North Carolina Elevates Outdoor Dining

JOLO Winery & Vineyards Patio Dining
Photo: VisitNC

With al fresco dining deemed a safer bet than indoor seating, the pandemic prompted restaurants across North Carolina to set more tables on decks, patios and sidewalks to serve travelers eager to taste the best of the chefs. Savor the fare along with views and breezes at the following selection of dining spots.

At JOLO Winery and Vineyards, End Posts Restaurant invites diners to take a seat on an expansive patio with views of Pilot Mountain, a placid pond and a picturesque cottage. Innovative takes on snacks, classic dishes and comfort food are served at lunch and dinner accompanied by the winery’s stellar list of reds, whites, rosés and blends. In Lexington, Childress Vineyards opens the floor-to-ceiling windows at its Bistro in the Pavilion to afford another al fresco wine-and-dine opportunity, and patio seating is available at Old North State Winery in Mount Airy. Weekend travelers will find picnic-perfect food truck fare at vineyards throughout North Carolina’s wine-growing region.

For outdoor dining with a pint in hand, try Rocky Mount Mills, which transforms a historic cotton mill into a craft beer incubator on the edge of the Tar River. To accompany the lagers, IPAs, stouts and saisons, guests can enjoy choice fare from Prime Smokehouse, Tap @ 1918, the Tipsy Tomato and TBC West at various spots on the 82-acre campus, including the community space outside the River and Twine tiny house hotel. At Camp North End in Charlotte, another restaurant-rich industrial redevelopment, diners can find outdoor seating at the celebrated Leah and Louise, farm-centric Bleu Barn Bistro, nutrition-conscious Plant Joy, Latin specialist La Caseta and other spots.

Sam Jones BBQ

Travelers hankering for a fix of North Carolina’s most celebrated culinary tradition have multiple places to plug into their GPS. In Raleigh and Winterville, picnic tables await at Sam Jones BBQ, whose owner represents the third generation in a whole hog barbecue dynasty. Whole hog is the specialty at Lawrence Barbecue at Boxyard RTP, a courtyard surrounded by restaurants and retail between Raleigh and Durham. At the meeting of foothills and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lexington-style pork shoulder is served outdoors in Saluda at Green River BBQ and in Flat Rock at Hubba Hubba Smokehouse, a stop on the North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail.

Hubba Hubba Smokehouse

On the coast, the new N.C. Oyster Trail generates interest with its mission to grow, serve and sustain supply and demand for the saltwater mollusks. Joining oyster farms and seafood markets in the grassroots effort, restaurants create the opportunity to savor hyperlocal varieties with a range of taste and salinity. Among those with outdoor seating, family-owned Coquina Fishbar in Wilmington offers a menu that’s dotted with oyster dishes. In Manteo, Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar scores with its oyster shooter and other dishes as well as panoramic views of Pirate’s Cove Marina and the Bodie Island Lighthouse. The screened porch at Howard’s Pub on Ocracoke Island invites indulgence in locally farmed oysters at a restaurant whose name and founding connect to the island’s last Colonial owner, who was Blackbeard’s quartermaster.

The Roof at The Durham

Across the state, the sky’s the limit with rooftop bar and restaurants. For soaring mountain views, options include Capella on 9 at AC Hotel Asheville Downtown and The Horton Hotel Rooftop Bar in Boone. Cityscapes star at Jolie in Raleigh, The Roof at The Durham Hotel in Durham and Nuvole Rooftop TwentyTwo in Charlotte. And even from its modest height, the rooftop lounge at Moonrakers in Beaufort affords impressive views of Taylor Creek.

To find more options, take your appetite to