Philadelphia to Charlotte and Back
I appreciate the advice that was given on my other thread in terms of the best way to get from Philly to Charlotte. We wound up taking 70 west of Baltimore to 340 to 7 to 81 to 77 to Charlotte. It worked out well.
The purpose of driving to Charlotte was to see the Eagles-Panthers game, which turned out to be a great one from the perspective of Eagles fans. And there were no pre-game unpleasantries with regard to the National Anthem. It was a very pleasant experience, at least until a few of my fellow Eagles fans (I didn't know them, but there were a lot of Eagles fans there) got a little out of hand when the Eagles took a second half lead. That led to responses and it took off from there. If any of you saw the national news story on the fight in which an older guy was punched in the face, I was sitting about 10 rows in front of that.
The oddest thing about the trip was that I ate virtually nothing in Charlotte itself in spite of spending a night there. I had planned on stopping at Price's Chicken Coop, which closes at 6 p.m., when we arrived in town, hopefully by around 5 p.m. Thursday, to pick up a couple chicken platters that we were going to take to our hotel a few miles up the road. And everything was going great until we got to within about 45 minutes of Charlotte. We hit heavy traffic then and it slowed us down enough so that we only had time to check into the hotel and freshen up a bit before leaving for the game. I just had a big soft pretzel that night at the game because I thought we might go to a late-night diner afterward. But we just felt like going back to the hotel at that point. It had been a very long day.
On the way down, I had decided to stop at either Wright's Dairy Rite or the Southern Kitchen for lunch. I was leaning toward the former, but we needed to make a bathroom stop around the time we were approaching New Market, so we decided on the Southern Kitchen.
I reported on here that I had been there once before, a couple years ago, and that it didn't quite live up to my expectations. I said the fried chicken had perfectly crispy crust and was moist inside, but that it was lacking in flavor. Well the person who made the batch I had this time around put a lot more seasoning in it, or maybe I Just got luckier this time or unlucky last time. Whatever the case, the chicken was tastier this time. Everything about it was extremely good. And given that we never made it to Price's, stopping at the Southern Kitchen and giving the fried chicken a second chance turned out to be a very good move. Once again, I was fairly unimpressed with the sides (only the gravy on the potatoes last time impressed me). The macaroni and cheese was weak and the green beans weren't porky enough. My friend ordered a chocolate malt and was kind enough to ask for a small glass to let me have some. It tasted very good, but it was so thin that I had to concur with my friend that it was almost like drinking thick chocolate milk. I had grapenut pudding for dessert. My wife ordered it the last time we were there and let me have a taste. We both loved it, as I did this time around.
My friend had the fried chicken wings special and enjoyed it.
I skipped breakfast the morning after the game because after getting some much-needed rest and checking out of the hotel in Charlotte, I planned for us to head straight to Lexington for an early lunch at Lexington BBQ. We were surprised that at 11:30 a.m., the lot was full and people were driving around looking for spots. In spite of that, once a spot was found and we made it inside the restaurant, we were seated in a booth immediately. My friend had a standard chopped pork tray with hushpuppies and cole slaw. I ordered a coarsely chopped pork tray. I don't like slaw and ordered a side of baked beans along with the hushpuppies.
I was a little apprehensive about eating Carolina barbecue because I'm not a big fan of vinegar or things with a very strong vinegar flavor. I figured I wasn't even going to bother trying eastern Carolina style barbecue, but I wanted to at least give Lexington-style a shot. And I was very glad I did. The sauce was vinegary, but not overpoweringly so. The meat was wonderfully juicy and tender. The smoke flavor was perhaps slightly more subtle than I prefer, but I still enjoyed it very much. I think this was the first time I had eaten hushpuppies in the Southeast and I liked them very much. The beans reminded me of Bush's to be honest. I'm not sure if they were doctored up canned beans or if that's just the style of their homemade beans.
I also took a few exterior shots.
We also tried Cheerwine, which we both liked.
While I enjoyed the pork very much and would eagerly go back to Lexington BBQ, I would still say I prefer both Texas and Kansas City style barbecue to what is popular in North Carolina.
We continued to work our way north, as we were staying in the Research Triangle near Durham and Chapel Hill that night, and made stops at Duke and UNC while killing some time that afternoon. Here is a shot of one of the more impressive building at Duke.
For dinner that night, I indulged my love for a particular roadfood genre that seems to be bigger in this part of the country than anywhere else at this point: drug store soda fountain-restaurants. We went to Sutton's Drug Store in Chapel Hill. The restaurant makes up a good part of the store. There is a counter, tables and a good number of red and yellow booths with photos of UNC students and celebrities all over the walls. There was one of UNC basketball coach Roy Williams above our booth. They also sell a large selection of rare bottled sodas up front, along with other knick-knacks and UNC merchandise.
We both had cheeseburger platters with onion rings and shakes. Their selection of milkshakes essentially mirrors the ice cream flavors they carry. My friend ordered butter-pecan and I had a peach milkshake. They were extremely thick and the thin straws weren't getting the job done. So I wound up using the straw more as a shovel to push the shake into my mouth. It was a really delicious milkshake. The peach flavor wasn't overwhelming, but came through strongly enough and was very natural. The burgers were cooked slightly past medium, but the one-third pound patties had a nice, beefy flavor, some outer crust and were not dried out in the middle. The onion rings were only fair.
My peach shake is on the right.
We set out for home the next morning. My friend normally eats a very healthy diet and wasn't feeling that well after spending a couple days eating with me. I also was feeling it a bit myself, especially after the dinner at Suttons, and we had food stops planned for the afternoon. So while I had Dame's Chicken and Waffles in Durham penned in for breakfast, as my friend had told me he'd like to try chicken and waffles before the trip, we decided to skip it. He had something healthy at the hotel breakfast buffet and I had him make a stop at a donut shop in Durham for me on the way to I-85.
The donuts were good, but not worth driving more than a few minutes out of the way for.
I would not say that about our next stop, which was fantastic. That was Carl's Frozen Custard in Fredericksburg, VA. I didn't want anything extravagant, as we had one more large meal planned only about another 90 minutes up the road. Carl's is one of the relatively rare genuine frozen custard stands that offers strawberry custard all the time, along with vanilla and chocolate, at least as far as my experiences go. I went with a half-pint, which gave me the option of getting two flavors. I chose vanilla and strawberry. The strawberry was placed on top, and it sort of overwhelmed the vanilla. So I can't really give an accurate assessment of the vanilla, but the strawberry was some of the best frozen custard I've ever had. Its flavor was fantastic. I think Carl's may be closing for the season at the end of this month.
Our final stop was in Maryland, naturally for crab cakes. Our route took us near G&M in Linthicum, so it was a fairly easy decision. I had been there once before some years back with my wife, so I knew how good the crab cakes are. I ordered the two crab cake platter and gave one to my friend while he ordered the stuffed shrimp and gave one to me. They both lived up to their reputation. This was a great final meal before arriving back home. I've still got over half a crab cake left that I intend to finish tomorrow.
This is the stuffed shrimp on the right and crab cake on the left.
Close up of the shrimp, then the crab cake:
It was an enjoyable two-and-a-half days.
post edited by phlmaestro - 2017/10/20 08:02:42