North Carolina

North Carolina Roadtrip: Travel to the Triangle

Time for a recap and all the details on planning your next North Carolina Roadtrip with stops in Burlington, Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, NC. WOW!

As you drive up, you have several routes from which to choose, take I-64 and plan a stop in the Heart of North Carolina in and around Asheboro, NC on your way up. Take the kids to the zoo on your way, or stop in at an apple orchard for hayrides and apples galore. Or, enjoy a fun country breakfast along the way – you know my North Carolina roadtrips are always full of food-centric fun!

Pottery in Burlington, NC

Or begin as I did for this adventure, straight up I-85 from Charlotte, with first stop in Burlington, NC. Home to Haands Pottery. As I mentioned in the televised segment I did on this same topic for WCNC’s Charlotte Today earlier this week, I don’t know I lot about Burlington, but I do know its another great place to get gorgeous porcelain pottery. You can read all I wrote about Haands in the tease for this piece earlier this week.

And, here is a fun fact, these two young men, the talent behind the Haands brand, went to the same high school I did in Jacksonville Florida! ( many years after I graduated, but still….)

North Carolina Road trip

Watch the following video from Charlotte Today on Tuesday Sept 24 and then read on for more details.

If you’ve received this post by email and you don’t see a video right here, just click through to the post on the blog and I promise, you’ll find it.

Next, a Quick Raleigh Roundup

Raleigh, of course, is the state capital of North Carolina and you can tour the capital building and several other government buildings as well. The city is home to NC State. And since you are a foodie, you’ll also want to know that the Raleigh state farmers market one of the farmers’ markets attached to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and is the largest farmers’ market in the state.

But don’t miss the museums – there is something for every one from art  at the North Carolina Museum of Art to Dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum.  

North Carolina roadtrip

For families with smaller children, Pullen Park is a fun outdoor place to run and play. its the fifth oldest amusement park in the United States. There are lots of fun rides and a train and an historic carousel, originally build in 1911. Andy Griffin fans will also enjoy photo ops at the Fishing Hole statue of Andy and Opie.

Where to Eat in Raleigh, NC

With so many great restaurants in the area, its hard to make a mistake. Lots of new places have just opened in the past month or so including Chef Scott Crawford’s much anticipated, Jolie; and Chef Ashely Christensen’s Poolside Pies.

North Carolina Roadtrip
While I haven’t had a chance to eat at Raleigh’s new Jolie yet, I did have a preview taste of Cassolette at last year’s Terravita festival (where Scott cooked with his kids) and it is a food memory that sticks with me to this day! I cant wait to try more!

And, there is a brand spankin’ new Wegman’s in town opening Sunday Sept 29. I haven’t been to any of these new places, yet; but they are all on my list and I will plan to report back soon. Stay tuned for more on where to eat in the Triangle.

Meanwhile check out this short list of fine hidden gems in the area – all mentioned in the televised video that follows.

Life is sweet, let’s start at a bakery…

North Carolina Road trip
In season LucetteGrace, a time honored Raleigh bakery and coffee shop makes the most fabulous macaron ice cream sandwiches. This one was in August in honor of the bakery’s birthday!

For coffee and baked goods, don’t miss great little bakery, patisserie and coffee shop serving breakfast and lunch as well. Its lucettegrace, located right downtown at 235 S Salisbury St, Raleigh, NC 

Laotian Flavors at Bida Manda

North Carolina Road Trip
Green Papaya Salad with Trout at Raleigh’s Bida Manda

If your tastes turn more to Asian cuisines, don’t miss one of my longtime faves – Bida Manda. This fabulous Laotian restaurant located at 222 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC  comes with a great story. It opened in 2012 and is owned and operated by the brother and sister team of Van and Vanvisa Nolintha who came to North Carolina to go to high school, then college and have stayed to run a successful business.

Two More Raleigh Hidden Gems

North Carolina Road trip

Next, check out this great little French Bistro we recently discovered and have come to love. Royale Raleigh has a cool vibe and the food is delicious. Nestled in to the corner at 200 East Martin Street, Royale features a French/American menu and one of their specialty dishes is the Fries and Caviar plate pictured above. Talk about the best of both worlds.

North Carolina Roadtrip

Also in Raleigh, check out Rye Bar & Southern Kitchen in the Marriott Center City at 500 Fayetteville Street. Great cocktails and a delicious array of small plates, entrees, sides and more. Plus, the hotel is a great place to call home while you are in town.

Going to the Chapel (Hill)

In Chapel Hill you’ll find the University of North Carolina campus and lots to eat, drink, see and do.

Its just fun to walk up and down the streets of Chapel Hill. Adults can tour TOPO Distillery.

North Carolina Road Trip

Please be sure and tell my friend Esteban I said hello if he is there. TOPO produce’s award winning vodka, gin, whisky and rum from NC grown wheat and US grown sugar cane. The distillery is certified organic. And they are one of the distilleries competing in the 2019 NCRLA Chef Showdown – read more below.

North Carolina Road Trip

Terra Vita Food & Drink Festival Oct 16-20, 2019

Chapel Hill is also home to the Terra Vita Festival which will take place in October 16-20, 2019 for its 10th and final year. It’s a not-to-be-missed four day event with a food-centric focus on sustainability, conservation, chefs and the fabulous food they create. One of the reasons I love it so is that dinners, seminars, signings and events are all geared toward smaller more intimate crowds.

North Carolina Roadtrip

So you really can meet people and make connections. Last year, I had the pleasure to meet author Carla Hall!

Tickets are still available at And I am pleased to be attending several events, and even more tickled to be moderating one of the Sustainable Classroom discussions and tasting. Come and join me for “Beyond Coffee: Pick Me-Up Alternatives Without All the Buzz.” on Friday Oct 18, 9 am at Southern Season Cooking School. Tix available here for this session and other Terravita events.

Good Eats in Chapel Hill, NC

Don’t miss Chapel Hill restaurants include Al’s Burgers, Crooks Corner ( THE place that first made Shrimp and grits famous) and The Lantern a wonderful Asian meets NC local ingredients restaurant. But first, you must check out the cutest little coffee shop – Caffee Driade.

North Carolina Road trip

This coffee ( and pastry) cafe is located at 1215-A E Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC  and you will think that your GPS has gone astray. But it hasn’t. Just turn on the gravel drive and drive back from the street into what looks like the woods. You’ll see it. Go in, and take a deep dive into the thickest foam on a latte ever. Sit inside or out, people watch, and take it all in.

Dinner at Crooks Corner is a must!

Crooks Corner in Chapel Hill, at 1215-A E Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC  is closed on Mondays and only open for dinner and Sunday Brunch. Make plans and spend time to take it all in. Chef Bill Smith, at the helm for three decades, has retired now, but he’s far from gone.

North Carolina Road Trip

It was my pleasure to meet him last year at TerraVita, just before his retirement. And, then to eat at Crooks that same night!

I was by myself and sat up and the counter and loved every moment. Smith didn’t invent the idea of shrimp and grits, but he put the recipe – and his restaurant – on the map with his take on the classic combo. You may also know him for his Atlantic Beach lemon pie with the Saltine Crust and his infamous persimmon pudding.

North Carolina Roadtrip
Crooks Corner Persimmon Pudding

Chef Justin Burdett is carrying the torch at Crooks now and has lots to be proud of as well. It’s not such a hidden gem, but it’s a not to be missed stop when you are in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina Road Trip
Hot pepper jelly, pimento cheese, crudite and crackers make a nice start to the meal at Crooks.

Local takes an Asian Twist at The Lantern

North Carolina Road Trip
The back bar at The Lantern in Chapel Hill.

Across the street from Crooks is The Lantern, another restaurant with a reputation that precedes it. The space is small and intimate, but the crowds are big. Make advance reservations and plan to be wowed.

North Carolina Roadtrip
What a pleasure to be at Lantern Restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC and to meet Chef Andrea Reusing at one of the 2018 TerraVita Sustainable Classroom sessions on heirloom apples with the pro, Lee Calhoun, Jr. Pictured here front and center. From left, Yours Truly, Heidi Billotto, Journalist and baker Keia Mastrinani, Calhoun, Cider maker, Diane Flynt of Foggy Ridge Cider and Chef Andrea Reusing.

Award-winning James Beard Chef Andrea Reusing is at the helm. Reusing has been published in several dozen magazines and is also a cookbook author. She brings a lot to the table and has a passion for all things local.

North Carolina Roadtrip
Lantern Restaurant’s Bi Bim Bop made with local grass fed beef, seasonal vegetables, farm eggs and house made hot pepper sauce. Photo from The Lantern.

The menu at The Lantern, takes that vibe and gives it an Asian flavor profile. The menu changes with the season and it is wonderful.

North Carolina Road Trip
Seasonal Spring Rolls at Lantern Restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC. photo from The Lantern.

I had the pleasure of eating at The Lantern the night after my culinary adventure at Crooks. My food was incredible, but as you can see from the bar photo, the room is atmospherically lit, so my photos? Well, not so much. In place of those, I’ve borrowed a few shots from The Lantern’s Instagram feed to give you an idea of the seasonal splendor in store.

If you’ve gotta have a burger…

North Carolina Roadtrip

In 2018, Trip Advisor did a poll looking for the best burger in the US. The winner? Al’s Burger Shack’s signature Bobo Chili Cheeseburger.

If you are in Chapel Hill and you are craving a burger, you’ve just got to try it. Topped with chili sauce, coleslaw, onion, yellow mustard and American cheese, this burger is good. But what I love best about it is the fact that Al’s makes an effort to use pasture-raised beef, custard and cheese from local dairies, and vegetables from local farms.

Pro tip: Order your burger or a trio of these sliders with a chocolate shake. If you are going to do it, go all the way!

What to do in Durham, NC

Let’s start with a bit of history and a fun fact. At 150 years young the city of Durham NC is full of North Carolina firsts.

The first cotton mill in the US used to produce denim for blue jeans was in Durham, NC. And the first machine that rolled cigarettes for the retail market was in Durham as well. I’ve written about Durham before on these digital pages. You can read that piece to catch up on the history of the city (although know that Scratch Bakery is no longer.) Then, take in all the info here, as an update on things that are new.

North Carolina Roadtrip
The American Tobacco Campus – near the Durham Bulls Stadium and the Burts Bees headquarters. It is also home to Bay 7 the location for the 2109 NCRLA Chef Showdown.

While much of the tobacco industry is now gone, the city still offers a nod to its history and has preserved the buildings that tell the tale.

Durham is home to the Durham Bulls, Burt’s Bees and the American Tobacco Campus, once home to innovative cigarette manufacturing for Lucky Strike. Brightleaf Square, once an old tobacco warehouse is now a trendy home to several shops and restaurants.

Start on the Sweet Side…

North Carolina Road Trip

Pop into Brightleaf Square to find Sugar Koi – a fun new ice cream shop featuring a dozen  homemade ice cream flavors and fresh made waffle cones that are shaped like fish!

Durham’s Food-Centric Places to Stay

North Carolina Road Trip

Two of my favorite food-centric hotels are also in Durham, NC. First, 21c Hotel, a hotel and eclectic art museum all rolled into one. The photo above, is actually a still shot taken from a film of a couple sleeping. The video is on the floor and greets you in the hotel entrance way. It is just the beginning. Guests and visitors will find avant garde art in the restaurant, bar and on the first two floors and basement of the hotel.

North Carolina Road trip

Plus, just for fun, you’ll see these large pink plastic penguins everywhere! You’ll spot them in the lobby, on the elevators and in the art galleries. Take them in your room or invite them to share your table.

North Carolina Roadtrip
Heidi with chefs Thomas Card and Nichole Lourie from The Counting House – and one of the penguins ( I told you, they are everywhere!)

The Counting House

21c Hotel is also home to the Counting House restaurant where the food is divine. I first met Executive Chef Thomas Card and pastry chef Nichole Lourie, several years ago and have had the pleasure to work with each of them many times since.

North Carolina Roadtrip
Ravioli at The Counting House in front of the restaurants open kitchen.

The food at Counting House is locally sourced and seasons are celebrated. Small plates and entrees are perfect to share. Cocktails are carefully crafted. Don’t miss the oysters and whatever you do be sure to save room for dessert.

North Carolina Roadtrip
Seasonal peach and berry layer cake a la Counting House pastry chef Nichole Lourie

The Durham in Durham, NC

The Durham Hotel, Rooftop Bar and Restaurant is nicely nestled in the center of downtown Durham – a quick walk away from 21c. In the area, you will find a delicious taste of community. The new Kingfisher Bar is right next door and Alley Twenty Six Bar and restaurant is across the street.

Around the corner, several in the series of the infamous M restaurants, which I am dying to try – stay tuned.

north Carolina Roadtrip

Not far away, you can also go visit and tour Durham Distillery, home of award winning Conniption Gin, Cucumber Vodka, Damn Fine Liqueurs and the most wonderful assortment of canned cocktails! Durham Distillery is another of the featured distilleries in the 2019 NCRLA Chef Showdown. Read more below.

The Durham: Restaurant, Rooftop and Hotel

North Carolina Roadtrip

The Durham, is a bank turned mid century modern hotel with a restaurant run by acclaimed chef Andrea Reusing.

North Carolina Road Trip
Breakfast with a view – at The Durham hotel

Reusing also owns Lantern Restaurant in Chapel Hill, (see more in the Chapel Hill section in this same post.) The same attention to detail and the emphasis on local product is evidenced in the lunch, dinner and breakfast menus at The Durham.

The Durham is one of the most food-centric places I have ever stayed. And I love the hotels nod to all that is local. It starts in your guest room bath.

A Nod to All Things Local in Durham

North Carolina Roadtrip
In the guest room bathrooms at The Durham, Guests will find pottery accountrments by Haands Pottery and beauty products from locally headquartered Burt’s Bees.
In the Mini Bar, more local eats and drinks from Durham’s own Big Spoon Roasters, Escazu chcolate from Raleigh an dSunshine natural energy drinks from Winston-Salem. This just in – they now also have Carolina Kettle chips from Raleigh and Postre Caramels from Asheville. All wonderful ways to eat and drink local!

On the beds in each room, a denim spread; and then there is coffee. You’ll find a coffee pot in the room, but when it comes to your morning brew – nothing prepackaged at The Durham.

North Carolina Roadtrip

If you don’t want to go down to the morning coffee bar in the lobby, you can room service up your own just ground personalized pack of local Counter Culture Coffee, with the creamer of your choice.

North Carolina Roadtrip

It arrives at your door at the time you’ve requested. The coffee shop is open all day, so if you need an afternoon pick me up or pour over, lots of wonderful ways to drink local await. And the open lobby is a great place to take in some people watching.

Dinner at The Durham and the Rooftop Bar

An assortment of appetizers to share and start your meal at the Restaurant at The Durham Hotel. The menu always features some sort of roasted pepper, bread and local honey and these mouthwatering bites. Calvander Fritters, made from award-winning Calvander cheese sourced locally from Chapel Hill Creamery – one of my faves!

The rooftop bar at The Durham Hotel is a place to start your weekend mornings with a yoga class and end your evening with a cocktail and maybe something from the raw bar. Local spirits flow and like the lunch and dinner menus downstairs, everything changes with the season.

Morehead Manor Bed & Breakfast in Durham, NC

If you are looking for lodging outside of a large hotel, why not try a bed and breakfast? In Durham, I’d suggest Morehead Manor Bed & Breakfast. Here you will enjoy a selection of one suite and three private guest rooms each with their own bath, as well as access to the common areas of the house. Stay nestled in history in the comfort of this 8,000 square-foot, Colonial Revival-style home.

Located near Brightleaf Square, its an easy walk to shopping and area dining, too. In the mornings you’ll wake to a wonderful made-to-order breakfast. Innkeepers, Monica and Daniel Edwards are your hosts and your guides to all there is to do in Durham.

2019 NCRLA Chef Showdown in Durham, NC

And Speaking of Local…. It’s Time….

North Carolina roadtrip

Coming up the end of this month – Monday Sept 30 to be exact – in Durham. A state wide culinary competition you won’t want to miss!

It’s the NCRLA Chef Showdown which I am proud to say I have been involved as co-organizer and host since the event’s inception 4 years ago.

I’ll be there, 20 North Carolina chefs who made the cut in several preliminary rounds of competition – seven of them from in around Charlotte – will be there. Six North Carolina Mixologists, crafting cocktails featuring six GotToBeNC distilleries will be there; and you should be there, too!

I’ve tasted all of the competing dishes and you are going to be blown away! 15 North Carolina chefs share their talent preparing savory dishes featuring Local North Carolina ingredients; while 5 incredible Pastry chefs do the same!

north Carolina Roadtrip

Your Job? To eat your way through the tasting plates and vote for People’s Choice award winners for Best Savory Plate, Best Dessert and Best Cocktail!

Don’t Miss It!

These chefs have been competing in preliminary and regional rounds and this night one chef will be named the 2019 NCRLA Chef of the Year and one the 2019 NCRLA Pastry Chef of the year. The mixologists will compete that evening and one will be named 2019 NCRLA Mixologist of the Year; and the distillery that mixologist represents will be named the 2019 NCRLA Distillery of the Year!

North Carolina Roadtrip

Each chef features local NC products and attendees get to vote for their People’s Choice Faves –  A wonderful way to eat, drink and celebrate local !

Tickets are still available at , but hurry! It all happens Sept 30, 6-8:30 pm in Durham at Bay 7, located at the American Tobacco Warehouse campus, directly across from the Durham Bulls Stadium.


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