I do wish that the dish had been warmer and I could have eaten several more scallops, but overall I was very satisfied with my meal.
I do wish that the dish had been warmer and I could have eaten several more scallops, but overall I was very satisfied with my meal.
Driving just off Highway 64, the road turns rural and winding, running flat against open fields and old farm homes. It feels, in many ways, that the road is taking you nowhere–until the car turns left around a wide bend and suddenly catapults you into the cultural oasis that is Saxapahaw, North Carolina. For tow n locals, as well as residents of Chapel Hill and Burlington in search of a liberal community, Saxapahaw provides a transport away from daily life. For Amidst a historical brick complex consisting of a local brewery, butchery, The Eddy Restaurant and Pub, and the Haw River Ballroom, there lies today’s destination: a yellow and red gas station and one-room general store.
The Saxapahaw General Store is even more than its slogan: “Your local five-star gas station.” While there are gas pumps outside–located at a cross section of the Saxapahaw Museum and the Hawbridge School–a fuel-up is not typically the primary draw for customers. Upon entering what might otherwise look like a typical brick-plaza exterior, visitors quickly realize the niche experience that the General Store has to offer. One might not even notice upon first glance that the store doubles as a restaurant, as the eye moves across the unique and eclectic expanse of merchandise. The three aisles in the store include a nice selection of local and nonlocal wines, beers, and kombucha; select grocery items such as pet food; and a plethora of artisan goods–ranging from organic name-brand snacks, to homemade chocolates, to all-natural soy candles and homeopathic lotions, oils, and hair products. The display of local products is frequently rotated, featuring different self-made t-shirts, hand-knit mittens, or personalized keychains. Despite artisan prices, it is easy to find small treasures that are special and worth the purchase.
Beside the aisles of shelves is an open seating area consisting of a series of booths and a long communal table. This is where restaurant patrons indulge in one of the many well-loved General Store menu items. The kitchen itself is visible from the counter where customers place their orders, built into view as part of the minimalist and transparent cuisine mission. If eaters come to dine on a sunny North Carolina day, they may eat outside on the terrace beneath vine-covered pergolas, sharing a bottle of wine or old-fashioned sodas while they wait for their server to bring out their meals.
The General Store menu is diverse, as well as reasonably priced taking into account the restaurant’s commitment to use farm-to-table and local ingredients whenever possible. By partnering with local farms, such as Benevolence Farm and the Saxapahaw butchery, all of the General Store’s food tastes fresh and (typically) healthy. The store serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday through Friday, adding a special brunch menu for Saturday and Sunday mornings. This includes specialties such as the “Eggs Parma: two toasted English muffins beneath thick slabs of mozzarella cheese, two eggs of your choice, and topped with a light tomato sauce, reminiscent of a vodka sauce-gone-breakfast.”
The daily menu, while large, is punctuated by customer favorites. Catering to the bohemian traffic and atmosphere within the restaurant, the General Store offers a myriad of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Some favorites include the Avocado-Mater sandwich, which includes avocado, veggies, and cream cheese on multigrain bread; the eggplant parm sandwich combats its typical reputation by being both light and flavorful; the vegetarian pad Thai made specially in house with a secret ingredient; and show-stopping sides such as the garlic-y brussels sprouts and mashed rosemary sweet potatoes. Even the omelets, filled with your choice of additional components–(suggestion: roasted vegetables, fresh tomato, and avocado)–set themselves apart from the meals of most breakfast joints. While the General Store seems to thrive on cooking simply and with the right combination of ingredients, it is this flavor that builds a unique and satisfying experience. Other favorites for meat-eaters include the brisket sandwich and duck fries, potato skins friend in duck fat. The Store also serves full dinners and offers many specials, written daily on the chalkboards by the counter.
In essence, the Saxapahaw General Store facilitates an experience that marries simplicity and indulgence. The order-counter, farm-to-table cooking, three-aisle merchandise, communal tables, and gas station setting brings a casual tone that welcomes any and all visitors. Yet an alternative atmosphere–from the people, to the artisan goods–allows customers to feel like they are on a quick vacation from the typical Piedmont North Carolina lifestyle. The General Store warrants a strong recommendation to visit for those who want to diversify their impression of North Carolina culture and who wouldn’t mind a short, worthwhile detour off Highway 64.
By Jenna Hokanson – 2014
While I was in the Saxapahaw General Store, I purchased a muscadine wine that looked delicious and was made locally from Benjamin’s Winery! I love the local products and was so excited to try it. On our way out of Saxapahaw toward Jordan river, on our left we suddenly see a sign with a familiar name!
It was Benjamin’s Vineyard! I was so excited about this since I had just purchased the wine. On the outside there were beautiful rows of muscadine grapes, clearly used for their wines. On the inside of the cute, white house they had made into a store was the wine tasting section where they provided 4-5 wines to taste for a small price. Because it was near closing time, our group took a quick walk through the grapes, tried a couple, and left with smiles and cute pictures in the vineyard. The wine was delicious and I recommend anyone with a sweet taste for wine to try it.
By Jenna Hokanson – 2014
Before arriving to Saxapahaw, our group had heard so many wonderful things about this store. The Saxapahaw General Store is a mix between a Co-op and a typical general store from back in time. There were tons of organic and local products to choose from, from wines to jams to gluten- free foods! They also had a restaurant attached that served natural and whole foods. I tried the cream soda made with cane sugar and was happy to find that it didn’t leave me feeling sick to my stomach as most sodas do and was very tasty. While definitely surrounded by a small town atmosphere, the General Store is definitely worth a stop on your way through this quaint and interesting town!
A little ways off the beaten path of U.S. Highway 64 lies the Saxapahaw General Store, a charming restaurant and local market that has been serving the community since 2008. Simply a gas station before its present state, members of the Saxapahaw society had a vision to transform it into a gathering place for people to come and enjoy food and drink brought to them by eco-conscious locals.
Having been there multiple times ourselves, it’s fair to say that, in addition to their food being phenomenal, fresh, and tasty, the comfortable and soulful environment enhances the experience entirely. After arriving and having ordered our meals, we went to sit on the outside patio. The latched wooden canopy provides shade to those on one half of the patio while those on the other half are invited to sit and eat in the open air. Strings of lights and potted plants adorn the area and create a blissful atmosphere.
When our food was brought out to us, we were anxious to dig in. We were there on a Saturday, which meant a brunch selection of omelets, breakfast burritos, biscuits and gravy, eggs, and other breakfast fare is served until 2 pm. The ham, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich was prepared on a house made biscuit. With a side of grits, the meal was the perfect size and blend of flavors.
Being from Georgia, I, (Brynna), like to think I know a thing or two about biscuits and grits, two of my favorite southern dishes. The biscuit was fresh, noticeably made from scratch, and was definitely more on the dense side rather than the light and fluffy side. Nevertheless, its bulk added a dimension that was needed for a hearty sandwich, as did the generous helping of country ham. The grits were top notch, ranking high among any I’ve had in Atlanta or Charleston, where grits are a staple. They were thick and creamy, a little shy of butter, but it wasn’t needed. To say the least, I willingly could have eaten the meal twice over.
I, (Grace), ordered the “Basic Breakfast,” which consists of eggs any style, grits or home fries, bacon or sausage, and toast, an English muffin or a buttermilk biscuit. I went with scrambled eggs, home fries, spinach (instead of meat), and a biscuit. The eggs were perfectly cooked — creamy and soft, yet still heated through, and the home fries were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, which is the desirable texture of a home fry. The biscuit was large and flaky, though I was slightly underwhelmed by the homemade jam, and I felt as though the spinach could use more flavor. But overall the meal was presented beautifully, tasted great and was the perfect start to a long day on Highway 64.
By Mia Brady
It has been featured in local publications like Chapel Hill Magazine, Triad Business Journal, Our State Magazine, News and Observer, The Burlington Times, and WUNC TV; in national publications like the Orlando Sentinel, The LA Times, the Washington Post, Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appetite and The New York Times. With recognition like this, there is no question that the former quiet little mill town of Saxapahaw, North Carolina is a distinguishable place. Located about half way between Graham and Chapel Hill, this town is unquestionably off the beaten path. Driving through miles of farmland, one would never expect to stumble into this quaint, yet established, town with such a strong, identifiable culture.
The town of Saxapahaw, nestled along the Haw River, was founded back in 1840 as a cotton mill town. It had a quiet, authentic mill-town, farm feel for over nearly 150 years, until1994, when the Saxapahaw Rivermill was forced to close due to economic reasons. This little town focused around cotton soon was faced with the task of rebuilding itself; a task that was tackled with exceptional drive. Mac Jordan, the grandson of former mill owner John Jordan, bought the mill and focused on renovation. Today, just 18 years after the closure of the mill, Saxapahaw has established itself as a town worthy of Gourmet’s and New York Times’ attention. This little mill town has expanded into a town with a welcoming culture and a passion for local food.
In addition to Jordan’s dedicated efforts, Jeff Barney and Cameron Ratliff have transformed various spots in Saxapahaw into facilities to help rebuild the town, and revamp the feel. One of such is The Eddy Pub, a pub and restaurant housed in a former mill that pays tribute to the original mill village of Saxapahaw. Saxapahaw General Store was bought by Barney and Ratliff in 2008, and for the past four years, these two have focused their efforts on ensuring that the Saxapahaw community can enjoy local food.
When visiting Saxapahaw, Phoebe and I were amazed by the uniqueness of the atmosphere. We entered the store and noticed right away that it doubled in nature, as both a convenient store with every day products, and a local food emporium. To our right we were faced with shelves of both everyday and locally grown products, but to our left, a vast chalkboard filled with what seemed to be hundreds of meal choices awaited us. To say that it took us about 20 minutes to finally make a decision on our meals is not an exaggeration. With options like the Applewood Bacon Blue Cheese Burger, which looked just as good as it sounds as a waiter walked by with the burger on a tray, the Saxy White Pizza, with artichokes, prosciutto and roasted tomatoes, or of course, the Avocadomater, for the veggie lover, filled with avocado, sprouts, cream cheese, cucumber and provolone. After much deliberation, I decided on the Roasted Vegetable Sandwich, with roasted tomatoes, zucchini, squash, peppers and onions on deliciously toasted multigrain bread. Phoebe went for The Schmancy Pizza, which featured fresh tomato, two types of fresh mozzarella, creamy pesto sauce, red onion, and bacon.
As we waited anxiously for our delicious sounding meals outside on the patio, we had the wonderful opportunity to chat with owner Jeff Barney, who was kind enough to take a few minutes from his hectic day to speak to us about the culture of Saxapahaw. Barney attributed the success and popularity of Saxapahaw to its ability to reach such a wide audience. Saxapahaw offers something for everyone, with its laid back nature, delicious, local food, and of course, unparalleled sense of community.
There is no question that Saxapahaw is an incredibly unique place; a place that draws people of all ages and all backgrounds. Elon students are not exempt from those drawn to Saxapahaw. Will Stiefel, a senior at Elon raved about the Saxapahaw General Store, noting that he and his roommates deemed Thursday afternoons, “Saxapahaw Thursdays” and make the 25-minute trek willingly and eagerly, saying that the “quality and atmosphere are definitely worth the drive”. Will said:
I fell in love with Saxapahaw General Store on my very first visit. Their support of the local community and farms is evident the moment you walk in. Fresh, local ingredients, along with great preparation, make the food the best I’ve had since coming to school in NC. Not to mention, the employees are all charming and seem to remember everyone who stops in.
While Will has developed a love for Saxapahaw that brings him back there each week, Elon graduate Katie Kenney, who first discovered Saxapahaw through the help of Elon professor, Dr. Janet MacFall, as a junior, was so impressed by the small town that she found herself living there a year later, post graduation. The summer after her junior year, Katie lived in Elon, and spent time traveling to the small town for Saxapahaw Saturdays, as the town houses a farmers market and live music every Saturday during the summer. When offered a job to teach English in South Korea starting in the spring of 2013, Katie decided to live and work in the town that she grew to love, and feel a part of. Since the summer of 2012, Katie has been living in Saxapahaw and working at both The Eddy Pub and Saxapahaw General Store. Katie is inspired by the culture that Saxapahaw promotes, and never tires of seeing visitors become inspired by Saxapahaw, as well.
When asked about the food culture of Saxapahaw, Katie noted that it is the commitment to local food that draws people’s attention to this community, and connects them in a deep way. Saxapahaw is a community that supports each other so strongly, and through this support, has fostered and grown as a unique place that draws many different people in. As Katie so accurately states,
Food in Saxapahaw goes hand in hand with respect for the community. The community is supported economically through sourcing local produce, meat, and goods (think wine, candles, t-shirts, and handicrafts) while bringing people together. Saxapahaw is very small, and it’s the General Store and Eddy Pub that bring people together. Both are full of regulars, people who support our mission wholeheartedly. People gather here for music, for trivia nights, and for celebrations. Food and community are synonymous here, and it definitely makes Saxapahaw a special place.
There is no question that Saxapahaw is a special place; a place with a dedication to community and local food, which will continue to strive and grow in its uniqueness.