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Beasley’s fried chicken Bill Addison

Road-Tripping North Carolina: The 22 Must-Visit Restaurants

There’s a lot more to NC than biscuits and barbecue

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Over the last decade, charismatic North Carolina cities like Asheville and Durham have soaked up plenty of attention for their budding food scenes. So in 2015, Eater’s roving restaurant critic Bill Addison went on a five-day road trip to assess how North Carolina’s culinary scene has evolved far beyond barbecue — the state’s most famous culinary asset.

“For the food-obsessed,” Addison wrote, “I wager that no Southern road trip itinerary brings more pleasure than a west-to-east trek across North Carolina.” Along their 338-mile trek, Addison and his traveling companions consumed everything from biscuit breakfast sandwiches to Spanish tapas, elevated diner classics to crisp tea-smoked chicken with fried rice — and also discovered “an actual destination-worthy restaurant” nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Read more about that fateful trip here, and for your driving pleasure, check out the best spots from Addison’s full 25-stop NC itinerary — along with notes culled from his original trip — below:

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Biscuit Head

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733 Haywood Rd
Asheville, NC
(828) 333-5145
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This joint manifests the state’s big biscuit cravings, known as “cat heads.” Make Biscuit Head’s firm yet fluffy, large buttermilk biscuits extra large with piled-high combinations like country ham, fried green tomatoes, and cheese eggs.

Bill Addison

2. Cucina 24

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24 Wall St
Asheville, NC
(828) 254-6170
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Brian Canipelli’s Italian cooking is simultaneously playful, gusty, and admirably effortless: Pizzas and pastas are comforting, while more adventurous diners should seriously consider the sliced lamb heart.

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3. Table

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48 College St
Asheville, NC
(828) 254-8980
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Jacob Sessums catalyzed the new generation of local-minded restaurants when he opened Table. Among the must-order dishes: strawberries with cream and brown sugar cookies; and boiled peanut ragout, a take on a Southern classic.

Bill Addison

4. Nightbell

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32 S Lexington Ave
Asheville, NC
(828) 575-0375
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Another Katie Button-owned establishment, Nightbell is the perfect hangout spot, offering heady cocktails and updated bar snacks with the occasional modernist fillip, like fish and chips made with skate wing.

Bill Addison

5. Rhubarb

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7 SW Pack Sq
Asheville, NC
(828) 785-1503
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John Fleer, a chef with national accolades (and a long stint at Blackberry Farm under his belt), delivers modern Southern cooking — plates like brown ale brined cauliflower steak. Do not miss the restaurant’s selection of superb local cheese.

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6. Cúrate

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13 Biltmore Ave
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 239-2946
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Katie Button, an alum of the José Andrés restaurant empire, serves true-minded Spanish tapas here: Her universally appealing menu features clams steamed in cider with crumbled chorizo; ried eggplant with honey and rosemary; and a gin and tonic with mixed citrus and juniper berries.

Bill Addison

7. Knife & Fork

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61 Locust St
Spruce Pine, NC 28777
(828) 765-1511
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Chef-owner Nate Allen brings foraged herbs and greens to his dishes in this small and cozy restaurant, which often requires a made-well-ahead reservation. With an emphasis of seasonal cooking, Knife & Fork has become a destination for food lovers across the nation.

Bill Addison

8. Lexington Barbecue

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100 Smokehouse Ln
Lexington, NC 27295
(336) 249-9814
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Get plates of barbecue served sliced, chopped to a frilly texture, or (in the best option) coarsely chopped, all delivered by cheerful waitresses. The meat, lightly dressed in the vinegar sauce with a tang of ketchup, is simple yet iconic.  

Bill Addison

9. Allen & Son Barbeque

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5650 US-15
Pittsboro, NC 27312
(919) 542-2294
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With its cabin-in-the-woods charm, the restaurant showcases smoked pork shoulders. The meat, paired with chile-tinged vinegar sauce, has a textural complexity similar to whole hog.

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10. Crook’s Corner

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610 W Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
(919) 929-7643
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Before glancing at a menu, ask about the honeysuckle sorbet, a seasonal ritual for Crook’s longtime chef Bill Smith, and order it if the kitchen hasn’t run out. But this institution is known of course for far more than just its dessert: Its much-loved shrimp and grits have reached icon status.

Kate Medley/Eater

11. Lantern

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423 W Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
(919) 969-8846
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This Asian-inspired restaurant under Andrea Reusing serves classics like pork and chive dumplings alongside more experimental fare. The split personality of the space, with its shadowy Hong Kong red lights and the prim front dining room, makes the place even more charming.

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12. Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen

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1305 E Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 933-1324
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Get the signature flavors and comfort of fried chicken biscuits quick and fast through this spot’s drive-thru window.

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13. Rise

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8200 Renaissance Pkwy
Durham, NC 27713
(919) 248-2992
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The ever-changing lineup of crunchy-soft doughnuts may outshine their tender, crumbly biscuits, but with options like pimento cheese and bacon, the biscuits are not to be ignored for sure.

Bill Addison

14. Scratch

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111 Orange St
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 956-5200
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Pie is the lodestar at Scratch. Under Phoebe Lawless, who perfected her craft under Karen Barker of still-missed Magnolia Grill, Scratch’s sweets hit all the right rich notes.

Bill Addison

15. Saltbox Seafood Joint

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608 N Mangum St
Durham, NC
(919) 908-8970
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This seafood stand with daily-changing menu and a few umbrella-covered picnic tables in front often sells out by 2 or 3 p.m. Get some fried shrimp, scattered on a toasted roll with cabbage and fennel slaw (if it’s not sold out already).

Bill Addison

16. Poole's Diner

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426 S McDowell St
Raleigh, NC
(919) 832-4477
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Here, it’s the macaroni au gratin that manifests the greatness of Ashley Christensen’s first Raleigh restaurant. But don’t sleep on the rest of the nightly changing menu, which highlights ingredients with maximum Southern savor.

Bill Addison

17. Beasley's Chicken + Honey

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237 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC
(919) 322-0127
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This mega-popular fried chicken emporium by Ashley Christensen brings all essential Southern charms, with dishes like green bean casserole and pimento mac and cheese. The space, as luck would have it, houses multiple Christensen concepts: Chuck’s (and its burger) and Fox Liquor Bar all also merit a visit.

Beasley’s fried chicken Bill Addison

18. Stanbury

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938 N Blount St
Raleigh, NC
(919) 977-4321
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This gastro-glam pub features daily-rotating menu: A recent visit offered a heaping bowl of crawfish, and no-joke selection of cocktails and wines.

Bill Addison

19. Wilber's Barbecue

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4172 US Highway 70 E
Goldsboro, NC
(919) 778-5218
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The kitchen turns out praiseworthy barbecue, but during one visit, the off-the-menu order of leftover ribs was even more commendable.

Bill Addison

20. The Chef & the Farmer

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120 W Gordon St
Kinston, NC 28501
(252) 208-2433
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Vivian Howard from PBS’s A Chef’s Life has turned Kinston into a pilgrimage site for fans and food lovers. Howard’s restaurant, featuring Italian-inflected dishes like rice-crusted catfish with risotto, is the ideal stop after visiting the area’s barbecue icons.

Bill Addison

21. Skylight Inn

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4618 Lee St
Ayden, NC 28513
(252) 746-4113
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This place is the apotheosis of whole-hog barbecue with its overnight-roasted, hickory-and-oak-smoked pigs. The spicy, tangy sauce takes the pulled meat to the next level; consider the “whole hog tray,” served with cornpone, among the must-eat barbecue dishes in America.

Bill Addison

22. Bum’s

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566 E 3rd St
Ayden, NC 28513
(252) 746-6880
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Another North Carolina barbecue favorite — thanks to a pulled pork that’s almost rope-like in texture — its silky-chewy collard greens are as famous as its meat. 

Bill Addison

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1. Biscuit Head

733 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC
Bill Addison

This joint manifests the state’s big biscuit cravings, known as “cat heads.” Make Biscuit Head’s firm yet fluffy, large buttermilk biscuits extra large with piled-high combinations like country ham, fried green tomatoes, and cheese eggs.

733 Haywood Rd
Asheville, NC

2. Cucina 24

24 Wall St, Asheville, NC

Brian Canipelli’s Italian cooking is simultaneously playful, gusty, and admirably effortless: Pizzas and pastas are comforting, while more adventurous diners should seriously consider the sliced lamb heart.

24 Wall St
Asheville, NC

3. Table

48 College St, Asheville, NC
Bill Addison

Jacob Sessums catalyzed the new generation of local-minded restaurants when he opened Table. Among the must-order dishes: strawberries with cream and brown sugar cookies; and boiled peanut ragout, a take on a Southern classic.

48 College St
Asheville, NC

4. Nightbell

32 S Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC
Bill Addison

Another Katie Button-owned establishment, Nightbell is the perfect hangout spot, offering heady cocktails and updated bar snacks with the occasional modernist fillip, like fish and chips made with skate wing.

32 S Lexington Ave
Asheville, NC

5. Rhubarb

7 SW Pack Sq, Asheville, NC

John Fleer, a chef with national accolades (and a long stint at Blackberry Farm under his belt), delivers modern Southern cooking — plates like brown ale brined cauliflower steak. Do not miss the restaurant’s selection of superb local cheese.

7 SW Pack Sq
Asheville, NC

6. Cúrate

13 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Bill Addison

Katie Button, an alum of the José Andrés restaurant empire, serves true-minded Spanish tapas here: Her universally appealing menu features clams steamed in cider with crumbled chorizo; ried eggplant with honey and rosemary; and a gin and tonic with mixed citrus and juniper berries.

13 Biltmore Ave
Asheville, NC 28801

7. Knife & Fork

61 Locust St, Spruce Pine, NC 28777
Bill Addison

Chef-owner Nate Allen brings foraged herbs and greens to his dishes in this small and cozy restaurant, which often requires a made-well-ahead reservation. With an emphasis of seasonal cooking, Knife & Fork has become a destination for food lovers across the nation.

61 Locust St
Spruce Pine, NC 28777

8. Lexington Barbecue

100 Smokehouse Ln, Lexington, NC 27295
Bill Addison

Get plates of barbecue served sliced, chopped to a frilly texture, or (in the best option) coarsely chopped, all delivered by cheerful waitresses. The meat, lightly dressed in the vinegar sauce with a tang of ketchup, is simple yet iconic.  

100 Smokehouse Ln
Lexington, NC 27295

9. Allen & Son Barbeque

5650 US-15, Pittsboro, NC 27312

With its cabin-in-the-woods charm, the restaurant showcases smoked pork shoulders. The meat, paired with chile-tinged vinegar sauce, has a textural complexity similar to whole hog.

5650 US-15
Pittsboro, NC 27312

10. Crook’s Corner

610 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Kate Medley/Eater

Before glancing at a menu, ask about the honeysuckle sorbet, a seasonal ritual for Crook’s longtime chef Bill Smith, and order it if the kitchen hasn’t run out. But this institution is known of course for far more than just its dessert: Its much-loved shrimp and grits have reached icon status.

610 W Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

11. Lantern

423 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

This Asian-inspired restaurant under Andrea Reusing serves classics like pork and chive dumplings alongside more experimental fare. The split personality of the space, with its shadowy Hong Kong red lights and the prim front dining room, makes the place even more charming.

423 W Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

12. Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen

1305 E Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Get the signature flavors and comfort of fried chicken biscuits quick and fast through this spot’s drive-thru window.

1305 E Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

13. Rise

8200 Renaissance Pkwy, Durham, NC 27713
Bill Addison

The ever-changing lineup of crunchy-soft doughnuts may outshine their tender, crumbly biscuits, but with options like pimento cheese and bacon, the biscuits are not to be ignored for sure.

8200 Renaissance Pkwy
Durham, NC 27713

14. Scratch

111 Orange St, Durham, NC 27701
Bill Addison

Pie is the lodestar at Scratch. Under Phoebe Lawless, who perfected her craft under Karen Barker of still-missed Magnolia Grill, Scratch’s sweets hit all the right rich notes.

111 Orange St
Durham, NC 27701

15. Saltbox Seafood Joint

608 N Mangum St, Durham, NC
Bill Addison

This seafood stand with daily-changing menu and a few umbrella-covered picnic tables in front often sells out by 2 or 3 p.m. Get some fried shrimp, scattered on a toasted roll with cabbage and fennel slaw (if it’s not sold out already).

608 N Mangum St
Durham, NC

Related Maps

16. Poole's Diner

426 S McDowell St, Raleigh, NC
Bill Addison

Here, it’s the macaroni au gratin that manifests the greatness of Ashley Christensen’s first Raleigh restaurant. But don’t sleep on the rest of the nightly changing menu, which highlights ingredients with maximum Southern savor.

426 S McDowell St
Raleigh, NC

17. Beasley's Chicken + Honey

237 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC
Beasley’s fried chicken Bill Addison

This mega-popular fried chicken emporium by Ashley Christensen brings all essential Southern charms, with dishes like green bean casserole and pimento mac and cheese. The space, as luck would have it, houses multiple Christensen concepts: Chuck’s (and its burger) and Fox Liquor Bar all also merit a visit.

237 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC

18. Stanbury

938 N Blount St, Raleigh, NC
Bill Addison

This gastro-glam pub features daily-rotating menu: A recent visit offered a heaping bowl of crawfish, and no-joke selection of cocktails and wines.

938 N Blount St
Raleigh, NC

19. Wilber's Barbecue

4172 US Highway 70 E, Goldsboro, NC
Bill Addison

The kitchen turns out praiseworthy barbecue, but during one visit, the off-the-menu order of leftover ribs was even more commendable.

4172 US Highway 70 E
Goldsboro, NC

20. The Chef & the Farmer

120 W Gordon St, Kinston, NC 28501
Bill Addison

Vivian Howard from PBS’s A Chef’s Life has turned Kinston into a pilgrimage site for fans and food lovers. Howard’s restaurant, featuring Italian-inflected dishes like rice-crusted catfish with risotto, is the ideal stop after visiting the area’s barbecue icons.

120 W Gordon St
Kinston, NC 28501

21. Skylight Inn

4618 Lee St, Ayden, NC 28513
Bill Addison

This place is the apotheosis of whole-hog barbecue with its overnight-roasted, hickory-and-oak-smoked pigs. The spicy, tangy sauce takes the pulled meat to the next level; consider the “whole hog tray,” served with cornpone, among the must-eat barbecue dishes in America.

4618 Lee St
Ayden, NC 28513

22. Bum’s

566 E 3rd St, Ayden, NC 28513
Bill Addison

Another North Carolina barbecue favorite — thanks to a pulled pork that’s almost rope-like in texture — its silky-chewy collard greens are as famous as its meat. 

566 E 3rd St
Ayden, NC 28513

Related Maps