Saxapahaw, NC–The Eddy & Archers of Loaf
Have you ever traveled somewhere and been completely blown away by the place you’re standing in? The realization that somewhere you thought was nowhere was actually the place you wish you lived in? Or at least a place within thirty minutes of you? That place where each little store and restaurant feels handpicked for you as a person, where everyone’s nice, and where the weather could not be any more damn perfect? I found that place last month in North Carolina just outside of Chapel Hill and Greensboro–Saxapahaw.
I first heard of Saxapahaw this past year via Monika of Windy City Vegan (now Chew on This!). When I first found Monika’s blog she lived in Chicago, hence, “Windy City,” but I lost track of her at some point over the past couple of years. She resurfaced in our Southern Dark Days Challenge Group and it’s been awesome to put two and two together. Still a vegan and still blogging, Monika gave up Chicago for Saxapahaw to homestead. Yup, Chicago for the middle of nowhere. That’s not something that happens every day!
Then, coincidentally, a friend of mine mentioned that Archers of Loaf was going to be playing Saxapahaw at the Haw River Ballroom and did anyone want to go. I immediately snapped up tickets for G & I and was thrilled about the chance to check out this weird tiny town that, after reading Monika’s post about it, seemed like a Gen-X version of Floyd, VA, with its two restaurants featuring only local food, a way cool venue featuring indie music, and, well, nothing else.
Long story short, G went to New Orleans the weekend of the show, so I packed up a bag, hopped in the car, and drove down by myself to meet up with my Durham friend, A. A is a lover of all foods and a music buff to boot, so she was thrilled to meet up and share a meal and show with me (and give me a place to crash post-show). After emailing Monika whether we ought to eat at The Eddy or the General Store, I settled on The Eddy as our meeting place.
Upon driving into Saxapahaw, I was blown away by how little was there–the General Store with it’s gas pumps, The Eddy on top of the Haw River Ballroom, and some lofts over to the side. Oh, and a bunch of farm land surrounding it. I also couldn’t believe how packed The Eddy was–no tables were available inside or on the deck, so I claimed one of the last couch “tables” on one side of the room. (You know how couches in a restaurant/bar are noramally disgusting by daylight? These antique/thrifted chairs and couches were in perfect non-gross condition–a total plus.)
On one side of the large, open dining room was an entire wall of almost floor-to-ceiling windows which filled the room with so much light that most diners had to put on sunglasses to see. Thankfully I didn’t have that problem and just got to enjoy the light, but no one seemed put out by it. And how could you be with it’s exposed brick, industrial lights, and natural wood charm? I felt like I was somewhere in Brooklyn. More incredibly for a farm town with a population of 1,400 people, the restaurant filled past-capacity by 7 pm and stayed that way until well after we tromped downstairs for the show. Mindblowing.
While I waited for A to arrive (my GPS said it would take 45 minutes longer than it actually did), I sipped on a McRitchie Vineyards cider and read. The cider was crisp and light and not too sugary-sweet and was perfect for an early evening just-drove-across-state-lines drink. Even better, the servers were on top of everything and weren’t bothered by the fact that I wasn’t ready to order yet but still needed to take over realty in the restaurant.
Just a drink won’t cut it, though, and I was pretty hungry, so I ordered the Blue Fish & Pancetta Dip. Now, I’m beating myself up over this (especially since I just saw the copy of the menu I took away just a few days ago), but I appear to have lost the menu. So I’m going on memory and I ate this meal a week ago. It’s killing me. Especially since everything was sourced from local farmers. A shame. But I digress. The dip was incredible–smokey with a salty bite from the pancetta, it was delicious slathered on baguette and eaten with the cider. (Un)fortunately it was dairy-based (no, really, I wouldn’t have ordered it if I’d remembered A can’t eat dairy anymore), so I had the serving all to myself, some of which traveled home with me as leftovers, of course.
After A arrived, she ordered a cider as well and the hummus plate to share. The plate featured hummus, baba ganoush, marinated olives and artichokes, and stuffed grape leaves. All in all, a fantastic hummus plate that was generous with its servings and a little more inventive than the usual dollop of hummus and nothing much else.
After nibbling on hummus and blue fish dip (and after I’d ordered maybe one too many ciders), we decided we’d better order some more substantial food. A went with (and I can’t really remember the specifics anymore), local chicken in a in-house hot sauce with rice and sugar snap peas from a local farmer. The sauce was incredible, even just on a bite of rice–smokey and full of vinegar with just a enough of a kick on the end, it tasted everything like a hot sauce should (and never does) taste like. No gimicky sweetners or chemical heat, this sauce was all peppers and honey. Plus the peas had this intense freshness about them–better than any celery or fading carrot sticks you get at your local wings joint.
Like it usually does, I found myself wooed by the local burger. I just can’t resist a locally-sourced burger. And what’s not to love about potato salad? Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed in my choice–the beef was excellent and the burger was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. With a simple topping of local cheddar, lettuce, and a mango chutney (now why hadn’t I thought of that before??), the burger oozed confidence. The sear on the burger added a nice char while the meat was still juicy inside and the simple toppings highlighted the quality of the beef. A little tang from the cheddar and Dijon, a little sweet from the mango. And as for the potato salad? Wicked good. Onions and fresh herbs were tossed with the red potatoes and in-house mayo for a super simple but utterly delicious side dish. Definitely order the potato salad over the fries if you go.
Overstuffed and in awe of the entire dining experience, we tromped downstairs for the show which, also, was incredible. The venue was more packed than I expected it to be (especially given that they were playing in Raleigh the next day), but it wasn’t overcrowded and I loved the tiered standing areas. From the third level, I was awarded a perfect birds eye (but close) view of the band AND was able to sit, so that was thrilling, not to mention the local beer on tap (Fullsteam).
For a girls’ night out, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. A great band, some unexpectedly spectacular food, and a beautiful drive through rural Virginia and North Carolina to boot. Next up will be thoughts on Durham from food to the farmers market to the botanical garden!
1715 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road
Saxapahaw, NC, 27340
FYI: no reservations accepted