Where The Locals Eat In NC
Local cuisine with character and a deep sense of tradition is an essential part of the North Carolina experience, from barbecue and fried chicken to fresh seafood and inventive, upscale Southern fare.
Michael Stern, a food writer, co-host of the website Roadfood.com and a weekly contributor to American Public Media’s The Splendid Table, says North Carolina is an increasingly rare place, where an abundance of local, independently operated restaurants reflect area traditions.
“It’s just a great eating state with a tremendous amount of variety,” Stern says. “In addition to the sleeves-up fried chicken and barbecue, there are some really good fine-dining options as well. If you like to eat, North Carolina is a great place to be.”
Here’s a small sampling of the many delicious options available throughout the state. Have a great time making your own list!
The Lexington Avenue Brewery in downtown Asheville features live music, six stellar craft brews and pub-inspired fare made from a bounty of local ingredients.
The Bluffs Restaurant & Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Laurel Springs is famous for its sweet potato pancakes, but it also serves up excellent skillet-fried chicken, hot biscuits and juicy cobblers.
Come hungry and ready to socialize to the Dan'l Boone Inn in Boone, where big country meals – three meats and five vegetables along with hot biscuits, preserves and an icy beverage – are served family-style.
Don’t miss the Early Girl Eatery in downtown Asheville. This casual spot’s eclectic Southern menu focuses on made-from-scratch fare, with many ingredients acquired from local farmers. Early Girl was named one of the state’s top five breakfast joints by Southern Living magazine in 2010.
Snappy Lunch diner in Mount Airy (the inspiration for Andy Griffith’s Mayberry) is famous for its pork chop sandwich, a boneless loin chop dipped in sweet-milk batter and fried until golden crisp. Stern calls Snappy Lunch’s pork chop sandwich “one of the great meals of the South.”
Yancey House Restaurant in Yanceyville features an inventive menu that changes with the seasons. This elegant eatery won first place in the casual dining division of the 2011 Best Dish in North Carolina restaurant contest, which recognizes restaurants with local cuisine on their menus.
Four Square Restaurant in Durham is one of the region’s premier fine-dining destinations, offering a menu that changes bimonthly to match the season's freshest products. Four Square won first place in the fine dining division of the 2009 Best Dish in North Carolina restaurant contest.
The Harvest Moon Grille in Charlotte is a farm-to-table restaurant that serves fabulous fresh food made with locally grown ingredients from Grateful Growers Farm and other local farms and businesses.
Known as a “beefeater’s haven,” The Angus Barn is an upscale Raleigh landmark housed in a rustic barn known for its steaks and prime rib.
Price’s Chicken Coop in Charlotte is a small spot with no indoor dining space, but it’s always packed with people clamoring for its legendary Southern fried chicken to go.
Zada Jane’s Corner Café in Charlotte offers an artsy vibe and unique fare for breakfast, including sweet potato hash browns. Zada Jane’s made Southern Living magazine’s list of the state’s best breakfast spots in 2010.
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro and Cary serves locally sourced, upscale Southern cuisine and earned a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2009.
Visitors will find homemade Amish bread, fresh fried pies, canned fruits and vegetables, amazing desserts, and tasty sandwiches at the Shiloh General Store & Bakery in Hamptonville.
Marvin's Fresh Farmhouse, a down-home spot with red-and-white checked tablecloths in Mount Pleasant, serves food made primarily from local farm ingredients. This popular place is known for barbecue, sweet potato fries, fried chicken, country-style steak and other Southern favorites.
Skylight Inn in Ayden is considered one of the best barbecue joints in eastern North Carolina. Founded in 1947, this small destination has only one thing on the menu: pork sandwiches with slaw and corn bread.
Mama Dip’s Kitchen is a landmark for great comfort food in Chapel Hill. Fried food – okra, chicken, green tomatoes and pork chops – along with sweet tea is on tap.
Dick’s Hot Dog Stand, a full-service restaurant in Wilson, has served hot dogs and its original chili recipe since 1921.
At Parker’s Barbecue in Wilson, customers crowd the tables for family-style, all-you-can-eat platters of chopped pork, hush puppies, corn sticks and coleslaw.
Keaton’s Barbecue in Statesville is a must-stop place, but it’s not your typical barbecue-style eatery. The chicken is deep-fried, then immersed in Keaton’s signature barbecue sauce, which creates a spectacular, sweet crust on the outside.
Dixie Grill in downtown Wilmington serves standard diner fare along with Southern-inspired dishes, including a fried green tomato BLT on Texas toast. This landmark was among Southern Living magazine’s picks for the state’s best breakfast spots in 2010.
The Fish Hook Grill on Harkers Island is a laid-back local favorite that serves up fresh seafood with homemade desserts and friendly service.
Howard's Pub on Ocracoke Island is the island's only raw bar, and also dishes up fresh seafood, steaks, pizzas, burgers and sandwiches. It’s so popular that people fly in on private planes to enjoy the casual atmosphere.
Bistro-by-the-Sea Restaurant in Morehead City specializes in fresh, seasonal seafood straight from Carteret County waters.
The Calabash Seafood Hut in Calabash is a local favorite. “Calabash-style” generally means fried food lightly battered, and this small, friendly spot serves up shrimp, scallops, fish and clam chowder just right.
Sam & Omie’s Restaurant in Nags Head exudes a barefoot and beachy atmosphere that attracts locals and visitors alike. The menu ranges from omelets and burgers to prime rib and seafood dinners.
By Rebecca Denton
added: April 11, 2011
updated: February 20, 2012
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