Connecting Literature and Eating Places in North Carolina
Here is one of the highest compliments I can give a book: It is a lot better at what it does than my book, “Interstate Eateries,” does for North Carolina home-cooking restaurants.
I love my little book, which guides its readers to about 100 local eateries near our state’s Interstate highways. But Georgann Eubanks’ new “Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont” makes mincemeat of my book.
Eubanks guides her readers through hundreds, maybe thousands, of places connected to literary history in the cities, towns and countrysides of North Carolina’s central counties.
You can choose your North Carolina topic, from civil rights to Civil War, from leading businesses to millworkers, from plantation owners to sharecroppers, and Eubanks will have found the literary connections.
Just to illustrate, here are some of the literary connections to eateries on her tours of the Piedmont.
— The Rocky River Springs Fish House near Aquadale in Stanly County, a favorite of poet and short story writer Ruth Moose, who set her first story, “The Swing,” at the nearby Silver Spring Baptist Church. Moose says of the restaurant, “They have the best tea in the world, sweet tea that comes from the natural springs there that gave Aquadale its name.”
— Cool Beanz Café and Books in Mocksville where, Eubanks writes, “A good selection of coffees and teas and used paperbacks makes this a warm stop on a cold day.”
— Escape the Daily Grind in Spencer, noted by poet Janice Moore Fuller for coffee, pastry and readings by local authors.
— The “spectacularly retro” What-a-Burger Drive-In in Mooresville, which may be the Dixie Burger in the novels of Judith Minthorn Stacy.
— Cooper, an Indian restaurant recommended by Charlotte poet Diana Pinckney, located in the house where Carson McCullers lived as she began work on “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.”
— Cornerstone Café, in Central Falls near Asheboro, noted by poet Barbara Presnell. The building, formerly known as Old Rock Store, is made of quartz stones.
— The Biscuitville chain (all over North Carolina, but concentrated in the Greensboro area), where novelist Susan Kelly wrote her first two novels and which Amy Jo Wood praised in her essay, “The Buddhas of Biscuitville.”
— Tate Street Coffee House in Greensboro, owned by writer Ann Fitzmaurice Russ and husband Matt.
— Cole’s Pharmacy in Roxboro, formerly Sergeant & Clayton’s Grocers, a site in Dan Shamp’s “On Account of Conspicuous Women.” Eubanks writes that locals gather “for gossip, excellent fresh-squeezed orangeade and pimiento cheese or chicken salad sandwiches at lunchtime.”
— Cup-a-Joe in Hillsborough, where you might spot one of that town’s many writers or be treated to a poem by Mike Troy “just written to share with the patrons.”
— Johnson’s in Siler City, recommended by novelist Virginia Boyd, who says that “you have to get there early” because they close “once they run out of fresh hamburger.”
— College Bar-B-Que Drive-In in Salisbury, a favorite of John Hart, and, according to Eubanks, an “unnamed site” in Hart’s “The King of Lies.”
— Blue Mist Barbecue in Randleman, a hangout for Holly George-Warren, a writer about music and former editor of Rolling Stone Press.
— Lexington Barbecue, recommended by Jack Riggs, author of “When the Finch Rises,” set in a fictional town called Ellenton, but obviously really Lexington.
— The Old Hickory House Restaurant in Charlotte, recommended by Judy Goldman, who included a scene there in her novel “Early Leaving.”
To seal the partnership between barbecue and the literary world, Eubanks shares a poem by Chapel Hill poet Margaret Rabb that includes these lines:
“Amen, hogs. Dance on, shoulder to shoulder, cheek by jowl, let hocks shudder, Let hickory flames rise around you, consume all flesh until it sputters into burnt communion.”
Put “Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont” in your glove compartment, right alongside “Interstate Eateries.”
D.G. Martin hosts UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. This week’s (Friday, Oct. 22, and Sunday, Oct. 24) guest is Kathy Reichs, author of “Spider Bones.”
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