North Carolina embodies all the best that the South has to offer – lush forests, warm summer evenings and rolling farmlands. Throughout the state more businesses are embracing sustainable agriculture and as more restaurants serve food fresh from the local farm, it’s clearer than ever, the big winner here is the consumer.
Location: 8470 Bellhaven Blvd. Charlotte, NC 28216
Chef and owner Clark Barlowe learned southern-style cooking in his home town of Lenoir, NC, and then worked at a local restaurant before attending culinary school. Barlowe’s love of foraging brings a unique twist to the cuisine at Heirloom, adding ingredients that grow in the forests and fields around the city. Using foraged foods in high-end restaurants is more common in Europe, perhaps due to a difference in training. Now that a local boy with a deep knowledge of the forest is in the kitchen, North Carolina is setting the bar for farm-and-forage-to-table eating. The menu is recreated daily, depending on the harvest from the fields and what delicacy Chef Barlowe managed to track down in the woods that morning.
Location: 6623 Market Street, Wilmington, NC 28405
Wilmington native Keith Rhodes is more than just a restaurateur; he’s a James Beard finalist with a passion for good food and sustainability. Chef Keith and his wife Angela understand that supporting local fisheries and farmers is the best way to give back to the community they love. Of course that's also the best philosophy for sourcing the freshest ingredients. The menu at Catch features delicious North Carolina favorites mixed with unexpected additions such as the touch of aioli served with blackened fish, or the Kentucky fried calamari.
Riverbend Malt House, Asheville
Johnny Autry,, johnnyshootsfood.com
Location: 99 Pond Road, Asheville, NC 28806
Up until a few years ago, most of the malt grown in North Carolina was used for animal feed. Brent Manning and Brian Simpson wondered why this was – and could it be changed? The barley was certainly good enough and with some investigation and perseverance, the owners of Riverbend Malt House discovered that local farmers would be delighted to work with brewers. Now, if only someone would develop the infrastructure. Together with the farmers, Brent and Brian built from the ground up and began producing a brew that is as local as you can get, using barley that’s grown just down the road. Not content to simply produce an amazing, locally brewed beer, the team continues to investigate varieties of barley and support small farmers by providing a consistent market for their crops. Taste the difference in beers such as Wicked Weed, Burial and Twin Leaf in Asheville plus Fullsteam, Fonta Flora, Mystery, Steel String and Mystery in the Piedmont.
Fullsteam Brewing, Durham
Location: 726 Rigsbee Avenue, Durham, NC 27701
Taking a fresh approach to “going local,” Fullsteam Brewing explores the use of non-traditional ingredients in their beers. Their mission is to create a Southern Beer Economy, not just a brewery. They've done so by purchasing locally and keeping their friends and neighbours in business. A walk through their menu will show just how committed Fullsteam is, listing the farm that supplied each ingredient. They've been known to imbue native paw paw or locally grown persimmons to their seasonal beers. Additional local flavours include sweet potatoes, Fraser Fir tips, foraged sassafras and honey created by the neighbourhood bee population.
Chef & the Farmer, Kinston
Location: 120 W Gordon St, Kinston, NC 28501
In 2006 Ben Knight and Vivian Howard arrived in North Carolina from the upper west side of Manhattan in search of the perfect town to start a small restaurant. They ultimately settled on Kinston and opened Chef & the Farmer in a 100-year-old mule stable. As the name implies, the restaurant works with small farms in the eastern part of the state to supply the restaurant with fresh ingredients. Chef Vivian grew up on a farm in nearby Deep Run and she continues to apply seasonal eating to her delicious and creative cuisine. By building strong relationships with local farmers, the restaurant is now able to source over 70% of its ingredients from within 60 miles.
King’s Kitchen, Charlotte
Location: 129 W. Trade Street, Charlotte, NC 28202
Jim Noble has a long history of creating restaurants that serve deliciously designed slow food. By combining local organic ingredients with years of experience, “New Local Southern Cuisine” was born. Following a calling, Chef Noble opened the King’s Kitchen in 2010, a restaurant serving southern cuisine that uses its profits to feed the poor. In addition, the restaurant operates a five-part training program to to employ and teach members of the community who are in need of jobs. The menu captures the flavours of the region with items such as Hoppin’ John and Sweet Potato Fritters. First-time visitors to North Carolina couldn’t find a better introduction to mouth-watering southern style dining.
Carolina Heritage Vineyard & Winery
Location: 170 Heritage Vines Way, (Highway 268 -3 miles east of Elkin, NC), 28621
The Yadkin Valley has excellent soil and climate conditions for growing wine-making grapes. It also has Carolina Heritage Vineyard & Winery, the first certified organic vineyard and winery in the state. Owners Clyde and Patricia Colwell first planted the vineyard in 2005 and have continued to expand, adding blueberries and other fruits in the production of specialty beverages. All of their wines are gluten-free and vegan friendly, and they will be happy to give you a tour if you visit the winery on a weekend.
Location: 310 Kingold Blvd., Snow Hill, NC 28580
Eastern North Carolina grows delicious sweet potatoes that are shipped to markets all over the world. With so much high-quality produce available, it only made sense to distill vodka from the sweet potatoes. Well, it made sense to the owners of Covington Vodka anyway, and now they proudly boast that they produce “the best yam vodka on earth.” It’s possible that it’s the only yam vodka around but the title was legitimately earned when Covington won the gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2013. The delightfully smooth beverage is handcrafted in small batches from sweet potatoes that grow locally on small farms.
There is no better way to enjoy Southern Hospitality than by sampling the delicious offerings from her farmlands and coastal waters. Whether sitting down for a meal, or just enjoying a pint between sights, ask for something local and you’ll be tempted to make your return trip just for the food.