First Lady Finds That Barbecue is Serious Business in North Carolina (But Not Charlotte)

Michelle Obama has generally steered clear of controversy during her time as first lady, but after making comments looking ahead to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, she found herself caught up in a controversy of great importance to North Carolinians.

In a state where Nascar, basketball and barbecue reign, locals take outsiders' uninformed statements about their passions very personally, something the first lady found out recently when she talked about North Carolina's largest city being selected to host the 2012 DNC.

"Vibrant, diverse, and full of opportunity, the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And of course, great barbecue," Obama said praising Charlotte.

But while it's known for Nascar, a love for basketball and most of the things the first lady mentioned, Charlotte is more of a banking center than a barbecue center.

And while eastern and western North Carolinians often spar over which style of barbecue is best, (easterners prefer their pork mixed in with vinegar and red pepper flakes while westerners prefer a tomato-based sauce) they all agree that Charlotte isn't the place to go for any of it.

"Huh?!?! We appreciate all the compliments, and they're all spot-on until that last one," the Charlotte Observer's editorial board wrote about Obama's comments.

So if you can't get your barbecue fix in Charlotte, where should a non-native politico go?

To get a legendary platter of pulled pork, hushpuppies and coleslaw, follow Interstate 85 north out of Charlotte for about 60 miles until you reach "The Barbecue Center" in Lexington, the capital of western-style "Q." Owner Sonny Conrad doesn't put too much weight in the first lady's lack of local knowledge.

"I read it in the paper but didn't think much of it," Conrad said. "She's probably never even heard of Lexington."

In fact, the first lady's statement may give barbecue restaurant owners an opportunity to push their own platform down to Charlotte in 2012: platters of barbecue. Sonny Conrad says he'd be happy to introduce Democrats to the delicacy.

"We work with anybody for anything."