D.G. Martin: Bad news about favorite eateries and some good news, too

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2022

There is good news and bad news about our favorite places to eat in North Carolina.

The bad news is that many of our favorite roadside eateries closed recently. Some could not meet the challenge of the COVID pandemic. Some closed for an assortment of other reasons.

Meanwhile, an updated “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries,” which was ready to go to press, was put on hold by UNC Press when the pandemic began.  It seemed certain that more eateries might fail.

So, what is the good news?

First, many of the roadside eateries survived the COVID crisis.

And secondly UNC Press has asked me to move forward an updated revision of “Roadside Eateries,”

This is where you, my readers, come in. You can help.

If you have a favorite eating place that is near a North Carolina Interstate Highway, send me an email at the address below with the eatery’s name, location and why you think it is a place you’d recommend to an Interstate traveler or a North Carolina neighbor who happens to be on the road.

When you write, tell me why your restaurant is a place you would recommend–where the atmosphere and staff are cordial. And you are served barbecue or some other comfort food at reasonable prices by friendly people who are happy to have you there.

It would help if the restaurant is a well-known local favorite, but it would be even better if you have found a gem that is not famous.

To remind you of what we have lost, here is a list of the restaurants from “Roadside Eateries’ that have closed and will not be a part of the new edition:

Interstate 26: Ward’s Grill; Saluda.

Interstate 40: Judge’s Riverside, Morganton; Smith Street Diner, Greensboro; Allen & Son and Margaret’s Cantina, Chapel Hill; Toot-n-Tell Restaurant, Garner; Holland’s Shelter Creek Fish Camp, Burgaw.

Interstates 73 & 74: Dixie III Restaurant, Asheboro; Hill’s Lexington Barbecue, Winston-Salem.

Interstate 77: Acropolis Cafe & Grill, Cornelius, Carolina Bar-B-Q, Statesville, The Cook Shack, Union Grove; The Lantern Restaurant, Dodson.

Interstate 85: Wink’s King of Barbecue, Salisbury; Tommy’s Barbecue and Captain Tom’s Seafood Restaurant, Thomasville; Angelo’s Family Restaurant, Graham, Bob’s Bar-B-Q, Creedmoor; Nunnery-Freeman Barbecue, Henderson.

Interstate 95: Sheff’s Seafood Restaurant, Pembroke, Candy Sue’s Restaurant and Fuller’s Old Fashion Bar-B-Q, Lumberton (Relocated to Pembroke); Saltbox Seafood Joint, Durham; Miss Maude’s Café, Benson; Holt Lake Bar-B-Q & Seafood, Smithfield; Bill’s Barbecue and Chicken Restaurant, Wilson; and Broadnax Diner, Seaboard.

This little list of closures brings forth so many memories. Ward’s Grill, for instance, was located in Saluda’s Thompson’s Store, which has been open since 1890 and is worth a visit. You can follow my visit to Saluda and Thompson’s at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3JYPuglUb4

Losing Allen & Son in Chapel Hill was a personal tragedy. It was one of the last in the state to cook barbecue all night over wood coals. So was Carolina Bar-B-Q, Statesville, which earned a recommendation from Charles Kuralt, even though he admitted he preferred more fat and gristle. Kuralt was a fan of eastern “whole hog” barbecue.

Nunnery-Freeman Barbecue in Henderson also had important knowledgeable fans including former Charlotte Observer columnist and barbecue enthusiast, Jack Betts. He put Nunnery-Freeman at the head of his top ten list of barbecue eateries.

I still lament the loss of Bill’s Barbecue and Chicken Restaurant in Wilson and the end of Bill’s massive barbecue empire that had trucks taking food to celebrations throughout the East and Piedmont.

Finally, I cannot forget the tragedy of the closing of Broadnax Diner in Seaboard, the town where Broadway’s William Ivey Long hosted his family reunions and tried to make the town a support center of performances.

If these departed restaurant favorites remind you of places you would be willing share, please write me with details at nceateries@yahoo.com

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