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15 Things North Carolinians Are Weirdly Passionate About

North Carolina
by Jason Frye Nov 9, 2016

Popcorn Sutton.

North Carolinians know you don’t buy moonshine from the ABC Store, you buy it from someone like Popcorn Sutton. Popcorn was a lifelong moonshiner and there are still plenty of folks carrying on his tradition: making it a couple of dozen gallons at a time and selling it in unadorned mason jars out of the back of a truck.

Whether a restaurant serves “good sweet tea”.

Yes, “good sweet tea” is a thing. It can’t be too sweet or too bitter; not too icy but not too warm; it’s can’t be too lemony or floral or tobacco-y. You just know it when you taste it.

The Lost Colony.

The fate of the first English colonists remains a mystery to this day. They set up house on the Outer Banks then simply disappeared. Every summer there’s an outdoor play, The Lost Colony, staged only a few hundred yards from their former home.

Our State Magazine.

The name says it all, it’s a magazine about our state. You want stories about sweet tea, the Lost Colony, wineries and breweries and history and artists? Our State’s your huckleberry.


Blackbeard had a couple of homes here, buried treasure here, and met his fate just off Ocracoke Island. His flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge was sunk just off Beaufort and you can see relics from the wreck at the state’s Maritime Museums. But he’s not the only pirate to sail the waters here. Stede Bonnet sailed here and was captured near the Cape Fear River, Captain Kidd is rumored to have buried treasure near Wilmington, and two female pirates—Anne Bonny and Mary Read—made an appearance or two here.

The Blue Ridge Parkway.

This mountaintop drive runs from Cherokee, North Carolina, to Waynesboro, Virginia, and along it’s high, curving route you’ll pass some of North Carolina’s most storied mountains—Mount Mitchell, Grandfather Mountain, Blowing Rock—and some adorable mountain towns. Everyone in North Carolina’s driven to Grandfather and over the Lynn Cove Viaduct at least once and every chance we get to drive a few miles on the Parkway, we take.


For starters, it’s a noun, not a verb. Now that we’ve got that clear, North Carolina has two styles: Eastern and Lexington. Eastern style consists of a whole hog cooked over oak coals, chopped and pulled apart and seasoned with a thin, vinegar and pepper sauce. Lexington style is all about the butts (or shoulders) cooked over a mix of oak and hickory, chopped coarse and served with a thicker, sweeter sauce. Sounds simple but it’s enough to start a fight at a church picnic.


This most delicious of cherry sodas contains no wine, but it’s outstanding nonetheless. Along with Pepsi and Sundrop, it’s one of the sodas that originated here. And, if you’re feeling frisky when it comes to barbecue sauce, you can boil it down then add some vinegar and hot pepper flakes to make a barbecue sauce that might get you thrown out of that church picnic.

Duke’s mayonnaise.

This is the best mayo the USA has to offer and it might just be a top five mayos worldwide. It’s perfectly tangy, adds the right zip and consistency to your granny’s Pimento cheese recipe, and is most excellent on a tomato sandwich.


Bluegrass has roots here, with Earl Scruggs pioneering his three-fingered picking style here, and NC musical acts like Acoustic Syndicate, Steep Canyon Rangers and even Steve Martin are carrying on today. But we’re more than that, we can also brag about the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Ben Folds and the Avett Brothers, among others.


It doesn’t matter where you live in North Carolina, chances are you or someone you know has a surfboard (or two) in their garage and they know where to go for the good waves: Wrightsville Beach, Emerald Isle, Hatteras, and a dozen other places whose names you have to earn out on the waves.

College basketball.

In North Carolina, few things are as heated as your college basketball allegiance. Declaring for UNC or Duke is tantamount to wearing your political party, church denomination or barbecue loyalty on your sleeve. It’s bound to start a friendly argument or two, and occasionally you’ll be asked to passionately defend your choice.

Craft beer.

We take our beer seriously in North Carolina, and the state is full of breweries, bottle shops and taprooms—nearly 200 at last count—serving up every style of beer imaginable. Between the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, the NC Beer Guys and your local beer enthusiast, one can keep up with what’s new, what’s delicious, and what you should keep stocked at all times.

Bojangles (see “good sweet tea”).

Biscuits and sweet tea, two southern staples, served up with seasoned French fries in a drive through? That’s Bojangles.


Why in the world would North Carolina be passionate about Ohio? Three words: First In Flight. It was on the Outer Banks that two gentlemen from Dayton, Ohio, took the first powered flight, and even though they were Buckeyes through and through, North Carolina gets to claim the honor of being first in flight.

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