In the Press
"If you’re on the far east side of the Triad, you’ll need to take Chef John Wilson, from Sofie’s Cork and Ale’s suggestion because the sandwich he recommends from Saxapahaw General Store in Saxapahaw is worth the trip. 'My favorite sandwich is the Duck Bacon Turkey Club,” Wilson said. ”It has Weaver Street Market Bakery sourdough, deli-sliced turkey, house-smoked duck bacon mayo. lettuce and tomato.'"
"I’m one of those people who secretly believe that there are undiscovered places in the world, tracts of jungle where heretofore thought-to-be-extinct dinosaurs roam. I believe in Bigfoot, Sasquatch, El Dorado; in caves full of gold and ancient bones and the palm-leaved pages of books bound together with the hair from an aurochs’s mane; in words written by someone whose name we will never know. Now, I believe in Saxapahaw, too."
"The Best Gas Station Breakfast in the South"
"I was polishing off a steaming bowl of coconut curry soup when a server appeared bearing a plate of plump pan-seared diver scallops atop creamy applewood-bacon succotash and braised asparagus. The food was befitting a candlelit restaurant, but I had a view of gas pumps outside and, a few steps from my table, fluorescent-lighted aisles packed with workaday necessities — toilet paper, motor oil, sauerkraut juice (aids digestion, according to the label). This jarring contrast of farm-fresh food and service-station atmosphere is part of the appeal of the place where I was dining: the Saxapahaw General Store."
On the way from the car to the Saxapahaw General Store Cafe, we were beckoned by a man sitting on the patio, donning thick goggles and what looked to be a liturgical stole over casual attire. “I see you have a camera. You’ll probably be interested in this,” he said to my partner while pointing to a straw basket with something the size of an olive dangling from its high handle. Our new friend turned out to be Chris Carter, naturalist, artist and frequent diner, who had brought with him to brunch his soon-to-be-hatched monarch butterfly. Carter’s goggles were high-powered magnifying glasses, and his scarf was a “monarch vestment” made for him by his partner and dining companion, Deborah Amaral. “It represents the colors of the monarch life cycle,” she explained.
The Saxapahaw General Store is a three-aisle spot that can seat 35 on the inside. Two gas pumps are out front, an armload of firewood props open the front door, and a flier near the counter advertises a class for barefoot ballroom dancing. On this particular Saturday, two kids poke at each other while their dad orders the store’s specialty on a house-made English muffin, with Manchego cheese, roasted tomatoes, lemon garlic aioli, and an olive tapenade. It’s the Saxapahaw Goat Burger. It’s the creation of Jeff Barney. He’s the guy behind the counter in the “Feel Me, I’m Organic’’ T-shirt. He runs Saxapahaw General Store with his partner, Cameron Ratliff. They have replaced milk crates with patio furniture and assist people interested in buying what Barney calls “peasant food from around the world.’’ Together, they have turned an old convenience store into a culinary magnet. “I like this place because there is not a lot of stuff,’’ a customer told Barney once. “It’s not stuffy.’’
"It's a gas station. A general store. it's also a gourmet restaurant that Bob Garner can't stop raving about."
"We came in here without knowing what was possible," Ratliff said. They evolved slowly, trying not to alienate customers. Their shelves reflect that transition: agave nectar next to pure blackstrap molasses; Goody's powders around the corner from a local herbalist's products, Suki's Blends. They asked regulars, such as Edmund and Meredith Moseley, what they would like to be able to buy without having to drive to Carrboro or Chapel Hill. Their list included kombucha, coconut milk, kefir (a fermented milk drink). "As you can imagine, we were excited to have a local grocery store with local foods, organic foods," Meredith said. "And delicious meals," Edmund added.
"Farm flavors that make the road trip worthwhile"
"In a tiny kitchen space where you'd usually get a livermush biscuit or a hot dog, they're turning out plates of amazing, all-local, gourmet-level food. Serious food, like duck fat fries, free-range chicken, Cane Creek farm pork chops and wild-caught striped bass. At reasonable prices, even -- most plates hang in the $15 to $20 range, which isn't out of the ordinary for food on that level."
"With menu items ranging from local Braised Beef Short Ribs or pan-seared scallops to simpler, cheaper dishes like a $4 local hot dog, I can attest to the fact that the food is both insanely good and surprisingly cheap. And where else can you pick up a tank full of gas (or local biodiesel), a 12 pack of Miller, a Twix ice cream, fair trade chocolate AND a bag of local, organic chicken feed? The strength of the place is that it successfully serves the whole community while continuing to move things forward in terms of sustainability."