoke but not so light as Hursey's. It lacked the mouth-filling unctuousness that Hursey's provided and so lacked any defining characteristic that could've helped its standing.

On the drive home I was pretty much drunk off of pork fat. Still, I recommend driving east on 64 as opposed to picking up 85 and 40. A pleasant, farm- and church-filled drive, minus a few strip mall-filled towns.

I'm eating nothing but raw fruit and veggies until Friday. Seriously.

  1. r
    RRG Mar 27, 2009 03:42 PM

    Everyone talks about Lexington BBQ...but I find Speedy's to be the better "Q".

    3 Replies
    1. re: RRG
      Bengaliwife Mar 28, 2009 07:10 AM

      My parents live in Asheboro and on their way to Bob Timberlake's studio, they always used to stop at Speedy's and just loved it. They also like Country Barbeque in archdale. I find that to be hit or miss alot of times. One time I went and it was good and other times I have found it to be very dry. I live inNew Jersey now and miss having good barbecue, so I try to eat it when I am home. I also miss Sir Pizza, Cook Out's carolina style cheeseburgers,having biscuits with breakfast in a diner/restaurant, and my favorite Thai place in Greensboro, NC but that is another thread.

      1. re: Bengaliwife
        JoanInNC Mar 28, 2009 04:26 PM

        Hi, Bengaliwife. I am sitting here, right now, eating Sir Pizza as I read Chowhound! I love it. My parents live in Asheboro, too (and I grew up there). We visited today, went to Sir Pizza for lunch, and ordered enough to have leftovers. My parents are also big fans of Speedy's, but we prefer Lexington No. 1. I hope you get some Sir Pizza soon!

        1. re: JoanInNC
          Jesco Jul 23, 2009 05:40 AM

          I had a platter of chopped BBQ from Lexington BBQ 1 on Monday and it was the best plate of BBQ I think that i have had. Perfect mix of lean and outside brown at a medium chop. It was so good that I had to stop again on Tuesday while passing back through Lexington. The plate of Tuesday was good but nowhere near the quality of Monday. BBQ can be hit or miss from the same place in a short period of time. Lexington 1 and BBQ Center can always be counted on for having great Q even on a slightly off day.

    2. i
      ilovecue Mar 27, 2009 08:11 AM

      I realize this is a dead thread, but what the heck...
      I'm jealous. I haven't had the guts to do that yet. We obviously have different tastes. I thoroughly dislike Allen & Sons bbq and haven't found any in Chapel Hill or Durham that I like much. However I LOVE Hursey's. I could eat it 24/7. Although it should be the same product, I always enjoy the cue and slaw from Burlington Hursey's as compared to the Graham Hursey's where you ate. I do not like the real spicy bbq that has lots of those little yellow seeds in it. Messes up my stomach. But that juicy pork flavor at Hursey's... YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I'm going to try a place in Yadkinville on Sunday. Can't remember the name. I'll also stop at Stamey's on the way home if it's open. Hursey's is closed on Sundays :-(

      1 Reply
      1. re: ilovecue
        Bengaliwife Mar 27, 2009 09:34 AM

        You may want to check stamey's' hours because I think they are closed on sundays also.

      2. TerriB May 4, 2008 06:42 AM

        I'm vegetarian so my opinions on barbeque are worthless. But I've been planning a party for +1,000 guests and we will be using The Barbecue Joint in Chapel Hill. The taste-testers I took with me preferred it to Allen & Son, not so much for the meat but for the side dishes. I like it because they have a great variety for vegetarians as well.

        1. meatn3 May 3, 2008 08:47 PM

          Great report - glad it was your stomach instead of mine! :-D If you get a chance before you leave try Rubs (formerly Smokies) in Morrisville. He does his own take, doesn't stay precisely in a particular tradition, but it is really good. Only lunch, M-F. (The beans were just good, I'll try different sides next time.)

          I'll miss having your voice adding to the chow experience in this area. Looking forward to seeing reports from your upcoming explorations. Best of luck in your future endeavors. You seem to have what it takes to do well at whatever you decide to pursue!

          1. carolinadawg Apr 29, 2008 06:10 PM

            Nice! Thanks for taking one for the team...lol. Did you add any sauce to your 'Q at Allen and Son? It doesn't come with much on it, and I would think that would ease any dryness. I'll have to give Stamey's another try sometime...my last couple of visits there were underwhelming, to say the least. I was very surprised to see it on top of your list. I hope you'll be able to return occasionally and enjoy more 'Q!

            1 Reply
            1. re: carolinadawg
              BryanZ Apr 29, 2008 06:32 PM

              I sauced more heavily at Allen & Son than anywhere else. It just seemed to wet the meat as opposed to make it more "moist," if you know what I mean.

              Yeah, I really don't know what was so great at Stamey's besides the perfect balance. I was able to taste sauce, rub, pork all in one bite. Likewise, I was able to git a nice crunch/crackle from the outside brown but still have the soft, barely toothsome interior all at once.

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