Heading down I-95 on our way to Topsail Beach, NC, Nancy and I pulled off at the Dorches exit on Rt. 43 toward Rocky Mount. Our destination was Smith’s Red & White, one of the world’s great grocery stores. Smith’s packages many of their foods and vegetables and makes their own sausages and other delectable dishes. We loaded up with some groceries to take to the beach, then went next door to eat lunch. But the restaurant was closed. Taking a chance, and not knowing where I was heading, I continued on Rt. 43 into Rocky Mount where we saw a place called Gardner’s Barbeque Restaurant.
They had a buffet spread and we decided to try that.
It was incredible. Their fried chicken was hot, crispy and baby tender. The barbeque (Eastern North Carolina style with no red sauce) was excellent. They also had fried catfish, Brunswick stew, chicken and pastry and great sides such as cornbread, collards, green beans seasoned with country ham, corn pudding, boiled potatoes, cabbage, hush puppies, etc. with fresh pies and cobblers for dessert. It was $7.95 – all you could eat. We did pay extra for the iced tea, but our tab was less than $10 each for some of the best food I’ve ever put in my mouth. Nancy agreed. We ate like kings and felt guilty for paying so little. I left a very generous tip for our friendly server who brought our drinks and clean plates for second and third helpings. I’ve had $30 entrees that were no where near this good. It was simply incredible food.
Gardner’s has three stores in Rocky Mount, but the 1331 N. Wesleyan Blvd. location where we ate is the most convenient for I-95 travelers.
For heaven’s sake, if you are headed south on I-95, and if you are hungry and it’s anywhere near lunch time, stop by Gardner’s Barbeque and order their buffet. You’ll thank me later that you did.