3 Food Books We Love

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Molly and I are both North Carolina natives. Specifically, we each grew up in a separate corner of Gaston County in the western part of the state, her in Cherryville and me in Alexis. We’ve lived our entire lives here, with the exception of about a year total that I spent in Alabama and Florida. I lived in eastern North Carolina for about four years, and together we’ve crossed the state many times, stopping at local restaurants along our journeys.

So, with more than 60 years of combined eating experiences in North Carolina, we know this state’s food well. And we love this state’s food, from barbecue and burgers to homestyle plates and pies. That’s why we also love these books about North Carolina cuisine so much, because their authors share our deep love, appreciation and devotion to the delicious array of food in our home state. They also share our preference to eat at local, one-of-a-kind restaurants when they’re visiting North Carolina’s many great big cities and small towns.

1. Bob Garner’s Book of Barbecue, North Carolina’s Favorite Food, by Bob Garner, published by John F. Blair

Bob Garner loves North Carolina food. That’s evident when you watch his restaurant reviews on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Weekend program, which is where we first discovered Garner several years ago. He particularly appreciates a great plate of Tar Heel barbecue, which is the subject of this book that offers such an interesting overview of North Carolina barbecue history, cooking methods and restaurants across the state.

2. North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints, by D.G. Martin, a Southern Gateways Guide published by the University of North Carolina Press

D.G. Martin’s vast collegiate, military, legal and media experiences have kept him traveling North Carolina over the years, and that has afforded him many opportunities to sample and revisit many of the state’s great local eateries. This book is a fantastic guide to North Carolina restaurants, organized along interstate lines as a companion for pinpointing places to eat when you’re on the road.

3. Tar Heel Traveler Eats: Food Journeys Across North Carolina, by Scott Mason, published by Globe Pequot, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield

As host of Raleigh-based WRAL-TV’s renowned Tar Heel Traveler segment, Scott Mason has studied North Carolina restaurants and shared them on the screen for years. As a follow-up to his excellent Tar Heel Traveler book, which contains many great dining suggestions of its own, this particular version highlights some of the most unique and outstanding eats North Carolina dishes up.

Have a book on North Carolina food or the cuisine of another Southern U.S. region you think we should read? Comment on this post at FoodieScore.Blog, or send us a quick message here. We never get too full when it comes to great Southern food ideas, especially in our home state!

Foodie Travels: Mamie’s Drive In, Laurel Hill, N.C.

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For North Carolina beach travelers from Charlotte and points west, it’s a common conundrum: Where can we stop and eat on the way? When the eastward destination is a place like Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach or Southport, there are several good joints to discover. But there may not be a more local, beloved place than Mamie’s Drive In, almost halfway between Charlotte and Wilmington along Route 74 in Scotland County.

Mamie’s opened more than 50 years ago and continues to serve favorite American fare like homemade cheeseburgers, hot dogs and meat-and-sides plates the way its late namesake did for so many years. It’s a humble place, where you walk into a small building, step up to a small order window and then have a seat in the small dining area or at a few tables out front.

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We enjoyed the Southern hospitality of the staff on our visit and the simple, satisfying meal—my cheeseburger and fries, my wife’s chicken strip plate. And the food was fast, a good thing for travelers ready to reach the beach or get back home after a few days of sand and sun.

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Many folks opt for a couple of barbecue joints on the route to the coast, but I’d argue that you won’t find a more iconic, down-home stop than Mamie’s. That tradition was honored by Our State magazine in its 2010 list of “100 Foods You Must Eat in 100 Counties.” Its place in the state’s food lore was then further cemented by a segment on WRAL’s Tar Heel Traveler in 2017, highlighting its adoration by both beach-goers and locals alike.

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So if you find yourself headed east (or west) on Highway 74 and asking the question about where you’ll eat, just pull into Mamie’s. You’ll get a good, fast, affordable meal, and you’ll become part of a longtime tradition for both locals and visitors to Scotland County, N.C.

Mamie’s Drive In, 9460 Andrew Jackson Highway, Laurel Hill, N.C.