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Good Eats

Leave the cooking to someone else

Local foodies serve up suggestions for the holidays


For many of us, two things inevitably happen over the holidays. Family or friends visit from out of town, and your home’s chief cook and bottle washer could really use a break away from the kitchen.
Where do you go?
We asked some Fayetteville food lovers, including a couple of restaurant owners, for their suggestions. Here’s what they had to say.

“One of our favorite things to do when we have guests in town is to show off our community. A delicious way to do that is to check out the Fayetteville food scene. We make sure to hit some of our most favorite local spots. If we want barbecue, we head to Southern Coals and Fowler’s Southern Gourmet. If Greek is on the menu, Zorba’s and Caffé OPA. If burgers are the craving of the day, R Kitchen and Will’s Grill. If we want more turkey, it’s straight to The Fried Turkey Sandwich Shop. For coffee and cake, we go to Rude Awakening. If we need more cakes, pastries and bread to go, it’s on to Superior Bakery early in the day. If we can’t decide what to eat, then we head to Dirtbag Ales Brewery & Taproom for lots of food options and a great place to relax and spend time together.”
— Lexi Hasapis, communications/community relations associate, Public Works Commission

“When an eatery encompasses culture, family, history, purpose and consistency, you know the food is going to be phenomenal. Our family’s favorite Italian restaurant is Luigi’s. We’ve been dining there for over 30 years and they never disappoint us. We call Luigi’s “our second home” — that’s how much we love the food, spirits, waitstaff and owners. Our favorite country buffet and barbecue place is, without a doubt, Fuller’s Old-Fashioned BBQ in Pembroke. I love a restaurant that loves you back, and Fuller’s does just that. Every dish evokes memories of growing up in the country. The food is just like my grandmother prepared for her family, neighbors and friends — down-home cooking at its best. I also love 1895 Grille at the historic Holly in Pinehurst. The ambiance is perfect for a romantic evening or dining with friends. The menu features an array of spectacular dishes, and the desserts are amazing. My favorite is the tiramisu dome. It’s perfect for sharing. If you want to, that is.”
— Darlene Holmes Ransom, retired educator and executive producer, “lumBEES: Women of the Dark Water”

“I would say breakfast at MaryBill’s Cafe in Eutaw Shopping Center. Amazing breakfast that won’t break the bank. So much to choose from. They also have weekday lunch specials. Lunch is also great at George Garden in the shopping center at George Owen and Hope Mills roads. A one-man show (really!), he makes fantastic sandwiches, gyros, wings, you name it. Guy works so hard there and never fails to produce tasty food. Dinner at Elizabeth’s Pizza on Hope Mills Road is a nice dining experience with a full bar, big menu and fantastic desserts. Best New York-style pizza in town. Salads, Italian dishes, etc., are on point every time. These are nice, local, family restaurants that really care about their customers. Nothing super-fancy or frou-frou about them — and you can treat your family to breakfast, lunch or dinner affordably.”
— Mark Parsons, retired from Cumberland County Schools, currently a mentor for beginning teachers

“Food is my favorite love language. So, when I want to share time with people I care about, nine times out of 10 food will be involved. If I want to make sure visitors get a great taste of Fayetteville, I have a couple of go-to restaurants that highlight some of our city’s best flavors and dining experiences. Fowler’s Southern Gourmet is always on the list. Brisket to-die-for, hand-cut french fries, generous salads (with the best house-made Caesar dressing I’ve ever had), plus my favorite black cherry cola. Fowler’s never disappoints. If I want to show off our fancy pants a little bit, then it has to be Circa 1800 in the historic Cool Spring Downtown District. Whether it’s dinner or brunch, Circa’s seasonal menu is always fresh, flavorful and playful with ingredients that pay homage to Southern flavors. Paired with craft cocktails that are inventive and complementary to the cuisine, a meal at Circa 1800 always delights. Lastly, friends, family and visitors are definitely going to find themselves at what I think of as my “local place”: Latitude 35 Bar & Grill. A mile from my home, Latitude is my go-to for perfectly battered fish and chips, flavorful shrimp tacos and hearty breakfast bowls for brunch with my favorite tropical mimosa. The staff is always fun and friendly and willing to entertain my occasional not-quite-on-the-menu requests with a generous, “Sure, we can do that!” or a gracious “no” with a smile. This list is by no means exhaustive but rather a tasting menu of the good eats that abound in our community. Bon appétit!” 
— Ashanti Bennett, director of special projects, Cool Spring Downtown District

“I fell in love with Shish House in Greensboro. They have amazing bread. So happy they now have locations in Hope Mills and Fayetteville. The food is homemade mom’s dishes, which in my opinion is better than that of celebrity chefs. I like the lentil soup, chicken Gallabah and everything I have tried. For Chinese food, my family loves China One off Fisher Road in Fayetteville. Operated by a small family, the place is super-clean, the food is always hot and fresh, and the customer service is amazing.”
— Helal “Leo” Dur, co-owner, Afghan Kabob

Worth the drive
Hey, Tar Heels. If you find yourself in Chapel Hill over the holidays (or any other time), and specifically on Franklin Street, a trip to Mediterranean Deli is in order. This place will have you from the first positively intoxicating whiff. The stuffed grape leaves are divine, as are the chicken dishes in herbaceous sauces and fresh baked goods (baklava, anyone?). Who are we kidding? Everything is good here.
In a lovingly restored home on Main Street in downtown Holly Springs, Pimiento Tea Room harkens back to a simpler time when tea was sipped with pleasure and lovely little sandwiches graced our tables. Very civil. And a most relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle.
Just down the road from Pimiento Tea Room in Holly Springs is Bep, a must for the Vietnamese comfort soup pho. Aromatic and delicious, there is nothing like it on a chilly day. The service and environs are equally warm.
You may have heard about the rapidly growing Mexican chain restaurant Mezcalito. We visited the Clayton location off U.S. 70. If you favor lively music and crowds, you’ll be treated to excellent tacos and fajitas and giant-size adult beverages, notably festive margaritas. Make sure to assign a designated driver.
— Janet Gibson

Where to find them
1895 Grille, at the historic Holly, Pinehurst Resort, 155 Cherokee Road. 855-235-8507, Option 6, for reservations
Caffé OPA, 9527 Cliffdale Road. 910-500-9099
China One, 6577 Fisher Road. 910-423-3865
Circa 1800, 108 Person St. 910-568-4725
Dirtbag Ales Brewery & Taproom, 5435 Corporation Drive, Hope Mills. 910-426-2537
El Cazador Mexican Restaurant, 1904 Skibo Road. 910-864-0700
Elizabeth’s Pizza Ristorante Italiano, 2468 Hope Mills Road. 910-424-2848
Fowler’s Southern Gourmet, 723 W. Rowan St. 910-491-5721
Fuller’s Old-Fashioned BBQ, 100 E. Third St, Pembroke. 910-521-4667. Additional locations on U.S. 301 in Fayetteville and off Raeford Road in western Cumberland County.
George Garden, 2653 Hope Mills Road. 910-491-6433
Latitude 35 Bar & Grill, 1217 Hay St. 910-485-4777
Luigi’s Italian Chophouse and Bar, 528 N. McPherson Church Road. 910-864-1810
MaryBill’s Cafe, 801 Elm St. 910-221-1170
R Kitchen, 1006 Person St. 910-527-1467
Rude Awakening coffee house, 227 Hay St. 910-223-7833
Sammio’s Italian Restaurant, 2623 Raeford Road. 910-321-0000
Shish House, 4929 W. Market St., Greensboro. 336-897-0376. New locations are in Hope Mills and on Yadkin Road in Fayetteville.
Southern Coals, 3319-C Raeford Road. 910-745-7675
Superior Bakery, 2433 Hope Mills Road. 910-424-4242
The Fried Turkey Sandwich Shop, 1820 Owen Drive in Bordeaux Shopping Center. 910-491-7603. Also at 2318 Paintersmill Drive off Bingham Drive. 910-425-2755
Will’s Grill, 4011 Sycamore Dairy Road, Suite 100. 910-826-3766
Zorba’s Gyro on a Spit (original location), 2919 Raeford Road. 910-484-1010