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Where in the Kinston surrounds for excellent food?

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We have moved from the Richmond, VA suburbs to the Kinston, NC suburbs (humor intended). We're in the country about a half hour from anywhere. We like to go out for a nice meal fairly often, and since we're both retired, we can drive a fair distance to do so.

Since we've been here, we've enjoyed The Starlight Cafe, A Tavola!, and Cafe Duo in Greenville; and Persimmons, The Chelsea, and 247 Craven in New Bern. We know about the Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, but haven't been there yet.

Any other ideas for us?

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  1. Chef and the farmer would easily be number one on that list of restaurants. Wilson has a couple places worth checking in the Beefmastor (unique steak experience, ribeye only), Quince and Soco (haven't actually been yet, but got reliable feedback. Odd reservation scenario, communal table).

    There is an existing thread on authentic Mexican joints that you should check out, as it is the only ethnic cuisine that's well represented in eastern NC. That being said, Greenville has a few Japanese restaurants and two Indian places. My favorite is Japan Inn, which has decent sushi and noodles. I've only had lunch at the two indian options, and the food at both Dale's and Katsuri is very similar in quality and buffet only.

    Beaufort is a bit more of a drive, but has a fun restaurant scene. Blue Moon, Aqua, Beaufort Grocery, Chefs 105 (just in Morehead) and Royal James (greasy burger) are favorites. Stillwater and Spouter Inn are waterfront and have above average food. My last meals at both places exceeded expectations.

    I've also heard there's a place in Tarboro, but I'm always working when they're open.

    Great barbecue options are all around you. My favorites are Skylight, B's, Blackbeard's and Wilbur's.

    A fun getaway with good dining options is Ocracoke, reached by ferry or boat. I posted a report not too long ago if you want to check it out.

    Good luck eating and welcome to the hinterland.

    10 Replies
    1. re: veganhater

      Thanks for taking the time to respond! We haven't been to Beaufort in years, so that would be a fun trip, especially now that summer vacations are over for most. We're lucky to be able to venture out during the week when places are less crowded.

      Neither of us are huge meat eaters (not vegans though, so you needn't hate me), so bbq joints and steak places aren't really up our alley. I went, many many years ago, to a place in Florida called Stillwater; I wonder if it's related.

      1. re: GaKaye

        Blackbeard's has many non-bbq options. Really good vegetables too. They are well worth a visit.

        1. re: meatn3

          Where is Blackbeard's located?

          1. re: GaKaye

            It's near Contoe, in the Rocky Mt. Area, over an hour from Kinston (not really close). Here is a previous post with directions:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/639698

            1. re: carolinadawg

              Thank you for that information, and the link. We don't mind traveling a bit for great food (go to Raleigh and Greensboro sometimes for a weekend dinner), so an hour isn't out of the question.

          2. re: meatn3

            It's a fine place to do a vegetable plate; I've done that before myself.

        2. re: veganhater

          Dale's only has the buffet at lunch; they're a la carte in the evening.

          1. re: veganhater

            Just to follow up on Soco: it's excellent. They still do the "chef's table," but they've got a regular dining room now, too (in a very cool converted tobacco barn). Having heard that the chef used to work at Chef and the Farmer, we were concerned that it might be more of the same -- but it's not. He's working on a much smaller scale here, and the attention to detail shows. Standouts included smoked pork shoulder with banana risotto (!) and peanuts; Scallops with creamy grits and fresh soybeans; asparagus bisque with crab; lamb meatballs; even a simple salad was delicious, with super-fresh lettuce, beets, and local camembert. We'll definitely be going back.

            1. re: kagi

              Just now seeing this...and I'm not seeing any other mention of Soco? Where is it? Never mind...just found it.....in Wilson.

              1. re: GaKaye

                It was mentioned in veganhater's first post in response to your post last September....

          2. I don't get to do fine dining a lot, but I know loads of people who rave about On the Square in Tarboro. That seems to be the consensus pick for folks who live north of Greenville.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Naco

              Thanks! I'll put that on the short list....

              1. re: Naco

                Meh...On the Square is just fine. A little better than Starlight Cafe in Greenville, but nowhere near Chef and the Farmer. I wouldn't drive all the way from Kinston for it. I would, however, eat at Chef and the Farmer as much as possible, if I were you.

                The taqueria thread Veganhater mentioned is here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/523769 Most of those places are pretty meat-oriented, though.
                Barbecue has been well covered on this forum, but I'd add that my favorite, for both meat and vegetables, is Bum's in Ayden. Much better than Skylight Inn, says I. The butter beans are something special.

                In the spring, you should definitely make the drive to the Cypress Grill in Jamesville for fried herring. It's only open from January through April.

                If you're gonna eat Indian in Greenville, Kasturi is quite a bit better than Dale's. Not outstanding, but very competent.

                1. re: kagi

                  Cypress Grill is worth a trip for the bit of history and tradition. But only one trip. For subsequent herring feasts go to Blackbeard's. Their fried herring is light years better Than Cypress Grill imo.

                  1. re: meatn3

                    Agreed about Blackbeard's herring. As far as barbecue goes, Bums is not in the same class. They do have tons more to offer than skylight, but for barbecue and slaw it's not even close.

                    1. re: veganhater

                      Agreed on Bum's, although it does have its constituency. I never go, living in Greenville, because it doesn't take that much longer to get to Blackbeard's, which has superb barbecue and sides. And the sides are as good/better than Bum's, for my money. But if I lived around Kinston I could see going sometimes, as Conetoe would be a haul. I think comparing it to Skylight is somewhat apples and oranges.

                      I wonder how much of the taqueria thread is out of date. I skimmed it and El Picante in Winterville has closed, and La Esperanza moved from Robersonville to Williamston. Haven't tried it in Williamston.

                      The OP is not terribly far from La Cuata in Dudley(which has its own thread) and El Mexicanito in Wilson. Those are my picks for best Mexican around here, although there are tons of places I haven't tried.

                      1. re: Naco

                        Well, I have to be honest, I never consider Mexican food when I'm looking for an "excellent" meal, so I guess I'm somewhat of a food snob. That said, I'm certainly willing to expand my horizons and leave my snobbery behind.

                        You mention that either La Cuata or Dudley has its own thread, but I searched both and didn't find a thread devoted to either. Do you mind providing a link? Thank you!

                        1. re: GaKaye

                          Here is the definitive eastern nc Mexican thread:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/523769

                          And here is the La Cuata thread:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/641883

                          1. re: GaKaye

                            It depends on what you're looking for. You'll find that the ambience is lacking at these and similar places. The food, however, is not lacking by any means.

                2. Just saw a segment on the North Carolia Weekend tv show about Old Plank Road Steakhouse in Farmville. It looked worth checking out.

                  1. I went back to Chef and the Farmer on Wednesday. Delicious as always (standouts: wood-fired clams and oysters with sausage, kale/orange salad, speckled trout with ham hocks and collard rice). We were surprised, though, to find a film crew circulating among the tables, shooting footage for a documentary TV series about Chef Vivian and her restaurant. It wasn't too intrusive (but then, they didn't stop at our table). We were told it has been picked up by PBS. I'm looking forward to it.

                    1. At the risk of derailing the thread, how is Mother Earth Brewing to visit? Have sampled several of their brews and am planning a visit...wanted to see if anyone had been...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Nocturnalbill

                        Pleasant. Friendly. They offer things in-house that they don't bottle, small batch stuff and notros. Live music sometimes. They sponsor the roller derby team I played with before I moved. . . No food, but you can bring your own or order in.

                        1. re: Nocturnalbill

                          Gah. Nitros. Phone typing.