Lexington, North Carolina is known as the “Barbecue Capital of the World.” People from all over head to Lexington for authentic “Que.” Now, there are different kinds of North Carolina BBQ and different opinions about each one.
There is east and there is west… and then there is Lexington style. It is in a class all its own. We present to you a baker’s dozen of the best restaurants in Lexington, NC serving up their world-famous BBQ.
It all started in 1919 when farmer Sid Weaver set up an open-pit near the courthouse to cook his hogs and sell barbecue to passersby. The rest is history, as they say.
Today there are over fifteen barbecue establishments in Lexington. All of them are family-owned, and many of them operated by third-generation family members, holding true to age-old Lexington barbecue traditions.
What makes Lexington-style barbecue different? It is pork shoulder only (no whole-hog here), slow-roasted in pits over hardwood coals. It is served up in trays or on plates, chopped fine, coarse, or sliced with red slaw and hushpuppies. The “dip” (not sauce) is made of vinegar and ketchup and a few other secret ingredients.
Yes, in Lexington barbecue is king but it’s not all – there are some other really terrific eateries in town. This list represents the best restaurants in Lexington, North Carolina.
Not in the mood to go out to eat tonight? Click here to have Grubhub deliver directly from the best restaurants in town to your doorstep.
While in Lexington, don’t miss out on activities that will help immerse yourself with the city (hurry while they’re hot!):
- From Lexington: Horse Farm Tour & Keeneland Race Track Visit
- Lexington: Ashland Henry Clay Estate Ticket with Guided Tour
- Lexington: Fully Guided Zipline Canopy Tour
- Lexington: The Aviation Museum of Kentucky Entry Ticket
The 13 Best Restaurants in Lexington
900 N Main St // 336-248-4633
One of the oldest barbecue joints in Lexington that still cooks on pits and one of the best Restaurants In Lexington.
The Bar-B-Que Center was has been featured in Southern Living Magazine and on Good Morning America as well as dozens of magazines and newspapers across the States.
Needless to say, the barbecue is amazing but some folks think that the colossal banana split the Center serves up is just as amazing.
It makes sense that they serve ice cream due to their history as a dairy center.
100 Smokehouse Lane // 336-249-9814
Located in a distinct white building just off Hwy. 85, Lexington BBQ is an iconic lunch stop for travelers passing through the Piedmont.
Locally, it’s known as Honeymonks or The Monk, based on the owner’s family name. It has been listed in USA TODAY’s “Ten Best Southern Barbecue Spots.”
In addition to dip, they make and bottle Smokehouse Barbecue Sauce that is spicy with a vinegar kick. It’s on the tables and sold in bottles to go. If you Google “Best Restaurants In Lexington”, we are pretty sure this place will be on the list.
1317 Winston Road // 336-248-2410
Speedy’s has a reputation for its large portions.
The barbecue plate, with two sides, is nearly enough to feed a full table, and the barbecue sandwiches come piled high with pork and slaw. They were featured in Southern Living’s “BBQ Across the South.” and rightfully own the title as one of the best Restaurants In Lexington.
Speedy’s was a participant in the first annual Lexington Barbecue Festival in 1984. They have continued supporting the tradition as it brings hundreds of thousands of “barbecue lovers” to Lexington restaurants.
336 Valiant Drive // 336-798-1928
Its full name is Cook’s BBQ Still Smoking. I like that! The cabin-style building, in its out-of-the-way location, south of Lexington near High Rock Lake, makes it a foodie destination. If you see smoke billowing high into the air, you know you’re in the right place.
In addition to traditional Lexington-style pork BBQ, Cook’s serves smoked brisket, steaks, chicken, turkey, burgers, and sausage, plus sandwiches, seafood, and much more – something for everyone. And don’t forget those great Southern sides. For a great variety of classic American foods in one of the best Restaurants In Lexington, try Cook’s.
13 N Main Street // 336-249-2233
The Main Street Deli is a mainstay in Lexington restaurants. “It’s been there a lot of years,” one local resident told me.
Walking in it feels homey and comfortable, with wood-paneled walls, high-backed booths, and dim lighting.
I’ll bet everyone in town has their favorite Main Street sandwich, but one thing everyone can agree on is that the homemade bread is out of this world.
The Italian yeast bread is an old recipe acquired in the early sixties and is baked daily. Our waitress, Wesley, told us that she has been making bread for thirty years and that they bake 144 loaves every single day.
I had their famous chopped roast beef sandwich while my husband had the meatball hoagie. Although all the ingredients were very good, we both agree that the warm fresh buttered bread is what made the sandwich. They also make their own pizza crust.
For great pizza and deli in Lexington, this is one of the best Restaurants In Lexington.
17 N Main Street // 336-238-5733
Shoto Japanese restaurant in Lexington is another long-time eatery, a local favorite, and one of the best Restaurants In Lexington. Unique two-story dining offers plenty of seating., with high-backed booths downstairs and tables and chairs upstairs.
The place is nostalgic with original wood floors and exposed red-brick walls. It’s the kind of place you instantly feel comfortable in.
The menu is short but undeniably delicious. Appetizers and salads lead the way to hibachi and teriyaki-style dishes. Or choose from over a dozen other specialty stir-fry styles such as sweet and sour, tempura, or yellow, green, or red curry. Vegetarian and gluten-free dishes are available.
The steak, broccoli, and zucchini hibachi with lo mein noodles (made fresh in Charlotte) was some of the best hibachi I’ve ever tasted. Oh. and be sure to ask for one of Jimmy’s famous signature cocktails.
1905 Cotton Grove Rd // 336-843-2043
Recently opened in the summer of 2020, The Humble Plate is a welcome addition to the Lexington foodie scene, located just off Hwy 85.
A true farm-to-table restaurant, Ronnie, the owner and chef, looks for ingredients that are always the freshest he can find and he’s proud to support local farms and creameries.
The menu is made up of everyday choices such as soups, salads, fresh veggie plates, and loaded baked potatoes. Then there are daily choices and specials depending on the availability of fresh ingredients.
We arrived on Tuesday to dine on lemon-butter chicken and orzo pasta in cream sauce with fresh asparagus. Save room for fresh Homeland Creamery ice cream (or eat it first while waiting for your dinner, as we did).
102 S Main Street // 336-843-1559
Putting a new twist on old favorites, Rustic Roots On Main is one of Lexington’s newest restaurants. Opened in the spring of 2019, it has quickly become a local favorite and definitely fits the description as one of the best Restaurants In Lexington.
Housed in the historic March Hotel (where a young Charlie Chaplin once took a nap), visitors will get the feel of the old days with what could be the hotel front desk, now the bar area, and marble steps leading to the upstairs stairway.
They offer a smaller menu which allows them to focus on quality. Their use of fresh, local ingredients sets Rustic Roots apart. You’ll find soups and salads, burgers, and sandwiches, along with pasta, steaks, salmon, and North Carolina trout.
Their kids’ menu is only $5 and comes with a side and a drink. Basic food choices, but done with flair and amazing quality at this Lexington restaurant.
23rd W 2nd Avenue // 336-300-7338
Housed in an old bookstore, Sophie’s is as comfortable as a restaurant can get. The service is great. The food is amazing. And they offer a great variety of fine wines and craft beers. Their small plates and appetizers menu is off the charts, with dishes like Wagyu Beef Sliders and Teriyaki Sashimi Tuna Tartlets.
The rest of their menu makes it difficult to choose from with salads, sandwiches, pasta, flat-bread pizza, and daily specials. On the night we visited, the special was bacon-wrapped scallops over turnip au gratin risotto.
Back to the old bookstore. Part of Sophie’s charm is the fact that they retained parts of the old store. They kept a bookshelf on one wall as well as the “information counter” in the center of the room which serves as an extra bar. For a book lover like me, the ambiance was warm and very comfortable – like an old bookstore.
103 S Main Street // 336-238-3535
Cafe 35 is a great little Main Street diner. You can’t miss it with its black window awnings and bright red umbrella covered tables on the sidewalk. Be sure to check their website, or call, as they are only open a few days a week and you definitely don’t want to miss out.
The menu at the Cafe is extensive (so is their full bar) with a little bit of everything – Angus beef burgers served any way you want them, chicken wings, wraps, and hot and cold sandwiches.
Their grilled Reuben on rye is a customer favorite as are their delicious crispy fried pickles. Visit Cafe 35 for classic American foods in Lexington.
1000 Childress Vineyards Road // 336-245-9436
NASCAR’s Richard Childress fulfilled his passion for wine by opening his winery and vineyards in 2004. The Bistro overlooks dozens of acres of vineyards, a gorgeous green space, large pond, and a gazebo. Picture perfect for a romantic date or any special occasion.
The menu is as exquisite as the grounds with starters like Tomato Chevre Soup and Sesame Duck Lettuce Wraps. Entrees include such tasty wonderfulness as Maple Pecan-Crusted Salmon and Steamed Mussel and Sea Scallop Linguine.
There are other items such as salads, sandwiches, and flat-bread pizza as well. Reservations for lunch are required Friday through Sunday and highly recommended during the week. For fine dining in Lexington, try this restaurant; you won’t be disappointed.
26 South Railroad Street // 336-248-5276
It’s best to be hungry when you go to Southern Lunch, a third generation family-owned restaurant serving home cooked southern-style food. The food is great – big portions for a reasonable price – in a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Meat pie, chicken pot pie, meatloaf, ribs, chicken casserole, you name it. If it’s southern cooking, Southern Lunch will have it on the menu. Don’t forget about the sides and dessert, too.
The family-style dining area is roomy with lots of tables and booths. Be warned; you may pick up a little of the regional accent after eating at this southern food restaurant in Lexington.
The old Coca-Cola building that Christo’s is housed in on South Main is what caught our eye. As we walked up to the doors, the delicious aroma that greeted us tempted our taste buds.
The large dining room has plenty of seating with signature red and white table cloths. Great food and fast, friendly service will bring you in time and again.
The menu is very extensive. A little Italian – lasagna, manicotti, meatballs. A little Greek – gyros, sauvlaki, stuffed peppers. And everything in between – signature wings, hot-oven subs, burgers, and pizza, plus a whole lot more.
It’s the kind of place that a dozen visits still wouldn’t cover everything on the five-page menu, but you’d eat well trying.
Lexington has long been a barbecue restaurant lover’s destination, but with all the other great restaurants in Lexington, which one will become your favorite?
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Loretta Berry is a freelance travel writer and photographer. She loves discovering new places and experiencing the local food and drink. She has traveled extensively throughout the United States.
She is a wife, mother of four, and grandmother of five. She loves traveling with her kids and grandkids, sharing with them her passion for fun, food, and adventure. She is a member of ITWPA and IFWTWA. You can find her on both Facebook and Instagram to follow her travels.