On my way out to the North Carolina Coast, I decided to stop in Wilson, NC (Just outside of Raleigh) for the weekend. It was about the mid-way point of my trip and I’d heard a lot about this little town from friends and family. Specifically, the food.
What I found was a crazy variety of flavor, historic dishes that haven’t changed in decades, and treats that made it onto my list of things I would want as my last meal. I dined on biscuits the size of a cat’s head, visited a restaurant without menus, and ate not one but two historic hot dogs.
If you’ve ever been to Wilson already know the unique flavors and legendary Southern recipes I’m referring to, but up until recently I was completely in the dark. And seeing that my favorite food is . . .well, FOOD, I made it my personal mission to experience as much of it as humanly possible and report back to you.
Below, I tried my hand at some superlatives on the must-go places and must-try dishes. I strongly recommend you visit and try these items. Especially if you love to eat as much as I do.
The Beefmastor Inn
2656 US-301, Wilson, NC
By far, the best steak I’ve ever had. The Beefmastor Inn is a Wilson staple that’s been serving the same thing since 1966 — Ribeye, baked potato, and salad bar. That’s it. So, the only decision you have to make is what size ribeye and how you want it cooked.
There are only 10 tables inside so there is usually a wait. But that doesn’t stop the hordes of diners from coming. In fact, they actually welcome the wait. Why? Because that means more time to tailgate. That’s right. tailgating is a big part of what makes the Beefmastor experience so unique. You put your name on the list, then mingle with others waiting–while enjoying a cocktail.
Once seated inside, a server brings over a slab of meat to your table to explain the sizing options (8 ounces or larger, the knife only goes one way). Then they take it back to the grill. No fuss and definitely no substitutions allowed. There’s beauty in the simplicity here and what they lack in options they most certainly make up for in flavor, quality, and a truly memorable experience.
Ruckus and Redemption
220 Barnes Street South, Suite C, Wilson, NC
This is a multiple-napkins, get-your-face-all-up-in-it kind of burger. Located in downtown Wilson, Chef Jeremy Law serves the most gourmet, interesting combination of flavors you can imagine on a bun.
Here, juicy burgers flirt with pimento cheese and bacon jam and get to experience the triple flavor explosion of smoked provolone, fried onions, and steak sauce. Even the tots here get all dressed up in gravy and green onions! All-in-all every item on the menu tease and delight your tastebuds in the best way possible. After one visit here, you’ll never look at (or taste) hamburgers the same way again.
It’s also worthy to note that Ruckus and Redemption also uses fun flavor combinations to create amazing cocktails. There’s an entire menu of creatively named and crafted drinks like the #Hashtag and the Rummy Bear that are dangerously delicious.
1015 Goldsboro St. South, Wilson, NC
For those of you who crave a biscuit the size of a cat’s cranium. I give you Flo’s. This buttery lump of love put Flo’s Kitchen on the map 30 years ago and has kept people coming from far and wide ever since.
The biscuits may be huge but the building is not. It was both a gas station and a pool hall in its 120-year-old-life, but now this tiny restaurant serves the best breakfast in town. There’s often a line of cars but don’t be intimidated because the servers here are fast and have ordering down to a science.
You can choose your biscuit toppings and they pile them up so high, that it’s earned the nickname, “buffet on a biscuit.” Flo’s is only open until noon so the early birds definitely get the ginormous biscuits. NOTE: You need two hands to eat it so please don’t eat and drive.
Wilson Doughnut Shop
525 South Tarboro St. West, Wilson, NC
I’m pretty sure the road to heaven is paved with Wilson Doughnuts. They are that friggin’ good. From Cinnamon Buns and Original Glazed to Jelly and Cream-filled, these pastries melt in your mouth and are known to make grown men cry. OK, maybe not cry, but want seconds!
I am a purist when it comes to doughnuts and normally just go for the glazed but was talked into trying a Chocolate Long John, one of WD’s top sellers. It was honestly so good; I needed a moment. Somewhere between a cream puff and a chocolate éclair but even more amazing is the only way I can describe the heavenly experience. Seriously. The cream filling is nothing short of magical and the ratio of chocolate – cream – flaky goodness is sheer perfection. I may have finally found my soulmate in a doughnut. Don’t judge.
Best hot dog
Dick’s Hot Dog Stand
1500 Nash Street North, Wilson, NC
Ever tried a hotdog with a 100-year history? If you haven’t, you’re certainly missing out. Dick’s hot dog stand is a Wilson landmark that has been around since 1921. Family-owned and operated, it’s known for mouth-watering dogs and photo-covered walls showcasing its famous diners. Celebrities in sports and entertainment as well as notable politicians have all noshed on the hot dogs, hamburgers, and other goodies here. And for good reason.
The chili recipe was created by Dick himself and hasn’t changed since the day that Dick’s opened for business. That’s because he knew perfection when he tasted it and figured why mess with it? Smart man.
If you’re in the mood for no-frills, classic hot dogs, and hamburgers that are slap-your-grandma delicious, you must plan a meal at Dick’s. I recommend the famous hot dog with chili, mustard, and onions with a side of crinkle fries! It’s a must-taste, irresistible experience for all ages.
Casita Brewing Company
217 South South St. South, Wilson, NC
What if beer could taste like your favorite food? Well at Casita brewing it can. To tell the truth, there isn’t a flavor combination that is off-limits. Care to try a lime, oyster, and marshmallow stout? No problem. How about sampling a beer that tastes like raspberry cake? Sure thing.Owners, Ryan Witter-Merighew and his wife, Mahalia, spent the last decade working for and collaborating with breweries all over the world. And now, lucky for us, they call Wilson home.
The couple’s craft brewing skills and creativity are on full display daily with interesting creations, some of which are aged in bourbon barrels for an even more distinct flavor. Located downtown, you’ll find old favorites like IPAs, Ambers, and Stouts on the menu as well as some rotating, new concoctions you’ve never dreamed of.
Casita is also socially conscious and donates 25% of all tips to a different charity each month. Great beer that supports great causes. Win. Win.
2514 US Highway 301 South, Wilson, NC
Looking for a place where tea is sweet and the BBQ is how it was intended–Eastern style? Where the food is so good, 20,000 customers eat here each week? Well, look no further than Parkers BBQ.
Specializing in Eastern style (vinegar and red pepper sauce based) BBQ and fried chicken, Parkers has been a Wilson institution since 1946. And not much has changed since then. The staff still wears 1950s-style paper hats and the only changes to the menu in the past 70 years were the additions of hush puppies, fish, and string beans.
This is authentic Southern cooking at its finest and according to customers who have been regulars since they were children, “it’s as good now as it was 30 years ago!” Without a doubt, Parkers is the best BBQ I’ve ever tasted so chances are, it’ll still be this good for years to come.
Take it from me (and the extra lbs I gained). Wilson has an endless variety of can’t-miss tastes from Southern delicacies and sinful treats to unique flavors mingling on your plate or in a glass. Plan a visit soon and be sure to hide your scales when you get home.