Conversations with Charles Stamey - Can Lexington Style BBQ Work Elsewhere?
This is the fourth part of my reflections on my conversation with Charles Stamey, patriarch of Stamey's BBQ.
Lexington Style barbecue exists primarily in the western part of North Carolina. Stamey contends that it's an immense challenge to be able to bring his style of barbecue to other areas. Even intra-state barbecue styles present a challenge. A Eastern North Carolina whole hog guy tried opening a joint in Greensboro which failed miserably. Just because it's extremely popular in one region doesn't mean that it will work in another.
To Kansas City barbecue's credit, they have been able to get their style of smoking and saucing to the general American public without much adulteration. While there are places claiming that they are serving Texas brisket, Memphis style ribs or Carolina pulled pork, they most certainly are not. If you traveled down to Lockhart or Winston-Salem or Memphis, it will be crystal clear from the first bite that what you're eating at Generic BBQ LLC is not even close. Just as while you might find orange chicken at your local Chinese food takeout, no such dish exists in China. Kansas City on the other hand has a national influence. Every time you dip your chicken nuggets in some "Barbecue sauce" you're tipping your hat off to the pioneers in Missouri/Kansas.
With some exceptions in Virginia, I don't know anywhere else in the country which offers Western Carolina BBQ. Memphis style pork comes pretty close but their sauces tend to be sweeter.
New York City, ironically enough is actually leading the way when it comes to hyper-regional BBQ. Hill Country BBQ actually reproduces in partnership with Lockhart's Kreuz Market the Central Texas flavors and experience. Delaney BBQ smokes Texas Brisket completely with a wood burning offset. RUB NYC and John Brownsmoke house specialize in Kansas City.
The Stamey challenge asks what needs to be done to effectively propagate Carolina BBQ. Several challenges exist
- Narrow menu - Carolina BBQ is solely pork and limited in the types of cuts where as Central Texas and Kansas City has a wider variety
- The Vinegar - Vinegar and mustard are natural pork enhancers but are not well suited for tasting alone. Kansas City sauces pretty much go with anything
- Lack of national awareness - North Carolina isn't really that present in people's thoughts. We think of cowboys in Texas and Elvis in Memphis. While North Carolina is growing into a national center of finance and medical research, most people in the country couldn't name anything about the state.