If you pass by Allen & Son, you will be ignoring the advice of Bob Garner, author of North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time. Garner says the “homemade, chunky, skins-on” french fries are reason enough to stop.” But he loves the barbecue, too, which he says is “coarsely chopped into meltingly tender chunks, sprinkled through with shreds of deep brown, chewy outside meat.” Not finished with his praise, Garner says that Allen & Son serves “one of the tastiest and most authentic versions of Brunswick stew that I’ve run across.”
Hrs: Tues.- Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Take Exit 266, and head north on N.C. Hwy. 86. Go 1.5 miles.
Take Exit 165, and head south on N.C. Hwy. 86. Go 6 miles.
If for no other reason, I would go to Stamey’s just for a bite of the peach cobbler. Flaky, buttery pastry topping over juicy peaches and surrounded by rich, sweet sauce. And it’s still less than a dollar-fifty.
But the main reason most folks go to Stamey’s is the barbecue, the product of real “cooked by wood fire” and the expertise of three generations of Stameys. It’s famously delicious.
Hrs: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
From I-40 Bus.
Take Exit 29 (Old Exit 217). Go north on High Point Road about 1 mile, noting the signs to the Greensboro Coliseum. Stamey’s is on the left directly across from the coliseum.
Don’t expect anything fancy here. In fact, some of its biggest fans call this restaurant is a “hole in the wall,” and they complain that it is hard to find because it is concealed by the carwash next door. What keeps those fans coming back? One of them says that it’s because they serve his most favorite Carolina Barbecue. But it is not just barbecue, it is the “soul food,” including “chitlins’” on Thursdays and Fridays that often draw the biggest crowds here.
Southbound: Take Exit 229 and follow Oine Road for about 3.5 miles into Norlina. Turn L on U.S. Hwy. 1/158. Roadside is just ahead on the R.
Northbound: Take Exit 226 and follow Ridgeway-Drewry Road towards Ridgeway for about 2.5 miles. Turn L on U.S. Hwy. 1/158 and go about 2 miles into Norlina. Roadside is on the R.
Nunnery-Freeman Barbecue may be one of your last chances to get traditional North Carolina barbecue if you’re driving north into Virginia. And it may be your first chance to tank up when you return home from somewhere up north. Some people would say it’s your best chance as well. This restaurant has a big fan base in North Carolina even though it does not cook its barbecue in a pit. In fact Nunnery-Freeman is the reason a lot of North Carolina barbecue restaurants no longer cook over wood. The Nunnery-Freeman folks invented an electric cooker that is sold all over world. If you are missing Gary’s Barbecue, which operated nearby, Gary Freeman, son of the inventor, recently merged the two restaurants at the Nunnery-Freeman location.
Hrs: Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Northbound: Take Exit 215 (U.S. Hwy. 158). Northbound: Turn L on U.S. Hwy. 158 (Norlina Road). Go a few hundred yards.
Southbound: Turn L onto Parhman Road, and go a few hundred yards, and cross U.S. Hwy. 158 (Norlina Road). Nunnery-Freeman is on the R.
Tony's Country Cottage Café has closed. It was a favorite of Oxford businessman and former state legislator Stan Fox, who reports that a new restaurant will soon be open at this location.
Take Exit 206 on to U.S. Hwy. 158 W toward Oxford and go for about a hundred yards and turn R onto Tabbs Creek Rd and follow it for .3 miles. 5593 Tabbs Creek Rd
At Bob’s, you order at the counter and then sit down at one of the friendly long tables. Harry Coleman, editor of the local newspaper, joined me. He explained to me that the barbecue at Bob’s doesn’t fit neatly into either of the Lexington or the eastern North Carolina styles. “It’s just good, mild barbecue. And the vinegar based sauce is mild.”
But there’s no question about it being North Carolina barbecue. It’s pork shoulders, it’s cooked long and slow, and it has just the right flavor — and especially for someone who is just about to drive into Virginia from North Carolina and wants to taste our barbecue for the last time. Owners, Paula Ellington and Carla Magnum, are the twin granddaughters of Bob Whitt, the original Bob. One of them is almost always on site, making sure that everything is clean and bright, that visitors are greeted, and that the barbecue has the same fresh taste that made their family famous.
Take Exit 191 (N.C. Hwy. 56 Butner-Creedmoor). Go east toward Creedmoor. Go about .5 miles. Bob’s is on the L.
Fans of the place will tell you, “everybody in Durham goes there.” It’s true, and I saw an old friend just a few minutes after the waitress filled my tea glass. Tonia Butler told me, “I came to get some fresh vegetables because I need something healthy.” But when she saw my barbecue, fried chicken, Brunswick stew, slaw, hush puppies, and sweet tea, she laughed and said to the waitress, “Same as he got.” Celebrities come here, too, Shirley Caesar (the gospel singer and minister) and Ken Starr (the Whitewater special prosecutor) to name a few. On the way out, I saw a whole wall of photos of famous people who had eaten at Bullock’s. But none could have eaten more happily than I did.
Hrs: Tues.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
Take Exit 174-B (Northbound, you can reach Hillsborough Road from Exit 173), and take the U.S. Hwy. 70-Business (Hillsborough Road) exit immediately on the right. Turn L on Hillsborough Road, and turn L on LaSalle Street. Go 1 block.
In 1975, Raymond Stansbury and his wife, Ethel, opened a restaurant in the front yard of his family's home about a mile from the center of Hillsborough. Although Raymond died a few years ago, Ethel, along with her daughter, Teresa Cox, and her family, continue serving southern county cooking and barbecue (now cooked by Teresa's husband, Mike). Village Diner is the town's oldest continuously operating restaurant and now cooks the barbecue. The generous portions (all-you-can-eat) and reasonable prices make it one of Hillsborough's most popular places to gather and eat.
Hrs: Mon.- Fri. 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
Take Exit 164 and follow South Churton St. for 1.5 miles. Turn L on to West King St. Go 1 mile.
For the past four years Dorothy and Leon Lea have been building a fan base at their small restaurant “down by the Eno River” in Hillsborough. Country cooking and soul food is their specialty. Their biggest fan (no pun intended) may be food expert Bob Garner who recently wrote in Our State magazine that Dorothy “prepares some of the best baked chicken I’ve ever eaten, and vegetables like boiled cabbage and squash ’n’ onions are truly memorable.”
Hrs: Mon.- Sat, 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (open to 7 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.)
Take Exit 164 and follow South Churton St. for .8 mile. Turn L on to Orange Grove Road and immediately turn R on to Exchange Park Ln. Go .5 miles.
According to Gene Upchurch of Raleigh, the barbecue is still cooked on a wood fire, the smoke of which drifts into the restaurant and gives the entire place a wonderful aroma. Every now and then, a freight train stops on the tracks across Main Street from the Grill, and the crew runs in for a bag of barbecue sandwiches to go. Meanwhile, “every rail crossing in Mebane is blocked.” The A&M has much more than barbecue, especially during the week. I got the Monday meat loaf special with two vegetables and hush puppies for less than five dollars. If you want a little fancier and more expensive meal, the A&M has an upscale branch next door. But I still recommend the original cinderblock building for the best bargain eating in the area.
Hrs: Daily, 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. (Open until 8:30 p.m. on Friday.)
Take Exit 157, and go north on Buckhorn Road .5 miles to U.S. Hwy. 70. Turn L, and go 2 miles.
Interstate Eateries is published by Our State magazine.