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Lunch Just Off of Route 40 Near Statesville or Hickory?

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We'll be traveling from Chapel Hill to Asheville at some point next week and will probably be somewhere around Statesville or Hickory at lunchtime. Any suggestions for good (and hopefully quick) places just off of Route 40 around there? Definitely no chains--diners, roadside food joints, local spots, etc. would be preferable...

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  1. A great place about 7 miles west of Hickory is Granny's Country Kitchen at Exit 116 in Icard. The best country cooking around. Serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is available all day. They have a wide array of vegetables and meats.

    1. The two places that are oft recommended in this area are Jay Bee's hot dogs and Keaton's chicken. While Jay Bee's is closer to the road, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. The hot dogs are nothing special.

      Keaton's chicken, however, is fairly unique, and well worth the 10 minute detour into the middle of nowhere. They fry their chicken and then dip it in a red sauce (you can get it hot or not as hot ( they call that mild, by the way).

      10 Replies
      1. re: brentk

        I would love to go to Keaton's, but it looks like they are closed on Sundays, which is when we will be driving through the area.

        Any other good BBQ places nearby that are open on Sundays? I was just reading about Judge's in Morganton, which doesn't look too far away from Hickory and Statesville. Anyone been there?

        1. re: hiddenboston

          Judge's isn't too far off I-40, but it isn't "all that". Have been twice, won't go again.

          Hate you can't do Keaton's because it is truly worth the visit; perhaps your return visit can be planned around their hours of operation (we try to do this as often as possible).

          There is no truly good bbq in the Hickory area at all. Chain city is what that area is all about it seems.

          If the Claremont Cafe (pool room) is open on Sunday, that would be your best bet for a killer breakfast that's inexpensive and a "belly buster". Plus their cheeseburgers are worth a drive from Chapel Hill, much like Keaton's chicken would be...

          Good luck.

          1. re: goodeatsinadive

            OMG , i used to live in Claremont and raved to fellow Chapel Hillians about Claremont Cafe cheeseburgers. Good to have the back up! Also, my dad lives in Statesville and used to take us to Keaton's as kids. i thought it was weird, at age 10, eating at a converted gas station, but makes a ton of sense now, with all the trendy restaurant openings!! haha, but Keaton's never was a trend spot. Just good original fried chicken. I do remember being aghast, even at aged 10, about their omnipresent sanitation grade of "C". Wonder if that has changed.

          2. re: hiddenboston

            Too bad about Keaton's cuz they have the best bbq chicken - hands down!

            Like Brent said, I don't really get the draw to Jaybee's, other than it's been there forever.

            1. re: lynnlato

              Darn, now I really want to go to Keaton's.

              So if any of you were in Statesville or one of the nearby towns off Route 40 on a Sunday and wanted good BBQ, where would you go? I'm thinking more and more that I really want BBQ that day...

              1. re: hiddenboston

                I hate to break it to ya, HB, but you're gonna be hard-pressed to find a decent diner/roadside food stop in this area on a Sunday. A year ago I started a thread looking for sunday recs in the Statesville area and got no responses. Every place I checked out (Carolina BBQ, Little Pigs, Keaton's, etc) is closed on Sunday.

                I wish I could help. Let us know if you find anything though!

                1. re: lynnlato

                  Ugh, maybe it'll be Judge's in Morganton, then. Or Jay Bee's for what sounds like an average hot dog...

                  1. re: hiddenboston

                    I 've been driving through there for over 20 years going back and forth to see the parents, and I can't think of any place that is close to the highway that is worth looking for except Keaton's and Jay Bee's. Jay Bee's is what it is - I agree with the other posters, it's okay but you won't be writing a rave review about it. That said, it's better than the chains. I know you can't go to Keaton's, but let me gush for a moment please ... everyone is right - it's pretty darn good, I must say. If you can get there, don't skip the mac and cheese - it's worth the calorie splurge. Have a nice trip and maybe some Keaton's chicken will be in your future on another jaunt.

                    1. re: atruebluedevil

                      Thanks, atruebluedevil. I'm really looking forward to getting back to the area (I last went in 1991). And yes, perhaps I can do a food-based trip to North Carolina institutions such as Keaton's sometime down the road.

                    2. re: hiddenboston

                      if you are thinking about stopping at judge's in morganton, i would stop at uptown bbq before judge's. prices at uptowns are better. portions are big enough to also have leftovers. and their homemade sourdough rolls are the best. but there is also a small chain called fatz cafe in morganton that is great also. but uptown is right off 40 while judge's is a lot farther into town.

          3. Is Keatons fried Chicken anything like Princes Hot Chicken in Nashville??? I would love to find something like that closer than the 4 hour drive to Music City.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Spreadhead

              Out of curiosity I looked up Prince's in Nashville. I don't think we're talking about the same thing here. Prince's is a H O T kind of chicken, Keaton's is not. It's hard to summarize, but Keaton's is bbq chicken with a bit of spice... but the spice does not define it. Here's a link to the Stern's Roadfood review:
              http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Overv...

              1. re: lynnlato

                thanks for the link Lynn. I do a lot of day trips on Friday for business. That will come in handy to find places along the way in NC/SC/VA!

              2. re: Spreadhead

                Spreadhead,
                lynlato is correct. I eat at Keaton's a couple of times a year and I ate at Princes's back in April, for the first time in 18 years! Keaton's is great, but you will not get the burn you get in Nashville, not even close. Both ARE dipped post frying . However, if you have not experienced Keaton's it is worth the trip.
                Are you going to the show in Charlotte at the end of the month? I am!

                1. re: Tee

                  I will have to stop in on my way to the Charlotte shows. :) "Kiss th' Mountain air we breathe!!! "

                  1. re: Spreadhead

                    That's great. I am making the Saturday show only. I think Keatons closes at 2:00 pm, so you better check.....

              3. There is a Mexican hole in the wall place just off I-40 at exit 130. No matter which direction you are going on I-40, you will turn left and go south. The restaurant is on the right in a repurposed gas station just up the hill from the Interstate. This is authentic -- not tex-mex. English is not spoken here, and your appearence may come as a shock to the owners. The food is quite good -- and I don't think this cuisine is easy to find in Boston, though it is thick on the ground in the Hispanic sections of Atlanta.

                1. I hate to rub it in HB, but I made it up to Keaton's yesterday. We had the hot legs and thighs, spicy vinegar slaw, mac n' cheese, and of course a few bottles of the sauce to go. The sides were okay, but the chicken, as usual, was amazing. I picked it clean! I have attached a couple of pics for your viewing pleasure. I sure do hope you get there sometime soon.

                   
                   
                  6 Replies
                  1. re: lynnlato

                    Blast it! :-D

                    We actually drove to Keaton's yesterday to take a couple of photos of the place. It looked exactly like the kind of place I wanted to hit. ;-/ Oh well we got an early start and made it all the way to Black Mountain for lunch, where I had some tasty country ham at Que Sera.

                    1. re: hiddenboston

                      Ha! Well, I'm just glad you were able to find something tasty. Keaton's, it's out in the middle of no where, isn't it? It's sandwiched between corn fields!

                      Happy Travels to you.

                      1. re: lynnlato

                        Thanks! We've been finding some good places so far. The Jerusalem Cafe in Asheville (or whatever the restaurant is called now) was very good--excellent falafel.

                        One other question--any really good mid-scale restaurants in Black Mountain for dinner? I want to do casual, but not cheap eats, either.

                        1. re: hiddenboston

                          I'll have to check that out next time I'm in Asheville.

                          I'm afraid I'm not familiar w/ Black Mtn. at all. Perhaps other CH's in the area can offer up some good recs. Good luck!

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            The Jerusalem cafe is excellent...did you get to check out a belly-dancing show? GrEaT if you did!!! GREAT beer selections as well....hint @ apricot flavored ones! In Black Mtn., a great choice is My Father's Pizza for casual dining and great food.

                            1. re: plunka5

                              We actually did a quick outdoor lunch at the Jerusalem Cafe--barely even stepped foot into the place. Excellent food, though. I really liked the creamy hummus and the nicely textured falafel. Grape leaves were pretty good, too, though nothing outstanding.

                              We drove past Statesville today on our way to the airport. Went past it around 10:00, so we were unable to try Keaton's out. ;-/ But I'm hoping to get there sometime soon, as I really want to get back to the Asheville area when I have a chance.