A trip to North Carolina is not complete without indulging in the state’s mouthwatering cuisine. From the mountains to the coast, the Tar Heel State offers a diverse and delectable array of dishes that are steeped in tradition and bursting with flavor. In this article, we’ll explore the most popular foods from North Carolina, revealing the unique culinary experiences that await you on your next visit.
North Carolina is world-renowned for its barbecue, and one of the most famous styles hails from the city of Lexington. Lexington-style barbecue, also known as Piedmont or Western-style, focuses on the succulent pork shoulder, slow-smoked over hickory wood. The meat is then chopped and dressed with a tangy, vinegar-based sauce with a hint of ketchup. Enjoy a plate of this tender, smoky goodness at legendary joints like Lexington Barbecue or The Barbecue Center.
Not to be outdone, the eastern part of North Carolina boasts its own distinct barbecue style. Eastern-style barbecue uses the whole hog, which is smoked low and slow over oak or hickory wood. The sauce is vinegar-based, with a spicy kick from red pepper flakes. Sample this melt-in-your-mouth delicacy at renowned establishments such as Skylight Inn BBQ or B’s Barbecue.
Quench your thirst with North Carolina’s iconic soft drink, Cheerwine. Created in 1917 in the town of Salisbury, this fizzy cherry-flavored beverage has become a beloved staple throughout the state. Enjoy it on its own or as a mixer in a refreshing cocktail. While in Salisbury, be sure to visit the Rowan Museum’s Cheerwine exhibit to learn more about this cherished local elixir.
The tiny seaside town of Calabash, known as the “Seafood Capital of the World,” has given its name to a distinctive style of preparing seafood. Calabash-style seafood is lightly breaded, deep-fried, and served with a side of hushpuppies and coleslaw. Enjoy this crispy and delicious fare at local favorites such as Ella’s of Calabash or The Boundary House.
Moravian Sugar Cake
Sweet tooths, rejoice! Moravian sugar cake, a buttery yeast cake laden with cinnamon and brown sugar, is a North Carolinian delight. This dessert has its roots in the 18th-century Moravian settlements of Salem (now part of Winston-Salem). Savor a slice of this heavenly cake at establishments like Dewey’s Bakery or Old Salem Museums & Gardens.
Affectionately known as the “caviar of the South,” pimento cheese is a creamy blend of cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, and spices. This versatile spread can be enjoyed on crackers, sandwiches, or even as a topping for burgers. Try some of the best pimento cheese the state has to offer at spots like Queen Charlotte’s Pimento Cheese Royale in Charlotte or The Blackbird Restaurant in Asheville.
North Carolina’s culinary landscape is a delicious adventure waiting to be explored. With a diverse array of flavors and traditions, there’s something to satisfy every palate. Whether you’re sinking your teeth into some smoky barbecue, sipping on a refreshing Cheerwine, or indulging in a slice of Moravian sugar cake, your taste buds are in for a treat. So pack your appetite and embark on a gastronomic journey through the Tar Heel State.