About NC Highway 64 Project

This web site is the result of an ongoing Elon University class project for English 397, Writing as Inquiry, a course in Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR).

I chose Hwy 64 as the focus for this project because I think it represents something about North Carolina — something significant about its history and culture. Highway 64 is a marker in time, a link to a previous time. It was an interstate highway long before the concept of modern interstates had even entered our vocabulary. It traverses the state from the mountains to the sea, through several distinct geographical regions and climate zones. As my students discovered, North Carolina is a state of extreme regional diversity. From the small mountain towns nestled along winding roads, to the farming regions of the piedmont, to the industrial of the heartland, to the marshlands and barrier islands, our state holds a wealth of experiences for those willing to take the time to explore. Those who merely crisscross North Carolina north/south on I-77 or I-95, or east/west on I-85/40 will never really find these experiences. Those who simply commute back and forth on our primary arteries and loops around cities will not see the real state.

We spend far too much time roaring up and down crowded interstates, with white knuckles and tight stomachs, cell phones attached to our temples. There is little reason to notice scenery, because it is all the same. The stops along the way are so homogenized that unless there are distinct local signs, you often don’t know what town, or even what state you are in. Is this fast food burger place in Maryland, or am I in Georgia now?

However, when you get off onto these older highways like NC 64 you see the other America, a slower paced, more authentic slice of local culture. You will see in the articles that the student teams often felt out of place and even out of time during their research. In the areas where tourism is a key facet of the local economy, it was much easier to blend in and find folks willing to talk. But in parts of the state where non-locals are a rare sight, they often found themselves the center of attention.

My students of course did far more work for this project than is evident here. This was a course on research, so there were countless hours spent in the library and online studying their sections of the state. Before departing for their fieldwork they sent hundreds of emails and made dozens of phone calls. They took stacks of photos and interviewed, polled and surveyed local folks. Each group produced an impressive stack of field notes and drafts that become the article we have here.

I also have to give them credit for being willing to go along for this ride. Many college students these days, after years of high-stakes testing in the school systems, find it difficult to break out of that mode. Their comfort zone requires carefully explained units of study, with regular testing and quantitative scores the give them regular feedback on how they are doing. “Will this be on the exam?” “How many point is this worth?” Well, this project did not lend itself to such methods, what I often call “visible pedagogy.” And students today are very skilled at performing under these conditions and eager to critique the pedagogy if it doesn’t conform to their experience and expectations. I tend to practice a much more “invisible pedagogy”, as students who know me soon discover.

Students who work on this project are often uncomfortable, but rarely complain, and they usually gave far beyond what is simply required. I always look for the transformative quality in courses, and as each semester ends, I could certainly see how most of these students had indeed had such experiences. I thank them for their gumption and patience.

Michael Strickland

Elon University



For the 2014 update of the Highway 64 website, we must give credit to a group of students who worked diligently to improve the site itself. Maria Reilova was our WordPress guru, in charge of all content placement, and Alex Pack served as our liaison to the IT folks who manage the technology. Gina Apperson was our page designer and developed the YouTube Channel. Rachel Weeks edited the Mountains sections, Will Guy edited the Foothills region sections, Beckah Porter edited the Piedmont sections, while Ciara Corcoran and Katrina Clifford polished up the content for the Coastal Plains sections. We thank them all for a job well done.

Posted in Uncategorized

Hamilton Grill’s Famous Oysters

By Julia Realmuto

In the small town of Lambertville, New Jersey a modest white colonial restaurant carefully is situated on the calm Delaware River. While from the outside it may appear to be a home filled with history and stories of the past, the aroma from the charcoal grill lures diners in for their infamous Mediterranean cuisine. To this day, my family and I feast at this restaurant frequently, whether be it for special occasions or just a casual Thursday night meal, where we know we will get a delicious product and never be disappointed.

As a child, I was a parents dream I would not only eat my veggies but I enjoyed them, I wouldn’t limit my palate to steamed baby carrots but instead ate beets sprinkled with red wine vinegar that I had helped to prepare. My small fingers would be stained fuchsia from peeling the root vegetables. I never had to be told to eat anything; I trusted my parents’ guidance when it came to food.

On what is a typical hot and humid New Jersey summer night, the chant of crickets and the twinkle of thousands of stars in the sky heighten my senses. Once seated at our usual table at the Hamilton Grill Room, my parents place their anticipated appetizer order. After only a couple minutes, there appear atop a bed of ice cubes, a dozen super-fresh oysters on the half shell accompanied with a champagne mignonette and lemon wedges. At the age of eight however, when examining what was placed in front of my discovering green eyes, all I could think was ‘that looks slimy.’ As a child I had been to the beach countless times but this shell was like nothing I had ever send. It was oddly shaped, as well as rough unlike the clamshells I was used to collecting on the seashore. I decided this creature could only be the pariah of the ocean world was supposed to be consumed? Not possible. After watching my parents with amazement gingerly spoon on the champagne mignonette and effortlessly slurp down the raw oyster seemingly pleased, I was intrigued.

I looked to my parents for their permission to initiate what I would later become a defining moment in my long journey of food. As I somewhat nervously picked up the surreal aphrodisiac, prepared for me by mother, I mimic what my parents had previously demonstrated for me; and I cautiously slurp. Suddenly there is a myriad of flavors and textures exploding in my mouth. As the briny, chilled, smooth oyster glides down my esophagus, all I can think is ‘that was unlike anything I have ever tasted. After I took a few seconds to collect my thoughts about what I had just experienced I saw my parents waiting in anticipation for my review. When I went to grab another oyster they had gotten their answer, I was in love. Unfortunately, for my parents their daughter was developing an eclectic yet expensive palate.

Ever since that evening that served as an epiphany, my adventure with food has continued. Each time I dine at the Hamilton Grill Room; which is less frequently now that I am away at school, I make it a point to order the dish that opened my eyes to what the world of food held for me; each time this simple mollusk delights all of my senses, tantalizing my taste buds.

Lake Lure Smokehouse Review

By Chelsea Vollrath

Driving through Lake Lure on Highway 64, you will pass the Lake Lure Smokehouse, located across the street from the beach at Lake Lure and beside the Lake Lure Inn & Spa. The inside of the restaurant is cozily adorned with wooden accents and furniture, but with the beautiful scenery of the lake and mountains surrounding the restaurant, you’d be hard pressed to turn down eating outside and having that scenery be the backdrop of your dining experience. The outside dining area maintains a similar homey feel; diners are served their meals in baskets with checkered-paper on wooden picnic tables.

The menu has most items one would expect to be served at a barbecue restaurant: different cuts of pork, barbecue chicken, the option to eat both on a sandwich, and the typical sides, including hush puppies, regular and sweet potato fries, beans, slaw, and potato salad. There are a few items labeled as being “Signature Smokehouse” items, including the Signature Smokehouse BBQ wrap, that are more unique to the restaurant. Served with a side of your choice, the crispy wrap contained the Smokehouse’s tender pork and a variety of sautéed vegetables. I chose the “Ranch beans” to accompany it. At first I didn’t want to order the ranch beans because I assumed they had ranch dressing in them, which I don’t like, but after the waitress described them to me, I changed my mind. The side dish is a mixture of pinto beans, peppers, onions, garlic, and some unknown spices that gave it a little kick. They were more interesting than most beans you’d get with barbecue, and interesting in a good way.

The wrap wasn’t what I expected. The outside covering tasted must have been fried, as it tasted like the casing of an egg roll. It wasn’t what I expected or would have wanted, so I wasn’t too happy with my selection, but the ranch beans I ordered were great, so with those and the amazing atmosphere, I was still satisfied overall.

Paige ordered a smoked chicken sandwich and sweet potato fries. The chicken sandwich was pretty average, though the bun was particularly fresh and made the sandwich more noteworthy than it would have been otherwise. The sweet potato fries were good, but also nothing spectacular. Paige had the same opinion as I did though: the scenery and experience of eating at the smokehouse made it a worthwhile stop.


Carpaccio Plus More

By Christine Meyer

Ah, the study abroad scene.  It’s that time in the typical Elon student’s college career when he or she travels to another nation, participates in the country’s zesty activities and traditions, dives into the exploratory opportunities, drinks the yummy wine, tastes the awesome food, and simply acts in the ways a young American abroad would.  If you have studied abroad, you understand these experiences.  And, I am no exception to this Elon norm and prominent college experience.

Travelling to Assisi, Italy with an eclectic group of twelve the summer in between my freshman and sophomore year, I engrossed myself in such Italian ventures.  I danced with the Catholic monks, travelled to old-timey festivals, conversed-or attempted to-in the city pizzerias, took multiple shots of espresso, and finally I ate a lot.  And then after I ate a lot, I ate more than a lot.  I simply did not want to be that one girl on the trip who sticks her nose up at the customs of the city and distances herself from the group.  Hell, I’m in Italy, why not try it?  Whatever, that it might be.

So, that was the approach I took towards many of our programs’ plans, especially when we all went to a cooking class/ food tasting.  Lezione di cucina aka this cooking lesson was one of our very first gatherings as a group.  We had only been together a couple days when we walked through hilly Assisi to arrive at our destination in the basement kitchen of a hotel overlooking the luscious shrubbery of the Umbrian countryside.

There the famed Chef Marco Gubbiotti was waiting for us.  Chef Gubbiotti looked like an Italian Casanova in the purest sense.  Dark eyes, dark skin, and dark hair, the women of our group were more than pleased to have this man teach us how to cook such fine Italian dishes.  There were just some minor leaps to hurdle: the master chef spoke to us in only Italian and at this point, my Italian was limited to meager words like dove, ciao and bellissima.  I could barely handle the kitchen lingo he was spitting at us in his fast native tongue.

Yet, Chef Gubbiotti cooked with Umbrian flair, skillful but simple and speedy.  They were classic Umbrian dishes.  Historically, the food in Umbria and Assisi are characterized as peasant cuisine meals tied to its pastoral roots, resembling the town and environment itself as nature’s gifts appear to prevail in these intensive fields of green and olive trees.

But there Gubbiotti was, just chopping away, all the while giving us a play by play as if he was Michael Kay to our group of bobble heads with the classic I have no idea what you’re saying to me nod and smile.  I could handle the first couple of items on the dinner menu.  He started with a mixed salad accented with breadcrumbs, olive oil, lime, and salt- looked tasty and normal enough to me.  But as we went to reach for the plates, Gubbiotti signaled for us to hold and began stirring up another concoction.  This time he went for a thick red sauce made with two day old focaccia bread which thickens its texture, similar to a cooked sweet potato, and added it to a sizzling pot full of tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and herbs.  The sauce was covered with a cheesy topping of ricotta and olive oil and subsequently slapped with more olive oil on top of that.  Oh, I am in the clear.  I can totally eat this.  But darn, Chef Gubbiotti told us to hold one more time.  Out he brings some sort of circular substance with a pinkish hue and slaps it atop our bread crumbed salad.  Finally, one of our group members informs the rest of us that it is raw but apparently okay according to Gubbiotti because it’s salted.  Say what?

So here I was in this tiny, Italian kitchen about to taste this dish in front of me that appeared as some kind of raw substance.  I believe it was beef carpaccio, but I am still not entirely sure to be honest.  Now, I don’t even eat the Sushi from Simply Thai so when I just starred at the meal in front of me, my stomach seemed to sort of flop over inside my body.  But I was not alone.  The rest of my fellow Italian-venturing companions were alongside me.  And, I’m sure we all looked ridiculous as the nervous laughs seemed to pile up with increasing intensity like a slow clap.  Who was going to try it first?  Should we trust this foreign man who made foreign food that was foreign to even an oven?  My stomach still held that uncertain floppy feeling.

I dug in despite my nerves as well as the rest of my group members who I would get to know increasingly well over the next month.  And though I had no idea what I was eating and it’s still a mystery, the grub was tasty.  And to be honest, I was surprised that I actually ate and tried my “squezzal.”  The gracious amounts of wine Gubbiotti provided us with probably helped with my hesitation and looking back I can say for a fact that it undoubtedly did, but it was simply a fun meal with fun people that bonded us quickly.  It also allowed us to be much more adventurous with the food tastings to come complete with medieval cooking and food.  But, the unknown, uncooked, and undoubtedly scrumptious dish was my first squeezal.

Not As American As Apple Pie

By Phoebe Hyde

The suspense was overwhelming, meanwhile confusing. What could be so special about apple pie from Ohio’s Appalachian region, and why was someone bringing apple pie to Saturday’s Ohio University football game tailgate? Typically adorned with a lattice pastry crust and filled with sliced apples marinated in cinnamon, apple pie is a well-known staple of American culture; I could not for the life of me understand the hype around this particular apple pie from Ohio, nor the setting in which it would be served to me. Should I be expecting it to be topped with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and would there be some way to warm it up? I can’t eat cold apple pie…

Early that Saturday morning as my boyfriend Jake’s family and I prepared ourselves for a filled day of tailgating and football at Ohio University, we drenched ourselves in forest green and crisp white to prove our fandom. I was personally dressed in an oversized extra large Ohio University long-sleeve shirt that my boyfriend secretly lent me prior to our arrival, as this would be my first OU game. The bratwursts and onions were simmering in Uncle Kevin’s homemade beer broth and cell phone text chimes were filling the room as family friends were coordinating the location of the tailgate. Meanwhile, Jake received a text from his cousin stating, “I’m bringing apple pie J.” Keeping my confusion to myself, feeling as though I’ve missed some big secret about apple pie being an ordinary tailgate dish, I mirrored Jake’s excitement about his cousin’s “out of-this-world” apple pie. He must be one hell of a baker, I thought to myself. Maybe he’s just bringing it to the tailgate since he never gets a chance to see Jake. My mind wandered.

The morning turned to noon and we finally made our way to the packed lawn beside the convocation center. Moments later I was handed a tightly sealed transparent mason jar filled with light caramel colored liquid, and told to take a small sip (“small” being a critical word). I hesitate. “What is this,” I ask. “It’s apple pie,” Jake’s cousin confidently proclaimed while pushing the jar into my tentative hands.

Having been submerged in an ice-filled personal-sized cooler, the apple pie tasted cool and refreshing in comparison to the Oktoberfest brew I had been previously sipping on that had been quickly warmed by the sun overhead. The surprising taste of cinnamon and baked apples flooded my mouth with a lip-puckering sweetness. A grainy texture lingered on my tongue as the smooth liquid chilled my throat. I attributed the grainy residue to whole cinnamon sticks that had incompletely dissolved in the mixture. Granny Smith apples further contributed to the powerful tart green apple flavor, but there was undoubtedly another ingredient or two that contrasted the acrid taste. Pure sugar (makes sense!). Nearly six cups—a third brown and the rest white. But surely the two Granny Smith apples and six cups of sugar had to have also been accompanied by various complementary liquids to create this concoction that filled the transparent mason jar to the brim. After inquiry, I learned that one gallon of apple juice, a half gallon of “Simply Apple” brand apple juice, and one gallon of pasteurized apple cider were the cinnamon, sugar and apples’ counterparts. Oh, and one more integral component: Moonshine.  This “apple pie” just got a whole lot more dangerous. Among the ingredients previously mentioned, this recipe called for Moonshine—a liquid that is often substituted for Everclear for those without access to moonshine. To put this into perspective, this particular recipe equated to one that consisted of two full bottles of 190 proof (or 95% alcohol) colorless, unflavored, distilled Everclear, thus creating what I came to learn was the true name of this delicacy: apple pie Moonshine. And the story comes full circle.

Moonshine is an illegal whiskey produced in the United States. The term was derived from “illegal Appalachian distillers who clandestinely produced and distributed whiskey.” The presence of Moonshine production is a part of the Appalachian area’s culture, and dates back to the Whiskey Rebellion. The imposition of a tax on whiskey was considered an unwanted federal intervention and was largely ignored. Making moonshine was a way for rural farmers to quickly liquidate their corn when grain prices were low, but many were prosecuted for unlawful distilling. Although the hype around moonshine has been significantly suppressed, moonshining is far from totally over. The cultural history of moonshine in the area is rich and long-winded, but it was finally evident why trying this apple pie in Ohio was a necessity.

Today, Moonshine continues to be produced in the U.S. (mainly in Appalachia and parts of the South) and is often produced as more of a hobby than as a way of consuming a drink that was readily available and far cheaper. And lucky for me, I ran into someone who possesses this hobby. I personally found this to be an ingenious creation. A way to enjoy apple pie in the midst of the most appropriate environment—a brisk, young fall afternoon adorned with leaves changing from green to burnt orange that are being blown to the ground by the large gusts of wind, exaggerated in that one grassy field due the backdrop of the Hocking River. Cold apple pie was, in fact, delicious, and a seemingly underrated delicacy.

I imagine that there is an enormous market of people who have solely been exposed to the traditional warm, oven-baked American apple pie that is served on a white porcelain dessert plate after a Holiday meal. I also imagine that there is a plethora of individuals who are understandably naïve to the history, culture, availability, and creation of moonshine who would be eager to experience this distinct and tasteful rendition of the customary American apple pie. I was once a member of the untapped market of apple pie lovers, who are deprived of tasting a slice of this rare execution of this American symbol. My expectations of tasting apple pie during the Ohio University tailgate were far surpassed, and I encourage all readers to pursue an effort to become equally familiar with apple pie Moonshine as I now am.








Fish Eyes for the Fearless

By Chelsea Vollrath

“It doesn’t really taste bad. It’s just…really salty.” She paused, concentrating on something still in her mouth. “And this hard ball in the middle kind is kind of freaking me out. Do I swallow it?” She did, and then laughed. He joined in her laughter. “It’s kind of chewy at first, but yeah there’s like a pellet or something in the middle,” he remarked, and then he swallowed it too.

I sat in shock, my lips pursed and eyes wide open, probably for longer than I should have.

My experience in China, more specifically, my dining experiences, certainly tested my Western sensibilities. After spending two months in the eastern country, I was used to the wait staff presenting a whole, raw fish for customer evaluation, and then bringing the whole fish back after it has been cooked. While I can’t say I was comfortable with the custom, especially not at first, it was one of the parts of the culture I was okay with not understanding but accepting. Eating fish eyes, however, is a custom I neither understood nor accepted.

I never ordered fish myself, or any meat; I decided to be a vegetarian during my stay in China for several reasons. I made a few exceptions when I was at up-scale Western restaurants where I felt I could trust the meat and in instances where I truly felt like I was missing out on part of the culture by not trying a specific meat dish. I tried the popular local dish in Yangshuo: stuffed snails; the pork and beef filled dumplings at Bao Yuan, a restaurant regarded for having the best dumplings in Beijing, and the various kinds of meat served with hot pot, the Chinese version of fondue. Aside from those occasions, I did my best to avoid it, worried about unknowingly eating dog, getting sick from rancid meat, and clogging my arteries with the copious amount of oil used during preparation.

We were on a trip to southern China for fall break and had just arrived at a hot springs resort in Guilin. The Beijing Center staff asked us to bring one nice outfit with us on the trip specifically for the dinner at the hot springs resort, so our expectations for the experience were set high. All of the dishes were pre-ordered, so within minutes of being seated, the wait staff started bringing dishes to our table. Starving, since we always seemed to be, we dove into the dishes immediately. As I spun the Lazy Susan to access the various vegetable dishes, my friends helped themselves to whichever dishes were in front of their place settings at any given moment. They ate some of the vegetables, but mostly feasted on the various chicken and pork dishes, and then on the fish once it was presented in the middle of the table. I watched as everyone dug in with their chopsticks and tried to navigate around the scales and bones to have access to the biggest pieces of meat possible. It always seemed like a lot of work; I was happier not having to deal with it.

On all other occasions where my friends and classmates ordered fish, they ate the meat on the body, and then moved on, but on this occasion, they were advised to look beyond the typical meaty areas. One of the staff members explained that, according to Chinese tradition, it is customary to give the honored guest at dinner the eye of the fish; eating it is said to bring good luck. An old adage of Chinese medicine recommends eating animal parts to nourish the same part within the human body. Applied to this situation, Chinese medicine would suggest eating fish eyes to improve one’s eyes and, by extension, vision. Being one of the recipients of the fish’s eyes, therefore, is a privilege.

Considering all of us at the table were technically guests, no one more honorary than any one else, it was a matter of who was willing to try it. There were only two people willing to try it, so it wasn’t difficult to decide who the lucky recipients would be.

One of the brave individuals was my roommate, which didn’t surprise me at all. She is half Chinese and was always more adventurous than most with her eating. She had been exposed to most of it years before on her first trip to China and at family gatherings. She is also just an adventurous person, so she probably would have been willing to try it regardless. The other student lucky enough to have the second eye was equally as adventurous since discovering he had a stomach of steel. That seemed to be an undeniable factor determining people’s willingness to try new dishes.

We rotated the Lazy Susan to my roommate, Caitlin, so she could take an eye first and then spun it to Matt’s place setting so he could take the second. Watching them reach into the eye socket and pull the eye out with their chopsticks made me cringe. The eye Matt was reaching for didn’t come out as easily as Caitlin’s. As he tried to separate it from the veins and whatever else was holding it intact, I turned away, grimacing.

When I turned around, they both had eyes in between their chopsticks and were lifting them up for everyone at the table to see. Again, I looked away. After everyone’s evaluation, fellow diners at the table initiated a countdown. “Three, two, one, go!” I turned back around in time to see both Matt and Caitlin guide their chopsticks in their mouths.

I decided that if someone had a gun to my head and was forcing me to eat it, or I was being presented with a million dollars, I would swallow the eye whole. That would assumedly make the experience a little more bearable. Caitlin and Matt wanted the full effect, though. I watched them both take their first bites. I tightly squeezed my napkin underneath the table, maintaining a look of shock and disgust across my face. I looked around and saw that most other people were making similar expressions. Considering I was usually more skeptical of aspects of the Chinese culture than most of my classmates, I didn’t feel as judgmental when I saw that everyone around me was reacting the same way.

In that moment, I tried to think of American food that Chinese people may find comparably repulsive, attempting to be less ethnocentric than I often was. I thought about it for about a minute, as everyone else laughed about and reflected on Matt and Caitlin’s experience. I couldn’t think of anything.

The Seafood of Cinque Terre, Italy

By Mia Brady

I felt the heat of the sun on my back, the sweat dripping down my neck. My legs ached from climbing flight after flight of the Lardarina, the seemingly endless set of stone stairs. As I took a moment to catch my breath, I grabbed my camera and snapped what had to have been my 100th picture of the sparkling Mediterranean. After a morning spent walking through the tiny village of Manarola, and a train ride to Corniglia, the endless blue of the ocean never left my sight. I had been in Cinque Terre, the five tiny cliffside villages on the coast of the Italian Riviera, for a few short hours, and I already knew it was a place I would never forget. I pushed myself to climb the remaining few flights despite the heat, knowing I had a much-anticipated lunch in my future.

To put it simply, I am a foodie. I love food, and I love what food can do to enhance one’s experience of a place. It isn’t exactly an exaggeration to say that part of my decision to study abroad in Italy (and Florence, the capital of Tuscany no less) was influenced by the prospect of amazing Italian meals. So when my professor, who was leading this class daytrip to Cinque Terre on this beautiful September day, shared that we would be having a complimentary lunch at a restaurant overlooking the ocean, I was excited. And after hiking for hours, I was hungry and ready to eat.

Our tour guide had prompted us that our meal would consist of seafood antipasti and pesto pasta, both of which are famous dishes in Cinque Terre. I have always enjoyed most fish and shrimp, but my love for seafood stops there; there’s something about the consistency that I cannot get past. When I heard that we would be having seafood antipasti, I reminded myself to be open-minded. I distracted myself with the unlimited water (something you never get in Italy) and unlimited bread (this is a little more familiar…). It wasn’t until the waitress brought out our antipasti di mare that it hit me: this was not like any seafood I had ever tried before.

I stared at the full plate for a few seconds, craning my neck at different angles to try and figure out just exactly what the thick, white creaming substance on the lettuce leaf could be. I couldn’t decide what looked less appetizing- the thin slab of some sort of white fish with the skin still on, or the purplish tentacles. My first reaction was to move my chair back and make a face. I sifted through the mix of potatoes and cold squid, eating only the potatoes. I pushed the white fish aside, which my friend insisted had to be sardines, and sifted through a portion of octopus, avoiding touching the tentacles with my fork. This was not the grilled salmon or shrimp scampi I was used to.

I glanced around the beautiful outdoor patio overlooking the cliffs, filled with tables of my classmates. Some were pointing at their plates, looks of utter confusion on their faces. Alright, so I wasn’t the only one to find this meal… less than appetizing. But others were diving right in. One being my friend Erin, who was sitting directly across from me. We made eye contact as she was mid-bite. She put down her forkful of the whitish gook.

“Mia, have you really not tried anything yet?” she asked, baffled. “It’s so good!”

“Eh, this isn’t really my thing. I can see the tentacles.”

“Just try it at least, come on. Look at where we are” she insisted, motioning to the color faced homes to our left and the rolling hills and cliffs to our right.

Although I hated to admit it, she was right. I wasn’t going to let my squeamishness get the best of me.

“Fine. I’ll have a bite… but…” I said.

“Good! Go ahead. The squid,” Erin said.

I gave her one last look of hesitancy, poked a chunk of the purplish, pinkish squid, which stayed on my fork quite easily, leading me to believe that it would be chewy (ew!), took a deep breath and brought my fork to my mouth.

I was right; it was chewy. Very chewy, and had a somewhat squishy texture to it. But as I chewed and chewed, there was nothing that really stood out too much about the taste. It tasted like seafood, but nothing spectacular. After I swallowed my first bite, I looked at Erin and shrugged.

“Not too bad. But I don’t get it… what makes this so good?” I didn’t particularly like it, but I didn’t particularly dislike the squid either.

On a whim, I cut the sardines in half and took a bite. Now this I did not like. The slick, thin fish was so incredibly salty that it was overwhelming. I’ve always considered myself a “sweet” person, and this salt was just not for me. I made a face that had the whole table laughing and swallowed.

“Ew” I managed to utter.

“Oh Mia, stop being a baby. How much would you pay me to eat this?” Erin said, as she held up a full baby octopus on her fork.

“No you won’t….” I said in disbelief.

“I will too, I’ll do it for free,” she said.

And just like that, she popped the, baby octopus, tentacles, head and all, into her mouth. I watched in disbelief as she chewed (and chewed and chewed) and swallowed.

“Yum!” she exclaimed.

I did not go as far as Erin, but I did learn a lot about myself, as well as seafood, during this cliff-side lunch. For one thing, I know I’ll never eat sardines again. Previous to my experience in Cinque Terre, I had immediately associated the word “seafood” with the Americanized version. This was the first time that my eyes had really been opened to a differentiation of what I was used to. My trip to Cinque Terre is an experience I will never forget; the spectacular views of the Mediterranean, the challenging hike through the cliffs. And of course, the octopus and squid on the plate in front of me.

Doug Sauls’ Bar-B-Q & Seafood

By Mia Brady

When searching for BBQ restaurants to eat at in Nashville, NC, the researcher cannot avoid Doug Sauls’. Urbanspoon, Google Plus, Yelp all give it rave reviews. The BBQ joint’s Facebook page has 750 likes, and comments such as, “Sauls is the VERY BEST BBQ we’ve ever eaten…anywhere!!!!”. We knew this place was not one to simply drive by. So when planning our Highway 64 adventure, we marked down Doug Sauls’ for lunch on our way back, and stuck to our plan.

Directed by a massive sign, we arrived at Doug Sauls’ on Saturday afternoon, ready to have some much anticipated, delicious North Carolina BBQ. As we pulled into the parking lot, we noticed that to our right was an outdoor smokehouse, which led us to believe that the little blue building on the right would have some authentic, fresh-cooked BBQ.

As we walked in, we immediately noticed that the atmosphere was pig-centered. Pig stuffed animals on shelves, signs with pigs on the walls. Even the curtains had pigs on them. It was pretty clear that these people were passionate about their BBQ. We were excited to get to the front of the long line and order, but once we did, we were faced with the task of actually choosing from the massive list of sides. Green beans, Brunswick stew, yams, rice with gravy, cabbage, collard greens, roasted red potatoes. And the list goes on and on. Deciding what I wanted to order for sides (you received 3 with your meal) was a task, as I’m quite indecisive. But after much deliberation, I decided on yams, green beans and cabbage to go along with my BBQ pork. Two of my fellow travel companions ordered BBQ pork as well, while the other ordered fried shrimp to try out the seafood, with sides including green beans, Brunswick stew, yams and roasted potatoes. Needless to say, as we sat down and waited for our food, we were highly anticipating this authentic BBQ.

As we chose our seats, we were surprised to see a plate full of steaming hot, hole shaped hushpuppies was delivered to our table. Our first thought was “who ordered this?!” but then we realized that they were complementary. Deliciously complementary, with hints of honey, and perfectly crispy. They were a great start to the meal.

When our food was delivered by the smiling waitress, we were all very excited to try this authentic Eastern BBQ. Based on our research, we were certain of one thing- vinegar would be the base ingredient of the BBQ. From the very first bite, I was overwhelmed by the taste of vinegar; overwhelmed in a very good way. This meat had a strong taste of vinegar with tastes of spicy red pepper in every bite. When paired with the delicious cinnamon seasoned yams and flavorful green beans, this meal was a great introduction to Eastern BBQ for me.

After we finished the meal, we were lucky enough to meet with Steve Sauls, the current owner of Paul Sauls’ BBQ and Seafood. Steve was extraordinarily accommodating. He was more than willing to chat with us, and even gave us some free t-shirts. He shared with us about the start of Paul Sauls’. It was originally opened in 1977 by Steve’s parents, and since then, has been a popular destination for locals. Steve notes that about 80% of business comes from locals, but that business has expanded in the past few years as a result of the Internet, supported by the fact that when searching for BBQ in Nashville, Doug Sauls’ is all over the web. And there is no question why. This spot is not to be missed for a friendly place to enjoy some authentic BBQ.


By Olivia James

The charm of Murphy, North Carolina lies in its small businesses and the store windows that line the downtown area.  As we hopped around from the Cherokee County Museum to the Courthouse, we noticed that many of the buildings on the main strip of the downtown area had foreclosed or were for rent.  There were not many people around town, so we had difficulty finding someone to talk to at first.  We stopped in one of the few businesses that was running and open on that Saturday afternoon, “Stuff-tiques”.

Before touring Murphy, our group had driven to the North Carolina- Tennessee border.  On our way back to town, I had noticed a large billboard that read “Stuff-tiques”.  Like many of the stores along Highway 64, I had assumed it would be a small shop on the side of the highway.  Had I read further before it passed, I would have seen that it was located right in downtown Murphy.  The sign outside of the store read “Antiques”, so it was not until the owner of the store mentioned the name that I understood the connection between the billboard and the shop.

Walking into the store, I realized that this was not like many of the other places that we had been to; there were high quality goods stacked floor to ceiling in a large store that extended fairly far back.  We started a conversation with the co-owner and manager, Betty Rhoat, who was behind the jewelry counter that featured valuable estate jewelry and other significant items.  She explained that many people in Murphy had had their stores broken in to, but her store never was, and attributed that to her security system that she said many of the other stores did not have.  It spoke to the fact that Murphy citizens did not believe their town needed protection against vandalism until more recently.

When asked about the amount of storefronts that were foreclosed, Rhoat explained that the recent economic downturn hit the small mountain community very hard, but that they would be back.  She felt strongly about this because her highest sales since 2008 happened in 2011, and she was on track for this year to meet the same goal.  Rhoat credited her success over the other businesses in Murphy to the fact that she stayed open seven days a week.  She also stands by her goal of only selling quality items in her store.  Typically, her store remains open by selling higher-priced items.  Stuff-tiques is more likely to sell an item between $500.00 and $5,000.00 than to sell an item under that range.

One of the other significant ways that Highway 64 has affected her business is through her advertising.  Just outside of town is her billboard, which we had seen on our way back from the state border.  One of Rhoat’s priorities in her business is that billboard.  She mentioned how so many of the billboards had been disappearing, which is a trend we recognized as we drove through the mountains, but that billboard on 64 is what attracts people to her business.  Rhoat said that many of the people who travel to Murphy come for the John C. Campbell Folk School. They register on Sundays at the school’s weekly classes, so they come early and shop at her store, which is the main reason she needs to work on Sundays.  Those students are some of her most loyal customers, and they help to spread the word of her shop throughout their art community.

Unfortunately, due to personal concerns, Stuff-tiques will be closing this year.  Rhoat described her distress in telling her employees the news, but she is not worried about the economy of the small town.  She believes the small town will be back on its feet as soon as the economy turns around, and her primary concern is closing a store that is so loved by the artisan community.

Manteo: A tourist destination, or a small town?

By Mia Brady

Despite the fact that I have attended college in North Carolina for the past four years, the Outer Banks is a place that I had not yet managed to journey to before this road trip. As we pulled up to the final stop on our Highway 64 tour, I stepped out of the car expecting the ocean to be somewhere in sight; I had heard from friends of the Outer Banks’ amazing beaches and rolling sand dunes. But rather, I found myself facing a beautiful harbor full of boats, and streets lined with picturesque shops and restaurants. Manteo grabbed my attention; I was curious about this beautiful end to Highway 64, and start to the expansive Outer Banks.

Manteo is a small town on Roanoke Island, which lies directly between the mainland and the barrier islands of the Outer Banks. In order to visit the beach towns of the Outer Banks, it is essential for travelers to drive through this charming town. There is no question from where their temptation to get out and walk around may come. Manteo does not have much of what I assumed or anticipated of the Outer Banks, but after spending just a few hours in this town, there is no question that rather than the appeal of rolling beaches, this picturesque town has an appeal of it’s own.

Walking around Manteo, its homey feel is palpable. With Manteo’s quaint shops and restaurants, storefronts with porches and patios, and neat streets, downtown Manteo is an attraction of the Outer Banks for all to see. We spent the first half hour or so just walking around, and getting a feel for this place before really diving in and speaking to the locals. It wasn’t until we spoke to locals that we really understood that Manteo is far more than a quaint little town, but rather, a quaint little town that is torn between a tourist destination, and a town focused on it’s locals.

After popping into a small jewelry store, and speaking briefly to the owner, she directed us to The Coffeehouse On Roanoke Island, a quaint coffee shop just around the corner, with the promise that the employees would love to give us meaningful insight on the town of Manteo.

Leaded by the antique sign pointing us up the stairs, we climbed until we reached the front door of this welcome shop. Upon entering, I immediately noticed the homey feel of the small, little coffee shop. With plush couches, antique tables and lots of framed photos, newspaper articles and signs, I had no question that The Coffeehouse On Roanoke Island was a great place to gain a better understanding on the community feel in Manteo.

As we approached the counter, and pondered what to order off the huge colored chalkboard, featuring drinks like Forbidden Fruit smoothies and Butterscotch milk shakes, we were greeted by the friendly employees. After ordering our drinks (I got a delicious ice coffee with a sugar free vanilla flavor shot), we took some time to peruse this unique spot, noticing framed local newspaper articles and a chalkboard wall for guests to sign. A few minutes later, as the coffee shop became less and less crowded, we took the opportunity to introduce ourselves, and start up a conversation with the employees, Monique and Bethany, two young women in their 20s.

When initiating conversation with these two women, we had no idea that 45 minutes later, we would walk out of the coffeehouse with some strong insight and opinions on the town Monique and Bethany grew up calling home, and still call home today. Monique is the new owner of the shop, and her mother was the former owner. Bethany, the younger woman, has worked in the shop for years, and has lived in Manteo her entire life. While the small town is appealing to tourists and travelers with its quaint shops and stores filled with antiques and gifts, the distinction between attention on tourists and attention on locals is a struggle for the small bayside town.

Bethany and Monique contribute business for The Coffeehouse on Roanoke Island to both tourists and locals, noting that they have a stream of regulars every morning until about 10 am. After 10 am, the tourists come wandering in, looking for a smoothie to cool them down or a cup of coffee for a pick-me-up. But as business owners and locals, they have their own opinion on the way Manteo caters to them as locals. The Coffeehouse takes pride in their ability to stay open all year. Their website states, “We are open YEAR ROUND to serve the community and do thank the locals for their support!!” While the coffeehouse is able to stay open all year long, this is not the case for many Manteo restaurants and shops.

Living in Manteo has its pluses, as both women note that it was a great place to grow up, and Monique is even raising her own children in the area. But there is no question that in terms of negatives, living in a town like Manteo can make it difficult to be a local. The women note that they wish more establishments stayed open for the locals, as residents, particularly youth, run out of things to do off-season. But the truth of the matter is, how can a small town, whose tourist season greatly supports many of the establishments financially, function the same way in the off-season as the tourist season?

Paul Charron, the owner of a Full Moon Café & Brewery on Queen Elizabeth Street in Manteo, is native to Manhattan. He picked up, and left and moved down to Manteo, saying he’d live nowhere in between. Paul and his wife Sharon have been operating this corner restaurant, just a few blocks from the bay in the heart of downtown Manteo, for the past 17 years. A unique menu, the recent added value of homebrewed craft beers, and recognized as a hotspot on the Outer Banks by The New York Daily News and The Washington Post, this is not a place to miss when visiting Manteo.

While Paul and Sharon run a successful business, Paul stated that staying open year round was simply out of the question for them, and reaped far more problems than it did benefits. There simply is not a big enough pool of people in the off-season to run the restaurant smoothly. While Full Moon as been running since 1995, the brewery component of the establishment was just added in the past year. At the rate that Full Moon has been growing, this relatively small restaurant is incapable of catering only to locals. With a steady stream of customers during tourist season, Paul has noticed that locals to Manteo will not take the time to wait as tourists will. Staying open for locals year round is just simply not something that Full Moon has the means to do. The same can be said for many other establishments in Manteo.

Manteo is a charming bayside town with friendly locals. This town is also a charming vacation spot for tourists. It is a beautiful town, that like many other tourists destinations, is torn between a destination, catered towards visitors, and a small town, with businesses and citizens living their day-to-day lives. Regardless of the tear between a tourist destination and a small town, Manteo is a place that is enjoyable to all; whether you are a local or a tourist.