A Lovely Short & Sweet Weekend: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Last weekend the boyfriend and I went on an impromptu trip to North Carolina to visit his family for the first time (eek). He asked me nonchalantly a week before if I’d like to join him and to which I replied a bit nervously, “okay sure!” So that was that, and I had no idea what to expect. Winston-Salem, NC wasn’t on my bucket list of places to visit but I looked forward to seeing where the guy I fell for grew up.
Before moving to Atlanta last fall, my boyfriend spent most of his youth in Winston-Salem, NC. Other than their vinegar-based bbq sauces and Cheerwine, I knew very little about this southern state although it is a close neighbor to Georgia. I kept an open mind and tagged along.
Only about a 4 hour drive from Georgia, we were able to arrive in the late evening after work that Friday to his parent’s home. Although I wasn’t able to greet them upon arrival, I immediately felt at home. There were two neatly wrapped bowls of bun bo hue and a mug of iced water with salted lemon- with my name written on a napkin placed on top of the mug. We boiled the broth and ladled them over the fat rice noodles then chowed down. Exhausted from the drive and our tummies full, we went to rest right out meal to enjoy the next day ahead.
Since Sunday was reserved as a family day, Saturday was the day we went venturing around the city. Later that afternoon while waiting for a drink at a Starbucks, I looked over to my boyfriend and said beaming “you know, I’m really having a great time so far here. This feels like one of those scenes in a Korean drama or romantic movie where a couple is having a picture perfect day.”
Surprisingly I ended up having one of the best weekends I had in awhile and was thoroughly charmed by city of Winston-Salem. Here is a list of recommend things to do and places to go if you ever visit this charming Southern city:
1. Eat lunch at Village Tavern
After my initial introduction to my boyfriend’s parents that morning, he wanted to take me to go eat lunch at a restaurant he used to work at when he was younger called Village Tavern, located in a bustling shopping area called Reynolda Village.
This cozy pub style restaurant serves up both classic and eclectic American fare, which I rarely crave but was quite delicious. We ordered the crispy tavern chips (according to the bf, they are served with the BEST house-made ranch sauce), a piping hot pimento cheese dip served with fresh veggies and a bowl of classic french onion soup which Village Tavern is well-know no for.
My boyfriend laughed when I gave him a suspicious look after taking a bite into my soup and said, “I hate to admit this, but this is the best french onion soup I’ve ever had.” We then continued onto some friendly banter about my statement as he poked fun at me and teased, “why? Because it’s in North Carolina?”
The wait staff were friendly, definitely exuding southern hospitality which made the food taste that much better. The hot pimento cheese was sharp, rich and absolutely sinful and a must try.
2. Get some caffeine, affogato-style, at Washington Perk & Provisions:
“We absolutely need to go to Washington Perk and get my favorite thing there- a wolf cafe,” said the boyfriend with excitement.
“What’s a wolf cafe?”
“It’s their version of a classic affogato- espresso over custard ice cream.”
This cafe/deli/market was a neat little spot in downtown Winston-Salem. It had an old provisions store look with a hipster cafe vibe. Their selection of gourmet food items included things like craft ginger beers or gluten-free breads, but they also had southern classics like fried southern fruit pies and hot breakfast biscuits made from scratch.
I had myself a modest little cup of espresso macchiato to help digest my heavy lunch, but I definitely took a little steal of the wolf cafe too! :)
3. Stroll around downtown and enjoy all the art:
Downtown Winston-Salem is very colorful.
The city definitely shows its appreciation for local artists and talent and I loved seeing little pockets of the city’s personality being expressed through the art and culture.
I also thought is was cool to see that the city had a venue to view some very unique films at Aperture Cinema, which according to their instagram bio they are a “non-profit art house cinema in downtown winston-salem. 4.5 screens, 231 seats and a whole bunch of movies maybe you've heard of.” Although I didn’t have any time to check it out on this trip, I am curious to check it out the next time I’m in town.
Every turn I took in downtown surprised me. Every corner unraveled exciting and colorful pieces which made me more curious about the artists in this city. Their art spoke volumes to me.
Most of the pieces that I saw seemed to contain liberal messages pertaining to new age spirituality, social justice, modernism and pure artistic expression while still maintaining a reverence for the city’s roots.
I’m sure I missed a lot more amazing pieces of arts and culture. I wonder what you will come across if you ever visit Winston-Salem?
4. Check out the unique vintage stores downtown:
This interesting little shop filled with vintage items and other oddities lead me to find some great vintage finds.
Although the vintage clothing selection was very small (but very curated), the store was filled with other eccentric, odd and one-of-a-kind items. Be sure to check it out if you’re ever in town.
5. Try the baked goods (and chocolate) in Old Salem:
Driving through historical Old Salem, it was hard to pass up a checking out C. Winkler Bakery. I am a sucker for artisanal bakeries since we don’t get much access to them in my neighborhood. With my ongoing craving for freshly baked bread, I asked to take a peep into the place. Visiting this bakery was probably the highlight of my trip.
Upon entering we were welcomed by a pleasant lady in historical garb sharing samples of the day’s baked goods with the customers. She was filled with enthusiasm and chatting away about everything set out on the table.
The aroma in the bakery was comforting from the smokiness of the bread baked from oven in the other room, as they would have almost 200 hundred years ago.
There were samples of moravian style cookies, whole wheat bread slathered in softened butter and their famous sugar bread. She encouraged us to try everything. Although the whole wheat bread was not the softest, it was wholesome and tasty.
Across the hallway was the bakery shop showcasing specialties such as their freshly baked breads, cookies and other treats. We ended up buying the tastiest ginger snaps I’ve ever tried- they tasted like christmas and filled my heart with pure cookie love.
I loved the friendly ladies who ran this shop. I was mesmerized by one lady in particular who had the most interesting southern dialect. My visit to this bakery became more than just a quick tour, but an enriching experience that enhanced my perspective of the cultural richness of the south.
We made our way upstairs in this tiny little bakery and discovered a small room selling coffee drinks and locally made chocolate (hands down bait for me). The chocolates there were made right down the road from Brasstown Craft Chocolate.
I couldn’t resist buying some of the chocolates after exchanging a pleasant talk with the owner himself who was the cashier that day. He thoroughly described each chocolate to us and you could tell he was very passionate about his work. I wanted to support this local business owner and bought three bars of chocolate. Of all the chocolates we got my favorite was the Ucayali bar made with Peruvian beans and 70% of pure chocolate goodness. It tasted bright, like berries and merlot. It was unbelievably flavorful and complex.
6. Win the cutest plushies and take sticker pictures with your boo at Round 1:
This place was so much fun! Imagine your typical Dave and Buster’s or indoor entertainment arcade but with selection after selection of giant crane machines filled with the most kawaii plushies and sticker booths (purikura) you can only find in japan (which are on a whole different level by the way).
The inner middle school asian school girl in me was squealing for joy here. The funniest part of all this is that, to be honest, I really didn’t expect to see a slice of Japan in North Carolina (I can feel the bf’s judgy glare reading this).
Aside from two of my favorites found here, they also have other fun things to do like arcade games, bowling, air hockey, etc. I highly recommend this place for a fun date.
7. Get some NC style barbecue at Camel City BBQ Factory:
Craving some wings, a friend of the bf suggested we try out Camel City BBQ for some award-winning smoked wings. With our eyes bigger than our stomachs, we ordered some fried pickles (my fave) and the 3 meat mess hall tray and opted out for the wings. We ended up taking more than half of the food home though because it was just so. much. food.
To be completely honest (don’t kill me, I am a Texas bbq kinda girl), I was not a huge fan of the bbq since I don’t like sweet sauces… but oh my goodness ya’ll, their smoked sausage was out of this world! Definite must-try.
When we met up with the bf’s buddies later that evening they asked us how the wings were. When they find out we didn’t order any they lamented. Duly noted. Next time we will try the wings instead!
If you live in the South like I do and need feel the itch to go off the beaten path, I would hands down recommend visiting Winston-Salem. This is a unique Southern city that is full of charm, hidden treasures and nice people. Let me know if you ever visit and how your trip was!