By: Megan Pacella, Special for USA TODAY 1:05 p.m. EDT June 25, 2014
North Carolina has been part of the battle of barbecue for centuries. It's hard to say which state offers the best version of BBQ, but North Carolina is definitely a contender. Plus, the state has much more to offer food fanatics than a slab of meat dressed up with the perfect sauce. Here are a few restaurants worth trying.
Calabash seafood refers to style of preparing seafood in Calabash, N.C. In this style of cooking, fresh fish, shrimp, scallops, or other type of seafood are lightly battered and deep fried to order. Ella's of Calabash claims to have originated this tradition of serving up a fresh catch of the day in this crispy, greasy, lightly battered fashion. The restaurant was founded in 1950 by Lawrence and Ella High, and today the dining room is still run by third- and fourth-generation members of their family. Stop in for a quaint, delicious dining experience.
Founded by Joe Hill in 1951, Hill's Lexington Barbecue is the first barbecue restaurant to be noted as "Lexington Barbecue." The way Hill's Lexington Barbecue sees it, that gives them claim to being the original Lexington barbecue restaurant. The kitchen staff marinates meat in a sugary, peppery, vinegar-based sauce before cooking it. While the meat cooks, chefs continue to baste it in the sauce. The result is mouth-watering, juicy barbecue that's so good, you won't need to add any more sauce to your plate.
While Asheville tends to be a vegan- and vegetarian-friendly town, Seven Sows Bourbon and Larder is best enjoyed by the carnivores among us. Chef de cuisine Mike Moore tempts with dishes like pork tongue ragout and creative specials like local rabbit. Moore is committed to sourcing produce and meat from trusted local sources as often as possible, ensuring that you can feel guilt-free while you enjoy an incredible meal.
Renowned chef John Fleer recently opened Rhubarb in downtown Asheville. Influenced by foothills cuisine, Fleer's first personally-owned restaurant reflects his passion for wood-fired cooking with wood-grilled lamb ribs and brick-oven roasted oysters and mussels. Like other restaurants in Asheville, Rhubarb offers a distinct menu as well as a talented bartender. Be sure to order a cocktail while you're visiting.
The Asbury in Charlotte is where southern dining meets farm-to-table cooking and seasonal menu planning. Under the direction of chef Chris Coleman, the menu includes truly Carolinian offerings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. Coleman has strong dies to heirloom ingredients found in North Carolina, as well as specialty items grown and raised by small, family farms in the region. For a true taste of North Carolina, The Asbury is your best bet.