Westboro’s Lexington Smokehouse has been delighting its customers with its upscale barbecue fare for the past four years and has now opened up a new location in the heart of the ByWard Market on Clarence Street, one of the busiest blocks in the city.
I am used to traditional barbecue spots where the atmosphere is an afterthought, if even a thought at all. The food usually comes from a truck or a small shack and is eaten on picnic tables covered with checkered red-and-white tablecloths. The focus at these spots is entirely on the quality of food, with no fancy presentation or snazzy surroundings. The idea of an upscale barbecue spot seemed foreign to me, and I was excited to see it in action at Lexington.
When I stepped inside the restaurant, I was taken aback by how bright and slick it is: the colours pop, there are funky chandeliers, the seating area is warm and inviting, the patio is full of energy, and the bar is beautiful. But I was a little confused: there was absolutely no indication of what kind of restaurant Lexington was. The Westboro location has some nods to its menu’s barbecue theme, such as an assortment of knick-knacks and a large butcher sign from Lexington, North Carolina. The Clarence location, while beautiful, features nothing of the sort.
Lexington’s menu includes all of the mouth-watering barbecue favourites. Starters and sides include classics such as smoked wings, burnt ends, mac and cheese, potato salad, fries, and cornbread. The mains include fried chicken, pulled pork, a brisket sandwich, shrimp and grits, a burger, and a barbecue platter that comes with a mountain of meat and sides. I was also pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of vegetarian options, which include cauliflower, fried pickles, fried brie, jalapeño poppers, numerous salads, and a jackfruit sandwich.
I chose the brisket, which, in my opinion, is the ultimate test for any barbecue spot, and it did not disappoint. The meat was perfect: the flavour was incredible, and it was so tender that it melted in my mouth. The house-made chips were a nice touch. The bun was delicious and a perfect vessel for the gigantic sandwich, which somehow did not fall apart. The side of potato salad was packed with great flavour. The sandwich’s herb aioli sauce was an odd choice: it was great, but it didn’t fit well with brisket. I found myself missing the flavour of a more classic barbecue sauce.
The drink menu features a wide variety of beers and wines with a focus on local companies, and there is a fantastic cocktail list that features some unique creations with unconventional and exciting flavour combinations. The standout is the Caesar, which includes Carolina hot sauce, pickling marinade, and a piece of fried chicken as a garnish. Once again, however, I wondered why Lexington didn’t lean into its southern barbecue theme more. Why not promote their fantastic variety of bourbons, and why aren’t there more southern smokehouse flavours in the cocktails?
Overall, the new Lexington location is a wonderful addition to the ByWard. It’s fun and lively, the food and drinks are fantastic, and the décor is beautiful. Just don’t expect the look of a traditional smokehouse.