It is here. Just in time for the election season, this new book can guide this fall’s political candidates to the North Carolina eateries where locals gather to eat and exchange information and viewpoints about public affairs.
For instance, the book features a barbecue in Concord where Hillary Clinton campaigned in 2008, a downtown café in Kings Mountain where the speaker of the North Carolina House eats breakfast, a country buffet in Randolph County where a powerful state representative holds court on weekends surrounded by Richard Petty memorabilia, a famous barbecue in Gastonia where the parents of a top aide to the state’s attorney general courted, a restaurant in Asheville that serves Barack Obama its tasty ribs, a small restaurant in Pembroke where local politics and Lumbee tribal matters get settled, a barbecue in Henderson where a U.S. congressman eats whenever he is in town, an eatery in Rocky Mount still owned by the family of a former congressman, and one near Smithfield where the owner can tell you how he helped his political party take over the county.
All of these places are in a book I have been working on and writing about for years. Although its official “launch date” is Oct. 3, “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints” is already in the bookstores.
The book is a good guide for politicians traveling across our state looking for places to meet locals and persuade them to give support.
However “Eateries” was put together with regular travelers in mind, adventuresome people who would rather experience a special or unusual local favorite restaurant at mealtime than eat another quick meal at one of the ubiquitous national chains.
I confess that my ventures into politics led me to some of the places in the new book. In fact, in my political campaigns, I was more successful at finding great gathering places for breakfast and lunch with supporters than I was at winning elections. At eateries such as Troutman’s in Concord and Hursey’s in Burlington, the reminders of visits by famous politicians make them mini-museums as well as good places to eat with the locals.
Years ago, I began to write about my favorite country-cooking places in this weekly newspaper column. My readers liked those columns better than my usual ones about politics and books. When I invited them to write about their favorite local eating places, I got enough material for more columns and for a series of magazine articles that featured local eateries near the interstates.
If you sent a suggestion or two, thanks for being my co-author of the new book.
Writing about these treasured eateries presents a special challenge. They do not last forever. They go out of business, or change ownership, or keep chugging until they just run their natural course. So part of the joy is finding new and welcoming places to get sweet tea, stopping at little diners with hushpuppies you never forget, meeting good folks, and watching people settle political differences over a slice of lemon pie. Sometimes I think I have seen and tasted nearly everything. But there will always be more. I love this state and love traveling its roads, finding even more special places and reporting back to you in this column and now in the new book.
If what I write inspires you to go a little out of your way to find your own special place, where folks greet you like an old friend, even if it is your first visit, then you will make me very happy.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon on UNC-TV.