North Carolina Pit Stops worth a Road Trip Detour

Decamp detours to take this summer from decades old hot dog stands and sandwich shops to barbecue joints and more on your way to the mountains or coast.
by Kara Adams, Riley Besen, and Addie Ladner

D12B6DD3-D256-4577-B5B4-34938BB41EA6 2.jpeg

What’s a summer in North Carolina without a week cooling off in your favorite swimming hole nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains or building sandcastles in Morehead City or Nags Head? Save this list for your next road trip to fill your cooler with summer vacation staples like chicken salad and pimento cheese. We’ve also rounded up classic, long-standing sandwich shops, hot dog stands, and BBQ joints that make for fun scrumptious detours. We’ve also got some pretty rad vacation rentals both East and West to check out, and small towns to explore as well in both the mountains and the coast

No photo description available.

Cherries Cafe

This spot is a must for their famous chicken pies (and strawberry ones), fresh hot soups made daily, and every type of cake imaginable.  3890 Littlebrook Drive, Clemmons | Cherries

Dick's Hot Dog Stand In Wilson, North Carolina, Has Been Around Since 1921

Dick’s Hot Dogs

After 100 years of serving hotdogs and hamburgers to hungry travelers, Dick’s Hotdog Stand has gotten it down to a science. Established in 1921, this local staple has remained the pride and joy of a local family through multiple generations. Enjoy a famous hotdog “with all the fixin’s” in a charming environment full of memorabilia and local history. 1500 Nash St N, Wilson

May be an image of text that says 'JOHNSON'S Since 1946 ੴ'

Johnson’s Drive In

Celebrate the 75th anniversary of this beloved hamburger joint this summer with one of the few items on their carefully curated and perfected menu. Johnson’s offers hamburgers, hotdogs, grilled cheeses, and fries in a no-nonsense environment that has stood the test of time. (Tues-Sat) 1520 East 11th Street Siler City \ Johnson’s Drive In

Ken’s Grill

A reader tipped us off to this joint which they say is a good spot on your way to the Atlantic Beach area. “Ken and his brother Dave have been cooking for years and every Friday evening is fried flounder, fried shrimp or old fashioned N.C. Fish Stew night. And you can always go with a famous Ken’s Big Boy Cheeseburger. For my entire life we stop at Ken’s on our way to Atlantic Beach, it’s exactly half way, and my kids love the old school swivel bar stools…as did I when I was a kid! Oh and they cook a pig on Wednesday and Saturdays every week!” 7645 US-70, La Grange | Ken’s Grill & BBQ

May be an image of food

Kings BBQ Restaurant

Originally a gas station and grocery store in rural Kinston that opened more than 80 years ago, this BBQ stop is a widely famous spot for both NC natives and tourists on their way to the crystal coast. Stop at either location to stock on on those country favorites like hushpuppies, ribs, fried chicken, and of course barbecue. Stop in at Neuse Spot Shop nearby to shop and stock up on fishing gear. (Highway 70 Location) 405 East New Bern Rd; 910 West Vernon Ave | Kings BBQ

Lexington Barbecue, Lexington | Lexington bbq, North carolina homes,  Lexington

Lexington BBQ

Named the best barbecue in North Carolina many times over, Lexington BBQ roasts their pork shoulders over hickory coals and finishes them in their trademark sweet sauce. The barbecue easily steals the show, but the variety of homemade pies and fresh peach cobbler come in a close second. 100 Smokehouse Lane Lexington| Lexington BBQ

May be an image of text that says 'copper Pot estaurant'

The Copper Pot

Heading to the mountains this summer? Treat yourself to macaroni and cheese as a vegetable or all-day breakfast at this roadside stop off Highway 89. We recommend starting with a basket of buffalo chips and finishing off with one of the daily selections of handmade desserts such as pies, cakes, and puddings. Make sure to pick up one of the locally-crafted soaps from the checkout counter as you leave.  123 Scenic Outlet Ln Mount Airy | The Copper Pot

banner picture.jpg

The Friendly Market

This champion of Southern comfort food offers savory pies, casseroles, soups, salads, and dips, as well as locally sourced goods and produce.  205 Friendly Road, Morehead City | Friendly Market

link-deli

TJ’s Deli and Grill

If you’re in the mood for a burger, look no further than TJ’s, a local deli that would put any drive-thru to shame. You can get your burger double or triple-stacked if you’re feeling hungry, or try one of their tasty wraps, hoagies, or signature sandwiches with a “big plate of fries” that lives up to its name. 5017 Country Club Rd, Winston-Salem| TJ’s Deli

Trolly Stop Hot Dogs

Trolly Stop

Choose from a selection of Trolly Stop’s unique hotdog combinations, including gluten-free, fat-free and vegetarian options. This dog-friendly pitstop on the way to the beach offers free refills on drinks all day to keep you feeling cool and refreshed on your next beach trip. 94 South Lumina Avenue, Wrightsville Beach \ Trolly Stop

Newton Grove Drug - We're more than a pharmacy…we're family!

Newton Grove Drug Store and Soda Fountain

Around since the early 1950s, stop at this small-town pharmacy for an old-fashioned milkshake, hand-dipped ice cream cone, or other timeless confection. 305 Weeks Circle, Newton Grove | Newtown Grove Drug Store

Our Daily Bread

One of the state’s favorite sandwich shops located in Appalachian State’s downtown of Boone, Our Daily Bread is worth seeking out if you’re in the vicinity. Combining beloved ingredients like brie, fruit, pesto, bacon, on good bread using local produce, the isn’t your typical sandwich shop. 627 W. King Steet., Boone \ Our Dailey Bread (image credit @lets.eat.yall)

Provision Company

A spot for North Carolinians on their way to Bald Head Island for the summer, Provision Company serves local fish fare like steamed shrimp, grouper bites, crab cakes, and more with views of the Cape Fear River in Southport. This year they’re open until mid-December and have plenty of open-air seating. 130 Yacht Basin Drive, Southport | Provision Company

No photo description available.

Salem Kitchen

Stop at Salem Kitchen for fresh and frozen meals, cakes, pies, cheese straws, hostess gifts, and more if you’re heading to the mountains. It’s been around for more than 30 years! 50 Miller Street, Winston-Salem | Salem Kitchen

Smith’s Red and White

A family business in Dortches since 1954, Smith’s offers quality meats including link and patty sausage, barbecue, and country ham. Folks also love their chicken salad, Smith’s exclusive pickled vegetables, jams, chicken and pastry and more. They also have a full country cooking restaurant right next to the grocery store. 3635 N. Halifax Road, Rocky Mount | Smith’s Red & White

Sugar Plum Shoppe, Inc | The Sugar Plum Shoppe bakery is on … | Flickr

Sugar Plum Shoppe

This downtown Wilson joint dishes up takeout of pimento cheese, chicken salads, subs, cakes, cookies and candy in all manner of flavors plus sit down seating as well. As a heads up, it’s a cash or check only kind of place and not open on the weekends. 117 Nash Street, Wilson.

Smokehouse at Steve’s & Steve’s Garden Market

At once and mom and pop grocery store and a stellar smokehouse restaurant, shop here if you’re in the Mebane area or headed west for anything from six-packs of soda in glass bottles to tubs of chicken salad and pimento cheese, local produce or, a good sit down meal. 331 W Harden St, Graham | Smokehouse at Steves

IMG_8721.jpg

The Southerly biscuit co.

Try the scratch-made breakfast or lunch sandwiches at this grab-and-go Southern bakery, Southerly, filled with classic items like bacon and eggs, or less-expected tastes like fried catfish. Grab a pie while you’re there. 1206 N. Lake Park Boulevard, Unit D, Carolina Beach \ The Southerly Biscuit Co.

Stamey’s Barbecue

“BBQ is simple and delicious. The service is friendly and super fast making it perfect for a pit stop. It’s right off of 40 too, making it super convenient,” said one of our readers in this poll about Stamey’s Barbecaue, around since the 1930’s, now with two locations; this place seems right up our alley. 2812 Battleground Ave and 2206 W Gate City Blvd. Greensboro | Stamey’s

Wilber’s

At Wilber’s, whole hog barbecue is slow-cooked overnight to create the smoky flavor that North Carolinians know and love. The joint quickly graduated from pit-stop to local legend, serving Eastern NC style barbeque to multiple US presidents and countless loyal locals. Finish off your plate in Presidential style with banana pudding or one of Wilber’s decadent pecan cookies. 4172 US-70 Goldsboro Wilber’s BBQ

No photo description available.

Zack’s Hot Dogs


Around for decades, this downtown Burlington stalwart is known all over the state for their hot dogs and Cheerwine in glass bottles in an atmosphere that looks similar to what it was when it first opened in 1928. 201 W Davis St. Burlington | Zach’s Hot Dogs