Since its maiden curing of 1947, the Phillips Brothers Country Hams family has been transmogrifying plain old pork into the Southern country-style hams that earned them the National Country Ham Association’s 2004 smoked-ham grand-championship trophy. The magic begins as each lucky leg marches through two pampering cycles of cure-mix massage and relaxation in chilled oak bins for 40–45 days. After a quick dip to remove excess salt, heroic hocks bask in dry heat for at least 25 days before their debut. Customers exercise culinary imaginations with a whole country ham ($49.95) or staple packages of Phillips wafer-thin slices ($8.99/lb.) together to construct an edible self-portrait. The Midnight Snack pack, a down-home treasure chest of biscuit-cut country ham, baking mix, syrup or jelly, and grits, begs to be assembled into a late-night buffet ($37.95). Accent savory tastes using condiments including Saluda honey on the comb ($24) and locally made jellies ($5), with varieties such as garlic pepper and raspberry brandy complementing each ham's flavor, coloring, and collection of novelty shotglasses.
Joy Hall Thompson spent her childhood in the kitchen?she was either helping her mom cook classic Southern food or spending time with her father, learning to make his signature marinade. Her parents' love for cooking was passed down to Joy, who now runs Southern Sisters Restaurant & Grille out of a renovated historical building in downtown Thomasville.
Just like her mother before her, Joy focuses on Southern favorites, but she adds a creative, upscale twist to each dish. Ms. Daisy's BLT updates the classic sandwich with fried green tomatoes, and the fried chicken is served with a house-made peach sauce. Hand-breaded fried oysters and shrimp are accompanied by pineapple slaw that's made with Joy's mom's own recipe. Her dad's influence is on the menu as well?Hall's Steakhouse Steaks are soaked for 24 hours?the average time a ribeye steak can hold its breath?in that same family-recipe marinade that Joy learned to make as a little girl.
Filled with wrought-iron railings, murals, and a stone fountain, Steak Street's decor exudes southern charm. One seating area evokes the spirit of New Orleans' French Quarter, whereas another section calls to mind the streets of Charleston.
A Trio of Culinary Concepts
Bar and Bistro
In addition to the main dining area, Steak Street includes separate bar and bistro sections. With a vintage fielder's glove and baseball bats hanging on the walls, the lounge-like bar channels Cooperstown, New York while guests sip from the southern beers on tap, including several from North Carolina breweries. The bistro features a private patio sheathed by wisteria vines and a retractable enclosure that offers indoor or outdoor seating depending on the weather and number of meteorites expected.
Though the low-lit amber tones of its dining room create a darkly romantic atmosphere, Singha II Thai Bistro has nothing to hide. In a surprisingly gutsy move, the owners opened a message board on the bistro's website and gave diners free reign to speak their minds. The resulting forum crackles with tips (the chefs keep a stockpile of habanero peppers if you like your curry spicy), recommendations (Mike is a fan of the shrimp with cilantro sauce), and a panoply of plaudits (including "best thai food in nc"). Though the authentic Thai menu features a handful of signature dishes, you probably won't go wrong with the roasted duck basil. The boneless crispy fowl flavored with garlic, chilis, and fresh basil leaves seems to be a real crowd-pleaser.
Brick columns topped with ivory triangles ascend over the Greensboro Scoop Shop's sprawling outdoor patio, a spread the eponymous Ben and Jerry could never have imagined when they slung their first scoop from a ramshackle gas station in 1978. Although renowned for flagship flavors such as Chunky Monkey and chocolate fudge brownie, Ben & Jerry's vaulted itself into the upper echelon of ice cream with playful, candy-studded concoctions named after celebrities, such as Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Jerry Garcia. Velvety scoops can be reimagined as ice-cream cakes or drizzled in fudge and nuts to forge towering sundaes that patrons can chase with strawberry-cheesecake milkshakes, an ideal treat for those born with a straw proboscis.
It's been more than a half-century since the first Char-Grill opened its doors on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, but not much has changed at this beloved local chain. Whether in the original cinderblock building or one of the 10 locations that have been added since, people still approach the counter to jot down orders, pass them through the window, and then look on as cooks grill half- and quarter-pound steak patties over charcoal flames.
In addition to the signature smoky-flavored burgers, Char-Grill also fires up grilled chicken, chili dogs, and pulled-pork sandwiches. Milkshakes and fries add to the eatery's classic feel, helping land it on USA Today's list of 51 Great Burgers and reminding guests of simpler times when hamburgers were used as currency.