In 2016, I decided one of my passions and purposes for writing in this space would be to show off some of these sweet little towns in eastern North Carolina. These towns were once thriving farming communities that, unfortunately, lost their way as tobacco farming became less profitable. I have a major girl crush on Vivan Howard, chef of Chef & the Farmer and The Boiler Room, because she is helping revitalize the town of Kinston. Kinston is about 40 minutes from Greenville, where I attended college. This article came out this week in the New York Times about Vivian and as if I couldn’t love her more.
So, I try to get back east as much as I can to explore these towns–check out this day trip that my dad and I took together to Windsor. One of the reasons why I love that Vivian has A Chef’s Life on PBS where she showcases traditions and businesses in Eastern North Carolina. So, here are things to do when you make a day (or overnight!) trip to Kinston to eat at one of Vivian’s restaurants.
A Guide to Kinston, North Carolina: Where to Eat
Chef & the Farmer: This restaurant is everything I hoped it would be and more. My friend, Hillary, and I split an appetizer, entree, and dessert. I asked every server what their favorite items were on the menu because I know they try the menu items every night prior to service (thanks A Chef’s Life). It is well worth a drive. I made a day trip of it when Hillary and I went, but you could also stay and enjoy their signature cocktails and wines. My personal favorite cocktail is the RBG, made with Mother Earth gin, lemon, lime, and pinot noir.
Order: Ask the servers. We had flash fried collards, pan-roasted catfish, and chocolate mousse cake. I’d recommend all of those to you.
The Boiler Room: On our way to Kinston, I asked DG to name his favorite restaurants in North Carolina (he’s from Buffalo, btw). He only named two. On our way back to Raleigh, David said, “Hey, by the way, I’d add the Boiler Room to my list of favorite places to eat in North Carolina.” I mean… stop the presses, y’all. David is really picky and not easily impressed. He’s lived in NC for 7 years now, and could only tell me two places that he really loved to eat at in North Carolina prior to this experience.
Order: Pimiento cheese & sausage dip, surf & turf burger, housemade ice cream. When we go back, I’m ordering the butterbean burger.
A Guide to Kinston, North Carolina: What to Do
Neuseway Nature Center: It was closed when we visited because of damages from Hurricane Matthew, but for the walkways we were able to use, we loved it! I went to the planetarium years ago, and it was definitely worth checking out. Check the website for when it will reopen!
The Red Room: This is awesome that eastern North Carolina has such a unique music venue. Check out the schedule for karaoke or your favorite band. It’d be the perfect time to have dinner and a concert while visiting.
Kinston Down East Wood Ducks: This is perfect for summer visits! The Kinston ball park will be back open! Definitely make plans to check out a game here!
A Guide to Kinston, North Carolina: Where to Stay
The O’Neil Hotel: David and I adored staying at the O’Neil. It was so comfortable, but yet swanky with its beautiful, ornate lobby. Our room was beautiful and had an amazing sitting room separate from our actual bedroom. The bathroom was a great size with a spacious shower and toiletries, plus plush bedding. The hotel stocks Mother Earth beer in the cooler located in the bank vault, plus has a coffee station, which is so nice in the morning. I love how unique every room is in the hotel and the decor in the lobby is stunning.
Mother Earth Motor Lodge: Take a step back in time at the Mother Earth Motor Lodge. The original motor lodge was built in 1963, and the owners of Mother Earth have revived this building. It’s a great spot with a fun vibe.
Okay, so, y’all! Make a day trip to Kinston so you can eat your heart out at Vivian’s delicious restaurants. Or, make the choice to spend the night and enjoy Mother Earth’s options. And if you do that… stay tuned for some other day trip guides across eastern North Carolina.
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