Rick Monk’s Lexington Barbecue chosen as one of 50 most iconic restaurants in US

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LEXINGTON, N.C. -- Not many eating establishments can claim being one of the most iconic restaurants in the United States.

But one in the Piedmont can. It takes no reservations. It doesn’t serve $30 entrees or fancy alcoholic drinks. It doesn’t feature tablecloths or cloth napkins.

Lexington Barbecue focuses primarily on two things: good food and good companionship.

“The thing about barbecue is cooking it the right way. And the right way to cook it is with wood,” Lexington Barbecue owner Rick Monk told me recently. “It’s the flavor. It’s advertising in the air. You drive by, you smell it. It’s true authentic North Carolina barbecue.”

For Monk, this is his life. His son, brother-in-law, nephew and two sisters all work in the restaurant.

His father, Daniel Wayne Monk, co-founded the place in 1962 with a partner, Sonny Honeycutt. They fused the two names together and called the restaurant “Honeymonk.” Once Honeycutt left several years later, the restaurant took the name of the town in which it sits. Not much has changed since.

Monk cooks fresh every day.

“Either it came off the pit late that night or early this morning," he said. “Everything here is in and out in 24 hours.”

He also only cooks pork shoulders.

“On the shoulder, there are six or seven different muscles. Each one taste different," he said. “You start coming in my restaurant and eat with me, I start talking to you. I find what flavor you like, what texture you like. And I’ll fix you up that way.”

It’s that taste -- in part -- that landed this place on the Rave Reviews list of the top 50 most iconic restaurants in the United States. Based on data from the most recent rankings of websites like TripAdvisor and Business Insider, Lexington BBQ came in at number 47.

“Well, I don’t think I deserve it, to be honest with you,” Monk says of the ranking. “The food is part of it. The other part is the restaurant itself. What personality does that restaurant have.”

“I think when you walk in here, do you come to eat barbecue? Yes! But once you get to know us and known me and know my family and friends, I think that’s part of the restaurant business too.

For more information on Lexington Barbecue, including directions, hours and the menu, visit their website.