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
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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)
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
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
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
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.
“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
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
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