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.
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.
Locally sourced, Southern-inspired cuisine rules the roost at Emerywood Fine Foods. Since opening the eatery and catering outfit 15 years ago, owners Steve and Amy Shellberg haven't strayed from their mission to provide the community with fresh, homemade creations whether patrons are dining in or networking at a nearby convention. The menu boasts a range of flavor combinations such as a salad that blends North Carolina oysters, served over mixed greens with roma tomatoes, cucumber, roaring forties bleu cheese, and peach pecan vinaigrette. Traditional dishes such as mac and cheese benefit from butter-poached lobster, truffle-infused panko, and applewood-smoked cheddar, and even classic pizzas come topped with seared beef tenderloin.
Wine and Design’s team of local artists organizes painting classes and get-togethers for any occasion. They provide all the necessary materials⎯including paints, canvases, aprons, brushes, and corkscrews⎯and lead students stroke by stroke as they craft whimsical pictures of subjects such as animals, landscapes, and flora. They also invite guests to bring their own drinks to the party to enhance the fun.
Signals populates its website with a plethora of jewelry, clothing, home décor, and kids' items. Outfit bare walls with wall décor, such as flower art made from recycled iron and pressed metal ($34.95). Personalized items, such as an “I Heart” shirt or sweatshirt ($12.95–$41.95), can commemorate your love of freeze-dried ice cream, and a wooden box that emits laughter or applause when opened ($24.95) can show support for a one-person reenactment of an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street.
The chefs at San Luis III devote nearly two entire pages of their menu to seafood specialties, from tangy shrimp cocktails with fresh cilantro and jalapeños to crunchy tacos bursting with catfish ceviche. They also extend their culinary expertise toward more than 10 varieties of fajitas, grilling up chicken, beef, and veggies on sizzling skillets. And the chefs are experts when it comes to Mexican classics such as burritos, quesadillas, and enchiladas, nimbly crafting dishes with fresh ingredients, colorful vegetables, and housemade salsas. To complement the array of traditional Mexican dishes, the restaurant's bartenders dole out frosty glasses of imported drafts and fruity margaritas.