It’s no secret that I love a good meal, and you can bet I did my best to find the absolute must-try foods North Carolina has to offer while I was there. With a few suggestions from friends and lots of meals out, I had some stellar meals that I just had to share with you. I think you’ll notice a few patterns in the most famous North Carolinian foods though (high fat and high sugar. YUM).
Let’s just start with the most obvious option, shall we? If you travel to North Carolina (or any southern state) and don’t eat fried chicken from a mom and pop diner at least twice during your travels, you’re not visiting the Deep South correctly. During our stay in Carolina Beach, my dad and I found this awesome diner that specialized in fried chicken and southern comfort foods. To make myself feel like a true southern belle, I had my chicken with fried okra, coleslaw, and a huge cup of sweet tea. That was some darn fine southern cooking y’all.
If you’re staying near the coast, you simply must go to a local seafood restaurant. Any restaurant worth its salt will have gotten its seafood fresh that day, and your waiter will be able to tell you which of the local catches is the best. Keep in mind that seafood restaurants are a bit pricier, but I always think dishing out a little extra cash for a good meal is worth it on vacation.
The nectar of the tar heels, Cheerwine is a North Carolina-exclusive soda. Before traveling to the coast, I asked my friend Hannah (who’s from NC) what foods I should try and the first thing she said was Cheerwine. Cheerwine is a cherry soda that is honestly one of the tastiest drinks I’ve had in a long time. If you can get your paws on a fancy glass bottle of Cheerwine, do it.
Eastern BBQ uses the entire hog (“everything but the squeal”) and is served with a vinegar and pepper-based sauce. I’d never had this style off BBQ before visiting North Carolina, but I quite liked it. The vinegar sauce gives the BBQ a nice tanginess and makes it feel healthier (sort of), which then makes me think I can eat more than I really should.
…And Western BBQ
That’s right, North Carolina has two types of BBQ, which makes it my version of heaven on earth. Western style BBQ is probably what you’re more familiar with; the sauce is tomato-based and much thicker (more like the types of pre-made sauce you find in stores). The interwebs also tell me this style only uses the pork shoulder, but a hog is a hog to me, and I’ll eat my BBQ however it’s served up.
[Side note: finding a picture of “western BBQ” proved almost impossible, so you’ll just have to use your imagination (or just go out and get a pulled pork sandwich)]
Technically, you can find Krispy Kreme donuts in all major super markets nowadays. But since it first opened in Winston-Salem, NC in 1937, I’m labeling it as a must-eat North Carolina food. I’m not really a donut fan so I didn’t bother hunting down a local Krispy Kreme store, but one would hope that the donuts would be extra fresh and fluffy in their home state.
Cookout and Bojangles
Here’s a two-for-one: Cookout and Bojangles, aka North Carolina’s top fast food chains. Bojangles is the Kentucky Fried Chicken of North Carolina and is known for its chicken and biscuits. Cookout is more of your typical burger joint and has tons of milkshakes to choose from. If you find yourself on a road trip through North Carolina, definitely stop off at one of these local chains to feel extra special (and greasy—you’ll definitely feel greasy afterwards).
Did you notice any trends in North Carolina’s must-eat foods? They’re definitely not for the faint of heart (or for anyone watching their diet), but if you’re vacationing in the area I don’t see why you shouldn’t splash out on a few artery-clogging meals. The BBQ and fried chicken are easily my favorite items on this list—what about yours?
What are some local dishes from your corner of the world? If you visit Indiana, you have to try our sweet corn (in season) and eat a massive Indiana pork tenderloin sandwich. They’re about as big as your head, so you might want to share.