photograph by Tim Robison

Download our 56 Food Experiences You Can’t Miss in NC checklist here.



 

 

 

B’s Barbecue

There are no telephones or take-out menus at B’s, but there is plenty of whole-hog barbecue, cooked to tender perfection and doused in an eastern-style sauce. A word of advice: Get there early.

751 State Road 1204 
Greenville, NC 27858
(252) 758-7126
restaurantji.com

 

At Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge, you will want to order the ’cue, but don’t forget the perfect sides — sweet tea and hush puppies. photograph by Johnny Autry

Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge

Here, hand-chopped ’cue, painstakingly pit-cooked over a bed of glowing hickory and oak and slathered in red Lexington-style sauce, pairs perfectly with red slaw and hush puppies.

2000 East Dixon Boulevard
Shelby, NC 28150
(704) 482-8567
bridgesbbq.com

 

Lexington Barbecue

At this legendary Piedmont joint, the meat is the thing: pulled from slow-roasted pork shoulders and enhanced by a dark, thin sauce — or “dip” — that is neither too mild nor too fiery.

100 Smokehouse Lane
Lexington, NC 27295
(336) 249-9814
Lunch and dinner are served Monday-Saturday. Curb service is offered.

 

 

 

 

Flo’s Kitchen 

Good homemade biscuits require a lot of hand-holding, and the famous, hoop cheese-stuffed cathead biscuits at Flo’s are no exception. It takes two hands to make them, and two hands to eat them.

1015 Goldsboro Street
South Wilson, NC 27893
(252) 237-9146

 

 

Kindred

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.

131 North Main Street
Davidson, NC 28036
(980) 231-5000
kindreddavidson.com

 

 

 

Pepsi

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.

256 Middle Street
New Bern, NC 28560
(252) 636-5898
pepsistore.com

 

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

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.

100 Sierra Nevada Way
Fletcher, NC 28732
(828) 681-5300
sierranevada.com

 

Cheerwine

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.

 

Duplin Winery

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

Sutton’s Drug Store

The icy fruit ’ades at Sutton’s are a tradition that goes back to the founding of the store in 1923. Perch yourself on a stool and sip a ruby-red cherry limeade.

159 East Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 942-5161
suttonsdrugstore.com

 

Double D’s Coffee

Beep beep! Grab a cuppa at this Asheville landmark — a bright red double-decker bus that traveled to the U.S. from London in the 1970s and began its new life as a coffee shop in 1999.

41 Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 505-2439
doubledscoffee.com

 

 
 

Price’s Chicken Coop

“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.

1614 Camden Road
Charlotte, NC 28203
(704) 333-9866
priceschickencoop.com

 

Bojangle’s

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.

 

Keaton’s Barbecue

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.

17365 Cool Springs Road
Cleveland, NC 27013
(704) 278-3048 

keatonsoriginalbbq.com

 

At the Chef & The Farmer, you can’t miss this signature dish. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Chef & The Farmer

The breakout dish at Chef Vivian Howard’s landmark Kinston restaurant was the barbecued chicken slathered with her special blueberry, eastern-style sauce.

120 West Gordon Street
Kinston, NC 28501
(252) 208-2433
vivianhoward.com/chef-the-farmer

 

 

Miller’s Restaurant

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

Shake Shop

The signature meal at this hole-in-the-wall joint has always been a Lottaburger: two burgers cooked on a flattop grill and served inside a hoagie-type bun. With slaw, tomato, and pickle. Only.

505 West Church Street
Cherryville, NC 28021
(704) 435-5778

 

 

 

At Kermit’s in Winston-Salem, a cheese dog means pimento cheese. Who could resist? photograph by Jerry Wolford

Kermit’s

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.

2220 Thomasville Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27107
(336) 788-9945

 

Bill’s

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
(252) 946-3343

 

Snoopy’s

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

 

Yum Yum’s

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
(336) 272-8284

 

Dick’s

A Wilson landmark, Dick’s Hot Dog Stand has been serving up dogs since 1921. And, pssst, it would be a mistake to leave without trying the chili, made from the same recipe for nearly 100 years.

1500 West Nash Street
Wilson, NC 27893
(252) 243-6313

 

The Roast Grill

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?

7 South West Street
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 832-8292

roastgrill.com

 

 

 
The Beefmaster Inn

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
(252) 237-7343

 

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.

4538 South Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28209
(704) 523-9977
beefandbottle.net

 

 

 

Stump Sound Oysters

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

Owens’ Restaurant

The dinner menu at this Outer Banks restaurant, open since 1946, remains a time capsule of seafood classics. And none are more beloved than the signature crab cakes and hush puppies.

7114 South Virginia Dare Trail
Nags Head, NC 27959
(252) 441-7309
owensrestaurant.com

 

Big Oak Drive-In

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.

1167 Salter Path Road
Salter Path, NC 28575
(252) 247-2588
bigoakdrivein.com

 

El’s Drive-In

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

Snappy Lunch

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.

125 North Main Street
Mount Airy, NC 27030
(336) 786-4931
thesnappylunch.com

 

The Fried Turkey Sandwich Shop

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.

2318 Paintersmill Drive
Fayetteville, NC 28304
(910) 425-2755 
friedturkeyshop.com

 

Shelby Café

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
(704) 487-8461

 

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
(336) 786-2349

 

Merritt’s Store and Grill

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
(919) 942-4897
merrittsstoreandgrill.com

 

 

 

Thai peanut chicken tacos, Southwest Corn Chowder, and roasted duck confit tacos with mole and apple-cranberry salsa. photograph by Tim Robison

White Duck Taco

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.

388 Riverside Drive
Asheville, NC 28801

(828) 254-1398
whiteducktacoshop.com

 

 

 

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

Plant

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.

165 Merrimon Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 258-7500
plantisfood.com

 

 

 

Videri Chocolate Factory

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.

327 West Davie Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 755-5053
viderichocolatefactory.com

Try tasty truffles made with Bulleit Bourbon at Black Mountain Chocolate. photograph by Dhanraj Emanuel

Black Mountain Chocolate

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.

732 Trade Street Northwest
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
(336) 293-4698
blackmountainchocolate.com

 

French Broad Chocolate Lounge

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.

10 South Pack Square
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 252-4181
frenchbroadchocolates.com

 

 

 

Britt’s Donut Shop

The Carolina Beach Boardwalk has gone through its share of changes, but one thing about it has stood the test of time: the “Sweetest Place on Earth” and its warm doughnuts with a flaky glaze.

11 Boardwalk
Carolina Beach, NC 28428
brittsdonutshop.com

 

Krispy Kreme

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.

 

 

 

Rockford General Store

Why is it called sonker? No one knows for sure. But when locals hanker for warm, juicy fruit — peach, sweet potato, cherry, and berry — baked into a sweet crust, they know just where to go.

5174 Rockford Road
Dobson, NC 27017
(336) 374-5317
rockfordgeneralstore.com

 

Angus Barn

Sure, the grilled steaks are great. But we’re here to talk about the legendary chocolate chess pie: Its signature crackly, crusty top is drizzled with chocolate syrup and dolloped with whipped cream.

9401 Glenwood Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27617
(919) 781-2444
angusbarn.com

 

Crook’s Corner

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.

610 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
(919) 929-7643
crookscorner.com

 

Mama Dip’s

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

 

 

 

Howling Cow

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
(919) 515-7012

 

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

Dots Dario

Dots has been a sweet summer standby for nearly 50 years. Scoops of German chocolate, cherry cheesecake, and rainbow ice cream are a reason to save room for dessert.

30 Lake Tahoma Road
Marion, NC 28752
(828) 724-4546

 

Tony’s Ice Cream

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.

604 E Franklin Boulevard
Gastonia, NC 28054
(704) 867-7085
tonysicecream.com

This story was published on

Katie Schanze is the assistant editor and digital editor of Our State.

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