There are still a few weekends of summer vacation left before school starts, and hungry North Carolinians are in luck — the state has a bevy of delicious destinations from the mountains to the coast. This is the first in a new Eater Carolina series that focuses on some lesser-visited destinations, all within two to three hours from either the Charlotte region or the Triangle. From a day-trip to a weekend stay, each location offers something unique, different, and most importantly, tasty.
Fayetteville is known for many things — almost being the capital of North Carolina, the home of Fort Bragg, one of the largest military bases in the world, and an undeserved reputation for being a bit seedy. What most people don’t know about Fayetteville is that it could easily rank towards the top of a list of the most diverse restaurant scenes in the state. At just an hour and a half from the Triangle, Fayetteville offers a myriad of options for hungry visitors from downtown eateries to craft breweries, and spread among the strip malls surrounding the city center are some of the most diverse restaurants in North Carolina.
Any visit to Fayetteville should start with Eater Carolina’s map of must-visit Fay restaurants. Visitors can quite literally eat around the world here, starting with breakfast at a German bakery, lunch at a classic Southern barbecue joint, and dinner at a hidden Thai-Laotian gem. A day trip can be extended to an overnight stay at a historic bed & breakfast, a must for those who truly want to do a deep dive into the city’s culinary scene.
A Fayetteville morning can start with breakfast and coffee at The Coffee Scene, a local institution on Morganton Road that recently opened a second location downtown in the recently renovated historic Prince Charles Hotel building. MaryBill’s Cafe and Elbow Room in the Eutaw North Shopping Center serves affordable breakfast platters and sandwiches starting at 7 a.m. Kinlaw’s Welcome Grill, the down-home restaurant sister to the butcher and country store of the same name just down the road, offers a menu of breakfast meats and sides for a choose-your-own breakfast adventure.
No trip to Fayetteville would be complete without visiting Dirtbag Ales Brewery, a great afternoon outing for lunch and a beer or two. This Black and veteran-owned brewery offers award-winning beers in a massive complex complete with outdoor seating for hundreds, a playground, and a dog park. Napkins serves up crowd-pleasing burgers and sandwiches, and the Sunday farmers market attracts vendors from across the region as well as numerous food trucks.
For dinner the Downtown Fayetteville Cool Spring District has restaurant options for everyone. Both Antonella’s and Pierro’s offer classic Italian cuisine, while Huske Hardware House and Gaston Brewing have the pub grub and craft beer crowd covered. Circa 1800 serves craft cocktails paired with internationally-influenced dishes perfect for sharing. Thursdays during home games for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers minor league baseball team at Segra Stadium are “Thirsty Thursdays”, with cheap beer and classic stadium food.
And end-of-the-day dinner can also be found in one of the many strip malls surrounding the downtown core. At first glance it might seem like only generic chain restaurants, but a closer inspection reveals a variety of cuisines that makes Epcot’s World Showcase look like a sad mall food court. Cliffdale Square (5945 Cliffdale Road) has four different cuisines in one spot (German, Indian, Puerto Rican, Japanese), with a Turkish/Indian grocery store just across the street. There’s Afghan Kabob a short drive up the road from Gusto Napoletano, a Neapolitan pizzeria that received authentication from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. East Asian cuisine (Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese) can be found around almost any corner, and lovers of Lebanese-influenced Middle Eastern cuisine head to Pharaoh’s Village.
What to Do
There’s more to Fayetteville than just good food. Check out the Airborne & Special Operations Museum at the northwest corner of downtown for a peek into the city’s storied military history. Kids and adults alike will love the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens on the banks of the Cape Fear River — if the walk around the gardens works up an appetite there is the Garden Cafe which serves salads and sandwiches that can be enjoyed on the expansive patio overlooking the main garden.
Downtown Fayetteville often has public art installations, which when combined with a little shopping at some of the boutiques lining Hay Street (Turner Lane and Hummingbird Candle Co. are two local favorites) make for a great afternoon. Relax after shopping with a glass of wine or two at the Wine Cafe. At the center of town lies the Historic Market House, a Fayetteville icon with a controversial past as a location where slaves were once sold.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love Carvers Creek State Park, the newest state park in North Carolina and centered on the historic Long Valley Farm, a retreat for members of the Rockefeller family. Adventures on the water can be had by getting in touch with Spring Lake Outpost, which operates near-daily kayak and canoe trips in the region. The Visit Fayetteville website has plenty of additional suggestions for activities and sightseeing.
Make It An Overnight
Turning a day trip to Fayetteville into an overnight stay is easy — with its location alongside I-95 there are plenty of brand name hotel chains to choose from. Travelers looking to stay a bit closer to downtown and have a more boutique experience might opt for The MacPherson House, a restored 1920 mansion in the Haymount neighborhood just a few blocks from the center of town. Owners Katy and Michael Stevick have transformed the house into a cozy five room bed and breakfast complete with an on-site yoga studio.
On the Horizon
Fayetteville might be overlooked in terms of a vacation destination, but all of the city’s activities extensive dining options can be accessed with just a short drive from the Triangle. Rumor has it an elevated farm-to-table restaurant is on the horizon for downtown, and there are plans to convert an old gas station into the Haymount Truck Stop, a food truck hub, complete with outdoor seating and bar.