by David Cecelski
This morning my friend and I took a walk through Gibsonville, a small town west of Burlington. We were mostly just talking, but we were also exploring what the old mill town might have to offer hungry visitors on a Saturday morning.
We started downtown on West Main Street and our first discovery was just around the corner on Piedmont Avenue: Pete’s Grill. My friend had a cold and was looking for a cup of hot tea, so we had a good excuse to check the place out. I’m glad we did; turns out that Pete’s Grill has been satisfying Gibsonville appetites for 52 years. The little restaurant serves baked chicken, backbone, collard greens, seasoned vegetables, corn bread and biscuits, and other down-home country cooking and soul food.
Everything looked great. There was a nice little buffet of 10 or 12 dishes and you can order from the menu too. The proprietors were very friendly, and one wall was covered with notices for local music shows and church benefits. A chicken pie and barbecue fundraising dinner next weekend at a local Baptist church caught my eye.
After my friend got her Diet Mountain Dew—I told her that they wouldn’t have hot tea—we walked back to West Main and ran into Jack’s Barbecue, another great little café. Jack’s is small, friendly and very busy, but cozy, with a little row of booths and counter seating too.
Jack’s was so crowded and the diners all looked so ebullient that we decided that we had to try a barbecue sandwich. Our sandwiches were good, too. Neither of us is especially fond, generally speaking, of what passes for barbecue in the western Piedmont, but we both found Jack’s sandwiches sweet and delectable.
While we were there, I looked at the weekday specials too. They looked like Jack’s real drawing card. I’d love to come back on a Friday especially. That’s the day when the special is chicken pie, sweet potato casserole, and banana pudding.
I also heard a lady in a booth behind us speaking longingly of Monday’s dessert special, buttermilk coconut pie. Imagine how good a slice of that homemade pie would taste with a cup of coffee as a break if you’ve been driving on I-40/85 all day.
Later in the spring, another good place to stop in Gibsonville will be Market Day, a little farmers’ market behind the old train depot onW. Main St. It’s small, but nice. I was there last fall and found some nice fresh produce, local honey, and a few crafts, and I purchased a good-looking Halloween pumpkin. The town holds Market Day every Saturday from 8 AM to 4 PM between May 1st and November 15th.
Jack’s Barbecue, Pete’s Grill, and Market Day are great alternatives to the fast-food fare that you’ll find on the Interstate. Downtown Gibsonville is also a lovely place to take a break and stretch your legs. It’s located on the Alamance/Guilford County Line: just take the I-40/85 exit for NC 61 and follow 61 north to West Main Street. It’s only a couple miles off the highway, but you’ll feel like you are in another world.
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If you’re driving Hwy 40 through the Piedmont and craving a chicken pie instead of fast food, there are a couple other places just up the road, in Winston-Salem, that also come right to mind, too: Bell and Sons Cafeteria, 4320 N. Liberty Street, has been serving a fine chicken pie since 1962. There’s also the Old Salem Tavern, in the restored Moravian village of Old Salem. I get the chicken pie every time we go there, though I have to say the really unforgettable treat at Old Salem is the love buns at the Winkler Bakery.
Also, while it takes some planning ahead, be sure to try the Hampton Road Grocery in Winston-Salem, a convenience store between Clemmons Road and Idols Road. The cooks there, Gay and Renee, serve home-cooked meals every day, but Chicken Pie Saturdays is the real deal. Give them a little advanced notice and they’ll make you a chicken pie for pick up on the last day of the month.