The Hungry Traveler
Tipples and Take-Out
Barbecue, Old Fashioneds and Ice Cream in Wilkes Country
By D.G. Martin
Last month, on U.S. Highway 421 between Winston-Salem and Boone, I invited readers to sit down at five eateries in Yadkin County where they can meet with local people and eat the same vittles they do.
But the culinary tour doesn’t end there. In Wilkes County there are four more places along the way where a stop for a meal is could prove that the Hungry Traveler’s journey can be just as rewarding an experience as the activities planned for trip’s final destination.
Brushy Mountain Smokehouse and Creamery
When I walked in the door of the clean and full dining room at Brushy Mountain, I learned two things. There is a warm welcome for visitors, and there are a lot of options to satisfy any hungry visitor. As for me, I will never leave without a good helping of their pulled pork barbecue cooked slowly over wood coals and a large cone of their luscious ice cream from the separate dairy section in the front.
One of Brushy Mountain’s cheerful servers introduced me to Jim and Jodi Swofford, who were eating at a nearby table. Jim and his brother Carl founded Brushy Mountain after they sold their Hardee’s franchises. Carl’s son, Jeff, had been an enthusiastic barbecue cooker, and he took the lead when Brushy Mountain opened. Jim and Carl have another brother, John, who is too busy as commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference to be a part of the barbecue business.
I enjoyed the museum-like displays of Wilkes County history including a moonshine still, mementos from Brushy Mountain apple orchards and photos from stock car racing days at the North Wilkesboro Speedway. Just outside is a great stone arrowhead that marks the Daniel Boone Trail.
Open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday. 201 Wilkesboro Blvd., North Wilkesboro; (336) 667-9464; brushymtnsmokehouse.com
Dooley’s Grill & Tavern
Dooley’s is a local gathering place in the middle of downtown Wilkesboro. But even though Dooley’s is located in the historic Smithey’s Hotel, there is nothing old-fashioned about it, except for the Old Fashioned mixed drink you can order at the bar. Founder and owner Seth Cohen is very proud that his menu contains locally sourced natural meat. He says everything is gluten-free except for the hoagie roll. A big attraction is the wide variety of sandwiches and salads that make for a perfect lunch or light supper.
Seth is active in local preservation efforts in the downtown.
Next-door is the old courthouse. Now converted into The Wilkes Heritage Museum, it is one of the most popular places to visit in the county. The $6 admission fee includes guided tour through the old jail and a historical home. In that jail Tom Dula, a Wilkes County Confederate veteran, was imprisoned in 1866, charged with the murder of Laura Foster. Dula was convicted and hanged. The song, “Tom Dooley,” made famous in the 1950s by the Kingston Trio, is based on the Dula story. In Wilkes County, Dula is pronounced Dooley. All that just in case you were wondering how Jeff Cohen’s grill and tavern got its name.
Open for lunch and dinner every day; 102 E. Main St., Wilkesboro; (336) 667-0800; www.facebook.com/DooleysWilkesboro/
Glenn’s has been a fixture in downtown Wilkesboro for more than 50 years. Its founder, Glenn Johnson, was also a fixture until his death in 2011. He was active in politics, serving as a county commissioner, operating his ice cream store and restaurant, and collecting Western-themed memorabilia. His widow, Marilyn, is the current owner and operator.
From the outside the business looks like a drive-in operation, but there’s a very warm setting inside. Under the glass tops on the tables, there is an assortment of historic clippings and background information about Glenn himself. The walls are covered with pictures of restaurant patrons and western theme posters because of Glenn’s longtime interest in cowboys and the American West. Observant visitors will find memorabilia of Dolly Parton’s visit to the restaurant. If they look up, they might even get a glimpse of actor Zach Galifianakis, who sometimes drops by when he is visiting his hometown.
Locals gather for breakfast until 11 and come back for lunch and dinner. The meals, especially the “Big Glenn Burger” and breakfast ham biscuits, get a very good grade. But the highest praise goes for their ice cream. The restaurant started as a Tastee-Freez franchise operation. It is now completely independent, but ice cream is still a big drawing card.
Cash only (there is an ATM machine); Closed on Sundays; 800 River St.; Wilkesboro; (336) 838-2541; glennsrestaurantwilkesboronc.com/
The sign above Tipton’s Bar-B-Que says it all. “We do it Lexington style!” The modern building that houses the comfortable restaurant did not remind me of an old-time barbecue, but Tipton’s owner, Richard Grissom, is an adherent of the Lexington barbecue religion and a student of how to get the best results from a pork shoulder. He can tell you about the cooking time, the management of the wood coals and the best temperatures at each stage of the process.
Richard grew up in Elkin where his dad was a legendary football coach. After playing some college football himself and working in other businesses, Richard opened Tipton’s about 10 years ago and named it after a friend who backed the then-new restaurant.
Tipton’s is located where the Interstate-style U.S. Highway 421 merges with the old road to Boone. That makes for a good stopping off point for travelers who want to take a meal on the road. Tipton’s will sell a take-out meal for four with barbecue, chicken, fixings and iced tea for about $25.
Open daily for lunch and dinner; 1840 Winkler St.; Wilkesboro, (336) 667-0669; www.facebook.com/tiptonsbbq/
Sometime soon I will take you on another trip along another section of U.S. Highway 421. I am looking at some local eateries in Chatham County. If you have suggestions, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. OH
D.G. Martin is the host of UNC-TV’s Bookwatch, a contributor to The Omnivorous Reader column in this magazine and author of North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints (UNC Press).