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50 things to eat in NC

  • j

I am working on a list of the top 50 things (dishes) to eat in North Carolina and would love lots of input. After making my list then on I am going on a state wide trek to eat all of the dishes this fall. I am going to limit things such as BBQ , hot dogs to only two spots if at all possible. Will share when complete. Many thanks and I hope to discover some amazing new things here in the North Carolina.

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  1. Loco Pops(any flavor of popsicle you would want to try)= Chapel Hill/Durham
    Neal's Deli (everything deli you would want)+Carrboro
    Toast Panini (killer panini's actually done right)= Durham
    Amelie's French Bakery(enuf said, try salted chocolate and hit up erin staten pastry chef)+Charlotte
    Lantern Cocktails (interesting cocktails awesome setting)+Chapel Hill
    Vit Goal (south korean)=Cary
    Red Oak Beer=Whitsett
    Highland Beer=Asheville
    Whiskey Bar=Durham
    Watt's Grocery (brunch)=Durham

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    Vit Goal
    2107 Allendown Dr Ste 101, Durham, NC 27713

    Watt's Grocery
    1116 Broad St Ste 100, Durham, NC 27705

    Neal's Deli
    100 E Main St Ste C, Carrboro, NC 27510

    1 Reply
    1. re: sjomansbiff

      For some reason, I thought you wanted restaurants that serve authentic, original NC cuisine.

    2. The neurons are working slowly this morning, but the salt and pepper shrimp at Latern in Chapel Hill leap to mind, along with any type of perogies at J. Betski's in Raleigh. I'm also infatuated with the baguette sandwiches at Spize, also in Raleigh right now. The pho at An in Cary. Twice cooked pork at SuperWok. The shoyu or miso ramen at Kashin in Cary. The olive oil flan at Tasca Brava in Raleigh.

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      Tasca Brava
      607 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603

      Spize Cafe
      121 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601

      13 Replies
      1. re: dinersaurus

        (updated with dishes)
        Chocolate Fetish: Asheville (Silver leaf bon bon)
        Mela: Asheville (Tandori Chicken)
        Bouchon: Asheville (Rabbit stew)
        Sanitary Restaurant and Fish Market: Morehead City (fried fish)
        The Lantern: Chapel Hill (whatever is on special)
        Lindley Park Filling Station: Greensboro (Reuben w/ a Natty Greene's, homemade tots)
        Sir Edmond Halley's: Charlotte (Goat cheese fritters)
        Harry's Seafood Grill: Wilmington (catch of the day)
        Smithfield's Chicken N BBQ: Original location in Smithfield (Chicken plate)
        Spotted Dog: Carrboro (chimichanga)
        Mambo Grill: Salisbury (hole in the wall authentic Cuban place)

        I'd actually be interested in helping you out with this, shoot me an email john@dineandcook.com.

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        Bouchon
        62 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

        1. re: dineandcook

          Got more for you.

          Tupelo World Cafe: Boone
          Big Daddy's Burger Bar: Charlotte (have to get the Carolina burger)
          Go to a Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball game, get a hot dog and drink some Natty Greenes' beer.

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          Big Daddy's Burger Bar
          1626 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203

          Tupelos World Cafe
          506 W King St, Boone, NC 28607

          1. re: dineandcook

            I could not disagree more with the Sanitary and Smithfield's. Both are watered down, mass-produced versions of the type of food they serve. They are the McDonald's of their respective styles of food.

            1. re: Naco

              Isn't the Sanitary Fish Market more of a t-shirt shop than a restaurant these days? (Nothing is fresh is it?)

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              Sanitary Fish Market & Restaurant
              501 Evans St, Morehead City, NC 28557

              1. re: Naco

                Are they the best no. Are they historic North Carolina culinary establishments, yes. If you care about food you should also enjoy the history and people behind it. These people cook the same way since they started. No reductions, no fancy sides... just humble serving the masses style food.

                It's worth driving out to Smithfield to see where it all started. The company is home-grown NC.

                The Sanitary, it's all fried fish, and you get a plate full of brown food. But you know what-- that's how run of the mill, southern people eat their sea food. I've been around the world and have seen their t-shirts in more than one country. You have to make a stop there just to see what it's all about. It's an amazing place to people watch, are you going to get the best meal of your life there? No. It's North Carolina, not Provence.

                1. re: dineandcook

                  I'm from North Carolina and I used to go to "The Sanitary" when I was a child. We went there because they had the best seafood around. I love fried seafood when it's done right. I fear that it's not the institution it once was - because the quality of the food has deteriorated, not simply because most of us natives have since travelled the world. No one I know goes there for any other reason than to buy the shirt, I'm afraid. And it's not because they're food snobs!

                  1. re: cackalackie

                    I agree - my family ate at the Sanitary Fish Market and at Captain Bill's several times every summer when I was growing up and I thought it was the best food I'd ever eaten. Visits in the past few years have been very disappointing - it's just not the same quality, and the last (and i do mean it will be the last) time we went there, service was awful and so was the food. We eat elsewhere now.

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                    Sanitary Fish Market & Restaurant
                    501 Evans St, Morehead City, NC 28557

                    1. re: tarheelexpat

                      I grew up in Morehead and also have to agree that things have gone downhill. Even when I was there in the mid to late 80s some of the locals preferred other spots (at least for non-fried seafood). I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it isn't much of a fish market anymore--while their location on the water next to the boats used to be functional as well as scenic, I don't think there's been much local coming through the side door in many years.

                      1. re: tarheelexpat

                        Still remember they offered a simple bowl of amazing lump crab as an appetizer, WOW !

                    2. re: dineandcook

                      "It's North Carolina, not Provence."

                      Thanks for the tip.

                      I love barbecue and fried seafood. My point- clearly expressed, I thought- was that Smithfield's and the Sanitary are poor expressions of the form.

                    3. re: Naco

                      I haven't been to Sanitary in years because it wasn't very good years ago. Can't say how it is now, but nobody I know ever recommends it, and we live prettty close to the area. I ate at Smithfield's in its Smithfield NC location last year when I was there on business and it was pretty good for lunch, but I would never have thought of recommending it to people on vacation as a go-to spot..

                      1. re: vjgower

                        I definitely agree that it's cloaked in nostalgia for me and may not ever have been very good. The last time I was in Morehead, we ate at Culpepper's Crab Cafe, which has fried seafood and Thai, and that was really good.

                        1. re: vjgower

                          On your next trip to Johnston County try White Swan BBQ between Smithfield & Four Oaks on Old HWY 301. Small & nondescript building with really good BBQ & fixins. They have served the same food for at least 50+ years & it stays packed with loyal customers.

                  2. Biscuits & gravy and/or a goat burger at at Saxapahaw General Store (Saxapahaw)

                    Homemade sausage (w/ Cane Creek Pork!) at Weeping Radish Brewery in Currituck (I haven't been to the place but love their product and want to try it in situ).

                    A torta or tacos from some shack in Durham

                    Re. barbeque: I'd go with 3: a true lexington style, a true eastern style, and a hybrid style place like Allen & Sons. I'd use Holy Smoke as my guidebook for selecting.

                    1. I'll start off with two places that I think others are unlikely to mention.

                      1. Tacos from El Mexicanito in Wilson. This is bar none the best taqueria that I've found in North Carolina. Al pastor with salsa verde is my pick, but any of the meats are good. This place is as good as it is because of the excellent, homemade tortillas and the unreal homemade salsas.

                      2. Birria de chivo from La Cuata in Dudley. Much, much better than other birrias I've eaten in Greenville and Raleigh. Excellent homestyle Mexican all around- make sure to order off the white specials board on the back wall.

                      As far as barbecue goes, if you're going to limit yourself to two places in the entire state, I'd go with Lexington Barbecue for Lexington style and...I'd have a hard time picking just one eastern style place. Skylight Inn(Ayden) and Blackbeard's(Conetoe) are my consistent favorites, but B's(Greenville), Cobb's(Farmville), and Grady's(Dudley) are all very good. If they were all equidistant from where I live, I'd probably have to resort to coin flips or die rolls.

                      1. Try an RC cola and a Moon Pie, preferably bought at the store down at the crossroad in the middle of nowhere in eastern NC, and consumed while sitting out front in 90 degree heat with the flys buzzing around. Best if the cotton fields/tobacco fields are pretty much all you can see. Bleinham(sp) Ginger Ale is a good substitute even if it does come from SC.

                        I have, in the past, had really good meals just by taking the back roads or the business route thru small towns at lunch time and check for parked cars and trucks at "Mom's Diner".

                        Makes me hungry just thinking about it. Have fun!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Sam at Novas

                          I did that in Mississippi. One of my best food memories ever... After the RC Cola and Moonpie, I had to go back for more. Man that gas station had amazing fried chicken, okra and pecan beer! Pecan beer from a micro brewery in the middle of nowhere Mississippi!

                          But for NC, wouldn't it have to be Cheerwine?

                                1. re: dineandcook

                                  Uh, perhaps I shouldn't mention my venture then.

                          1. re: Sam at Novas

                            Better than the RC and moonpie is having the proprietor cut you a wedge of cheese from their ever present hoop and serve it to you with a slice of white bread. Memories.