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Dec 8, 2009 07:04 AM

Good Eats off I-95 between NJ and FL?

We are driving from NJ to Florida (and back) with our kids over Christmas Break, and wanted to make it a bit more interesting than just quick stops for fast food along the way. If you have any local favorites that are more interesting than a Denny's or McDonald's, please share them with me. I am not sure what time we will be where, so I would like to have as many options as possible. We will be following I-95 straight down the line, so any place within about 5 miles of the highway would be preferred.

FYI - My kid's are huge fans or Triple D (Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives), so places along those lines would be great. We are not looking for upscale, just good reliable neighborhood greasy spoons to add some interest to the long drive.


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  1. You should really do a search...this is a very frequently addressed question on this board. You might also want to search/post the Mid-Atlantic and Florida boards as well. One place I like that meets your criteria is Fullers BBQ in Lumberton, NC. Its right off I-95, and despite the name, isn't really a bbq joint but features a huge buffet of southern-style cooking. Plus I'm sure you'll enjoy the people watching.

    11 Replies
    1. re: carolinadawg

      Wilson, NC has a couple of great barbecue places -- Parker's and Bill's. (Note -- these are not the best places in NC by far, but they are close to 95. Parkers has barbecue, good fried chicken, and corn sticks that are to die for. Bill's has a buffet that features a whole hog. Do not stop at Bill's if you plan to do any more driving -- you will have eaten way too much and may fall asleep.

      In South Carolina, Sweatman's in Holly Hill is pretty close to 95.

      The Georgia Pig is near Brunswick, at the US 84 exit and just off 95.

      1. re: dcbbq

        Parker's has been terrible for ages, and Bill's hasn't been good since Floyd. Jack Cobb's in Farmville is good and would be another 10-15 minutes down 264, but the OP said he didn't want to detour. The only two things in Wilson that I'd recommend are El Mexicanito for tacos/tortas and the Beefmastor Inn for steak. But the Beefmastor takes several hours and isn't open for lunch either, so not really appropriate to a quick stop in off the interstate.

        Really, there's just no good barbecue near I-95 in NC. If you want to try eastern NC barbecue and don't want to detour, I would recommend the Tastee Hut in Stony Creek, VA and K&L Barbecue in Hopewell, VA over anything near 95 in North Carolina. Neither are as good as the top tier places in NC, but they're still quite good and a lot better than Parker's or Bill's.

        1. re: Naco

          You're too hard on Bill's. We hit in on a Sunday when driving back to Maryland from Florida and it turns a dreary last-day-of-vacation into a treat. I'd recommend it for honest roadfood.

          I will say that when you go inside, you can tell the once-a-year people like us from the locals who eat there twice a week. The word svelte is not commonly spoken in Wilson.

          1. re: jkosnett

            I just don't see any point to eating eastern NC barbecue that is not cooked over wood or charcoal. It's a waste of time and calories. I can't even recommend Bill's as the best thing in Wilson. El Mexicanito, Las Palmas, Beefmastor, and Flo's Kitchen are all much, much better.

            1. re: Naco

              Bill's bbq may not be the best, but the buffet is quite good. I like their fried chicken, there is a whole hog to pick from, cracklin and skin on the buffet, good and plentiful vegetables, and some excellent banana pudding. Certainly worth it for the money and they are open on some holidays like Jan.1 etc.

              1. re: chefsalad

                Isn't this site all about seeking out the best? I don't need any help to find mediocre food, I can do that all by my lonesome.

                1. re: Naco

                  I appreciate you insights, but obviously some people have the opinion that places you don't like are actually pretty good. Now short of calling them wrong, why beat on them? I had the buffet at Bill Ellis the other day, on someone else's treat and found it to be (again) quite good. Chicken was fresh, not old grease. The whole hog was slow cooked and extremely moist. And the buffet sides were almost all delicious. It is easy to get to off the interstate, and it is open on most days when other joints are closed.

                  I don't dispute that there are better places to eat, but it is also a lot better than other places that have been recommended on Chowhound. So for those who want information, we are providing an alternative OPINION on these restaurants so that each foodie can make up their own mind.

                  That is all...headed to the keys right NOW, where I will eat at the Key Fisheries at least 2 nights, whether anyone else likes it or not!

                  Happy New Year, I hope you all get to enjoy ALL your meals!

                  1. re: chefsalad

                    I'm not beating up on anyone, just engaging the old critical faculties a little. Obviously some people like Bill's, Parker's et al. They remain open, after all. But I feel pretty confident in saying that, among those who really know ENC barbecue on this board and in general, there's a fairly broad consensus that they're not worth the bother.

                    In any case, my purpose in posting on here is to promote places that have more to recommend them than proximity to the interstate and being open on Sunday. I'll drive an hour to eat birria at the drop of a hat, so I expect my posts will mostly appeal to others with the same impulse.

          2. re: Naco

            agree on parker's. don't go there.

            and i like fuller's in lumberton. the best dish on the buffet, in my opinion, was the little stuffed crabshells with a deviled crab mixture.

            1. re: Naco

              Naco...I have to disagree with you on Parker's Barbecue. I have eaten there for years and it is consistantly great. Also, off 95 in the Smithfield (NC) area, is Holt's Lake Barbecue and Seafood. I have never had a bad meal there in 30 yrs (or more).

              Parker's Barbecue
              2514 US Highway 301 S, Wilson, NC 27893

              1. re: foolmeonce

                Have you ever eaten at Pete Jones, Cobb and Son, B's, etc?

        2. There is a very nice little Mexican restaurant close to the Savannah airport called Cancun. In Florence, South Carolina you might like Roger's Barbecue, 301 Drive In or Redbone Alley. Also, you might like the Smithfield Barbecue and Chicken restaurants along 95 in North Carolina.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Sensuous

            I hate to sound like a broken record, but Smithfield's(along with Parker's and Bill's) are basically like the McD's of barbecue. I just can't let these pass without comment.

            1. re: Naco

              I don't think we will ever see Smithfield's in any serious Barbeque competitions. On a recent drive down to visit family I was pleased, however, to be able to get a quick and inexpensive Carolina barbeque sandwich without a big loss of time. The barbeque here in Delaware is not at all what we think of as barbeque, so for me on that long drive Smithfield's hits the spot. I always enjoy their iced tea too. I am no expert though and in no way trying to pretend to be. I do not know a thing about those other two you mentioned, by the way.

              1. re: Sensuous

                I understand why people would enjoy Smithfield and the like. But the ethos of this site is to ferret out the best of the best, and so I'm going to pipe up when people recommend gas-cooked/chain/etc. barbecue. There are better options out there. Wilson and Selma/Smithfield have a wealth of Mexican and Central American options. People seem to like Fuller's in Lumberton for southern cooking. Or just try something on a whim and report back. Any of these would be better than going to some chain that serves a copy of a copy of a copy of real barbecue.

                1. re: Naco

                  Naco, you assume that families who aren't necessarily foodies want to eat Mexican and Central American food in small southern towns. I've done this in Alabama and Mississippi and it was a disaster. I'll get my pupusas in Northern Virginia and my pollo a la brasa all around the Beltway. And I don't have any complaints with the fried chcken at Bills or Gardners (Rocky Mount), so skip the pork if you think it's dry. The people are driving from Jersey, for heaven's sake. You want them to look for some sweet little Italian place in the greater Fayetteville region? Come on.

                  1. re: jkosnett

                    1) I assume that anyone on this forum is a foodie. If not, why are you on here?

                    2) I agree it would be folly for someone from Jersey to look for good Italian food in North Carolina. Good thing I never said anything about Italian food!

                    3) El Mexicanito in Wilson does some of the best tacos I've ever had, and I've been to Mexico. Taquerias are like anything else- there are lots of bad ones, with some good/great ones sprinkled here and there. Ostensibly this site is about finding and promoting the good.

                    4) The problem with gas-cooked eastern NC barbecue is not that it's dry, and I never said anything about dryness. The problem is lack of flavor. Gas imparts no flavor to the meat, so you've essentially got roast pork in hot sauce. The fried chicken I could care less about, as there are a million other places that do better fried chicken.

                    1. re: Naco

                      Re: Mexican food in NC and other places: setting the record straight.

                      Perhaps those city folks or whomever who think that good "Mexican" food would be scarce in places like NC just don't understand what has been going on in rural and small town America for the last decade or so. Folks, you have heard all this political discussion about "illegal" immigration? Well, however you feel about that, where there's smoke there's fire. There are huge numbers of fine folks in these rural areas who have recently come here from Mexico and Central America, and have brought their cuisine with them, and I'm talking about true "authentic" cuisine, not Chi Chi's. It can be found, and it can be excellent, and if a chowhound like Naco, from NC or someplace like that, tells you about a good little Mexican place out in the "boonies" somewhere, it's worth listening to. There's lots of really great, really authentic, such food to be had in the Southeast these days. I don't know where jkosnet ate Mexican food in Alabama and Mississippi (I hope not Taco Bell), but I'll bet there was better around nearby if only he had had someone to steer him to it. (BTW, I was a long time resident of the DC area, like jkosnet, and fully appreciate the good things available there).

                      Mexican and Central American food, today, can be considered nearly "indigenous" in the Southeast US, and there are plenty of good places around to get it, where 90% of the clients are the real thing, and those places are worth seeking out and should be of interest to anyone interested in eating well.

                      1. re: johnb

                        In fact, North Carolina is probably ahead of a lot of other areas in the Southeast because of the amount of agricultural and construction work we have here. There is just a ton of good, real Mexican food available in NC these days. Honestly, I think it's easier to get outstanding authentic Mexican food in the Raleigh/Durham area than it is in Houston and the surrounding area. Shocking but true.

                        1. re: johnb

                          Yeah, the reason I started posting on here to begin with is that I knew there were tons of taquerias in eastern NC, but there was virtually no information about them online. There was a bit of discussion on CH about places in the Triangle. So I decided to write about a few I knew and try a lot more and write about them. It's made those drives out into the country a lot more fun.

                        2. re: Naco

                          I will say that my dear husband and I do certainly have "foodie" tendencies. Our children are learning our ways (It is a parent's responsibility to teach their children well), and while our youngest child is still in the pizza, chicken nuggets and and plain pasta stage, ultimately, frequent exposure to broader options in the culinary arena will help foster a greater love for a variety of foods.

                        3. re: jkosnett

                          "...sweet little italian place in Fayetteville"...seriously, what are you talking about?

                          I'm not sure why you are attacking the idea of eating at a taqueria....I'm sure the OP is quite capable of deciding whether this is something they wish to do. Naco was simply offering it as authentic, chow-worthy option to crappy chain food.

                          If you like the fried chicken at Bill's or Gardner's, why not simply post a thread to that effect letting the OP (and others who may find this post) know your opinion. No need to attack others posting their opinion.

                      2. re: Sensuous

                        Smithfield's is just fine for fast food. I'd trade a few superfluous Wendy's and Popeye's for it up north.

                  2. In Darien Ga, just north north of Brunswick, there is a place called B&J Steaks and Seafood right on the main drag, not far off I-95, that has excellent fried shrimp and other excellent seafoods. Very modest decor--DDD material. They have a buffet but also a menu.

                    901 North Way 17
                    Darien, Ga

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: johnb

                      I agree on B&J's best deal on good fresh local shrimp in Ga.

                      1. re: johnb

                        Right at Brunswick exit, 200 yards east on north side of road is GA Pig, always was my go to BBQ on the drive. Was sold a few years back, do not know if still stellar, but would try.

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          i wouldn't waste a minute on georgia pig! there is a whole thread on bbq in this area -- much of it not too far off 95. georgia pig was such a huge disappointment, from blah dry pulled pork to terrible smoked sausage, and unremarkable sides. it was an embarrassment to the term bbq.

                          this is a thread permalink that i saved as a bookmark for the next time i drove that way.


                          1. re: alkapal

                            Sorry it dropped so badly. My kids still think their BBQ sauce is the best they ever had.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              yes, i was sorry that i didn't have all the other bbq recommendations in my car! ;-),

                      2. In Smithfield, North Carolina 1 mile north of I95 exit 90 on US301 you'll find Holt Lake Restaurant. Probably 99% local family customers. Really good fried chicken, fish, shrimp, etc. Lots of good sides. Passable (to me) Barbecue. Inexpensive. Nice people.

                        1. did anyone mention dixie bones bbq south of d.c.? -- it's really near 95 in woodbridge, virginia. usually very, very busy at peak lunch -- but people wait. pretty decent chopped pork bbq, and good home-made sides. nice pies. buffet on sunday (which i haven't gotten to, yet).

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: alkapal

                            Heck, while we're on the subject of spots just south of DC, there's a Wegmans in Dale City right off I-95 that has all the usual sit down/take out food including sushi, pizza, wokery, etc. WiFi too. You probably couldn't find a better place for a quick stop with good food in the vicinity. And a chance to pick up some snacks for the long road ahead--maybe some crusty bread! Not exactly DDD material, but the kids would get a kick out of it unless they go to Wegmans all the time at home in NJ.


                            Actually, didn't some FN show once do a segment on Wegmans?

                            1. re: johnb

                              There's also a Wegman's in Fredericksburg VA just off I-95 as well--I believe it's the farthest south Wegman's goes.