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  • Brews on tap at Raleigh Beer Garden
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    Culinary Capital and Craft Beers in Raleigh-Durham

  • Visiting Bar-B-Q Center in Lexington for hickory smoked pit-cooked barbeque
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    Western-Style Barbecue in Lexington

  • Evening dining at Tupelo Honey Café
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    Locally Grown and Farm-to-Table Asheville

  • Skyline views from a rooftop in Charlotte
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    Modern Twists on Tradition in Charlotte and Concord

Outdoor dining at Elodie Farms
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Follow the Flavors of North Carolina

  • Route distance:
    600.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    5 days

A tasty drive through a Southeastern cuisine paradise

North Carolina’s culture is a little bit country, a little bit cosmopolitan – the influence of Appalachian roots are as prominent as the modern diversity of Charlotte, the state’s largest city and the nation’s second-largest financial center. This cultural spectrum is reflected in the culinary landscape, which embraces everything from classic Southern tastes such as moonshine and barbecue to new, trendy delights. Get ready for a sweet, savory, salty, tangy and locally sourced culinary road trip through North Carolina.

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Brews on tap at Raleigh Beer Garden
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Culinary Capital and Craft Beers in Raleigh-Durham

Catch a flight to Raleigh-Durham International Airport to start your food extravaganza. Raleigh is the North Carolina's capital city, and both Raleigh and Durham are part of the famed Research Triangle, which refers to the region’s three world-class universities plus its high-tech industry. These cities attract residents (and cuisines) from all of the world. Try Venezuelan arepas at Guasaca, Laotian fare at Bida Manda, Lebanese kabobs at Sitti and authentic German and Polish food at J. Betski’s. Raleigh-Durham also boasts its fair share of James Beard Award winners and nominees. In Raleigh, there’s award-winners Ashley Christensen and her group of restaurants including Poole’s Diner, and Andrea Reusing at the trendy Durham Hotel. In Durham, nominees include Scratch Bakery, Nana’s and Spanish-meets-Southern tapas eatery Mateo. Grab a beer – or several – at the Raleigh Beer Garden, home to the world’s largest draft beer selection. Then, cruise the college-cool shops and restaurants of Durham’s Ninth Street District or check out the nightlife in Raleigh’s trendy Glenwood South district. Your next stop is down-home Lexington, where the barbecue battle begins.

161 km
1.5 hours by car
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Visiting Bar-B-Q Center in Lexington for hickory smoked pit-cooked barbeque
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Western-Style Barbecue in Lexington

North Carolinians bicker over the two different styles of barbecue found in the state: Eastern style, which uses a vinegar and pepper base and utilizes the whole pig, and Lexington (also called Piedmont or Western) style, which adds ketchup and other seasonings for dipping and uses only the pork shoulder. In small-town Lexington, there’s no shortage of restaurants serving up the local style to help start your barbecue education. Recognized as among the best in the region, Lexington Barbecue serves up its signature pork with near-addictive hush puppies (fried cornmeal balls). Featured in Southern Living and on “Good Morning America”, Barbecue Center is famous for its pit-cooked chopped meat and a monstrous banana split dessert. Speedy Barbecue, Inc. is a great stop for huge portions on a budget, while Cook’s Barbecue always has a crowd waiting for its coarse chopped pork, house-made chips and itty-bitty hush puppies. Plan your trip for the end of October and you can sample a smorgasbord of meticulously cooked meats at the Lexington Barbecue Festival. No matter when you visit, your trip to Lexington isn’t complete without touring historic uptown, browsing the fine arts scene or sampling the local wines. Your discovery of all things local continues in Asheville.

229 km
2.5 hours by car
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Evening dining at Tupelo Honey Café
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Locally Grown and Farm-to-Table Asheville

Hip and liberal Asheville emphasizes the new and unexpected in everything – from its art and music scenes to its traditional dishes and farm-to-table menus. Browse downtown Asheville’s walkable streets and sample local favorites like Tupelo Honey, with its Southern-inspired food and famous Bloody Mary. The pickled okra and pimento cheese-stuffed olives make it a brunch staple. Other must-try stops include the unexpected flavors at White Duck Taco, vegan and vegetarians options at Rosetta’s, or authentic Spanish tapas at Curaté. If you’ve worked up a thirst for a pint, you’re in luck. The aptly nicknamed “Beer City USA” has the most breweries per capita in the country. Great brews await all over town at Highland Brewing, Green Man, Wicked Weed, Pisgah Brewing, Catawba Brewing, Burial Beer and Hi-Wire, just to name a few – and that doesn’t include hard cider specialists like Black Mountain Ciderworks in nearby Black Mountain. Be sure to check out the amazing Biltmore Estate, where you can tour the country’s largest private residence, as well as a great winery and refined farm-to-table flavors at the estate’s Bistro, before heading on to your final stop.

209 km
2 hours by car
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Skyline views from a rooftop in Charlotte
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Modern Twists on Tradition in Charlotte and Concord

Your North Carolina foodie experience comes to a close in metropolitan Charlotte and nearby Concord, home of the NASCAR Motor Speedway. Charlotte’s neighborhoods feature a plethora of flavors to explore – from craft beers at Birdsong Brewing in funky NoDa, to perfectly fried chicken at Price’s Chicken Coop in South End, and upscale Fig Tree Restaurant in Elizabeth. Charlotte boasts one of the prettiest skylines in the South, which you can take in from rooftop restaurants like Fahrenheit, Whiskey Warehouse and Peculiar Rabbit. In what can be seen as a twist of historical fate, legal moonshine distilleries are gaining popularity in the South. Back during the Prohibition era, Southern moonshine bootleggers built ever-faster cars to outrun police, evolving into the racing phenomenon that is NASCAR. Sign up for a tour of Southern Grace Distillery in Mount Pleasant, just outside Concord. Housed in a former prison, the distillery offers a “behind bars” tour of the prison and distillery. Fly out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, which offers nonstop flights to many international destinations.

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Official North Carolina Travel Information

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Hiking at Black Balsam Knob in the Pisgah National Forest

Destination

Asheville