Kinston NC is a historic town in Lenoir County in eastern North Carolina. You drive through Kinston NC on the way to New Bern, Morehead City, Atlantic Beach, or Beaufort, but there are some great reasons to stop, explore, and stay awhile in this river town.
Kinston is 90 miles southeast of Raleigh on Route 70 and 70 miles from Morehead City. Kinston NC is known for its location on the Neuse River, Civil War history, barbecue, and recently, Chef Vivian Howard’s Chef and the Farmer restaurant.
Kinston NC history and shops
CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center is the home of the remains of the CSS Neuse. Part of the NC Department of Cultural Resources, the center serves as a regional museum for interpreting Civil War history in eastern NC.
Flue by Thomas Sayre is a large art installation on the corner of Blount and Mitchell. The artist was inspired by the tobacco barns in the eastern North Carolina landscape. http://smartkinston.com/about/thomas-sayre-sculpture-project/
The Neuse Sports Shop is a must-stop for most people on their way to the coast. It’s been hit several times by hurricane-induced river floods, so its character has changed over the years. However, it’s still a great source for fishing (a live bait tank!) and other outdoor gear and bug repellants. The shop is in the Frenchman’s Creek Mall area which provides other specialty shops including nice clothing for adults and children. http://www.nssnc.com/default.asp
Kinston NC area map
Grabbing a bite
King’s Barbecue has been serving chicken and barbecue pork since 1936! Our family likes to stop by here to pick up dinner for our first night at the beach. In North Carolina, we eat our barbecue hickory-smoked, with hush puppies and coleslaw. https://www.kingsbbq.com/
Hawk’s Nest Café and General Store (100 S. Queen Street) is a short walk down Queen Street from the O’Neil hotel. The café is a simple diner style restaurant with Southern food (I had a fried green tomato with my breakfast!). The building is on the National Historic Register and was a Standard Drug, one of the first to desegregate in the 1960s. The floor is tiled entirely with pennies! The staff is very friendly, there are fantastic baked goods, and you might end up visiting with some of the locals.
The Boiler Room is an oyster bar owned by Chef Vivian Howard and her husband, Ben Knight. This casual place for fresh oysters and wonderful burgers is our favorite place to stop for lunch on the way to the beach. They make their own saltines! http://www.vivianhoward.com/boiler-room/
Chef and the Farmer
You may have seen Chef Vivian Howard and her husband, Ben Knight, on their PBS show, A Chef’s Life. The Chef and the Farmer is open for dinner Monday through Saturday. The restaurant has an urban, artistic vibe. You don’t have to dress formally (some men were there without ties or jackets) but the food is so amazing you feel like you should be dressed up! Chef Vivian uses locally sourced food, whole animals, and changes the menu often. Her food is based in Southern rural cooking with modern haute cuisine twists. http://www.vivianhoward.com/chef-the-farmer/
When The Gardener and I went, we made a reservation two months ahead. They post on Facebook in the afternoon the status of open tables each day. Also, there is nice bar seating facing the wood fired stove and chefs that they keep for walk-ins.
First up was a salad that included slivers of persimmon and country ham acting like prosciutto. The pork loin came with spaetzle and an apple pecan sort of chutney. The brisket was the best ever, just melt in your mouth, with a turnip bread pudding.
When I saw a pie with muscadines, I couldn’t resist trying it. It came with peanut butter ice cream with a beautiful texture.
The service was fantastic. I will definitely be visiting the Chef and Farmer again! I would love to go when tomatoes and corn are in season.
More Kinston NC
The O’Neil luxury boutique hotel is a fantastic place to stay. Formerly, the building was a bank and the lobby is very luxurious. The vault has been turned into a little service bar with Mother Earth beers in the fridge and other beverages. The rooms have been redone in a traditional Southern style with lots of antique furniture. I was ready to take home a darling side table that was in our bathroom! The custom made draperies, silk rugs, and amazing heavy sheets all give a luxurious feel. I can’t wait to go back again! https://www.the-oneil.com/
Mother Earth Brewing has tours Tuesdays through Saturdays. The tap room is open Tuesdays through Sundays. http://www.motherearthbrewing.com/brewery/tap-room
- Visit Kinston Lenoir County
- CSS Neuse and Governor Caswell Memorial
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