Baked in a graniteware bowl and sprinkled with delicate flecks of hand-harvested sea salt, Kindred’s milk bread is more than a mere loaf. Warm and pillowy, sweet and salty — it’s pure magic. A hug, if you will, in carbohydrate form.
Sure, you can find it around the world, but drinking a cold glass bottle of the sugary, amber-hued soda feels far more refreshing — and authentic — in the New Bern pharmacy-turned-Pepsi Store where it was invented.
Driving up to this brewery is like arriving at a Disney theme park. And, OK, yes, the company was founded in California in 1979. But in a state filled with amazing craft beer, drinking an IPA at the Biltmore of brewing is an experience.
We can’t help but feel a little possessive when it comes to this celebrated soda. The bubbly, burgundy nectar, invented in Salisbury, has been a cherished Tar Heel treasure for more than 100 years.
You’ve seen the lighthouse labels, the billboards while beach-bound. But there’s nothing like sipping sweet, chilled wine made from our state’s native muscadine grapes at the largest and oldest winery in the South.
505 North Sycamore Street Rose Hill, NC 28458
Sutton Drug Store’s icy fruit ’ades are the perfect way to cool down on a hot summer’s day. photograph by Anagram Photo
“The Coop” has been dishing out the same light and crunchy fried chicken since 1962. Service is carryout only, but when customers can’t wait for that first savory bite, they simply feast inside their cars parked along the street.
The best place to satisfy a hankering for fast-food fried chicken, perfectly seasoned fries, and sweet tea? Whichever Bo’s is closest. Forty years ago, Bojangles’ opened its first location in Charlotte. Now, it’s got legions of fans as far away as Honduras.
The fried chicken at Keaton’s is dipped in a secret, magical barbecue sauce — hot or mild — and served with a white bread bun. It’s impossibly delicious … if you can find the place. Hint: Just drive until you’re lost.
More than 60 years ago at Miller’s, hamburger met pimento cheese. The rest is history. It’s no longer the only pimento cheese burger around, but the faithful — who don’t mind spreading it on thick sometimes — will tell you it’s still the best.
710 Wilkesboro Street Mocksville, NC 27028 (336) 751-2621
At the Shake Shop in Cherryville, a signature Lottaburger is stacked with slaw, tomato, pickle. photograph by Tim Robison
People come to Kermit’s for a taste of nostalgia. They long for the warm buns, the freshly chopped onions, the coleslaw, and the homemade pimento cheese. And they know just what to do when they arrive: drive up to the curb and flip their lights, or head inside for the constant soundtrack of the sizzling grill.
Bill’s is takeout only. There are no fancy condiments. Just order a bag full of white paper-wrapped, oil-fried, nuclear-red hot dogs “all the way” — that’s with special spicy chili, onions, and mustard — and be prepared to share.
109 Gladden Street
Washington, NC 27889
Eating at the original Snoopy’s Hot Dogs is a Raleigh rite of passage. Since the restaurant opened in 1978, folks have been lining up for a hot dog served eastern Carolina-style: mustard, onions, and chili, steamed in a bun.
1931 Wake Forest Road Raleigh, NC 27608
(919) 839-2176 snoopys.com
Some customers come to Yum Yum Better Ice Cream for — you guessed it — the ice cream. It’s legendary. But so are the hot dogs, served six ways in a warm bun, each boiled weenie as red as a Christmas tree light.
1219 Spring Garden Street
Greensboro, NC 27403
There are no “show dogs” here. What brings people are charred dogs — the restaurant’s motto is “We burn ’em for you” — topped with mustard, onions, chili, and homemade slaw. The chili is so good that it even inspired a no-ketchup rule. You wouldn’t want to cover up all that flavor, would you?
No substitutions. No choices. And most definitely no menu. The Beefmastor serves rib eye — and only rib eye. Customers are greeted with a slab of meat on a wooden butcher block. They make a selection. Then, they eat their meal with a baked potato and Texas toast.
2656 U.S. Highway 301 South Wilson, NC 27893
Beef n’ Bottle
It takes a reservation made well in advance to score a booth in the low-lit dining room of this storied steakhouse on a Saturday night. But once you’ve settled in, enjoy the complimentary cheese spread and crackers, a salad, the pressed garlic bread, a martini. Then, pick your steak.
Tasting a Stump Sound oyster feels like taking a brisk dive into the chilly Atlantic and surfacing with a snootful of surf. It tastes exactly like the ocean, its brine, its sea life — and that salty taste puts them at the top of oyster-lovers’ favorites.
Change is overrated: The original-recipe crab cakes at Owens’ keep tourists and locals hungry for more. photograph by Anagram Photo
At Big Oak, the star of the walk-up window is the shrimpburger: small, very lightly battered shrimp; a little tartar sauce and coleslaw; a little ketchup. It’s a honey-pack-the-car-I-need-one-today meal on a bun.
At El’s, the drive-in hasn’t given way to the drive-thru. Since 1959, carhops have been delivering a bagged bounty — shrimp and oyster plates, cheese dogs, the signature Superburgers — right to your window.
3706 Arendell Street Morehead City, NC 28557 (252) 726-3002 elsdrivein.com
At Snappy Lunch, order the pork chop sandwich “Charlie’s way.” That’s with coleslaw, mustard, chili, onion, and tomato. Just make sure to grab a fistful of napkins. photograph by Travis Dove
It’s the only Mount Airy business ever mentioned during the eight-year run of The Andy Griffith Show, but it’s Snappy Lunch’s pork chop sandwich that endures. Fans will drive for hours to stand in a line so they can eat, on a bun, a piece of fried pork bigger than a dessert plate.
It is what you think it is. You can get your sandwich in a dizzying array of options: turkey with cranberry sauce, turkey with stuffing, turkey with cranberry sauce and stuffing. All this on Texas toast — gravy on the side.
Shelby has claimed livermush since at least 1933, when two local businesses — Mack’s Livermush and Jenkins Foods — got their start. Try the regional delicacy on a sandwich at the Shelby Café. Think of it as a softer, richer sausage patty.
220 South Lafayette Street Shelby, NC 28150
The Dairy Center
Mount Airy’s (other) famous sandwich? Ground-steak: ground beef thickened with flour and water, served on a toasted, buttered bun, and topped with coleslaw, tomato, chopped onion, and mayonnaise. It’s like a sloppy joe without the ketchup.
407 West Lebanon Street Mount Airy, NC 27030
Merritt’s calling card is the B.L.T. — a destination sandwich. And while a standard B.L.T. has a recipe only three letters long, the Merritt’s version comes in three sizes: single, double, and triple. The numbers correspond to how many layers of bacon, lettuce, and tomato the sandwich contains. Dreams do come true.
1009 South Columbia Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Thai peanut chicken tacos, Southwest Corn Chowder, and roasted duck confit tacos with mole and apple-cranberry salsa. photograph by Tim Robison
Inside a cave-like, refurbished Quonset hut by the French Broad River, you’ll find wildly creative fare. Start with the Bangkok Shrimp Taco: sesame-glazed fried shrimp with curry aioli and house-made pickles.
Around the world on a plate: Plant’s take on the Indian dish uttapam, a lentil and fermented rice pancake, includes house-made kimchi, peanut-and-sesame chutney, and avocado. photograph by Bill Lusk Studio
Here’s what you won’t find at Asheville’s vegan mainstay: meat, dairy, or eggs. You will find a creative menu unlike any you’ve ever seen — or tasted. Here in the Barbecue Belt, it’s perfectly fine to be skeptical. But first, take a bite.
You’ll feel like a real-life Charlie at this bean-to-bar chocolate factory. The golden ticket: chocolate bars that range from classic milk and dark chocolate to flavors like blueberry and pink peppercorn.
Cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic become chocolate bars and gelato, espresso brownies and salted caramel tarts at this “visible factory” in Winston-Salem. Take a peek into the process, and, of course, sample the delicious creations.
French Broad roasts, cracks, grinds, and tempers all of their chocolate in small batches. The result: unique offerings like chocolate habanero, strawberry balsamic, lavender honey, and sorghum caramel truffles, made with super-local ingredients.
The glowing sign is a siren call, a thoroughly North Carolinian expression of “carpe diem.” The glazed, pillowy-soft doughnuts, invented in Winston-Salem in 1937, used to be our secret … but we can share.
Chef Emeritus Bill Smith wanted to re-create the lemon pie of his childhood on the coast — with some tweaks. Whipped cream and flaky salt instead of meringue; saltine crust instead of Ritz Crackers. He called the dessert Atlantic Beach pie. It was a hit. Then it went viral. Now, it’s legendary.
At Chapel Hill fixture Mama Dip’s, the beloved sweet potato pie has a custardy filling made with milk, eggs, and melted butter, plus warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. The sweet potatoes are boiled until tender, then mashed until smooth.
408 West Rosemary Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
(919) 942-5837 mamadips.com
This creamery in NC State’s Hunt Library uses fresh milk from cows at the school’s Dairy Research and Teaching Farm. Try the best seller, Wolf Tracks: vanilla, chocolate, caramel, and chunks of fudge.
1070 Partners Way Raleigh, NC 27606
The bulbs in the Dots sign (left)don’t burn anymore, and there are cracks in the iconic cone, but it’s all part of the place, as much as the cones topped with homemade ice cream. photograph by Tim Robison
Louis Coletta’s family has been in the ice cream business since 1915. Today, he continues the tradition at Tony’s. One flavor that often takes newcomers by surprise — grape — is a nod to the Colettas’ Italian heritage.