Charlotte’s neighbor to the west, Gaston County boasts some cute, small towns and delicious food! Susannah shares some of the best Gaston County restaurants, eats, drinks (and also treats!) in today’s guest post, “Where to Eat in Gaston County.”
On Friday, we went to a high school football game. Not something I thought I’d be saying at the age of thirty, but there’s something more. We went to a high school football game to watch the marching band. Yes, you read that right! My friend is the band director at a local high school, so we crossed the majestic Catawba into Gaston County to go see his band play. Of course, we got dinner while we were at it.
Normally I don’t share two guest posts in a row, but our Friday adventure to downtown Belmont basically begged me to share Susannah’s curated Gaston County restaurants list with you. Plus I spent Sunday afternoon wallowing over Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone rather than writing a new blog post…although I did do a photo refresh on my pork carnitas recipe and also updated my recipes page! (And played around with the monster that is Pinterest. Are you following me there yet? I’ll follow you back!) So while I may not go catch another high school football for a while, here are some great Gaston County restaurants on this list that are going to motivate me to cross the majestic Catawba more often.
I am one of those ‘rare’ Charlotte natives. I grew up in Charlotte, then moved to Raleigh for college and stayed a while. I moved back to the Queen City four years ago, and haven’t looked back.
I settled on living in Mount Holly and Belmont, which is in Gaston County. I have family in this area, so that’s a huge plus. I have learned a lot about my family’s heritage and love the joys of small-town living. And I’m still just 20 minutes from downtown Charlotte, on the other side of the river from the Whitewater Center.
There are a surprising amount of great restaurants in Gaston County. Over the last few years, I have culled and curated a list that I’m delighted to share with you per Chrissie’s request!
People often confuse Gaston County with its biggest city Gastonia, but there’s a bevy of small towns here that deserve your attention. If you’re driving from downtown Charlotte, hop on Wilkinson Blvd. or I-85 South for about 20 miles and discover the eateries that make this place so great.
This is where my family is from, so it’s dear to me. It’s been really amazing to watch this city grow throughout my lifetime, and even more so since I moved to the area.
Nestled in the Riverfront neighborhood, enjoy beautiful views of the Catawba River while you grab burgers and beers. This is technically a chain with locations across South Carolina, but the scenery is unmatched and worth a visit.
Hankering for some authentic New York pizza? Sammy himself serves up some of the best pizza in the area. For dessert, get a slice of cake. They’re always incredible and there’s a new flavor just about every day.
Another greasy spoon, the 50-year-old Brightstar drive-in is known for its Lottaburger, which has two 4-oz. ground beef patties and topped with cheese, coleslaw, ketchup, tomato and pickles on a big bun. You can also find barbecue, hot dogs and amazing onion rings. The in-house radio station, which you can also stream online, plays oldie-goldies and will make you feel like you’re eating in a time machine.
Every area needs a community hangout, and Catawba is Mount Holly’s. Expect a plethora of sweet flavored drinks, but there’s excellent coffee and friendly staff. Take your coffee to go and peruse some of Mount Holly’s cute clothing and gift shops, like Derr’s Boutique.
In the summer months, stop here for your produce and fresh bread. The farmers themselves often bring the produce, and you can often catch live music or a cooking demonstration while you’re there. It’s a fantastic addition to Mount Holly, and nowhere near as crowded as the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. Their community garden down the street is incredible and 100% worth a leisurely stroll when you’re done shopping.
Hungry for steak with a side of history? This eatery sits inside of Mount Holly’s old grocery store. I love the giant, black-and-white photos on the walls here. If you eat here on a Saturday, stop by the Mount Holly Historical Society museum across the street and learn more about this sweet old mill town.
This picturesque little town is where I call home these days, and it’s booming. Good luck finding a place to park downtown, but it’s 100% worth it, I promise. Wear your walking shoes just in case.
I was so sad when my favorite place in Cramerton, the South Fork Deli, closed its doors. But it was a sheer delight when the owners reopened as Luna Hombre in Belmont. At lunch, enjoy sandwiches like their grilled pimento cheese sandwich or my favorite, the fig and goat cheese BLT, but you can’t go wrong. At night, get a glass of wine from their taps and a few small plates and enjoy the atmosphere of the quirky old Belmont Drugstore.
How cool is it that we have a rum distillery in the Charlotte area? Located on the banks of the Catawba River, you can head here for a tour of the distillery and a tasting of their rum. Take home a bottle and enjoy. The spiced rum is our favorite, but the silver is so versatile!
If you’re craving upscale fried chicken, locally-sourced cocktails and live country music, you can get all at Nellie’s. It’s owned by the Jonas Brothers’ parents (yes, those Jonas Brothers) and named for their grandmother who worked in the mills here. There’s a big portrait of her in the back of the main room, as well as lots of N.C.-inspired decor. The cotton ball chandelier is my favorite. Expect a wait and loud music if you sit inside, but the rooftop patio is another great option.
Unwind with a cocktail, beer or wine at Bar 10. They have a long list of libations, plus a selection of desserts, meat and cheese platters and bar snacks. Housed in an old furniture shop turned event space, the atmosphere makes this a great place to unwind.
Another spot for barbecue lovers, Peace-n-Hominy shouldn’t be missed. Fresh pulled pork is paired with a cornucopia of Southern sides. The venue is small and always packed, and thank goodness I can walk here for some hushpuppies.
For breakfast and lunch, grab a light bite at Cherubs. It’s run by Holy Angels, which is an organization for adults with intellectual developmental disabilities. Eating here is a great way to support Holy Angels and interact with the awesome people who are gaining valuable life skills through their jobs there. The sandwiches and wraps are the way to go.
If you’d have told me when I moved here that there would be a sophisticated whiskey & cigar bar in Gaston County, I might have laughed at you. So imagine my pleasant surprise to learn that this place was opening. The folks who own neighboring Old Stone Steakhouse opened a craft cocktail bar in the old jailhouse building.
Come here for A+ burgers, wings and local beers on tap. If you’re looking for something lighter, the black bean cake salad is one of my all-time favorite salads in the world. It’s very similar to — but lots quieter than — Sammy’s Neighborhood Pub on Main Street, which offers similar fare. Both are great for watching the big game or catching up with friends.
Part-restaurant, part-deli and part-bottle shop, The String Bean is a local hangout. Sip on a local brew and munch on fresh-tasting sandwiches and burgers. Sit outside on the patio in the summer if you can. Bonus points for bringing home fresh meat and seafood from the market inside.
This is one of the tinier textile towns in Gaston County, and they love their history. The quaint buildings of Main Street overlook the South Fork River. Cross the footbridge and walk off your dinner at Goat Island Park.
Mayworth’s is named for Cramerton’s original name, but it was changed in 1922 to honor the local mill president. This spot is a bustling pub with upscale food. Enjoy burgers, tacos and craft beer on tap, plus my favorite chicken tenders in Gaston County. It’s always busy, and make sure you’re not there on trivia or karaoke night (unless you want to be!)
Craft tacos, check. Creative salads, check. Craft beer, check. Owned by the former manager of Pinky’s Westside Grill, Doffer’s is a delightful change of pace. It gets its name from the workers (sometimes kids) who worked in the mills, the “doffers” who replaced spindles once they filled with spun threads.
Snow cones, anyone? This literal shack off Wilkinson Boulevard offers fresh hot dogs, Tony’s Ice Cream and made-to-order snow cones in a ton of flavors. I love the snow cream snow cone (made with milk and vanilla), but you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Lowell is another teeny town, but they have some good eats for sure. Check out their adorable downtown for some antiquing.
Kyle Fletcher’s Barbecue, Lowell
It wouldn’t be a list of Gaston County restaurants without a barbecue venue. Kyle Fletcher’s ‘cue is super smoky and juicy, and rated the best in the area in 2013 in The Charlotte Observer’s Tournament of Barbecue. (However, this N.C. State alumna recommends you ignore all the Carolina blue UNC garb all over the walls.)
McAdenville, AKA Christmastown, USA, is the cutest little town ever, especially in the month of December. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, the entire town decorates for the holidays. It’s one of my family traditions to take a chilly stroll or, if the weather’s bad, a drive through to see all the colorful lights. (Tip? Be there at sundown.)
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a giant pastry from See Jane Bake. From decadent cinnamon rolls to larger-than-life cookies to their “I Do D’eclair” specialty, there’s a sweet treat here to enjoy.
The biggest city in Gaston County, Gastonia is growing. It’s had a bad rap for years, but it’s cool to see this area starting to get into the food scene.
I eat here at least twice a month. The service is impeccable and the sushi is both fresh and creative. Even the non-sushi entrees are excellent. (My boyfriend adores the pad thai.) They recently relocated to a bigger location on South New Hope Rd. down the street from their old spot, but this one’s a true hidden gem.
This 100-year-old, family-owned company makes some of the best ice cream in the area. Try one of their 28 flavors, which range from the classic vanilla and chocolate to the creative Almond Joy and mocha cappuccino. The milkshakes are absolutely epic.
Located in Jia’s old location and owned by the same folks, this newly-opened restaurant servesupscale American fare in a casual dining setting. Enjoy fresh seafood or Southern favorites like pimento cheese bread.
I’m so glad Gaston County is finally getting into the craft beer scene. Housed in an old garage, Cavendish has a wide selection of beers plus games you can play. We loved getting flights here.
Housed in an old theatre, Webb’s Custom Kitchen is without a doubt the best date night spot in Gastonia. Come for the cocktails, stay for the pork belly appetizer. Actually, the entire menu is one you’d expect to find in Charlotte: creative, modern and well-thought out, complete with locally sourced ingredients and gluten-free options.
Lotus is one of my favorite discoveries: an upscale and modern American and Asian fusion restaurant with everything from sushi to turkey burgers. The cocktail menu is lengthy and the dessert menu changes every day. Ask for the sorbet-of-the-day.
I debated whether to include a fish camp in my list, because I don’t looove fried seafood. However, fish camps are as North Carolinian as barbecue joints, and if you live here, you have to eat at one at least once. Twin Tops gets my grandmother’s seal of approval. There’s an all-you-can-eat special every day and you can expect to get your fingers greasy. Finish off your meal with a handful of old-fashioned candy from the store at the front.