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Eating on I-95 Between DC and Jacksonville, FL


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The JPW family will soon be making our annual trek down I95 to Pawleys Island.

We'll stop somewhere in NC for some BBQ.

Any thoughts on other good places to stop that are not too far from the highway?

Mrs JPW was especially interested in some ice cream along the way.

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There are a number of really good BBQ places right off of 95 that are worth a slight detour. I personally like Wilber's in Goldsboro, which is about a 20 minute side trip. McCall's in Goldsboro is also decent, but not as good as Wilber's. You might also want to read-over Holly Eats Carolina BBQ section.
Thanks for reminding me of holly's site, Steve.
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Although I've made the drive to SC countless times, I've never tried to find good eats en route. But once you get to Pawley's--and I'm sure you know this--there are some pretty decent places to eat.

Have you been to Kudzu Bakery in Georgetown? The owners are people I got to know a little when I worked in Georgetown eons ago, and they make the finest pecan pie I've ever tasted. And they have a very nice little wine section, with some surprisingly good wines.

Kudzu is just off Front Street, on one of the litle side streets between Front and Prince St. Maybe Orange St.?

Have a great time!

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There are a number of really good BBQ places right off of 95 that are worth a slight detour. I personally like Wilber's in Goldsboro, which is about a 20 minute side trip. McCall's in Goldsboro is also decent, but not as good as Wilber's. You might also want to read-over Holly Eats Carolina BBQ section.

Went on a quick trip down south this weekend and had a chance to stop at 2 places for Q. On the way down we stopped at Parker's for lunch. The place was packed and we decided to have the family style meal. This includes 2 pieces of excellent fried chicken and dishes of all you can eat Q, stew, slaw, and boiled potatoes. The Q was chopped too finely for my liking and it was not smokey enough in flavor for me. 2 dinners and 2 teas, $15.

On the return home we stopped at Wilber's and as stated above, was worth the detour. The Q was excellent, full of flavor and more pulled than chopped and the fried chicken was great. The hush puppies were hot, light, and tasty too. Don't bother with the box mix pudding for dessert. 1/2 Fried chicken lunch and 1 Combo (Q and Fried Chicken) both with 2 veggies and 2 teas, $16.

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On my holiday drive back from the folks place in NC I stopped off at Bill Ellis' World Famous Barbecue and Chicken (4 stains on Holly Eats) in Wilson, NC. http://www.bills-bbq.com/

I have stopped off at Moore's in Kenly multiple times and it is a small mom and pop operation that recently expanded by taking over an old fast food joint. Previously Moore's was a little hut with a couple of tables. Not so with Bill Ellis, which can only be called an institution. In fact the place is so large it has seperate buildings for take out/drive thru, sit down dining, and a 18,000 square foot convention center! They even have their own hog farm.

I caught the place in mid-after church rush and with the line at the sit down restaurant snaking out the door, opted for the take out and dined on the nearby picnic tables...with a lovely view of Sheetz next door.

My impressions: The Pulled Pork sandwich was decent, perhaps not as good as Moore's. The fried chicken drumstick was shriveled, the thigh succulent, but I still preferred Moore's. The bag of fried chicken gizzards ($2.60 a bag!) chewy and salty.

My disappointment: Each order came with a handful of Texas Pete's Hotsauce pouches. Yeah, weak.

It's worth the short side trip off the I95 to see the operation, it's maybe a 10 minute drive off the Wilson exits (not sure of the exit number). I would like to try the dine in. The BBQ is soild, the chicken decent, it beats the Fastfood Hell on 95, and you have to love a place that sells bags of chicken gizzards to go!

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Moore's is No More(s)

Moore's BBQ in Kenly, NC has been taken over and it is a shadow of its former self. The joint is now called Stormin' Norman's. The pork bbq sandwich was not good, no flavor at all. The fried chicken was still solid.

Personally I would now rank Stormin' Norman's as not worth the exit...however, if you are suddenly in need of a fried chicken fix while on I-95 in NC, then feel free. Just avoid the bbq!

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The Stony Creek Tastee Hut (Stony Creek, VA) would make the short list on an endangered food establishment list. Quite literally a hut on the side of the road, it is run by a little old african-american lady (Addie I believe her name is) who looked to be in her 70s. The Tastee Hut serves up bbq pork sandwiches, fried chicken, hush puppies, burgers, grilled cheese and a number of other sandwiches short order style. Visible from I-95, the Tastee Hut is at exit 31 (you just have to double back on Route 301 which at that point is running along side I-95). You order through a screen window, service is not speedy, and there are only a couple outdoor picnic tables...the rest is a dirt parking lot.

The BBQ sandwich was satisfying, the sweet potato sticks seemed to be deep fried molten sweet potato puree, and the home made sweet potato was excellent and homey. Sadly they did not have any fried chicken when I stopped.

I encourage you stop in before the place falls down!

Stony Creek Tastee Hut

12420 Blue Star Highway

Stony Creek, VA 23882

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As MDT referenced back in 2006(!)... Parker's in Wilson, NC is a good bet for a short side trip off the 95 for some BBQ. A plate of chopped pork, a piece of fried chicken, some over boiled potatoes dusted with paprika, Brunswick stew, and some hush puppies will set you back around $8. It is about a 5-10 minute drive off the 95. It has an institutional no frills southern dining room feel...but the parking lot was packed at 1:30 on a Thursday afternooon with locals. Service is super quick.

Wilber's in Goldsboro, NC is scary legit. You can smell the wood smoke and fried chicken in your car as you pull into the parking lot. This place is like your favorite dive bar turned BBQ joint. So local you get the look when you walk in...you are not from these parts. Sit down at the small counter and the waitress hands you sweet tea, no questions asked, because it's a given you will be drinking sweet tea. Plate of chopped pork, 2 pieces of fried chicken, potato salad, slaw, and more hush puppies then you can eat will run you about $10. Wilber's will be a 20 minute or so side trip off I-95 or I-40.

Or do as I did and hit Parker's, take the 795 south about 20 minutes to Goldsboro and hit Wilber's

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On the trip down to my parent's place for Thanksgiving, I made my third visit to Wilber's.  I've now eaten there three times and ordered pork to-go twice...and I'll have to say I think the to-go pork is better than the eat-in pork.

My sense is that the eat-in pork is not dressed with their vinegar-based bbq sauce, they leave it up to you to pour the sauce from the bottles at the table.  The to-go pork has the bbq sauce worked into the pork and it really penerates the meat.  Eating-in your don't get that same penetration.

Now don't get me wrong, eat-in at Wilber's is a treat.  But the bigger treat is getting a couple pounds to-go.  A roughly quart-sized take-out tub will be packed with 2lbs of pork and run you about $20.  And this stuff lasts...we hit Wilber's on a Tuesday and on Saturday we had the last dregs sitting around and it still tasted great.       

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I think I've only eaten at Wilber's once, after my sister's graduation from UNC-CH, on the way home, & I don't remember a thing about it. I wasn't very interested in BBQ back then. But I can't tell you how many times I've passed it- living in Chapel Hill, & now, further north, going through Goldsboro means I'm getting close to home (Sneads Ferry). My sister had a pig picking at her wedding rehearsal & her husband has a pro smoking rig ( the kind you tow behind a truck). Now I respect my NC BBQ background, my Weber Smoky Mountain gets a workout, & I can truly appreciate some slow cooked pork (heretically, I only smoked turkey breasts & brisket for T'giving).

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Exit 19 in Lumberton, North Carolina is home to some of the best Mexican food I've ever had.  El Zarape De Antonio opened earlier this year and is a welcome respite on the vast wasteland that is fast food eating on 95.  I have no idea why it is so good, it just is. Go, get the enchiladas or tacos or tamales and then thank me you aren't eating more hideous fast food.

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Exit 19 in Lumberton, North Carolina is home to some of the best Mexican food I've ever had.  El Zarape De Antonio opened earlier this year and is a welcome respite on the vast wasteland that is fast food eating on 95.  I have no idea why it is so good, it just is. Go, get the enchiladas or tacos or tamales and then thank me you aren't eating more hideous fast food.

One guess:  There's a lot of migrant labor in that part of the Carolinas.

If you go along Rt. 17 in the N. Myrtle Beach area there are multiple little tiendas in the strip malls.  Virtually all the golf courses use migrant labor for their grounds crews, and there are a lot of golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area.  In addition to a lot of agriculture.

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I've traveled I-95 many times, but I've yet to find any places worth a relatively brief detour between DC and Jacksonville. I've stumbled across a few crummy places, which I've erased from my memory, but I've found only a couple I would recommend. Recently, my college-aged daughter decided to eat a vegetarian diet, and I'll just say that complicated matters ten fold. 

Smithfield's Chicken and Barbecue is solid, if not spectacular, but their pork sandwiches and chicken represent the NC style fairly well. / (Not for vegetarians unless they will be ok with slaw and hushpuppies).

During my most recent trip, we stopped at Broad Street Deli and Market, located in Dunn NC. It's a small town place with friendly service, homemade food, and it's a quick detour from the interstate. Compared to DC prices, it's shockingly inexpensive. Lunch for two was just over $16. 

On the southbound leg, I made a detour into Florence to try Wholly Smokin', where I sampled SC's version of bbq. The pulled pork was well cooked and moist, but overly salty for my tastes. The mustard sauce couldn't really save it. The sides, though, were excellent; baked beans were tangy, and not overly sweet, while the corn and lima beans were fresh and delicious.  I would have like to explore more of the menu--perhaps next time. Service was genuinely nice, and it was a good pick to relax for a bit.

I'd really enjoy hearing about great spots along the way.

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Not great but quirky - Steffens in Kingsland, Ga (basically a down home southern diner) & Fullers Southern Food (buffet) in Fayetteville, NC.  Both listed on TripAdvisor or their own web sites.

Above average but worth it if you're in town - Caprice Bistro in Wilmington, NC.  The owner used to own Bruxelles in NYC (W. Village) quite a few years ago & is running a French bistro that I'd be going to regularly if it were anywhere near me.

Check out who's playing at Tin Pan in Richmond, Va.  The burgers there (ok, I think they have good salads too) are above average & it's a music venue that I wish we still had in NYC.

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10 hours ago, Marty L. said:

Fried shrimp at B&J's in Darien, GA.

+1 on B&J.  

Once in the Jax area, there is a really good BBQ place southwest of town on the banks of the St. Johns River called Woodpeckers. Maybe 20 min. from the nearest exit. Get there early -- they start running out of things by 5pm -- they close at 7pm IIRC.  They are well-known for their fatty brisket, which I have not yet had because of getting there too late.  But everything I've had has been good.

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For Eastern Carolina BBQ, your best bet for a short side trip is Parker's BBQ in Wilson, NC.  It's about a 10 minute detour off I-95.  Solid BBQ and fried chicken.

For the really good stuff, the easiest place to hit is Wilber's BBQ, on the outskirts of Goldsboro, NC, but then you are looking at about a 30 minute drive off the 95. 

Otherwise, we also tend to hit the Wawa's located just south of Richmond (Exit 48, right before I-95 & I-295 merge) 

Another frequent stop off for us is the Davis Travel Center Stony Creek, VA, about 15 minutes south of where the I-95 & I-295 merge after Richmond.  The convenience store has an excellent selection of junk food and car snacks.  Plus a Starbucks.  And a video game arcade. 

For all things fast food, Roanoke Rapids, NC is your place.  It's about 10 minutes south of the VA/NC line.  

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I use trips down I-95 as an excuse to eat Bojangles... second Parker's and Wilber's.  I like Smithfield for a pulled pork sandwich, but I DETEST their coleslaw, it is really sweet and too minced for my preference.  It's ok on the sandwich, unacceptable by itself to me.

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7 hours ago, ktmoomau said:

I use trips down I-95 as an excuse to eat Bojangles... second Parker's and Wilber's.  I like Smithfield for a pulled pork sandwich, but I DETEST their coleslaw, it is really sweet and too minced for my preference.  It's ok on the sandwich, unacceptable by itself to me.

I was going to say Bojangles too, but I thought I'd be flamed. :lol:

(Two chicken biscuits, a Diet Coke, and nothing else.)

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5 hours ago, DonRocks said:

I was going to say Bojangles too, but I thought I'd be flamed. :lol:

(Two chicken biscuits, a Diet Coke, and nothing else.)

There are some great suggestions, but I don't really expect to see many hidden gems here either. This thread has to be judgement free zone. :D

My guilty breakfast pleasure is a smoked sausage biscuit from Hardee's. B)

8 hours ago, Tweaked said:

For Eastern Carolina BBQ, your best bet for a short side trip is Parker's BBQ in Wilson, NC.  It's about a 10 minute detour off I-95.  Solid BBQ and fried chicken.

For the really good stuff, the easiest place to hit is Wilber's BBQ, on the outskirts of Goldsboro, NC, but then you are looking at about a 30 minute drive off the 95. 

Both are solid choices. During my AF days, I was at Seymour-Johnson many times, at ate at Wilber's once or twice. It's directly under the flight path of the base's runway, so you'll probably see and/or hear F-15E's taking off or landing. 

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On 6/13/2016 at 2:19 PM, Tweaked said:

For Eastern Carolina BBQ, your best bet for a short side trip is Parker's BBQ in Wilson, NC.  It's about a 10 minute detour off I-95.  Solid BBQ and fried chicken.

For the really good stuff, the easiest place to hit is Wilber's BBQ, on the outskirts of Goldsboro, NC, but then you are looking at about a 30 minute drive off the 95. 

Both Parker's and Wilber's are solid and you can't go wrong with either, but at that point you're also pretty close to the best Eastern NC pork bbq period, which is at Grady's. It's a bit farther off 95, probably about a 45-minute total detour, but I would drive 3 hours out of my way for Grady's.

When I first went there, I also tried Wilber's and the Skylight Inn on the same trip. Both were incredible. The first bite I had of Grady's pork bbq, I instantly knew this was a whole other level entirely. I hadn't even thought there was a higher level, but somehow Grady's hits it. Also great fried chicken and solid sides and hush puppies (but you're going for the pork bbq).

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I'm going to be in Brunswick, GA, for 2 nights next week, arriving in Jacksonville around dinner time Monday. I think I'm pretty set for recommendations near Brunswick (definitely hitting up B&J's in Darien!) but was wondering if anyone had any dinner recommendations for my drive from Jacksonville to Brunswick (about an hour north) not too far off I-95. I checked out Amelia Island (The Salty Pelican) on a prior trip and liked it, but as I recall that was a bit of a detour from I-95. I might consider stopping at Amelia Island for lunch on my drive back to Jacksonville on Wednesday, but on Monday I think I'd rather not stray too far from the highway for dinner since I'm going to want to get settled in my hotel.

Is anyone familiar with St. Mary's, GA? It seems close to I-95 and they have some seafood restaurants. I'd be more inclined toward seafood than barbecue but would be open to barbecue or any other recommendations as well.

Thanks!

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On 6/12/2016 at 8:02 AM, Marty L. said:

Fried shrimp at B&J's in Darien, GA.

On 6/12/2016 at 4:00 PM, johnb said:

+1 on B&J.

I went to B&J's tonight -- the fried shrimp was delicious! I also loved my server. He was so friendly and nice and steered me away from the pound of shrimp (I told him I had no concept of how many shrimp were in a pound versus a half pound), which I probably could've eaten, but I would've been stuffed to the gills and wouldn't have had room for the banana pudding (also recommended by my server), which was just the sweet ending to the meal that I wanted.

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On 6/13/2016 at 2:19 PM, Tweaked said:

For Eastern Carolina BBQ, your best bet for a short side trip is Parker's BBQ in Wilson, NC.  It's about a 10 minute detour off I-95.  Solid BBQ and fried chicken.

Another frequent stop off for us is the Davis Travel Center Stony Creek, VA, about 15 minutes south of where the I-95 & I-295 merge after Richmond.  The convenience store has an excellent selection of junk food and car snacks.  Plus a Starbucks.  And a video game arcade. 

Parker's BBQ was so so and the cole slaw was strangely a bright pinkish color, but the fried chicken was tasty. 

Davis Travel Center was a welcome stop as we traveled back on Sunday and NC didn't do too well with the snow and ice. 

Craig's New York Style Deli in Santee, SC had good sandwiches and soups for a change of pace from bad fast food a long the way. 

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On 6/6/2016 at 9:31 PM, Steve R. said:

Not great but quirky - Steffens in Kingsland, Ga (basically a down home southern diner) & Fullers Southern Food (buffet) in Fayetteville, NC.  Both listed on TripAdvisor or their own web sites.

Above average but worth it if you're in town - Caprice Bistro in Wilmington, NC.  The owner used to own Bruxelles in NYC (W. Village) quite a few years ago & is running a French bistro that I'd be going to regularly if it were anywhere near me.

Check out who's playing at Tin Pan in Richmond, Va.  The burgers there (ok, I think they have good salads too) are above average & it's a music venue that I wish we still had in NYC.

Another year, another trek down 95.  Three nights on the road last week, staying one day ahead of the lousy weather.  First night we ate at a very good place in Richmond, Va. called Acacia.  Recommended by a long time virtual acquaintance from eGullet who lives in Richmond, this was a place that'd be on our regular rotation if it was anywhere near us.  Nice concise wine list too.  The 2nd night was in Florence, SC, chosen because we love Florence, Italy & we do things that way.  In Florence, I found Tubb's, located in a converted gas station.  It's a very informal place that does fish/seafood very well & is loaded with locals.  A great road stop.  Our 3rd meal was in St Augustine, Fl., where our friends who live there recommended a newish place (8mos.?) called Preserved.  It was located in a beautiful old house, converted nicely to a restaurant.  Midpriced, not pretentious & serving excellent upscale food.  Highly recommended.

As a side note, both Acacia & Preserved hit all the now trendy locally sourced, every ingredient listed, notes required to compete for the business of self declared "foodies".  I'm always concerned that these type of menus, listing dishes with multiple ingredients, will result in overwrought food by chefs who think that throwing together various "interesting" things is, of itself, going to result in "innovative" cuisine.  It hardly, if ever, does & I generally come away annoyed.  Not the case in either of these places.  Ingredients are well thought out to create well integrated tasty dishes.  Nice.

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On 6/6/2016 at 9:31 PM, Steve R. said:

Not great but quirky - Steffens in Kingsland, Ga (basically a down home southern diner)

I went to Steffen's the last time I was in SE Georgia in September based on this recommendation -- thank you! I agree with the quirky down home southern diner description. I enjoyed my fried pickles and patty melt. Because I love biscuits I also ordered a side thinking they'd be amazing, but I ended up being disappointed that they were very dense and hockey puck-esque. Still worth the detour maybe 10 minutes off I-95.

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On 6/14/2016 at 6:34 PM, arldiner said:

Both Parker's and Wilber's are solid and you can't go wrong with either, but at that point you're also pretty close to the best Eastern NC pork bbq period, which is at Grady's. It's a bit farther off 95, probably about a 45-minute total detour, but I would drive 3 hours out of my way for Grady's.

When I first went there, I also tried Wilber's and the Skylight Inn on the same trip. Both were incredible. The first bite I had of Grady's pork bbq, I instantly knew this was a whole other level entirely. I hadn't even thought there was a higher level, but somehow Grady's hits it. Also great fried chicken and solid sides and hush puppies (but you're going for the pork bbq).

We made it to Grady’s on Saturday and this pretty much sums up the place to a tee. The fried chicken really is excellent but the pork, with a bit more crackling mixed in, would be perfect.

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Has anyone made it to B's BBQ, which is also in the Greenville, NC area.  So it's definitely a side trip commitment off the I-95.

The one time I tried to go they were closed.  With no phone or website, you can't check to see if they are open, so you have to trust the 10am-2pm hours (closed Sunday & Monday) but once they are out of food they close.  Sometimes they run out by noon.  I had a bad feeling when I rolled past and the parking lot was empty (apparently they are also closed between Christmas and New Year's, at least they were went I drove by.)

The other new-ish place to try in the Greenville area is Sam Jones BBQ, scion of the Skylight Inn Jones family.  It's a larger sit-down restaurant style bbq place, as compared to Grady's and B's, which are your older style shacks on the side of the road type places (meant in a loving way of course)

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We were looking for something non-BBQ on our drive north from Charleston, and made a stop at Oscar's Restaurant in Roanoke Rapids, NC. It's a few miles off of I-95, so a definite detour, but as a traditional southern diner it is generally worth it (particularly in comparison to fast food and fast casual chains on that route).

The bowl of Brunswick stew was a gargantuan portion, and was satisfying comfort food. The fried chicken was good, but perhaps I should have looked more closely at the specials menu; one of Saturday's was a fried chicken livers dinner, and clearly the thigh and drumstick were fried in the same oil as the chicken livers, based on flavor. This wasn't horrible, if you like chicken livers (which I do), but it certainly didn't provide the clean fried chicken flavor I'd expected. The cornbread was great, as were the hush puppies. Dessert was a piece of carrot cake and a piece of chocolate cake (because why not follow up lots of fried food with big slices of cake from a diner?).

As we ate it was abundantly clear that this place is an important resource for the local community--a number of people stopped in to get their dinner, or to pick up cartons of the Brunswick stew, maybe for the next day. Excluding us everybody there were regulars. Service was fine, nothing special. I walked away thinking that we must have stood out as clearly not from around those parts, but the cashier treated our son to a blow-pop on the way out the door--a nice touch that made his dinner and thus ours.

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I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Online reports:  Wilber's BBQ in Goldsboro, NC is closed.

I can't find independent news sources to verify, but photos posted online from the scene do not look promising.

Goldsboro Daily News also reporting, they can't confirm if its a permanent or temporary closure.

Wilber’s Barbecue, one of NC’s iconic BBQ restaurants, has closed Myrtle Beach Online

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I'll be driving to Savannah at the end of the month, and while I have always made the drive in a day, I need to stop about half way (long story). Looking for recommendations for a place to spend the night. I originally planned to spend the night in Goldsboro in order to visit Wilber's BBQ and enjoy some whole hog bbq, but they are closed due to tax issues. 

"Department of Revenue Shuts Down Wilber's in Goldsboro" on wral.com

NC BBQ trail spots would be a plus, and I don't want a massive detour, as I will be traveling with my wife and in-laws. (Pray for me. ;-))

Thanks!

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3 hours ago, reedm said:

I'll be driving to Savannah at the end of the month, and while I have always made the drive in a day, I need to stop about half way (long story). Looking for recommendations for a place to spend the night. I originally planned to spend the night in Goldsboro in order to visit Wilber's BBQ and enjoy some whole hog bbq, but they are closed due to tax issues. 

"Department of Revenue Shuts Down Wilber's in Goldsboro" on wral.com

NC BBQ trail spots would be a plus, and I don't want a massive detour, as I will be traveling with my wife and in-laws. (Pray for me. ;-))

Thanks!

If you had plans to detour to Wilbur's, you might consider continuing on down the road to Grady's. But they have limited hours, so you'll need to plot your trip carefully. Grady's is true, shack on the side of the road eastern Carolina BBQ. 

The Raleigh Durham area has decent BBQ.  Might be an easier sell to the family. 

Finally, if you think you can swing it with the family, consider hitting Rodney Scott's BBQ in Charleston and then continue on to Savannah.  

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Thank you, Tweaked!

 Sounds like we have similar tastes and ideas. I’ve been to Grady’s, and while I agree it’s outstanding, it might be a tough sell.

I will certainly look into Raleigh Durham, thanks for the suggestion. 

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Several years ago we had a similar need while we were driving down to Florida from NYC.  I chose Fayetteville (for no particular reason except location right off I-95) and we went to Fullers, a buffet that I cant recommend as BBQ but a place that I’ll remember fondly for years.  The buffet table had more varieties of home style southern cooking than I’ve ever seen &, for a buffet, it was fresh and tasty.  

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Whenever we go to HHI in two days, Fayetteville is normally my leave in the evening after normal rush hour, and it is as far as I can get before I am too tired to keep driving stop.  If you are leaving in the evening you could stop in Richmond for ZZQ and then keep driving until you hit a good place to stop.  I've also stopped in Rocky Mount.  I think the Rocky Mount hotels are a little nicer.  But where I stay totally depends on if we have the pup with us and the fact that on day two I just get tired of being in the car.

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