The Prime Smokehouse

By Jennifer Grant

I often think that mac and cheese should be its own separate food group. Like fruits and vegetables, it takes up a large chunk of my diet. I’ve seldom found mac and cheese I disliked, but I vehemently believe that they’re not all created equal. I would soon realize and reaffirm my belief that some are MUCH better than others.


My group member Laura and I had just arrived at our hotel in Rocky Mount and we were starving. We had made plans to return to Tarboro that evening for dinner.  After skimming over the restaurant’s menu again and realizing that going to Tarboro meant another 30 minutes in the car after we’d already spent much of the day traveling, we decided to look for something closer. The Prime Smokehouse: Barbecue and Beyond, was one of the first options to pop up in our Google search. Intrigued, I looked into it a little more and found that the restaurant’s mac and cheese had been given the honor of a spot on Travel + Leisure’s  “America’s Best Mac and Cheese” list. SOLD. After a quick call to make a reservation, and a much-needed nap, Laura and I were off to see just how good this mac and cheese really could be.


The restaurant was located in an area that seemed like it would be downtown Rocky Mount, but it was pretty deserted. If not for the several parking lots we saw full of cars, we probably would have thought no one was there that night. After driving around a few times looking for a spot where we wouldn’t be towed, we parked and walked over to The Prime Smokehouse.


It’s a good thing I made a reservation! The place was packed and noisy and bustling with chatter. Even with a reservation, we and several other parties waited a bit longer than I would have liked to be acknowledged and shown to our table. I didn’t mind too much, though, because it gave me time to take in the warm and friendly environment. Soon, we were seated at a high top and handed two very large menus.


Laura and I knew we were each going to order mac and cheese as one of our sides, but how could we possibly choose an entrée from the expansive selection? After much consideration, we both picked dishes from the “From Our Famous Smoker” section of the menu. Laura opted for the pulled pork with a side of coleslaw and mac and cheese, and I chose the Bronzed Chicken with a side of roasted broccoli and mac and cheese.  

Lou Reda’s American Table: Review

By Laura Dunbar

Driving through Rocky Mount, the restaurant scene didn’t exactly look promising. Houses and businesses around appeared old and rundown, but after two and a half hours on the road we were tired and hungry, so we looked up good restaurants for lunch. With that we found Lou Reda’s American Table in the center of a strip mall. Upon entering, it was clear that this restaurant was a stark difference to the Rocky Mount we had just driven through. The inside was clean and modern, with fun pictures hung up along high, dark blue walls. Arriving around 11:30, we were the only people in the restaurant apart from two businessmen. The menu was very diverse, with a cured salmon BLT, to a pulled pork sandwich, to a roasted beets salad with whipped ricotta. Covering multiple cuisines, the modern American menu had something for everyone.


Lou Reda’s opened in fall of 2013, so it’s a fairly new establishment. The owner, Reda, and the Chef, Justin Gaines, are committed to an exploration of the vast culinaries of America and change their menu week by week with a different focus on an American region each time. Everything at Lou Reda’s is made in house as well, including salad dressings, french fry dips, soups and more.


Our waitress informed us it was her first day serving and we were pleasantly surprised with the fast and easy service, our food coming out in a timely manner and our drinks never sitting empty. By the time we ordered our food, the restaurant had begun to fill up as well, with families, business people, and groups of friends, the lunch rush settling in. We both ordered the cured salmon BLT, which consisted of cured salmon between a triple stack of toasted multigrain bread, along with creamy avocado, an herb mascarpone, crisp arugula, a juicy tomato, and the best part— jalapeno bacon. The sandwich came with a side of either regular or sweet potato fries, which included a delicious sweet dipping sauce. Our waitress was able to easily split our bill, and we walked out the door knowing that our lunch at Lou Reda’s was a surprising success.

Rocky Mount Farmer’s Market

By Ciara Corcoran


On a crisp October morning, we pulled into the Rocky Mount Farmer’s Market. The goal: fresh apples. Status: hungry. The Market was situated in a permanent shelter on Peachtree Street, about 5 minutes from Rocky Mount’s historic downtown. I was hoping for nothing more than a fresh North Carolina apple. Much to my dismay, we were not in apple region. We were in seafood region. Outside the shelter was a man selling fresh shrimp and crawfish out of the back of his truck. Inside the farmer’s market were a variety of vendors. Sweet potatoes, fresh flowers, baked goods, grits, handwoven baskets, personalized aprons. There was even an antique car. I quickly scoured the vendors, accepting the fact that I was misguided in my apple desire.

The vendor that caught my eye was S & S Boiled Peanuts. I’d never had a boiled peanut, but that was all about to change. I struck up a conversation with the man and his wife who were selling the peanuts and revealed the fact that I’d never had a boiled peanut. Well, this just didn’t stand with him. He got up and offered a boiled peanut to me and my two friends who were along for the journey. He cracked the soggy peanuts in half for us. Inside the damp peanut shell were two engorged peanuts that looked nothing like the peanuts I knew and loved. The disdain was apparent on my face because the man reminded me that “they’re legumes, not nuts.” This may be true but I still wasn’t on board. I popped the beans in my mouth and was overwhelmed by the heat and the saltiness. I slowly chewed but had I not been in the presence of the man who prepared the peanuts, I would have spit them out. I couldn’t get past the mushy consistency and saltiness.

I thanked the man for the peanuts, and he commented on the camera I was carrying, asking what I was taking pictures before. I explained the project and he summarized it by responding in his North Carolina drawl, “So you want to know what Southerners do on the weekends? We get drunk.” He gave me some context to this by explaining that today was Koichella, a beer, music, and food truck festival happening at Koi Pond Bar about five minutes from the farmer’s market. He even said that he and his wife would be there later selling more of their boiled peanuts! We thanked him for the invitation but had to decline, not because of the boiled peanuts, but because we had to continue our journey down the highway.

We drifted through the farmer’s market some more. Completely abandoning any desire for an apple, I found Magie’s baked goods and pursued my options. I was overwhelmed by a selection of sweet breads, pies, and pastries, each looking more delicious than the next. I ended up purchasing a sweet potato turnover from. Magie recommended toasting the turnover in a George Foreman grill. We didn’t happen to bring a grill on our journey, but I can tell you that is was just as sweet, soft, and flaky eating it straight from the bag as we continued our journey down Highway 64.

Review of Highway 64 Diner

By Mei Bess, 2013

The Highway Diner 64 is a quaint restaurant right off of Highway 64 (as one might guess) in Rocky Mount. Hearing the word ‘diner’ I expected the place to resemble the local-scum-bucket-Landford-Lunch-Box from Roseanne type of place.

My expectations were absolutely wrong. It had a 50s diner theme, fully equipped with a serving counter/bar and red pleather booths, surrounded by a silver exterior, that was possibly aluminum. It was decorated with bits and pieces of history from the ‘40s to present day. It contained old plaques, license plates, and signs that said Coca-Cola and other commercial items from previous decades. It appeared to be a popular place for customers, both locals and visitors. To no surprise, I later found out that it is known for its architecture.

Our server was very kind and welcoming. I also found out that they’re known for their friendly servers. I was still recovering from breakfast, so I decided not to order an entrée, but I ended up kicking myself for not ordering the chicken tenders like one of my group members. They looked as if they were perfectly cooked, with the right amount of crunch on the outside and juicy tenderness on the inside. Not to mention, the portions were huge; talk about getting your money’s worth. Usually, the sight of food repulses me when I’m full, but those chicken tenders were definitely an exception. Though still too full for an entrée, I had just enough stomach space to fit in some sort of dessert. Oddly enough, they did not have plain chocolate cake, but they did have apple pie, which is my personal favorite. I was excited to see this on the menu, for I’ve found that I now have to search to find apple pie at restaurants. I remember when I was younger every restaurant we went to had it.

The apple pie from Highway Diner 64 was served just right, warm with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream. The crust was perfectly crisp on the edges and soft on the inside. The apple filling tasted heavenly with the ice cream. There was nothing left on the plate by the time I finished. It was the perfect ending to a long trip, and it’s definitely a diner worth going back to. If nothing else, to get those chicken tenders.