A City Built on Barbecue (Gravy Ep. 15)

The pits discovered during the renovation of a Lexington, NC municipal building. Photo by Newell Clark.

Lexington, North Carolina calls itself the “Barbecue Capital of the World.” (In fact, the state legislature got a little more specific about it, dubbing the city “the Hickory Smoked Barbecue Capital of North Carolina.”) For more than one hundred years, pitmasters there have been cooking pork shoulders slowly over coals from a wood fire, and slicking them with a sweet, vinegary, red barbecue sauce.

And so, when Lexington officials began to renovate a municipal building, they were thrilled by an unexpected barbecue-related discovery. In this episode of Gravy, Sarah Delia takes us to Lexington to learn what that was, and what it might mean for a barbecue landscape in which some are worried history is being forgotten.

Lexington, NC Mayor Newell Clark by the discovered barbecue pits. Photo by Newell Clark.
Lexington, NC Mayor Newell Clark by the discovered barbecue pits. Photo by Newell Clark.

Read more (a lot more) about Lexington Barbecue History.

You can find out more about the city of Lexington here.

Ricky Monk of Lexington Barbecue, monitoring his pork shoulders. Photo by Sarah Delia.
Ricky Monk of Lexington Barbecue, monitoring his pork shoulders. Photo by Sarah Delia.

Lexington Barbecue—otherwise known as the Honey Monk or Honey Monk’s—is here.

Hushpuppies, slaw and barbecue from Lexington Barbecue. Photo by Sarah Delia.
Hushpuppies, slaw and barbecue from Lexington Barbecue. Photo by Sarah Delia.

To find John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed’s “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue,” go here.

Mayor Clark's preferred condiment at Lexington Barbecue:   some of the barbecue sauce + a little bit of ketchup and pepper. Photo by Sarah Delia.
Mayor Clark’s preferred condiment at Lexington Barbecue: some of the barbecue sauce + a little bit of ketchup and pepper. Photo by Sarah Delia.

And to check whether the barbecue restaurant you’re about to try meets John Shelton Reed’s standards for certifiably authentic barbecue, go here.