Editor's note: This story was originally published in the October 2021 issue of CityView magazine.
When you write about restaurants, people naturally ask for your recommendations. I’m more than happy to satisfy curiosity and wax poetic about mouth-watering dishes, too.
Fair warning/shameless plug: You may have read about some of my favorites in the nearly two years that I have savored this gig. My hope is the descriptions rev up cravings and support for our great local eateries – even if it’s takeout or no-contact delivery. We also want you to chime in with your own favorite dishes at area restaurants.
Antonella’s Italian Ristorante
Antonella’s tortellini are lightly filled with beef in an addictive cream sauce and dotted with bits of ham and peas. Paired with the crunchy bread and butter = to-die-for and, quite possibly, enough for leftovers. 300 Hay St., downtown Fayetteville
Hot Diggidy Dog
Hot Diggidy Dog is known statewide for its hot dogs. I’m also partial to owner Zoe Kalevas’ Carolina Burger, a tasty four ounces of quality beef, done up on a white bun with chili, slaw, mustard and onions. The strawberry milkshakes, made with real fruit, are da bomb diggidy. 106 Roxie Ave., Fayetteville
Garlic Green Beans
Fabe’s Charcoal Roasting Co.
The Peruvian-inspired dishes here are givens – from the tender rotisserie chicken to the plantains. But I could make a complete meal out of the garlic green beans. Give me a mountain of those veggies. They’re so good. 2715 Freedom Parkway Drive, Fayetteville
Omelets and Club Sandwich
New York Restaurant
The omelets are spectacular at this Greek family-owned restaurant that attracts all forms of humanity. Ditto for the hefty Club Sandwich. Say “hi” to Nick behind the grill – and bring cash. (I still think this joint should be featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”) 201 N. Eastern Blvd., Fayetteville
Shrimp and Grits, add scallops
For the past few years, I’ve been on a quest for the best shrimp and grits. Hands-down, Mannings Restaurant in charming downtown Clayton takes the prize. Ample sautéed shrimp top perfectly cooked yellow stoneground grits enhanced with caramelized onions and country ham gravy. For a reasonable upcharge, add scallops to the dish. Superb! 406 E. Main St., downtown Clayton
Owner/chef Ronnie Askharon nails it every time – and it’s impossible to go wrong ordering any of the platters. Notably, the King Tut, which includes an assortment of kebobs, basmati saffron rice, hummus and more. If you’re closer to the Hope Mills Road area, check out their more casual restaurant, Pharoahs Village. 3310 Traemoor Village Drive, Suite 100 (across from Jack Britt High School in western Cumberland County)
Papaya Salad, add shrimp
PJ Thai Cuisine
“Authentic” is the word perhaps used most often when describing the delicious food at PJ Thai Cuisine. One of my favorites is the Papaya Salad in a dressing that hints of both sweet and spice. Add shrimp for a satisfying, healthy meal. 329 Person St., downtown Fayetteville
Nova Lox Bagel
Big Steve’s Bagels
Just off the McGee’s Crossroads (I-40), about 40 minutes north of downtown Fayetteville, sits Big Steve’s for the best bagels this side of New York and Jersey (where Big Steve hails from, so he knows a good bagel). My favorite is the Nova Lox on a toasted poppy seed bagel with a schmear of cream cheese, capers, red onions, thin slices of cucumber and tomato and the pièce de résistance: paper-thin slices of delicious, brain-boosting salmon. 12330 N.C. 210, Benson (McGee’s Crossroads exit 219 off I-40)
Guatemala Centro America Restaurant
We tasted and tasted … and kept coming back to the Chicken Adobo, perfectly juicy and with just enough kick. Pair with black beans and rice and plantains – and end with the house-made flan, if you like. This food is the real deal. 2805 Raeford Road, Fayetteville
Beef Burrito and Guacamole
Whenever I dine at a Mexican restaurant, 99 percent of the time I’ll order fajitas – usually a mix of chicken and steak. Shrimp tossed into the mix if I’m feeling daring. El Cazador’s fajitas are excellent. But of late, I’ve taken a shine to their overstuffed beef burritos with a side of supremely fresh, chunky guacamole. The Skibo Road location is often packed, so I like to call ahead and pick up in the drive-thru. Chef/owner Agustin Alvarez delivers consistently excellent food (and the Margaritas are pretty swell, too)! 1904 Skibo Road and 2800 Gillespie St., #102 (Airport Plaza), Fayetteville.
Maine Lobster Roll
Cousins Maine Lobster
When I get a lobster craving, it attacks with a vengeance. Thank goodness for Cousins Maine Lobster food truck. Their Maine Lobster Roll is essentially a 20-buck splurge. Savor every flavorful morsel of chunky, chilled lobster on a hot dog bun, two lemon wedges on the side for squeezing. It comes in at 400 calories (just in case you’re wondering). See where their food truck is parked by logging on to streetfoodfinder.com. Also, find Cousins Maine Lobster at the Morgan Street Food Hall in Raleigh.
Fried Chicken Wings
The Barbeque Hut
The stalwart Barbeque Hut has fed generations of hungry folks with the usual Southern fare: pork barbecue, slaw, hush puppies … and it’s all good. But I’m perfectly satisfied with their crunchy fried wings. I dab on Texas Pete and proceed, with extra napkins by my side. Finger-lickin’ good every time. 2802 Fort Bragg Road and 2965 Owen Drive, Fayetteville
Mushroom & Swiss Burger
The Mushroom & Swiss Burger from the R Burger is heavenly. Big, beefy, memorable. All the satisfied burger eaters rushing the food truck couldn’t be wrong. See their Facebook page to find out where the food truck will be parked next.