Every city has a signature dish. When you think of Maryland, you think of crab cakes; when you think of Pennsylvania, you think of a juicy Philly Cheese steak; and when you think of West Virginia, you think of pepperoni rolls. Barbecue is the food which North Carolina is known for. While these are the first things that come to mind, they are far from the only dishes worth mentioning.
Take, for example, North Carolina, my adoptive home state. Yes, we have barbecue—two varieties and a dozen fantastic spots for every with more than 300 Km of coastline, we also have excellent seafood, & every ethnic group that has named this state home had left a distinct imprint on our culinary culture. So, if you’re craving some of North Carolina’s most famous delicacies, here’s where you should start.
Barbecue is the most famous food from North Carolina. There are two types of barbecue in North Carolina: Eastern and Lexington. Eastern barbecues whole hogs over wood embers & then seasons the meat with a thin, tart vinegar and pepper sauce, which can be found from the coast to the Piedmont.
From the Piedmont to the hills, the Lexington Style employs a richer, sweeter sauce on the completed product and cooks shoulders on hickory embers. Unless you live here, there’s no need to pick a favorite; even then, you may get by with a handful of favorites and never truly commit to one style.
Skylight Inn in Aden, in the Middle East, is one of the originals of barbeque. People have been cooking whole hogs there for a long time, and it is regarded one of the pillars of southern ‘cue. Drop in for a sandwich and, better yet, a sliced basket with fried cornbread and slaw.
Favorite Restaurants In The Area
Let’s start with Ocracoke Island, an isolated area a three-hour boat voyage from the mainland, for renowned local food which North Carolina is famed for. For more than a decade, Eduardo’s Taco Stand has served tens of 1000s of tacos to guests, including carnitas, pollo, asada, and fresh seafood. When you visit Ocracoke, you’ll notice that this small food truck has become something of an institution & a landmark; every time I visit the island, I eat an embarrassing amount of tacos! Fresh fish, crab, carnitas, and any of them, actually, are always my favorites.
Roast Grill, which specializes in one thing: one-way hot dogs, is synonymous with downtown eating in Raleigh. However, new restaurants such as Crawford & Son, Bida Manda, & Brewery Bhavana have become iconic for their playful takes on Southern cuisine (Crawford & Son), true Laotian cuisine (Bida Manda), & inspired spin on dim sum & craft beer (at Brewery Bhavana), adding to the variety of local favorites found throughout the state.
Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, Charlotte’s Heirloom, Davidson’s Kindred, and smaller establishments like Winnie’s Tavern, home of Wilmington’s Best Burger, or Duck Donut, a made-to-order (really) doughnut shop that originated on the Outer Banks & has spread like wildfire.
If you ask someone in any town in North Carolina to name a favorite spot, you’ll learn about something tasty. It’ll be fancy sometimes, and absolutely local other times, where you’ll stand in the parking lot scratching your head, thinking they’ve made an error, but then you’ll take a mouthful of biscuit, BBQ, or true Oaxacan and think to yourself, “Why don’t we have this at home?”