You won’t find a lot of stuffy high-end restaurants in Fayetteville, but you will find plenty of small-town family-owned businesses and a huge diversity of international eateries due to the large military population. Service members love the food they ate while deployed to other countries and that influence is felt with the Asian, German, and Middle Eastern restaurants you will find in the area.
For ethnic eateries check out the Cumberland County Fayetteville area International Cuisine Trail. They have an old saying here, “Point your compass in any direction in Cumberland County, and you’re bound to come across savory delicacies at every turn.” The county and the Fayetteville area are true melting pots, and it is amazing the amount of diversity within the local dining scene. It may not be fancy, but simply good food so don’t let a strip mall location deter you from trying out these yummy food destinations.
Fayetteville Pie Company
The Fayetteville Pie Company is one yummy destination. Taste of Home designated it the best pie in North Carolina. What’s not to like about pie especially when you can have it as an entrée because the restaurant offers both savory and sweet pies. Owner Leslie Pearson grew up in a small town in Missouri, spending lots of time with her grandma. She was a master at berry picking and turning that natural bounty into jams, cobblers, and pies. Her grandma also made delectable savory pies out of refrigerator leftovers. Pearson’s pies are not made from leftovers but fresh, locally sourced ingredients and inspired by her family recipes.
This little restaurant is just darling. I went for lunch and had the special which is a larger savory pot pie and a small, sweet pie for dessert. I chose the homestyle chicken pot pie for my savory pie. It was everything you love in a pie: A delicate flaky crust filled with a creamy homestyle chicken stewed with roasted carrots, potatoes, peas, onions, and celery. It was hearty and such a great comfort food, I felt like I just had a hug from my Nana. The homestyle chicken pot pie is available every day as well as a choice of three savory pies which change daily.
These are highly creative such as the Deep South Dish. It is barbecue chicken layered over macaroni and collard greens with a cheddar cheese and bacon cream sauce. It is baked in the signature crust and garnished with a blend of artisan cheeses and sliced red onions then sprinkled with Italian seasonings, crushed red pepper, and fresh cilantro.
The dessert pies are equally amazing. I had a cookies and cream pie which had Oreo cookies crushed in a vanilla cream cheese mousse in a cookie crumb crust. So good. There are three choices each day with usually at least one fruit choice like the Caramel Apple Pear Crisp which takes cinnamon-spiced apples and pears then tops them with an old-fashioned oatmeal crisp and is served warm with whipped cream.
El Cazador Mexican Restaurant
I stumbled across this place one night when craving Mexican food and lucked out getting one of the last tables. This place was packed and as soon as one table emptied, new guests took their place. The restaurant was well staffed with everyone working together so there were no long waits on beverages and food. El Cazador Mexican Restaurant is a locally-owned family business and has been around for more than 50 years. Owner Agustin Alvarez ensures the food is authentic and uses top quality ingredients, including Sterling Silver Premium Meats and locally sourced produce. One of its most popular items, Pedro’s Quesadilla, is made from a recipe that originated in Guadalajara and has been a staple on the menu for over 50 years.
I ordered guacamole which was fresh and delicious to go with the tortilla chips and house made salsas, one mild and one spicy. My Margarita was awesome and tasted freshly made, not from a mix. For my meal, I had the Asado tacos which layered handmade tortillas with Asada, cilantro, and onions and were served with rice and beans. Everything on the menu looks delicious and there is a huge variety of options. It was an incredibly good meal, and I can see why it is so popular with locals.
Antonella’s Italian Ristorante
Antonella’s Italian Ristorante was the most upscale restaurant I dined in during my visit to Fayetteville. It has a great location in charming downtown Fayetteville with both indoor seating and outdoor sidewalk café style dining. There is plenty of parking downtown with lovely, wide sidewalks for strolling. Antonella’s serves Southern Italian cuisine and is extremely popular. They do not take reservations so try to arrive before 6 p.m. to be seated. If you must wait, no worries they will take your phone number, and you can stroll around downtown. What I loved is that the restaurant was fully staffed which is a rarity post-COVID-19 and a testament to good management that makes this a place people want to work out.
Our server was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu. When we ordered the calamari, she recommended the sweet and spicy version which was outstanding. It is tossed with the sauce right before serving so the fried calamari was still crispy. My entrée came with the house salad. I could not believe how good this simple dish tasted and the portion size was spot on for no waste. I had the Blue Crab stuffed Ravioli for my entrée and it was delicious. The tender ravioli was topped with sautéed shrimp, and finely chopped tomatoes smothered in a rich, creamy sauce and garnished with parsley. It was such a rich dish I took ½ home to enjoy lunch the next day. This was truly a memorable meal.
Country Fish Fry
I found this place when I read the local Fayetteville Observer. On the front page was an article, “Hidden Gems of Fayetteville: Celebrating 30 Years of Family and Fish at Country Fish Fry.” It turned out to be a few blocks away from my hotel. Owner Tasos Hasapis has over 50 years of restaurant experience in Fayetteville and Country Fish Fry was a beloved addition to the community with its opening in 1991. This is fast food but nothing like you will find at the local chain drive-thru restaurants. Country Fish Fry specializes in fried fish and shrimp which are cooked to order. The menu is simple: fish, shrimp, fries, hush puppies, sweet tea, and you can order a side of coleslaw. Because of the simple menu, service is quick with the food served piping hot.
Make sure to try the Manager’s Special which is three large pieces of fried fish, French fries, hush puppies, and a small, sweet tea for $7 when I visited. I also added a side of Hasapis’ tasty coleslaw which was the perfect accompaniment to the fish. The hushpuppies are seriously good, and Country Fish Fry is known as “The Home of the Hushpuppy,” and the recipe is a secret. The fish is of exceptionally good quality, just be careful when eating as it has some bones. The local paper was correct that this really is a hidden gem.
Andy’s Homemade Ice Cream
Not a restaurant but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about Andy’s Homemade Ice Cream and what a story it is. I just love Andy. He is just darling with his pronounced Southern accent and sweet nature. Andrew Grant Jackson is known as Andy’s to all who have frequented his contract post office for more than 30 years. He began making his signature ice cream around 16 years ago after a rocky start. This is one of those stories you just can’t make up.
Andy loves John Deere Tractors, and he collects them and shows them at tractor shows. He got the idea to mount a John Deere motor he had on a trailer to run an ice cream churn. There was only one problem, “My ice cream was terrible,” he said. His wife Hyon wanted him to sell the dang thing, but he decided to visit Tommy Gross in Sanford, North Carolina, who had a sign out selling homemade ice cream. During the visit, Hyon asked Tommy if he wanted to buy the unique ice cream maker but instead, Tommy offered to teach Andy how to make ice cream and the rest is history.
Andy says there are three things that are key to good ice cream. “Number one, I buy my milk and butter straight from the dairy; number two, I only use the best quality ingredients — fresh strawberries, blueberries, and the produce market I buy my peaches at is right across the street from the orchard. Number three, I use plastic airtight containers and not cardboard. It is more expensive, but it keeps the ice cream fresher.” Andy’s Homemade Ice Cream would not be as good without the behind-the-scenes prep by wife Hyon who pits, peels, and chops all those peaches.
Chocolate, vanilla and butter pecan (his top seller) are available year round, but the strawberry, blueberry, and peach flavors are seasonal. He is only open Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you are wondering if it is too early for ice cream, Andy says, “It’s never too early for ice cream.”
There are more than just Southern food offerings at restaurants in Fayetteville and Cumberland County, so step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
There are many dining opportunities to try in North Carolina: