by D.G. Martin
Chapel Hill, NC – My upcoming book about local, home cooking places near North Carolina’s Interstate highways has a title, “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints.”
And, it has a new challenge to meet before the publisher, UNC Press, releases it this fall. My editors want me to revise my introduction to follow some suggestions from a careful reader who said he wanted “to hear D.G.’s voice more in the introduction,” including “where has he been in life and where is he going that brings him back again and again to these down home spots.”
I worry that following this good suggestion could turn the introduction into a personal memoir that takes away from the main purpose of the book, which is to focus on the restaurants, the families that run them, and the locals who are regular patrons.
After you read what I have written below, let me know if you think I have focused too much on me.
Where did I begin my interest in the joys of food and fellowship at local eateries?
Maybe it was my North Mecklenburg High School football teammate Tommy Oehler who got me started when he introduced me to his dad, J.W., and the Mallard Creek Church barbecue that the Oehler family still helps manage every October north of Charlotte. There is no better example of how good barbecue and a host of friendly people make a meal into something memorable.
I am still looking for eateries where I can find the Mallard Creek feeling.
This book will tell how Charlotte’s Open Kitchen gave my Davidson College basketball teammates refuge and fellowship after a disappointing loss on New Year’s Eve. The flavorful tomato sauce and pasta, their classic pizzas, and the open door to the kitchen always make me want to find similar eateries in other parts of our state.
When I was stationed at Fort Bragg, the Haymont Grill in Fayetteville became a second home. Great chicken or meatloaf with two vegetables, rolls and tea filled me up for under a dollar. Owner Pete Skenteris made me his friend and helped me fit in with the locals. He still does, but he now charges more than a dollar for the meat and two vegetable plate, still delicious and always fresh.
Back in Charlotte to practice law, my friends and I shunned the fancy places. We favored a modest diner on South Tryon called Jake’s. Jake’s is long gone, but my former law partners still remember the “Number 5 hamburger plate” and the over the top “One on a Plate,” which was a slice of just-made apple pie and a scoop of ice cream. The owner took care of us like important people even though we were not. But when I ran for Congress in 1984 and he saw one of our TV ads, he stopped me on the street to say, “Great ad, D.G. You look a lot better on TV than you do in person.”
Law practice put me on the road regularly. Once, on the way from Charlotte to Greensboro, a client made me stop at his favorite barbecue place, Lexington #1. Wayne Monk and his friendly crew made me feel at home. And the chopped plate with slaw and baked beans plus the hot crisp hushpuppies suited me better than anything I had ever eaten. Thank goodness it is still there.
There will be much more, including how my work for the UNC System and for campuses at Pembroke and N.C. Central, which took me all over the state and opened doors to special local eateries.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Preview the upcoming program on UNC-MX digital channel (Time Warner #1276) on Fridays at 9 p.m. This Thursday’s (January 14) guest is Kathy Reichs, author of “Speaking In Bones.” Next week’s (January 17, 21) guest is William Leuchtenburg, author of “The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.”
Thursday 5pm January 14 Kathy Reichs, author of “Speaking In Bones”
Sunday noon January 17 William Leuchtenburg, author of “The American President”
Thursday 5pm January 21 William Leuchtenburg, author of “The American President”
Sunday noon January 24 Ron Rash, author of “Above the Waterfall”
Thursday 5pm January 28 Ron Rash, author of “Above the Waterfall”
Sunday noon January 31 Sarah Shaber, author of “Louise’s Chance”
Thursday 5pm February 4 Sarah Shaber, author of “Louise’s Chance”