Our daughter recently chose North Carolina’s Piedmont for her wedding. I was tasked with writing up some interesting nearby places.
Our families have a long history in the area. My mother’s family, the Styers show up on the 1790 census. Glenda’s family, Snodys and the Haymores, have been in the area so long, my family is consider newcomers. However, my great grandfather ran Styers Ferry across the Yadkin River in the days before bridges and there is even a road in nearby Forsyth County called Styers Ferry Road. I also grew up in the area and lived on Styers Street. My childhood home there is now a restaurant which is probably not a coincidence considering how good a cook my mother was.
North Carolina’s Piedmont is very unique among the places we have lived. It is a vibrant, growing place that is still blessed with lots of small farmers and plenty of farmers’ markets. Small farmers are an endangered species in these days of combines with 50ft headers.
There are restaurants here that are closely connected to the land and the farmers who care for it. You do not have to explain why homegrown tomatoes are better. People here know how to cook food from scratch- from beans to homemade jams. They also know everything you need to know and some things you don’t want to know about using all of a pig.
This is the land of country sausage and country hams, and of course true pit cooked pork barbecue.
We know farmers whose families have been farming the same land for five generations. Food is important here and it is how North Carolina welcomes its guests and keeps them coming back. We can teach you all you need to know about pork, fried chicken, chicken pies -Moravian or otherwise, pimento cheese and even cobblers or sonkers.
When our daughter asked us to research things for visitors to do, the obvious place to look was nearby Lexington, North Carolina. It is around fifteen minutes from the Finch House and has plenty to entertain visitors. It is also the home of the Holt House which some of you will visit. Most importantly, Lexington is the barbecue capital of North Carolina and hence the world. That is settled fact.
As the holidays were getting in gear in December, we decided to see what we could find to entertain us in Lexington for an afternoon. Obviously, we first had to decide where to eat. I found a nice place, Rustic Roots, in a building that used to house an old hotel on Main Street. We arrived just before the lunch rush. I ordered the BLT and Glenda got the lunch special, a chicken pot pie. My BLT was delicious with hand-sliced sourdough bread and a little twist with melted cheese on the ham. It was accompanied by homemade chips. Glenda’s pot pie was obviously not from a sous vide bag. It was topped with some beautiful puff pastry.
Next we wandered down to Bruce’s Tuxedos, the largest supplier of tuxedos in the region. I was hoping for some advice on where to get a suit for Erin’s and Tim’s wedding. True to my hippy-adjacent roots (I had to look it up), I do not own a suit at least yet. Bruce gave me a great recommendation but it was in Winston-Salem, thirty minutes away. Exploring Lexington took priority.
Next, my other persona, that of being a cattleman running two hundred head of Angus cattle in New Brunswick, caused us to head down the block to visit the Butcher Block. I had read of their high quality meat and wanted to see the place in person. While I have made and eaten a few soy burgers, I still favor a good steak on my plate at least once a quarter.
It turns out that the Butcher Block goes well beyond great meat. They have a wonderful selection of oysters, and other interesting items like pineapple flavored rum cake. They get fresh grouper and flounder from the coast on Fridays. I had a great time and brought home some really nice pork chops with a test batch of house bacon. I expect to be a regular customer.
Next we wandered back by the car to stick the meat in a cooler and visited the Conrad Hinkle Food Market just across from the old Courthouse which is now a free local museum. Conrad Hinkle sells a lot of their brand pimento chesse all across the Triad (Winston-Salem, High Point, Greensboro). Their store is an old-fashioned grocery store and has a mother lode of their own pimento cheese, but please don’t buy any. I would be happy to teach you how to make your own and it will be twice as good as what you can buy there. I was tempted to buy our daughter a can of spam at Conrad Hinkle, but she has yet to eat the one I gave her for a Christmas present in 2005. Without a doubt, it is still “safe” to eat.
After the grocery store which has the smallest shopping carts that I have ever seen, we wandered over to the Candy Factory. It was crowded with holiday shoppers and we were a little overwhelmed. There was no shortage of candy had we desired any. Next trip we plan to go farther down Main Street and see the actual factory where the famous red bird mints are made. My addiction to those mints leads me to try to not buy more than a handful at a time.
After the over stimulation from the candy store, we headed to the visitors center back by the Courthouse. Mostly, we needed to find some public restrooms since we had been hiking around the same few blocks for over three hours. Beyond clean historic restrooms, we also got lots of recommendations about where we should eat next time and the things that we missed during this visit.
Lexington has an amazing number of interesting restaurants, small shops and boutiques. There is a coffee shop, a bookstore, a bagel shop, and even an Army-Navy store which appears to have the jeans’ market cornered. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed it they park on Main Street in Lexington near the old Court House, find something to eat, and wander around for a while. There is plenty to choose from with just a short walk even by our aging standards.
According to the ladies at the visitors center the Hampton Inn in Lexington is the newest hotel in the area and it is only 15 minutes from the wedding venue. If you are having trouble finding a spot, you might want to consider it.
I was planning on getting barbecue from Smiley’s for dinner after our trip. After some testing a year ago, Smiley’s had emerged as one of my favorite barbecue destinations. One of the welcome center ladies told me that Smiley’s had been torn down because of a road construction project. Losing one barbecue restaurant in Lexington is not a problem. The ladies gave us a list of ten others. We picked the closest one, The Barbecue Center. We brought home a great dinner, coleslaw, potato salad with some of the freshest buns on earth.
Here is a link to pictures I took during our afternoon in Lexington.
Thirty minutes after leaving Lexington, I was fitted for my suit for the wedding and headed back to Mocksville where we live. Now about that hippy-adjacent comment. Yes, I went back to the land, but I always preferred working the land with a big green John Deere tractor or a huge red International one and that was a long time ago. I will admit that Erin had two Labrador retrievers as baby sitters occasionally. That might explain a few things.
I have worn my fair share of suits walking through DC humidity but that also was a couple of decades ago. The moths got my last DC suit. Rumors that I planted them are not true. My daughter will likely admit that I am closer to a geek with dirty fingers from gardening than anything else but that is a very long story. If you need a really fast fiber connection for work while in the area, stop by Mocksville. We’re likely faster than what you have up north.