One hour from Raleigh, two from Charlotte, and three from Charleston, Moore County, North Carolina, has long been known as a golf destination. However, we’re making it official: Southern Pines and Pinehurst, North Carolina are worthy destinations in their own right with a focus on farm-to-table restaurants and cafes and charming historic accommodations in a peaceful Piedmont setting. You’ll need a long weekend to fully explore this quietly excellent corner of the Carolinas.
Where to Sip and Savor in Pinehurst
Breakfast at Mason’s Restaurant & Grocery in Aberdeen is essential. You’ll face the existential question: Order the Over Yonder Benedict with its delicately crispy fried green tomato and perfect poached egg, or go for the Train Wreck biscuit with crispy chicken thigh, smoked bacon, over easy egg, and sausage gravy? We say go all in and try both. At 195 American Fusion in Southern Pines, start with tuna carpaccio and eggrolls with house kimchi from the shareable plates menu. Indian butter chicken and pan-seared salmon are highlights of a home-run main menu, and you won’t want to skip dessert with seasonal options like pumpkin cheesecake.
Beekeeper Mary Garrison’s tiny Willa-bee Market in Vass offers local and plastic-free products and gifts, from fresh-cut bouquets to beeswax crayons and lip balm, plus honey on tap, UpDog Kombucha, Reverie Ginger Beer, and homemade pastries that will make your eyes roll back in your head. Pair a flight of house-brewed beer and cider with a platter of barbecue at Pinehurst Brewing Co. This brewhouse is known for its 1895 Lager and Pivoted IPA, but they offer some seasonal surprises as well, from pineapple apple cider in summer to Rockafella coffee chocolate stout when the weather turns cool. All of them go nicely with their mix-and-match signature barbecue sauces—try IPA beer mustard paired with smoked beef sausage.
For an afternoon boost, pop in at the Roast Office in Pinehurst for the local coffee and used-book browsing at the enclosed Given Book Shop, which boasts an extensive selection of mysteries. Ashten’s Restaurant & Bar in Southern Pines is an atmospheric pub with a menu featuring North Carolina beef, poultry, dairy, and occasionally ostrich, along with a seasonal chef’s tasting menu and cocktails. Plans are in the works to reestablish a speakeasy in the basement, where they’ve discovered a signed 1940s mural from the building’s original speakeasy days.
Explore and Relax in Pinehurst, North Carolina
The Spa at Pinehurst offers total relaxation in the form of massage, facial, or body scrub treatments. Consider their Spa Escape package, which includes a night at the newly renovated Pinehurst Resort, a legendary Southern breakfast, a fifty-minute spa treatment, and all-day access to the sauna, steam room, and whirlpools for under 500 dollars. Afterward, walk into Pinehurst village for a flavored mimosa and a sandwich—we recommend the rosbif et cornichons— or a strawberry-stuffed liege waffle from the elevated cafe menu under the dual chandeliers at Agora Bakery & Cafe.
Later, make time for dinner at Chef Warren’s in Southern Pines, where the French-trained chef Warren Lewis, his wife, Mary Ann, and their exceptional staff will make you feel like family. The menu changes frequently—get the mussels if they’re available—but you can count on elegant staples like french onion soup, escargot, and bavette steak and fries. (Save room for pecan pie.)
Bring close-toed shoes and take a 30-minute drive to the rustic Misty Morning Ranch in Robbins. You’ll see adult and baby ostriches, as well as eggs that can withstand 250 pounds of pressure. You can also pick up ostrich meat, jerky, and body butter at the Moore County Farmers Market on Thursday and Saturday mornings. You’ll have earned a brew and some Cajun boiled peanuts from the outdoor bar at Bayou in the Pines at Red’s Corner Trucks and Taps, where you can find a variety of noshes from a rotating selection of food trucks—their Facebook page lists the schedule, plus live music lineups. Stay at the historic Jefferson Inn in Southern Pines and see if the rumors of haunted rooms are true—or just stop by for late-night live music most weekends out in the courtyard when the weather is nice—or in their downstairs bar when it isn’t.
In its hundredth year, Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities is putting on 100 events this season, including the “Come Sunday” jazz series, where you can bring your own picnic and choose from local beer, wine, mimosas, and non-alcoholic beverages alfresco on the lawn. Duncraig Manor & Gardens has been completely restored to its 1930s grandeur by husband-and-wife team Caroline and Donald Naysmith. This circa-1928 English Tudor cottage manor offers twelve bedrooms among eight suites, original wood-burning fireplaces, landscaped gardens and grounds with a fountain and pool, and a basement wine cellar—just what you need to cap off a relaxing weekend getaway.
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Thank you for such a wonderful and true article about the “other than golf” Moore County attributes. Sometimes it feels as if the most wonderful parts of our country become buried beneath the golf courses, and that is sad given the efforts locals make to give people (even golfers) a real taste of our wonderful, diverse and friendly area.