“…went in to Alexandria to a Barbecue and stayed all Night,”
George Washington’s diary, May 27, 1769
While there, the future Father of His Country ate hog, drank craft beer and won eight shillings playing cards…no better way to spend an evening. George did spend a night in Salem a few years later…he liked the local beer…no gambling was recorded…and we know for sure that he did not get to eat at one of our sometimes neglected institutions, Hill’s Lexington Barbecue, which was mentioned this week on Facebook by none other than Carroll Leggett…
Joe Allen Hill opened “Lexington Bar-B-Q” in an Atlantic gas station at the Patterson Avenue exit of Highway 52 N in 1951. Hill was from Lexington. In 1951 there were a few small side street barbecues in Lexington operated by Stamey, Beck and Swicegood. But none called their barbecue place “Lexington Barbecue.” So Hill’s claims to be the first to use the “Lexington Barbecue” title. Joe’s wife Edna was the true driving force behind the success of the business. You will find her portrait behind the cash register. Other than adding “Hill’s” to the name, they are still doing it the same way they did back then.
Hill’s is one of four NC-style barbecue joints in Forsyth County that meet the “Truecue” requirements, the most important of which is using wood coals or charcoal for the cooking:
Hill’s Lexington – N. Patterson (1951)
Clark’s – 66 South, K’ville (1993)
Original Little Richard’s – Country Club (1991)
Mr. Barbecue – Peter’s Creek Pkwy (1962)
That Atlantic sign leads us to the fact that Hill’s is a perfect example of how most roadside restaurants got started over the last hundred years or so. As automobile use increased in the early 20th century, rural gas stations popped up. Travelers were hungry, so owners began stocking snacks and sandwiches. Before they knew it, some of them were cooking and making more money off the food than the gasoline. Naturally, this brings us to the story of how gas station cafes led to a restaurant empire for one of Winston-Salem’s local legends.
Coming soon to a blog near you, the tale of the Staley brothers and their two state, four city restaurant empire.