They don’t cook Southern food in the Carolinas. They cook their food. Ever heard of Tom Thumb? This Christmas season treat is a celebration sausage. Just stuff a hog appendix with spicy ground pork and fat at Thanksgiving and hang it in the smokehouse. Then poach, slice, and pan-fry. Don’t forget to save the cooking liquid for the peas and collard greens. It's a tradition that could have been lost had North Carolina Chef Vivian Howard not come home to cook down east in Kinston. Recognizing the huge responsibility of a Southern chef, she revived the heirloom sausage by talking to an old country butcher and by probing her father’s memories.
Out west, in the Appalachian highlands, they scramble eggs with hog brains and sometimes smother them in red-eye gravy, which Justin Burdett has transformed into a fine-dining worthy dish of red-eye gravy consommé and hog brain ravioli. "Farm-to-table is such a cliché," he says, "but I feel like the South has been doing it forever—out of necessity, not because it was a cool thing to do.”
This deep seated respect for the culinary heritage of the Carolinas has seeped into every part of the industry. Down in Charleston, South Carolina, Mixologist Brooks Reitz of The Ordinary is serving a nearly forgotten rum cocktail called the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club that celebrates the relationship and shared nautical culture of Charleston and Bermuda.
Inland, in Durham, North Carolina, Charcutier Justin Meddis of Rose's Meat Market & Sweet Shop is re-popularizing sausage and other prepared meats that have fallen out of fashion. North Carolina Potato Sausage and Carolina Red Hots are becoming staples once again. Pastry Chef Katie Meddis, who puts the sweet in Rose's Shop, is bringing the entrenched Carolina farm-centric cooking into the bakery, a combination that's new for the area.
Escazú Artisan Chocolates in Raleigh is using a recipe for one of their bean-to-bar chocolates that predates the Carolina's. Escazu's 1631 Chocolate Bar is an awakening, and it’s part of the new American Chocolate movement that is gaining momentum in the Carolinas and the rest of the country. Escazú uses modern flavor combinations, too, such as hibiscus-green peppercorn, and the unexpected and superlatively North Carolina flavor: tobacco-ribbon cane syrup.
The chocolate makers are collaborating with the forerunners of the other boom in the Carolinas: beer. Videri Chocolate has collaborated with Deep River Brewing over in Clayton. It exemplifies the spirit of collaboration that defines the Carolina craft brewers.
The Carolinas are also an emerging place for wine. Especially if you work with Chef Travis Grimes of Husk in Charleston. The whole hog is often the mascot for Carolina cuisine, and Grimes's pig-glorifying charcuterie program has been the perfect back drop for Sommelier Matt Tunstall to showcase his pairing skills and idiosyncratic knowledge of varietals.
The unhinged creativity of Carolina cooking brought us dishes like Two Textures Trout "Marrow" from Nathan Allen of Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine; and potato skin brodo from Brian Canipelli of Cucina24 in Asheville. We also saw tried and true techniques brought back and reinvigorated. Again in Asheville, Jacob Sessoms of Table is poaching delicate and decadent halibut in a vat of spiced whole butter, not a sous vide bag. Aaron Siegel of Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ in Charleston, is reaching further south, adding technique and his populist touch to the humble chicken wing. He smokes the wings and douses them in Alabama white sauce—creating more than a hankering for Home Team wings, but a hysteria.
Beer, chocolate, wings ... even Tom Thumb, they're all proof of the pride and excitement taking hold in kitchens throughout the Carolinas. New regional Carolina cuisine is being forged every day, by this year's Rising Stars and chefs across the region, making these stately sisters of the North and South, one of the most creative, forward-thinking, culinary scenes in the country.
When Chef Ivan Candido took the reins of The Admiral from legend of the Asheville restaurant scene, Chef Elliot Moss, he was doing more than just taking over a kitchen—he ascended to the helm of a beloved institution. Candido, who is originally from Mexico City, is carrying on The Admiral’s tradition of creativity and also blurring the lines between casual and fine-dining food. Look for delicious treatments of duck, sweetbreads, and bone marrow.
A veteran and partner of the James Beard Award winning restaurant,Lantern, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Chef Brendan Reusing moved to Asheville and partnered with StarChefs.com 2013 Carolinas Rising Star Artisan baker David Bauer to open All Souls Pizza. The pizza dough is made from grains milled by Bauer at his homestead mill-and-bakeshop Farm and Sparrow in nearby Candler. Reusing is brining farm-to-table attention to the pizza and the other classics on his menu, and his pies are a testament to simple food thoughtfully made—and to the power of the American pizza parlor.Recommended:
After Thomas Keller ate at this South Carolina restaurant Devereaux’s (now under different management), Chef Steven Devereaux Greene was extended an invitation to cook for a month at the French Laundry, where Keller called him Chef and gave him freedom; he gleaned as much as he could. Greene takes a southern sensibility he picked up in his grandmothers kitchen and lightly sprinkles it over the Japanese cuisine he loves to cook at Cary, North Carolina’s Ăn, New World Cuisines. An attentive staff provides the southern hospitality in Devereaux’s modern, elegant dining room.Recommended:
Helicopters swoop in and land on the sprawling grounds of Artisanal in picturesque Banner Elk, North Carolina. Wrapped in the Smoky Mountains, the stunning restaurant calls to mind something between a barn and a grand cathedral. The draw is Chef Bill Greene’s food, which lives up to the beautiful surroundings and lush, ethereal interiors. Greene, who’s from Banner Elk but trained abroad, is bringing his diligent, delicate aesthetics and sophisticated technique home. He’s steeped in local food-ways and invested in area farmers. This trust between the land, the locals, and Greene, illuminates why certain guests fly to Artisanal for a seat at Greene’s elegant, neo-Southern table. During the off-season from his seasonal enclave, Greene explores the cooking world outside rural Carolina and returns to wow guests with cuisine that competes with any world class city.Recommended:
Ashley Christensen’s Beasley’s Fried Chicken & Honey brings this Raleigh chef’s brand of Southern dining to the masses with a casual meat and three joint that showcases juicy, deep-fried chicken topped with a smattering of sticky-sweet honey. Chicken may be the star, but regular plates of meatloaf, pot pie, and salads round out the menu, along with 10 veggie sides (which you can make a meal out of all on their own). Just look up at the chalkboard menu for specials, roll up your sleeves, and dig into Christensen’s updated repertoire of Southern classics.Recommended:
When immigrant food goes upscale—and packs a lively dining room—you know a food scene is on the verge of something big. Such is the case of Raleigh and Laotian Bida Manda, owned by sister-and-brown team Vanvisa and Vansana Nolintha and run by Chef Lon Bounsanga. Downtown Raleigh can now have a taste of spicy, traditional larb and green papaya salad. Of course there’s also pad thai, chicken wings, and less potent dishes to lure in the less adventurous, but Bousanga does a good job showcasing his home country for hungry crowds of revelers, who can also sidle up to one of the restaurant’s well-made cocktails.Recommended:
Nestled in a 19th century Charleston home, Brown’s Court Bakery has become a community gathering place; kids play on the breezy porch, friends catch up over pastries, and Artisan David Schnell stays busy crafting breads and pastries. Schnell learned his trade at Bouchon, where he refined his traditional French baking techniques before leaping out on his own. Now he spends his days double folding baguettes that boast a beautiful chestnut crust, open crumb, and just the right amount of chew. Schnell also brings some of the unexpected, like a buttery sriracha croissant or a pain au lait (smothered in rich peanut butter and sweet bananas, rolled, baked, and glazed with peanut butter buttercream) to his elegant, floury haven.Recommended:
Chef Matt Dawes’s food has heart, delicacy, and assertiveness. His seemingly off-the-cuff cuisine is characterized by a jazz-like sensibility. At Asheville, North Carolina's Bull and Beggar he writes nightly menus quickly, in one sitting: duck carpaccio with pickled black mustard seeds; trout roulade with crab and Mangalitsa ham and slow-roasted sunchokes; pheasant braised with chicken feet and pig's tails. Dawes has a sixth sense for deliciousness, and his spontaneous decisions—based on years of experiential and book learning—enliven all the senses. His open mind and improvisational style allow him to make less obvious choices, in the moment, that leave a lasting impression—like a soulful song you can’t stop singing.Recommended:
In the old Charleston Gardens Outlet sits Charleston’s resident craft sandwich shop, Butcher and Bee. Inside, the décor is industrial with high ceilings, factory tables, and an eclectic mix of kitchen and metal crafters stool and chairs. Fresh ciabatta is baked daily and the chalk board is full of the day’s choice fillings. With his farm to sandwich philosophy, Chef Stuart Tracy’s menu changes as fluently as the seasons. Tracy’s commitment to his craft is obvious in his perfectly balanced compositions of bread, meat, and sauce. Grab the porchetta with squash, kale, and mustard vinaigrette. Or get your hands on the moist and tender dry roasted pork shoulder, with crisp pickles and sweet kale, which add a nice crunch. Tracy offers a vast selection of sides as well, including curried veggies, a mezze platter, and a slurry of seasonal slaws. Best of all it’s BYOB so grab a 6 pack, a group of friends, and enjoy a damn good sammie.Recommended:
Look for Lowcountry classics with nods to international palates at Chef Michelle Weaver’s Charleston Grill at Charleston Place Hotel. A local fine-dining institution, diners walk through the double doors to find windows lined with sweeping drapes and crisp white tablecloths. Weaver’s menu of contemporary cuisine is divided into four categories: Cosmopolitan, Southern, Pure, and Lush—each of which is executed with impeccable technique. Sommelier Andrew Marshall offers choices from a concise international wine list and Pastry Chef Emily Cookson puts her spin on traditional sweets, finishing your meal with gusto. And don’t miss the live jazz reverberating throughout the space on any given night.Recommended:
In 2006, Vivian Howard moved from New York City back home to tiny, rural Kinston, North Carolina (about an hour and a half southeast of Raleigh), where she has worked tirelessly to revitalize its farm community, reinvent the downtown, and reinvigorate local appetites with her deeply delicious take on traditional Carolina staples. Howard is dedicated to serving the farm community in which she lives and also ushering local produce and traditional dishes into a modern context—including her once provocative (and always irresistible) Pimp My Grits section of her menu. Simultaneously relying on roots and reinvention, at Chef & the Farmer Howard serves some of the most exciting food in the country, and she has proven that you can always go back home as a chef—no matter where that home is—and make it a richer, more thrilling place to eat. Anyone who loves and respects southern foodways, should head downeast to Kinston for a seat at Howard’s table.Recommended:
Brian Canipelli’s food is decadent and deliciously dirty, like the rock n’ roll music that inspires him. (His beef carpaccio, bone marrow béarnaise and puffed beef shin tendon was instigated by Led Zeppelin’s, “Achilles Last Stand.”) Canipelli’s gastronomic groove is drop-dead center between luxury and humility and his equilibrium of elegance and innovative edge characterizes the cuisine at Cucina24 in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s the only place in the world where you can get potato skin brodo, a technique that Canipelli invented that transforms the normally trashed peel into a singular treasure—especially when poured over a bowl of Vietnamese pho or springy gnocchi. Canipelli’s preternatural ability to marry the sublime with the scrappy, escorts your taste buds up the savory stairway to heaven.Recommended:
Like superheroes with a tavern strapped to their backs, Katie Button and Felix Meana have transported the spirit of Catalonia to Asheville, North Carolina, in the form of sleek, seductive, and boisterous Cúrate. Their tar-heel tapas bar is traditional to Meana’s Spain, but with an imperative beyond the authenticity of their Sherry. Cúrate is a 3-Star Certified Green Restaurant, with LED lighting and an all-encompassing composting and recycling program. Button emphasizes sustainable foods in their kitchen and works with companies who employ sustainable practices and support sustainable wages, such as Sea2Table. In addition to serving produce and proteins from area farms, Cúrate is a Living Wage certified restaurant. Superstars of sustainability, Button and Meana prove that a humane, holistic approach isn’t at odds with remarkable food and a successful business.Recommended:
With the bevy of up-and-coming chefs and restaurants pervading Charleston’s food scene, Cypress is adding its own Southern twist to this vibrant and cosmopolitan hodgepodge of gastronomical experiences. Chef, and charcuterie aficionada, Craig Diehl raises the culinary bar (and our palates) with a regional, dynamic, and all-around global infusion of traditional, Lowcountry cooking, sourced from South Carolina’s finest farmers and fisherman. Truth be told that wine and food go hand in hand, Wine Director Bill Netherland enhances and complements the menu’s eclectic mix with the restaurant’s three-story wine wall; he pairs Crisp Wasabi Tuna with Bergstrom “Lost Highway” Pinot Noir. With dishes like Angus beef filet with housemade Boursin cheese or shrimp and hominy grits, Cypress is a laudable and sophisticated offering of artisanal ingredients made all the more exemplary with a passionate culinary crew.Recommended:
Don’t look directly at the dark...chocolate at Escazú Artisan Chocolates in North Carolina. Those chocolates make bedroom eyes at each customer who crosses the workshop’s threshold and their seductive powers are irresistible. Chocolate Maker Hallot Parson and Chocolatier Danielle Centeno are crafting surprising, luscious, and totally original-recipe chocolates with enticing ingredients such as basil, yuzu marmalade, and guanabana. Their small store-front in a residential neighborhood of Raleigh gives way to a large production space including an old industrial coffee grinder the ambitious and dedicated duo converted into a cacao-bean grinder because small batch grinders are scarce due the historical domination of large scale, corporate-style chocolate makers. Centeno and Parson are brining heart and a human touch to chocolate and making Carolina a new cacao capital.Recommended:
In Northern Charleston, one may stumble upon the bo-ho chic 12 table pizzeria EVO Pizza. Behind the counter, the soft-spoken Blake McCormick is leading the charge of a kitchen of young boys and is using Neopolitan-style pizzas as a platform to change the local community’s minds about food. Valuing consistency above all and sticking with a do-what-you-know attitude, McCormick ensures that each blistered base is soft and chewy with the perfect amount of stability to carry the toppings of choice. With access to minimal kitchen facilities, an impressive majority of ingredients are made from scratch—including the hand pulled mozzarella and the pork and fennel sausage. The results are out of this world—straightforward good food that you want to eat everyday. While you’re there, don’t forget to get a portion of the house pickle platter, with which McCormick proves that she can pickle anything in to delectable delights!Recommended:
David Bauer’s passion for grains and the breads and pastries that rise from them have altered the way he lives. Bauer built his own bakeshop, Farm and Sparrow, in remote Candler, North Carolina, in his ranch-style house—effectively converting it into a homestead. The shop and mill outback have equipment either shipped from Europe or built by Bauer himself, including a wood-fire brick oven out of which Bauer pulls 45,000 loaves a year. Because he selects, mills, and bakes his own grains, Bauer’s bread and pastry taste like no others. He leaves the grain’s germ intact, making distinctive, fragrant, moist breads with moderate gluten content and a tender crumb. Bauer is enabling patrons of an entire region to flip the bird to blank, flavorless, difficult to digest industrial grains—forever altering the way they live.Recommended:
Colin Bedford is the heart-and-soul center of Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, North Carolina. At Fearrington House (and in all aspects of hotel catering, room service, and the property’s three other food and drink establishments), he honors the legacy of the land, as well as his own British roots at what has become—under Bedford’s reign—a destination restaurant. With balance and dexterity, he flips back and forth between the traditional and technique-driven, and the robust and restrained. Sommelier Maximilian Kast guides guests through white tablecloth meals, pairing mostly Old World wines with Chef Colin Bedford’s just-kissed-by-modernity dishes. As the restaurant’s debonair-in-residence, Kast is the foil to Bedford’s laidback charm, and he knows when to embrace unbridled luxury. He pours Oloroso Sherry to match the weight and richness of Bedford’s chanterelle and foie-enhanced risotto. Kast manages the beverage program for Fearrington Village’s four restaurants, and he’s a certified Advanced Sommelier, on track for his masters. In a world where fine-dining is becoming less relevant by the day, Team Bedford-Kast reminds us that excellence in elegant dining transcends all.Recommended:
At this cafeteria-style diner, walls are plastered with posters of classic bands from years gone by and condiments sit in cutout Budweiser six-pack cartons. While the decor might take you back to days of dirt road barbecue, there is nothing old school about the food. “Ron” Aaron Siegel uses his classic CIA training to add depths of flavor to his BBQ and takes it to the next level. Slather one of the six house-made sauces on St. Louis Ribs, or try the addictive combination of smoky chicken wings with a cooling Alabama white sauce. Classic Southern stick-to-your-rib sides are served with the Fiery Ron’s flair. The smoked Gouda mac and cheese is creamy with a cayenne kick. If that’s not enough to get you there, live music or the latest sports game is playing on any given night at both locations, West Ashley and Sullivan’s Island.Recommended:
Food Is Good, and at this Atlantic coastline restaurant, no words could be truer. Sitting in the dining room of FIG, enveloped in yellow walls and exquisite pictures of the surrounding seascape, Chef de Cuisine Jason Stanhope’s creations are presented to you simply and straight-forwardly, made with masterful technique. In spring, dishes like saffron spaghetti with buttered ramps and dandelion greens are delicately topped with smoked trout roe for an elegant and decadent pasta. His nine vegetable salad is made from ingredients hand-picked only hours before hitting the plate. Add Sommelier David McCarus’s carefully selected wine list, (heavy on European and Californian wines) and Executive Chef Mike Lata’s keen eye and years of experience, and a trip to FIG will be a meal fit for the kings.Recommended:
Jeff Crane is a son of the South and his food is a mirror of his charismatic self: personal, playful, and welcoming, as with his Church Function Tuna—Cheerwine-glazed tuna, potato salad, grilled okra, and ranch chip. He grew up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and as Chef de Cuisine of Four Square in Durham he has adopted the culinary mantra of the restaurant’s Executive Chef (also Crane’s mentor) Shane Ingram: “You always have time to be perfect.” Four Square’s dining room is divided into several smaller rooms that comprise the charming old house that is this seasoned Southern restaurant.Recommended:
For a small bean to bar operation, French Broad Chocolate in Ashville, North Carolina is big time. During peak hours their chocolate lounge requires a bouncer at the door so they don’t exceed legal limits for occupancy. They not only sell their own bars, chocolates, and truffles, artisans and proprietors Jael and Dan Ratigan sell bars made by other independent chocolate makes from across the state and country. The Ratigans are true believers in the craft and have faith and commitment to the notion that a rising tide lifts all ships. In their expansive production space—separate from the chocolate factory directly above French Broad—Dan has built much of the equipment, and you can taste this passion for every aspect of the bean to bar process in every bite of their chocolates.Recommended:
In the mixology world where pre-prohibition cocktails are prevalent, Joe Raya of the Gin Joint has certainly earned his stripes. Trained at the CIA with a culinary background, Raya and his wife MariElena opened The Gin Joint in 2010. Raya did his homework before diving in; components of each cocktail have been meticulously studied and researched giving an authenticity not all too common to come by. In the Antique Pharmacy Collection, Raya researched elixirs made by pharmacies of the era to help children take their medicine. The refreshing and citrusy Wallawalla is given an edge by a cherry bark elixir, and the herbaceous Travelers Tonic grabs a bitter finish from a calisaya elixir made of Cinchono bark. All cocktails are based on “flavorful spirits,” meaning vodka didn’t make the cut, and there are no substitutions. But have no fear, you’re in Raya’s wise hands. Even if you can’t decide, just pick two words from the grid and follow the Bartender’s Choice.Recommended:
On highway 17 in North Charleston sits the unassuming diner, The Glass Onion. Checked tiles, a stripped counter, and simple wooden furniture make up the interior of this no-frills Lowcountry establishment. Chef Chris Stewart, an alum of Johnson and Wales and Mike Lata’s kitchens, delivers a menu of unpretentious, indulgent soul food. Stewart uses his fine-dining background to turn out Southern food with a refined flare. The crunchy crispy pig’s ear in his po’ boys are braised for 20 hours before being julienned, breaded and fried. The creamy chicken liver mousse is served with pickles and their signature thunder sweet pepper relish. Take a jar of the relish to go, but don’t leave without trying one of Pastry Chef Sarah O’Kelley’s traditional Southern desserts. Think orange chess pie and blueberry chocolate pound cake.Recommended:
The Grocery is a festive community meeting place with vaulted ceilings and an open kitchen. This family run restaurant was a pioneer of the Charleston area led by Chef Kevin Johnson, whose humility and love for his community shines on each plate. Global techniques and a passion for quality local ingredients heavily influence the menu. Dishes like Asian sticky lamb shoulder lettuce wraps or sheep’s milk ricotta tortellini exemplify his technique-driven plates. Add to your meal a cocktail from Hallie Arnold. Trained chef turned mixologist, Arnold knows a thing or two about building flavors, whether on a plate or a glass, going as far as infusing gin-like flavors into tequilas before mixing them.Recommended:
Playful yet sophisticated southern cuisine is epitomized in creations such as Chef John Childers’s Trio of Pork: loin, belly, and cracklin’ with cornbread, okra, plum, and paprika jus at Herons in Cary, North Carolina. Gleaning diligence, dedication, and devotion to southern foodways from the restaurants Executive Chef and established regional presence Scott Crawford, Childers is defining his own culinary voice with dishes such as foie gras with sourdough waffle, cognac, and peach. The Umstead Hotel and Spa, home to Herons, combines a muted Italian-Art Deco aesthetic of the 1930s with the luxury of an elite modern-day country club.Recommended:
Robert Stehling has been feeding hoards of locals and out-of-towners at Hominy Grill for close to 16 years now. Wooden booths, stained glass, and brown paper lined tables make up the interior of this old Charleston home where plastic baskets of crunchy golden hush puppies with sorghum butter, Southern style vegetables, and other old favorites are the norm. The menu is an ode to foods of time past—the steamy tomato based pine bark stew is based on the dish popular among Carolinians and Georgians in the nineteenth century. Topped with a poached egg, it’s the perfect hearty brunch dish. Don’t forget to try the grits, made with sharp white cheddar, parmesan, and Tobasco butter. Pull up a chair and sink in for a taste of authentic Charleston cuisine.Recommended:
In historic downtown Charleston, under the guidance of veteran Chef Sean Brock, Chef Travis Grimes is busy mastering one artisan practice at a time. At Husk, the wooden floorboards, fireplaces, and open, airy rooms are reminiscent of an old Southern plantation. Grimes’s thirst for knowledge is translated to the plate with handmade charcuterie, fresh-churned butter, and a larder of vinegars and pickles made out of whatever local farmers deliver. Southern cuisine is a starting point rather than inevitability. Diners can gnosh on sizzling skillets of cornbread and order a delicate course of rudderfish crudo. Sommelier Matt Tunstall adds his quirky spin on out-of-the-box beverage pairings. Make sure you have enough time to start or finish your meal at Bar Husk next door—with playful, inventive cocktails made out of ingredients swiped from the kitchen pantry.Recommended:
How do you improve on the inimitable pierogi? Chef John Korzenkwinski of J. Betski’s in North Carolina, knows precisely how: Fill it with chicken liver mousse and serve it with caramelized onions, tomatoes, and foie gras bratwurst. Korzenkwinski is delving deep into Central and Eastern European cuisine and bringing the food of the people who live in the huge triangle of land between the Baltic, Adriatic, and Black Seas to the people of North Carolina’s Triangle in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Situated in a lively corner of downtown Raleigh among a cluster of busy shops, bars, and restaurants, you’ll find traditional continental foods making the elegant transition into the modern era, while losing none of their charm and flavor in the expert hands of Korzenkwinsky at this singularly satisfying (and local chef-favorite) restaurant.Recommended:
Nathan Allen sleeps in his kitchen—and it shows. A perfect storm of devotion, obsession, natural curiosity, and dare we say it … love, rains creativity down on his dining room for daily lunch and dinner services. Concocted by Allen’s nimble mind, dishes like trout “marrow,” Free-form Nasturtium Panna Cotta and Sumac Water parade from the pass of his restaurant, Knife and Fork in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. In this mountain town, necessity isn’t the mother of invention. It’s imagination, instead. And when a chef turns himself over to a few dream-filled hours in the kitchen each night, visions of Buttered Popcorn, Hakari Turnips, and House Pancetta dance in his head.Recommended:
Combining familiar southern tastes with Japanese flavors and techniques, Chef Andrea Reusing Landmark restaurant Lantern is so good it’s gratuitous. Such is the case with her Caramelized Sorghum Pork Belly—an ooey-gooey, sticky southern barbecue on a single plate, with black pepper, Thai-spiced melon balls, and roasted cashews. Reusing is a James Beard Award winning rock star chef of the South. She’s also a mother and married to an actual rock star, Mac McCaughan of the band Superchunk. Unassumingly nestled in the middle of Chapel Hill’s main drag, Franklin Street, Lantern underwent an expansion in 2013, including a new, elegant event space and sunny backyard patio to supplement its intimate street front dining room and dark back bar.Recommended:
At Chef Regan Stachler’s Little Hen the food and flavors are big: NY Strips with Crispy Potatoes in Kale-Caperberry Pesto; Double-cut Pork Chops in Lemon-Peach Marmalade; Charred and Smashed Whole Beets in Chili Puree with Jalapeno-Red Onion-Bacon Salad; and Grilled Slabs of Swordfish with Beans, Tomato Vinaigrette, and a hunk of crusty bread slathered in aioli to scoop up all the beautiful juices. Stachler is cooking along the fine line between the refined food he was accustomed to serving in New York City and the soul satisfying food diners expect in Holly Springs, North Carolina. Fortunately for his guests, Stachler walks the line with ease, never sacrificing flavor for refinement, or vice versa. At the end of a quiet strip mall in sleepy suburbia, Little Hen is a surprising space with soaring ceilings, reclaimed and refinished furnishing, including wood tables and cast-iron chandeliers, and kitschy knickknack accents that bring a homey feel to the dramatic and thoughtfully designed dining room—the focal point of which is always the food.Recommended:
Artisan Baker Ron Graff was a scientist—a toxicologist at a neuro-biologist’s lab, to be precise—before his interest in baking outgrew the laboratory. Self taught, for five years Graff baked and sold breads at North Carolina farmer’s markets, building a loyal following. All the while (in the fashion of a true scientist), he was constantly reading, researching, and otherwise educating himself about all things bread and pastry, as well as networking and attending industry events and festivals. Eventually he opened brick-and-mortar loaf in downtown Durham, where he built is own bread oven, brick by brick.Recommended:
The mural painted interior, white furnishings, and the outside seating at The Lot are perfect for sipping a beer in the sun and the Pour House, conveniently located next door, is a leading live music venue. Chef Alex Lira, a Virginia native, has certainly built his local following here in Charleston with his edgy outfits and menus to match. Lira developed his ingredient driven philosophy at Tom Colicchio’s Craft in Manhattan and Marlow and Sons in Brooklyn. The fresh, feel good farmer’s pick is the perfect start to any meal and you can’t go wrong with the hearty robust house-made bratwurst spiced with caraway and served with creamy grits, collared greens and Dijon.Recommended:
At The Macintosh, Jeremiah Bacon is serving earthy, approachable cuisine. The fun, rustic space matches the food as hoards of excitable diners gather round Bacon’s table. The menu is seasonally driven, heavily local fair with Southern influence. Changing at least four times each week, it doesn’t just change with the crops, but the changing of the waters too. With his menu idea board in the kitchen, Bacon keeps things new and is never short of a way to prepare what’s delivered to his kitchen door. The crispy duck breast with garbanzo beans, mustard greens, cold smoked duck Andouille, and apricots shows Jeremiah’s experience, technique, and skill. Humble yet knowledgeable Sommelier Vonda Freeman proves equally exciting with approachable pairings from a heavily European wine list. It gets crowded fast, so get there early and sneak in a few bar snacks during happy hour.Recommended:
Chef William Dissen is from farm-country—Charleston, West Virginia—and his deeply engrained farm-to-table childhood shines through in his cooking at The Market Place in Asheville, North Carolina. Dissen’s menu is steeped in his southern sensibility and enriched by in-depth knowledge of classical cuisine. He travels outside Asheville often, attending events and festivals, collaborating with chefs, and always pushing himself to learn. A natural leader with community spirit, Dissen returns eager to push the Asheville scene forward. A spoonful of his foraged mushroom gratin makes you feel as though you need to seclude yourself to devour it in private, breathlessly wiping your mouth on your sleeve. Despite Dissen’s cultured technique, he posseses a fun, childlike spirit—enter barbecued sweetbreads—and constantly strives to balance comfort and creativity, remaining at the fore of the industry.Recommended:
Mateo Tapas is a sleek, modern spin on a traditional tapas bar, from the crowded and convivial atmosphere to charcuterie boards piled high with lomo and chorizo. Chef and Restaurateur Matt Kelley puts a slightly southern touch on tapas, as with his Huevo Diablo (deviled egg with chorizo) and by mixing in Johnston County Country Ham into the cured meats rotation. Sherry and other wine pairings, both subtle and sensational are suggested by wine-industry vet Michael Maller, enhancing the overall contemporary Spanish tavern experience. Mateo is quickly becoming the epicenter of nightlife in downtown Durham.Recommended:
Off a small alley in downtown Charleston, Sean Brock’s McCrady’s feels much like a tavern with large fireplaces, brass chandeliers, and a long, generous bar that’s manned by one of the city’s best bartenders, Ryan Casey. But for worshippers of Southern cuisine, this is the space that launched Brock (and arguably Southern cuisine) into the international culinary playing field. The kitchen crew now led by Chef de Cuisine Daniel Heinz (Jeremiah Langhorne, with whom we tasted, departed in the fall) uses exclusively Southern ingredients, often taking far too many bushels of produce off local farmers’ hands—cooking what they can and preserving the rest. This isn’t down home food; Brock’s cooking here (less reliant on molecular techniques than in earlier years) takes good, honest ingredients and reimagines them as elegant compositions with a voice that’s both Southern and cosmopolitan. Add to that a 5,000 bottle wine cellar and Sommelier Cappie Peate, who deftly pairs juice with Brock’s cuisine. Pastry Chef Sean Ehland flanks the latter portion of the meal with spare desserts whose flavors speak to his time as a savory chef. Such a dynamic crew is supplemented by a resident rooftop farmer, a house fermentation guy, and a fleet of stages and cooks.Recommended:
Gazing down upon Chef Brendan Cox’s modern, composed plating, one would never guess that outside his dining room is the quaint little southern town of Pittsboro, North Carolina. At OakleafCox’s devotion to Chatham County Farms and North Carolina product is effortlessly displayed in such dishes as Flounder, Zucchini, and Panzanella, and Duck Confit, Chanterelles, Figs, Hazelnut Puree, and Black Pepper Gastrique. Cox even sources from 13 raised garden begs in his own backyard. His fresh, vibrant, and artful food is served in a converted textile factory where the light pours in from cathedral-style windows, making the refinished wood surfaces gleam and the smiles from loyal guests shine throughout the dining room.Recommended:
Chefs Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan are exploring Southern ingredients with a Northern California sensibility at One in Chapel Hill. Nestled in a shopping center, the expansive dining room looks onto a white, wide-open kitchen, from which the duo produces creative, vegetable-forward cuisine with restrained modern technique. Just in from positions at Michelin three-starred Meadowood in Napa, California, Floresca and Ryan focus on hospitality on top of their kitchen duties, sending out a flourish love from the kitchen in the form of snacks for each table. They also make their own desserts—with dexterity that few savory chefs display—as part of tasting menus and regular à la carte dining. One is a new breed of American restaurant, one where chefs can pick up and plant their voices in an unexplored city and import fresh perspective to a growing, hungry scene.Recommended:
Inside an old bank in downtown Charleston is Mike Lata’s vaulted ceiling seafood hall and oyster bar, The Ordinary. The James Beard 2013 Best New Restaurant spans over two floors with complete with stained wooden tables and traditional marble tables. The bar runs the length of the dining room as an exquisite centerpiece of decorum. Behind it, Brooks Reitz’s masterful mixology continues the dignity with class and poise. After ordering something boozy, work toward the restaurant’s raw bar overseen by 2011 Chicago Rising Star Chef Geoff Rhyne. It’s here you’ll find a wide selection of fresh seafood like littleneck clams, Maine lobster tails, and more in both hot and cold preparations.Recommended:
Oil portraits line the dining room walls at Peninsula Grill at the Planters Inn—presumably keeping watch over culinary tradition that’s held firmly in check by a Relais & Chateaux-worthy staff and Chef Graham Dailey. Dailey took over the kitchen in 2005, and from his post, he’s connected Peninsula Grill with a wide network of local farmers and fisherman. Dailey highlights real flavors of coastal Carolina with ingredients like heirloom grits, rarely caught calico scallops, peaches, and sweet summer tomatoes. Simple as they seem, Dailey transforms these products into special occasion meal, as he plays host to lucky hotel guests and locals looking for a memorable night out. Pastry Chef Claire Chapman is the keeper of the restaurant’s beloved “Ultimate” coconut cake, and she makes her own riffs on Southern favorites like banana pudding—her desserts seem all the more elegant in the restaurant’s white tablecloth dining room or on its serene patio during a candlelit, al fresco meal.Recommended:
From watermelon with candied lime peel to sorghum glazes and red drum fish to chilled sweet corn soup, Chef Ben Adams’s food is lively, refreshing, and infused with state pride. Adams doesn’t have to go very far to fetch the North Carolina produce his menus requires; the Durham farmer’s market is right next door to Piedmont, and he ‘s there every day the market opens, picking up product, talking to farmers, and commiserating with locals. Adams is bringing change to Piedmont, the restaurant he took over as executive chef in spring 2013; it gets its name from the agriculturally rich zone of which it is the center. He ensures the majority of sourcing is done within the region. Adams even picked out the new art on the walls as he breathes new life into his corner of Durham.Recommended:
Pedigreed chefs and husband and wife tandem Katie and Justin Meddis met at Cypress in Charleston, South Carolina, and now own and operate the destination meat market and sweet shop, Rose’s, in Durham, North Carolina, where they churn out world class pastries, charcuterie, and take-away dinners, making sure all their customers go home sufficiently salted and sugared. Their techniques are fine-tuned, their tastes refined, and their energy relentless as they work tirelessly to provide their community with the best butchery and baked goods in the region, including specialties such as North Carolina Potato Sausage and Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with Strawberry and Candied Kumquat Jam. Rose’s is a bright and airy space with a display case packed with locally sourced, house-made meat products and a counter full of confections by Katie, who cut her teeth as pastry cook at Chez Panisse.Recommended:
Walking through the doors of Ruka’s Table in Highlands, North Carolina, is like stumbling into an alternate universe, where everything is slightly off but better than you remembered or ever imagined. Chef Justin Burdett uses technique and one deliciously warped mind to channel his rebellious spirit onto every plate. He bends red-eye gravy to his will in a consommé that’s a lighting bolt to the brain, and, naturally, he slides hog brain ravioli into that brazen broth. It’s not the high altitude or the Appalachian isolation that drives Burdett to such creative heights—that comes from within. But the seclusion gives him room to incubate and execute his bold ideas and provocative flavorsRecommended:
Sitting at a sun-drenched picnic table outside Chef Ricky Moore’s Saltbox Seafood Joint, you’ll feel as though you’ve ascended to southern-fried heaven. Munch on broccoli florets fresh from the fryer and pick apart perfectly grilled and seasoned whole Carolina Spot fish or butterfish. A veteran of some of the most important kitchens of the past 20 years, Chef Ricky Moore decided to go home to North Carolina and get back to basics, serving excellently executed grilled whole-fish to a diverse and cheerful crowd through the window of his Joint. Moore’s mini Saltbox is pristine and well equipped, but it’s still a shack about the size of a toll booth. The authenticity that all the trendy young Brooklyn chefs are searching for in their souls and kitchens is served through Moore’s window in a cardboard dish in a quiet neighborhood of Durham. Clearly Moore recalls what the phrase finger lickin’ good originally meant before it became a marketing cliché. We have Moore to thank for this head-on, honest-to-greatness, finger lickin’ revival.Recommended:
Sandwhich is located just off the bustling campus of UNC-Chapel Hill and is just as lively—from the vibrant food to the throngs of locals crowding in from Franklin Street. Proprietor and Chef Hich Elbetri was fired from his first industry job as a waiter in New York City because he couldn’t speak English. Since that experience years ago, he’s not only mastered the language, but become fluent in deliciousness and constructing singular, addictive sandwiches. Elbetri’s Outrageous BLT lives up to it’s name, encasing bacon bliss between sourdough toast. Even the twice-cooked potato chips are perfection, which Elbetri himself bakes to order. We recommend pairing most any of his ingenious sandwiches with a milkshake.Recommended:
The web address for Pastry Chef Phoebe Lawless’ Scratch bakery is piefantasy.com, but her Durham, North Carolina shop is more than pure fantasy, it’s a fully realized pie utopia, where crusts are so sturdy yet flakey that you can eat each decadent slice from the palm of your hand. Fillings range from peach in the style of banana cream, to buttermilk sugar, sweet corn chess, and an outrageous, come-to-Carolina just for this, tomato, cream, and herb filling. A veteran of North Carolina’s famed Magnolia restaurant, Lawless first came up with her pie crust recipe out of necessity when she was selling pie at farmers markets and her customers needed to be able to eat a slice with one hand while shopping. At Scratch Lawless has her daily menus written on the huge blackboard wall behind the counter of her brick, blue, yellow, and wood bakeshop decorated with pies, pastries, and pickle jars. During the height of pie season—Thanksgiving through Christmas—Lawless closes down shop and dedicates all hands to fulfilling pie orders. So in demand are her crusty creations that she has set up pie depots across the region, where customers can come to pick up their coveted orders.Recommended:
Mike Moore left a creatively restrictive job at a country club to unleash his creative zeal on Asheville. In 2010, he started the influential Blind Pig supper club in the spirit of making friends and fostering collaboration over competition. In the process, he birthed an institution that has become intrinsic to the progressive reputation of Asheville and its thriving chef community. All profits from Blind Pig dinners are donated to local charities, and Moore’s model inspired clubs across the region. The success of Blind Pig and the incredible culinary camaraderie it engendered, led Moore to launch brick-and-mortar Seven Sows, from which he can feed more of his Asheville community and support the farmers who make his bold, animal-centric cuisine possible.Recommended:
Like few before him, Sommelier Brad Ball is helping prove that sommelier’s can and should run restaurants. After stints in New York City at places like Jean-Georges, Momofuku Noodle Bar, and Aquavit, he moved back home to Charleston and opened Social Restaurant + Wine Bar. The oversized modern industrial space comes complete with a seemingly endless wooden bar and a raised dining room well suited for a little jazz playing from the wings. It also has what can only be called the swankiest exposed wine cellar in the South And don’t think because Ball is a Sommelier he neglected the kitchen. Led by Chef Jesse Sutton, the kitchen and its wood-fired oven pump out exquisite farm-to-table cuisine with influences from France and Italy all wrapped in a tiny Southern bow.Recommended:
In a small kitchen in North Charleston, self-dubbed Flavor Maker, Johnny Battles is turning out handcrafted bars, truffles, and sugar-fueled sauces that will satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth. Formerly of local pizzeria EVO, Battles always enjoyed playing with unusual flavor combinations. Starting with candying ingredients like garlic and peppers, Battles moved onto using chocolate as a base and Sweet Teeth Chocolates was born. Local herbs, fruits, and vegetables are combined with single origin Columbian chocolate to create fun, high-quality, small batch products. Sold in over 80 specialty stores across the country, the Sweet Teeth brand is distinguished by the intricately designed labels unique to each flavor and product. Try the flagship bar, C is for Caramel, 65% single origin shell filled with slightly burnt gooey vanilla caramel and a touch of fleur de sel. The PB+C with peanut butter and chipotle is reminiscent of a smoky high-end version of Battles’ favorite candy, Reese’s Eggs and is on must-try list for all!Recommended:
Local chefs often refer to Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table, as “the grandfather of creative cooking” in Asheville, North Carolina. Taking into consideration that Sessoms is still south of 40 years old, this speaks to how young and exciting the food scene is in this small mountain city. Having opened in 2005, many of the best chefs in Asheville have already passed through Table’s kitchen—on College Street, a main drag of the city. Above the restaurant is another Sessom venture, the “low-light, grown-up bar” with equally creative fare (and local beers, esoteric wines, and cocktails) as served downstairs. Once a Jonathan Waxman mentee, Sessoms is now influencing a new generation of chefs in one of the most exciting food cities in the country.Recommended:
Dubbed Sean Brock’s “top pick” of Charleston’s booming culinary scene, Two Boroughs Larder promises dynamic, seasonal American cuisine along with a carefully curated list of wines and regional beers. Bordering Cannonborough and Elliotborough in Charleston, the corner store-esque minimalist façade only piques the curiosity of the wonders inside. The dining area and commissary—complete with a wooden communal wooden table and walls lined with local artisan products—gives larder its edge. Behind the stove, Chef Josh Keeler works quickly, creating forward-thinking dishes with complex layers of flavor. The umami of the tuna conserva with Meyer lemon and charred shishito peppers is rich and addictive. The sweetbreads with house-made lardo, pullet egg, and tofu is Keeler’s comforting twist on a Caesar salad. And outside the restaurant, Keeler is leading the charge of the “seed to tail” movement in Charleston.Recommended:
Sam and Starr got the name for their factory from the Italian verb for “to see,” because they want to be completely transparent about their chocolate making process—from bean to bar. They got into chocolate making simply because they needed jobs and found a life-long passion and family business. Sam not only makes 90% cacao dark chocolate bars, he’s making them delicious. The Ratto’s wanted their business to offer a “Charlie and the chocolate factory”-type experience for children and the kid in all chocolate lovers. The space is not only a factory, but a café and lounge, where it’s easy to whiled away the hours mesmerized by the dizzying swirls of chocolate.Recommended:
Laura Reuss and Ben Mixson’s tacos are from the wrong side of the tracks (literally), but their construction and flavor profiles are oh so right. Along the French Broad River and across the rail road tracks in Asheville, North Carolina, is White Duck Taco. The name is an English translation of the Spanish nickname given to Reuss by a co-worker. Reuss refers to her tacos as “food envelopes,” folding within her tortillas fillings inspired by regional American cuisine as well as global cuisines. However, the duo never stray far from the original taco structure. Get to the White Duck early; Ashevillians start lining up for lunch service even before the doors open, if a train doesn’t get in their path.Recommended:
Lauren Mitterer is the Sticky Bun Queen of Charleston but her talents extend well beyond the sweet doughy rolls. Mitterer who thought Wild Flour Pastry would be a small quaint neighborhood shop, has now expanded and supplies dessert to several local restaurants along with running a wildly successful catering business. However Wild Flour continues to be the local hotspot she hoped it would be. The counter is full of the classics—the double chocolate cookie is the ultimate chocolate cookie with a crisp exterior and a chewy, fudgy centre. The cinnamon pecan coffeecake muffin is everything a muffin should be—a crunchy, nutty top with a fluffy, buttery interior. Our other favorites were the peanut butter mousse cake and the salted caramel cheesecake.Recommended:
Housed in a once-upon-a-time gas station with exposed bricks and laboratory-style stools, Xiao Bao Biscuit is one of Charleston’s most interesting and eclectic restaurants. Drawing inspiration from his travels through China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, Chef Josh Walker crafts Asian dishes while keeping true to local ingredients. Whether midday or late night, those lab stools are packed with locals chowing down on cha ca ca noi (seared flounder with dill over rice noodles in a buttery lemongrass broth) or okonomiyaki (seasonal vegetables topped with house-cured bacon, eggs, and pork-cured cotton candy) Partner Joey Ryan brings his Asian influence by way of the beverage department, helping diners wash meals down with Chanh Muoi, or Vietnamese pickled lemonade, and our personal favorite, the refreshing and herbaceous Hanoi 75 made with gin, lime, cucumber, green Chartreuse, and falernum.Recommended:
Chef Adam Bannasch is clearly part of the creative class of chefs that is thriving in Asheville, North Carolina. At Zambra he’s taken the traditional Spanish tapas menu and infused it with Asheville’s creative spirit and bursts of his own personality, seamlessly making room in his dishes for unexpected, flavorful elements. Bannasch’s kitchen is filled with produce and product that are local and fresh, and he’s proud of the special relationships he’s made with specialty purveyors, like Carolina Wild Seafood. The expansive bar and dining room serves strictly Spanish wines and fills up quickly, bringing the true convivial feel of tapas to Asheville.Recommended:
Brewers and besties Doug Reiser and Tim Gormley moved from Seattle to Asheville with plans not only open their own brewery but to live out the rest of their respective lives. To them, the large mountain town suited beer brewing as well as their own lifestyles. When we visited the ambitious and idealistic duo in October 2013, Burial Brewing Co. had only been open four months, and already they weren’t able to produce enough beer with their small, self-made brewing system to satisfy demand. They have plans to build a 20-barrel production facility on farmland nearby. But they want to grow slowly, control quality, and do it all on their, allowing for no outside investment. They’re creative, determined, do-it-yourself spirit captures the very essence of Asheville as a cutting-edge beer city.Recommended:
By virtue of his name alone, Mark Leatherwood was born to be either a tanner or a porn star. But he bucked fate to become a roaster. Along with Leatherwood and Head Roaster James Barbour, owners Scott Conary and Beth Justus—who also own Open Eye Café and Cafe Driade)—travel the world from Nicaragua to Ethiopia to source the best beans and educate farmers and elevate the standards of living in their communities. Carrboro Coffee Roasters, conveniently located across the street from Steel String Brewery, is one of a number of small roasters leading the post-Counter Culture, third-wave coffee charge in North Carolina.Recommended:
Lowell Grosse of Charleston Coffee Roasters specializes in sourcing the highest quality coffee from around the world. For almost twenty years, Lowell has been small-batch, hand-roasting his carefully selected beans. Whether from Sumatra, Ethiopia or Brazil, all of his coffee is single origin and a mixture of smooth and rich flavors. The Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is delicate and bright with notes of acid while the Organic Nicaraguan is earthy and full bodied with a long nutty finish. Sold in local stores and served in local restaurants and shops, Charleston Coffee Roasters continues to serve the local community and out of town coffee fanatics alike.Recommended:
We tasted beer directly from the fermentation tanks on the eve of Crank Arm Brewing’s opening in the summer of 2013. The brew pub’s ESB English-style amber ale (Eat Sleep Bike) was a standout among the cycle-themed beers, with caramel notes and a solid hop backbone. An excellent non-biker beer is the Crank Arm smoked porter Holy Mole, fermented with habaneros, loads of Videri cocoa nibs, and smoked sea salt. Brew industry veteran Michael Morris loves beer and loves bicycles. Crank Arm’s brewery and taproom are united in one grand industrial space adorned with bent-metal bike wall-sculpture, a bike chain bar-backsplash, and wood, cement, and neon-light accents.Recommended:
The fun and flavorful beer varieties at Deep River Brewing Co. in Clayton, North Carolina range from Double D’s Watermelon Lager made with Johnston County melons, to their 4042 Milk Stout that’s soaked in Videri cocoa nibs to derive its literal chocolateness. Paul Auclair is the brewer and his wife Lynn is the businesswoman behind the beer, but they’re both engineers who designed and installed Deep River’s massive brew system mostly on their own. Originally from up-state New York, Paul and Lynn’s brewery is Johnston County’s first (the county was formerly dry). Shortly after opening their taproom, native Carolinians brought it to the Auclair’s attention that Deep River was merely the first LEGAL brewery in the county. The couple quickly and cleverly amended the tagline on their merchandise with a red carrot pointing up to the word “Legal” written in red before “Brewery.”Recommended:
Nicole Smarel is passionate about sharing with Charleston her wholesome, veggie-packed vision of health and nutrition. In her downtown juice bar, Dellz Vibez, Smarel blends creative concoctions with the help of her blenders, Lucy and Ethel. Try the Spicy Coco Boy, a zippy, creamy smoothie of almond milk, cayenne, and cacao nibs or the bright and tart Halla Berry for the “female with attitude.” Smarel’s drinks are fun, healthy, and hearty, sneaking in greens and other super foods. Pull up a stool, sip on a mason jar of juice, and get ready for a good dose of fun and conversation.Recommended:
Subterranean cocktail lounge Fox Liquor Bar is Chef Ashley Christensen’s liquid contribution to the Raleigh restaurant scene—and one that could just as easily be plopped in New York City or San Francisco, save the easy-going hospitality and inclusive standing room policy. Once you slip down the stairs, suspenders-clad bartenders greet you from behind the bar with a 30-plus cocktail menu, leaning heavily on the classics with a few adventurous turns. Low lounge seating flanks one side of the bar with ample standing room and high countertops around its exterior—all so Raleigh imbibers can have their cocktails and leisurely sip them too.Recommended:
Durham, North Carolina’s Fullsteam Brewery’s focus is on creating a Southern style of beer by using exclusively North Carolina ingredients, including malt from Asheville; Carolina corn and sweet potatoes; cacao husks from the expert chocolate makers over at Escazú in Raleigh; regional favorite Cheerwine; and Cackalachy spice. Brewer Chris Davis’s latest beer collaboration was with Chef and Restaurateur Ashley Christensen for her restaurant Beasley’s Chicken + Honey. The two worked closely together to develop a hefeweizen to pair perfectly with fried chicken; it’s fermented with Tellicherry peppercorns. The downtown Durham brewery space also houses a taproom and large event space with a stage for live music—often bluegrass.Recommended:
You can pick up Hi-Wire beer in cans or bottles (look for the circus theme) at Asheville area grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores, and specialty beer and wine shops. Or you can just head Downtown to the Brew District and pull up a stool in the Hi-Wire brewery-adjacent taproom. Though you can grab a Hi-wire brew while you’re filling up the tank, Co-owner Adam Charnack and Brewer Chris Foresacker are making creative craft beers at the hi-est of standards, yet remaining approachable, making drinkability their most important goal along with flavor and quality. Their Side Show Seasonal beers are only available from their taps, so make way to Hi-wire for local, seasonal beer or three.Recommended:
The men behind Holy City Brewing have come a long way from their home brew system made of welded bicycle parts. This local brewery, named after the Charleston skyline crowded with traditional steeples, sits in a 4,000-square foot warehouse in North Charleston. Head Brewer Chris Brown hones his passion for brewing lagers and keeps four on tap all year. The flagship lager, Slanted Porch Ale (so named after the slanted porches of Charleston homes) is citrusy, floral, and easy drinking. Brown’s creativity is evident in his extensive menu of seasonal and occasion beers. Unconventional methods impart flavors like biscuits and honey, along with oysters and pecans. Bacon and beer are brought together in the Notorious P.I.G, a beer for which Brown steeps a mesh bag of cooked bacon in his American Porter. The brewery also doubles as a live music venue that features local bands. Stop by, drink some beer, shoot some pool, and be sure to check out Brown’s latest creations.Recommended:
Larry’s Beans Chief Roaster and Quality Control Czar, Brad Brandhorst, loves coffee and loves experimentation. Chocolaty and smooth, Larry’s Cold Brew is a tasty and ingenious product of Brandhorst’s laboratory, as is his whiskey barrel-aged coffee and the more tame Mama Nile roast from Ethiopia. Working in a semi-open air roastery that resembles an airplane hanger, Larry, Brandhorst and the team are dedicated to sustainability, from collecting their waster for biofuel (which fuels their colorful converted-schools bus for coffee deliveries) to the sunlight that streams in to illuminate the production process from roasting to packaging.Recommended:
Brewer Galen Smith brews beers with complexity and depth of flavor and yet from his crisp hefeweizen—with the characteristic banana end-note—to his maple-y marisotter, malt-forward True Britt ESB, the brews are delightfully easy-drinking. Smith’s most complex beer is the American-style brown ale Sweet Josie, which requires four different types of malt to produce its fruity-chocolate bar flavor, a profile that the award winning beer is know for. Having opened all the way back in 2009, Lonerider Brewing is practically a grandfather among the prodigious craft brew progeny that have exploded in North Carolina over the last few years, months, days, hours, minutes....Recommended:
Marshall Hance built his first roaster out of a hot-air gun, a vacuum cleaner motor, and a deep-seated desire for a better cup of coffee. As roaster and proprietor of Mountain Air Roasting, he’s working on roasting, selling, and sharing “really fucking badass coffee.” At the heart of Hance’s philosophy is venerating the farmer and the bean, and then applying precise light roasts (working with a much-improved hand-built roaster) to preserve and accentuate the beans’ flavors. After the beans leave his shop, Hance further ensures that they’ll be brewed properly before signing off on wholesale accounts. His uncompromising pursuit of perfection drives the growth of Mountain Air Roasting as it takes over the delightful morning (afternoon and evening) caffeination of North Carolina.Recommended:
Brewer Erik Lars is a jovial intellectual and his personality is reflected in his beers. Lars’s Bapa Bois brew is named for the Trinidadian protector of the forest (obviously), and it tastes like espresso with a lemon twist. His German-style sour beer, called Wanderer Moon, is named for a Williams Carlos Williams poem about summer. Relative to other states and in stark contrast to its own strict liquor laws, beer laws are lacks in North Carolina and craft breweries are exploding. Within that shock wave is the small town of Hillsborough where Lars’s Mystery Brewing Company is the brew scene. The brewery is in a large brick warehouse space around the corner from downtown Hillsborough (one street) where Lars’ bar attracts locals and day trippers alike to its casual taproom (equal parts game room and library) with an outdoor beer garden in the rear.Recommended:
In the outdoor-adventure capital of North Carolina’s Smokey Mountains, Bryson City, Greg Geiger is brewing some damn good beer. Geiger himself was on an adventure, hiking the Appalachian Trail, when he walked into the expansive brewery-taproom-event space that is Nantahala Brewing Company. Today, along with collaborator and co-owner of the brewery, Joe Rowland, Geiger puts our the Trail Magic Ale series, seasonal beers, high gravity beers, as well as their six flagship year-round brews, including App Trail Extra Pale Ale, Bryson City Brown, and Up Rive Amber. Nantahala is named for the National Forest and the river in its backyard.Recommended:
The menu at Peccadillo, also known as “Secret Bar” by locals because the one-room bar is hidden on a small side street without an obvious entrance and no windows, has three drinks: Manhattan, Negroni, and Martini. With a care, craft, and meticulousness bordering on obsession, mix master Dean James is striving for classic cocktail perfection and is single-handedly elevating cocktail culture in tiny Carrboro, North Carolina, as well as the Piedmont region at large. Peccadillo is dark; but as guests eyes adjust they’ll notice the vaulted wood beam ceiling, red floor, provocative art, and bar tenders at the ready in stark white lab coats. The loyal crowd brightens the room with lively conversation and laughter that rises above the pumped in playlist. All have personalized drinks in handRecommended:
Kristie and Patrik have found it difficult to keep up with demand for their beer since they opened Mach 9, 2013. During the summer of 2013 they projected exceeding their initial expectations of selling 2,000 to 2,500 barrels in their first year, and are already on 40 different taps throughout Raleigh. Kristie co-owns Raleigh Brewing with her husband Patrick; both are second careerers. Kristie quit her job in corporate America to plunge head first into the brewing business, while Patrik, an airline pilot, is eager to retire so that they both can focus on their rapidly expanding beer company. The brewery is a pub, too, with plenty outdoor space and has classrooms for beer tasting and seminars. They also consult and sell home and industrial brewing equipment.Recommended:
Cody Maltais is a co-owner of Steel String Craft Brewery and was a Marine Core Captain. Brewer and co-owner Will Isley began brewing beer especially for the soldier’s home-coming. After some traditional fund raising and a crowd funding campaign organized on kickstarter.com, the totally American made brewery and pub offers refreshing seasonal brews such as Exile on Weaver Street, a hefeweizen referring to the main public space in town—a grassy knoll outside of a market that attracts hipsters, hippies, musicians, families, pets, students, professors, hula-hoopers, and beer enthusiasts. Maltais and Isley opened the Brewery in spring 2013 and started barrel aging some of their brews that fall. In the heart of downtown Carrboro—the Williamsburg of North Carolina—Steel String had set up shop only a few months before we arrived. With a small beer garden street-side that leads to a taproom, this brew pub is all party in the front and business the back.Recommended:
Husband and wife Edward and Morgan Westbrook are the team behind Westbrook Brewing in Charleston. Edward initially started home brewing while Morgan was in college and he was in grad school. “As soon as I tried the process, I enjoyed it,” he says, “a good palate the most important ingredient.” The White Thai, inspired by Edward’s love of Thai food is a Belgian White Ale brewed with spices, ginger and lemongrass—a beer not to be missed! Even though, Westbrook’s brews are distributed nationally and internationally, make sure you visit the tasting room in Mount Pleasant to try the latest offers on tap.Recommended:
No operation better captures the creative spirit and beer devotion of Asheville, than Wicked Weed Brewing. Brothers and Brewers Luke and Walt Dickinson opened the massive brewery-bar-restaurant in 2012 in the beer paradise that is Appalachian North Carolina. To set themselves apart in the suds-filled market, they make West Coast-style hop monsters, Belgian ales, and beers inspired by local chefs and bartenders. Also setting them apart is their natural exuberance and slightly twisted minds out of which spring brews like Coconut Curry Wit, Tamarind Saison, and Appalachian Saison (grits, sweet potato, honey). Barely keeping up with the demand, the duo is on target to produce 2,800 barrels this year. They’ve spread the magic of Asheville brewing to a market near you with a larger scale New Belgium collaboration—along with their undeniably lovable, undeniably Asheville “kiss my grits” philosophy.Recommended:
The Albemarle Inn is a stately southern home—massive Doric columns, serene porch, pristine grounds and all—hidden away in a residential corner of Asheville near scenic Grove Park, but not far from all the downtown action. The interior rooms, including elegant foyer and common areas for sitting and dining, are nothing less than grand. The guest rooms are appointed and maintained excellently, the focal point of which are sumptuous antique beds. Climb in at night and wake in the morning the aromas of Chef Rosemary Chiariello comprehensively delicious breakfast, served to order. Don’t leave without nabbing a piece of her superlative apple cake—if you’re in a rush, she’ll tie it up with a bow and send you on your way
Watch sailboats in the harbor, stroll out onto the best shopping blocks in Charleston, and step downstairs to premier fine-dining restaurants—all at Charleston Place, a bedrock of Southern hospitality. An Orient-Express property in the heart of downtown, Charleston Place boasts all the creature comforts a traveler craves: bright, classically styled rooms; a full-service, onsite spa; rooftop swimming pool to soak in Southern sun; a business center; and shops like St. John and Lacoste. Hospitality is central to the Charleston Place experience with big smiles greeting guests at check-in and impeccable service and food at its flagship restaurant, Charleston Grill.
Planters Inn feels like Charleston should: gracious, luxurious, storied, and full of Southern character. The only Relais & Chateaux property in South Carolina, the hotel’s building evolved from a cotton warehouse (set across the street from the city’s slave market) into dry goods emporium and finally a luxury hotel in 1994. The 64-room property now accommodates cotton of a more finished sort: Italian hemstitched Mascioni bedding that shares room space with four-poster beds, 10-foot ceilings, and soak-worthy travertine tubs. Morning juice and coffee and nightly turn-down service are just a few of the amenities guests can count on, not to mention a luxurious, local-flavor-inflected meals at Chef Graham Dailey’s Peninsula Grill.
Just down the road from UNC-Chapel Hill, the Tuscan villa-styled Siena Hotel is where southern Italian cuisine meets supremely hospitable southern (American) service. At The Siena, everyone really does know your name, because the staff takes the time to talk to their guests. Having undergone a massive renovation that began in 2013, the Siena is newly polished and fresh. The location, as always, is convenient to bustling downtown Chapel Hill, with is many shops, bars, and restaurants.
The Umstead Hotel and Spa, home to the award winning Herons restaurant in Cary, North Carolina, combines a an elegant, muted Italian Art Deco aesthetic of the 1930s with the luxury of a modern-day country club. Influential Southern Chef Scott Crawford is at the helm of the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Herons, as well as afternoon tea and the bar and lounge. In addition to the full-service spa, including pool, steam, sauna, and whirlpool, The Umstead offers 24-hour concierge, 24-hour in-room dining, nightly live entertainment in the lounge, complimentary coffee and tea in the lobby, valet, and accommodations for pets. The Umstead is a true luxury hotel, enveloped in natural surroundings, yet only minutes from the airport.