Small Towns, Big Flavor: North Carolina’s Hidden Culinary Gems

Kindred in Davidson is helmed by a James Beard finalist who specializes in contemporary Southern cuisine.

By jenniferbringle

September 20, 2021

Raleigh, Durham, and Charlotte get all the attention, but these small-town food scenes in North Carolina are worth exploring.

Over the past couple of decades, North Carolina cities like Raleigh, Asheville, Charlotte and Durham have emerged as foodie destinations for their acclaimed restaurants and high-profile chefs. 

But this state has a rich food history, and for families searching for flavor, these under-the-radar destinations offer something for every taste.


Small Towns, Big Flavor: North Carolina’s Hidden Culinary Gems
Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro is a mainstay.

While their neighbor Kinston gets more buzz because of resident culinary star Vivian Howard, Goldsboro offers food-loving families everything from barbecue to bistro-style fare. 

The city is known for its barbecue—whole hog eastern North Carolina style—served at iconic joints like Wilber’s Barbecue, Grady’s BBQ and McCall’s BBQ and Seafood

True ‘cue aficionados can try all three, plus several newer restaurants, on the Brews and ‘Cue Trail and Tour. And if your tastes trend more upscale, head to Barrique, a downtown fine dining establishment specializing in locally sourced steaks, seafood and craft cocktails made with barrel-aged whisky from their 18th Amendment Lounge

Wilber’s Barbecue, 4172 US-70, Goldsboro

Grady’s BBQ, 3096 Arrington Bridge Rd, Dudley

McCall’s BBQ and Seafood, 139 Millers Chapel Road, Goldsboro

Barrique and 18th Amendment Lounge, 217 N. John St., Goldsboro


Though perhaps best known for its contributions to college hoops (NBA star Steph Curry played college ball at Davidson University), the town of Davidson also has a lesser-known reputation as a destination for foodies. 

The city’s main drag—dubbed “Restaurant Row”—is home to eateries like Kindred, which is helmed by James Beard Award finalist Joe Kindred and specializes in seasonal, locally sourced contemporary Southern cuisine. 

That seasonal approach drives the menu at The Pickled Peach as well, where families can nosh on sandwiches and salads then pick up artisan groceries and grab-and-go items at the eatery’s market. And at Flatiron Kitchen + Tap House, local meat and produce drives the menu of Southern classics like fried okra, deviled eggs and fried catfish.

Kindred, 131 N. Main St., Davidson

The Pickled Peach, 202 S. Main St., Davidson

Flatiron Kitchen + Tap House, 215 S. Main St., Davidson

Banner Elk

Small Towns, Big Flavor: North Carolina’s Hidden Culinary Gems
Eating at Artisanal in Banner Elk is like an event. But plan ahead. The seasonal restaurant is only open from March through October.

Though home to fewer than 1,500 residents, Banner Elk boasts some of the best restaurants in the North Carolina mountains. 

That reputation began with Stonewalls—an upscale steakhouse that serves everything from their sinful fried deviled eggs—topped with candied bacon—to filet mignon and lobster. 

Newer entrants to the town’s food scene include The Chef’s Table, which serves small plates like seasonal farmers’ market vegetables and tempura soft shell crab, as well as sushi, salads and seafood. 

And for a meal that feels like an event, head to Artisanal, a farm-to-table restaurant housed in an expansive renovated barn. The eatery only opens March through October, serving a seasonal multi-course menu. 

Stonewalls, 344 Shawneehaw Ave. South, Banner Elk

The Chef’s Table, 140 Azalea Circle, Banner Elk

Artisanal, 1200 Dobbins Road, Banner Elk


Small Towns, Big Flavor: North Carolina’s Hidden Culinary Gems
A favorite of Orange County for four decades, the Carrboro Farmers Market is known for its locally-sourced, fresh food.

Chapel Hill’s next-door neighbor may not get the same acclaim, but its food scene is just as worthy of exploration. 

For an intimate dinner head to Tesoro—a cozy 18-seat restaurant specializing in homemade pasta dishes—but be sure to make a reservation. 

Grab a glass of wine and nosh on locally made cheeses, cured meats and entrees like local mushroom mac-and-cheese at GlassHalfull then stop by their mercantile on the way out to take home some of those goodies for later. 

Or check out the storied Carrboro Farmers Market. In business for more than 40 years, the market features produce, meats, cheeses and other food items, as well as crafts, art and more, all produced within 50 miles of the town. 

And on Wednesdays through October, the Market Bunch Kid’s Club hosts activities like scavenger hunts and bingo with kids receiving a voucher to shop for fresh produce. 

Tesoro, 100 E. Weaver St., Carrboro

GlassHalfull, 106 S. Greensboro St., Carrboro

Carrboro Farmers Market, 301 W. Main St., Carrboro


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