Known for barbecue, fried fish, deep-fried chicken and hush puppies, North Carolina is a hub for Southern cuisine. Small, family-owned spots are typically the best places to search if you’re on the hunt for an authentic fried and smothered meal, but don’t overlook the offerings of local chefs whose regional cuisine has earned them national renown.
Saltbox Seafood Joint
A Durham staple since 2012, this rustic joint has an ever-changing chalkboard menu, full of scribbles announcing what the daily North Carolina catch is and how it will be prepared. Expect fried or spice griddled fish or shellfish, sandwiches on soft butter rolls, and Hush-Honeys, i.e. hush puppies glazed with honey.
Dishing out comfort food by James Beard award-winning chef Ashley Christenson, Poole’s is a go-to for both brunch and dinner. Blackboard-style menus change frequently, based on local produce availability, though gooey mac and cheese, creamy oyster stew, and pimento cheese with fried Saltines are Poole’s staples.
Located inside a hotel of the same name, Chef Andrea Reusing’s ode to all the flavors that make Durham stand out features a seasonal, local menu of elevated Southern classics. Globally influenced dishes include North Carolina blue crab and garlic fried rice, paella filled with local protein and shellfish, roast local chicken with frites and many more specialties.
Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue
This Historic Raleigh Landmark dates back over 80 years, when Clyde Cooper himself was slow cooking ribs and brisket. Signature sauce coats chopped, pulled or coarse-chopped barbecue, perhaps best enjoyed as a combo with two sides (collard greens, okra, etc.) and hush puppies. Excellent fried chicken and homemade banana pudding is also served.
Dame’s Chicken and Waffles
Cheekily dubbing their chicken and waffles “Almost World Famous”, Dame’s is the place to go for classic, gingerbread, sweet potato and vegan waffles. Diners can customize their meals with any number of shmears, i.e. flavored butters, and several styles of chicken, blackened salmon and eggs.