I grew up in a family where trips were, and still are, monthly occurrences. Driving the 9 hours from Tennessee to Maryland is a no biggie because we do it all the time. When we were little, stops were just for gas and the restroom. We made good time! Now that I am grown, I still continue to make those trips, but I love trying to add a bit of exploration into our drive, which of course makes the trip take longer, but it is worth it. Now, when I say exploration, I really mean finding good food – an absolute must really! Although I appreciate the years of my mother packing food for our car trips (and the couple of post college frugal years of bringing food myself), I love leaving empty handed to see what I can find on the road.
To anyone who frequents Interstate 40 through North Carolina, it might not seem like such a daunting drive. However, to a visitor like myself who passes through only on rare occasions, it is quite the dreaded drive. There is something about I-40 that gets me every time. Despite that, the long trek across the state is still tempting because of all the great food stops. First stop, Asheville…
Where to eat:
Laughing Seed Cafe: Organic, seasonal, farm to table, vegetarian cuisine with an international flair – how much better can it get! If you are in the area on a Sunday, their brunch is definitely worth stopping for and/or making a special trip just to enjoy the wonderful offerings. The menu is amazingly extensive and full of many vegan, raw, and gluten-free options. Definite recommendations – the Brunch Burrito and the Gluten-free Chocolate Coconut Vegan Cookie. Honestly, so good and really generous portions! I really have no temptation to go anywhere else, because it is just so good.
Tupelo Honey Cafe: They do make really good biscuits! They are famous for a reason.
Next stop, Wilmington…
Along the highway there are lots of cities to explore, but more than you can squeeze into a day trip! So on to Wilmington, known for many things – the movies and TV shows filmed there, the close proximity to numerous beaches, and its beauty and history.
Where to eat:
Sugar on Front Street: Such a treat…literally. An absolute cozy little spot, brimming full of character, with quite the offerings of both baked goods and drinks. The cafe is set inside of Old Books on Front St. It is a bit hard to not come out with both a drink and a book in hand. You can tell everything is made with care and all the items we tried were delicious. Plus, we love the barista! Definite recommendation – the iced chai (and my dog Tivoli LOVED the treats I got her there). Such unique character…it was so delightful!
Final stop, Emerald Isle…
Where to eat:
Flipperz: There is something about the beach and fried shrimp. I am not really one for it normally, but I always crave it (probably due to association). It is kind of a must.
Emerald Isle Wine Market: Probably one of the most surprising finds ever! Totally unexpected, but totally awesome. Emerald Isle Wine Market is combined with a gas station right when you enter the island. They have an amazing selection of unique wine, beer, gourmet food, and chocolate. I have found numerous brands that I am totally in love with because of them, like the Roasted Coconut Chips by Danielle Chips.