North Carolina’s Famous Foods

North Carolina’s Famous Foods

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts was founded in Winston-Salem in 1937

North Carolina features many unique foods, drinks and places to enjoy them. Here are a half-dozen of the state’s great food stories:


Sometimes known as the “nectar of the tarheels,” Cheerwine was first formulated in the basement of L.D. Peeler’s wholesale grocery store in Salisbury in 1917.

The company has been passed down through three generations of Peeler’s family, using old-style marketing for the growth of the brand throughout the South. It can now be found in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and California.


Wilbur Hardee opened the first Hardee’s restaurant in 1960 on a popular street corner in Greenville. At the time, a hamburger cost 15 cents. Wilbur offered customers “charco-broiled” hamburgers, fast service and a drive-through window.

Five months later, he had his first franchisee and during the years his burger chain has spread to become a favorite throughout the Midwest and Southeast. The company went public in 1963 and Hardee left the company soon thereafter. However, he went on to launch 85 different restaurants throughout the Southeast, such as Biscuit Town, Hot Dog City and Beef & Shake.

Krispy Kreme

Vernon Rudolph founded Krispy Kreme in Winston-Salem in 1937 and sold his first doughnuts for 25 cents a dozen after borrowing the ingredients from a nearby grocer.

Today, Krispy Kreme produces millions of doughnuts a day. The company has grown to serve customers in more than 38 states and Canada. Krispy Kreme products are also sold at thousands of supermarkets, convenience stores and other retail outlets around the country.

Mt. Olive Pickles

Mt. Olive Pickle Company, Inc., located at the corner of Cucumber and Vine in Mount Olive, was originally founded for the purpose of brining cucumbers to be sold to other pickling firms. From a modest beginning in 1926, with only a 3,600-square-foot building and $19,500 in capital, Mt. Olive has grown to manufacture the best-selling brand of pickles in the Southeast, and the second best-selling brand of pickles in the country.

Mt. Olive celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2016. The company is the largest privately held pickle company in the nation, with continued sales growth into new markets.


Pepsi-Cola began in a drugstore in New Bern in 1896 at the hands of pharmacist Caleb Bradham. His aim was to create a fountain drink that was both delicious and healthful in aiding digestion and boosting energy.

Bradham’s drugstore housed a soda fountain where the small-town clientele would meet to socialize. It was at such gatherings that he would offer his latest concoction that became known as “Brad’s Drink.”

By 1902, the demand from surrounding drugstores increased so dramatically that it dawned on Bradham that Pepsi-Cola was something special. On Dec. 24, 1902, he filed incorporation papers with the state of North Carolina indicating plans for corporate branches in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York.

Today consumers spend billions on various Pepsi-Cola beverages, including Tropicana Juices, SoBe Lifewaters, Gatorade and Lipton Teas.

Texas Pete

No, Texas is not the birthplace of Texas Pete hot sauce – nor was it developed by a man named Pete. Actually, the spicy condiment was developed in the 1940s in Winston-Salem.

Three brothers, Thad, Ralph and Harold Garner; father Samuel Garner; and “Mother Jane” began their business making the sauce in pots on the cook stove in their family home. The brothers thought the hot sauce should be named “Mexican Joe,” but their dad insisted on an American name – Texas – coupled with his son Harold’s nickname – Pete.

The recipe is still a secret and Texas Pete’s headquarters is still in Winston-Salem. Family members hold the primary positions and their product line has expanded to include Buffalo Wing Sauce, Honey Mustard Sauce, Chili Sauce, Pepper Sauce, Seafood Cocktail Sauce and more.

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