Hunger Games – Sandhills Golfers Dining Guide

By Michael J. Solender

Memorable rounds at the Home of American Golf are fueled by great eats at breakfast, lunch, and dinner with dining and libations as varied and impressive as the area’s storied courses.

With nearly 40 golf courses, teeing it up in Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen offers golfers a nearly limitless buffet of challenges to satisfy their appetite for chasing the dimpled ball.

What may be most surprising when it comes to visiting the North Carolina Sandhills, however, is just how many options exist for dining before, after, and in-between rounds. Planning for early morning coffee, a hearty breakfast, post-round libations, or a celebratory dinner after solving 18 difficult problems, is as easy as a two-foot gimmie here. The only possibility for bogie is not taking full advantage of the area’s unique offerings and hidden gems. Here are several of our favorites.

Mason's Nashville Hot Chicken Biscuit

Pre-tee-time breakfast:

Whether your round begins at zero-dark-thirty or a bit later, these breakfast spots have you covered.

Betsy’s Crepes – Southern Pines – Betsy Markey has fueled up golfers for more than a decade from this iconic breakfast spot, located in the heart of downtown Southern Pines. Savory or sweet, Betsy’s has ethereal crepes (choose from whole wheat, buckwheat, Hungarian, or gluten free) that all but guarantee golfers a stellar morning round. The Blintz, with softened sweet cream cheese and raspberry sauce, is eye opening. Those preferring savory can choose Le Greco, with ham, artichokes, and feta cheese. Looking for a little pre-round spice? The Huevos Rancheros crepe is filled with black beans, cheddar, salsa, jalapenos, and eggs to give your morning some zip. Lunch is on tap here too as well as weekend brunch.

Broad Street Bakery & Café – Southern Pines – This friendly spot boasts tasty Breakfast Burritos, fresh-roasted coffee, ooey-gooey Sweet Rolls, Danish, and the best Chocolate Croissants this side of Paris.

Mason’s Restaurant & Grocery – Aberdeen – Contemporary southern comfort food is featured fare at Mason’s, where Culinary Institute of America trained chef and owner Brian Hainley serves up traditional regional favorites with an updated twist. Early morning golfers are tempted with scratch made Buttermilk Biscuits and Gravy, served here as a “flight” – each split biscuit with different gravy to sample. Locals love the Train Wreck, Nashville hot chicken, served on a split biscuit with cheese, smoky bacon, and sausage gravy – a hole in one. They serve lunch here too – look for the Fried Green Tomato BLT and their signature Bubba Burger, a three-napkin sandwich with the works including homemade pimento cheese. Manson’s also has take-away alongside a selection of grocery items.

Dewberry Deli with soda fountain seats on right

Quick & tasty between rounds:

For those playing 36, wanting to pack a lunch for the road, or looking to linger over casual lunch fare, these diners, delis, and grills have you covered with sandwiches, wraps, burgers, snacks, and more.

Cagle’s Diner – Robbins – Locals claim Cagle’s serves the best cheeseburgers in Moore County and who are we to argue Ravenous? Go for the Triple Bacon Cheeseburger and you’ll be reaching all the par 5’s in 2 – not really, but you’ll want to after refueling here.

Dewberry Deli – Cameron – This old-timey lunch spot and soda fountain is a throwback to small town Americana. Located in The Old Hardware Building in historic downtown Cameron, the menu here is loaded with salads, burgers, sandwiches, and specials like the Chicken Coop, chicken breast, marinated in Italian seasonings, over fresh lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, green peppers, mushrooms, and melted cheddar cheese, served with Italian dressing and warm rolls. Save room for fountain specials including milkshakes and the popular Orange Freeze, the classic orange sherbet shake with secret fountain flavors and milk.

Pik n Pig – Carthage – With some of the best ‘Q in the Carolinas, Pik N Pig proudly serves up “three generations of love, sweat and tears all on one plate.” Low and slow over smoking, over Hickory and all-natural charcoal make for the smokiest, tastiest and satisfy ‘Q for miles. Ribs, BBQ’d Chicken and of course Pork Shoulder BBQ make Pik N Pig a must stop while visiting the area. Their BBQ Sundae, served at the NC State Fair for years, layers pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw in a Mason jar – pig heaven.

The Railroad Deli – Vass – Clubs, subs, pitas, and stuffed croissants are only half the equation here at this super-friendly carry-out sandwich spot. Their pulled-pork BBQ is legendary and the burgers and dogs here will tide over the hungriest appetites in between rounds on the links.

Ronnie’s Chuckwagon – Carthage – This humble burger, hotdog, and sandwich shack is more than a roadside drive up with great service and freshly prepared daily specials. Fried Okra, Corn Dog Nuggets, Buffalo Hot Wings and homemade Banana Pudding are just a few items that make Ronnie’s a go to for golfers in the know.

Drum and Quill

Relive the round at these pubs, taverns & bars:

After the last putt drops, there is only one thing left for the group to do; Settle the score and debate the all the strokes over a round of libations, some great pub-grub, and a comfy place to settle in. We know just the spots.

Drum & Quill – Pinehurst – The “Drum” represents famous golf writer Bob Drum, and the “Quill” represents the pen that he used to immortalize Arnold Palmer as they founded Golf’s Professional Grand Slam – say the founders of this quintessential American tavern – a favorite in the village of Pinehurst. Tip back a Guinness, or a local Southern Pines Brewing Co. Texas Rig IPA, while all the days scores are added up. The huge beer menu makes choosing almost as tough as deciding which wedge to use on a short approach over the pond fronting the green. Lots of share plates here to nibble on including Pulled Pork Nachos and the Pimento Cheese tray with wontons for dunking. The Angus burgers are tops, so are the tacos with favorites including the Blackened Mahi and Korean Beef Tacos – both simply sing with flavor.

Maxie’s Grill & Tap Room – Pinehurst – Known for their inspiring wings, Maxie’s takes bar food to soaring heights with favorites like Loaded Potato Wedges, Mozzarella Sticks, Sweet Potato Fries with Honey Butter, and cheesy Quesadillas. Their grilled Reuben is special too. The “Cheers” vibe is for real, so settle in have a cold one and dream of tomorrow’s birdies in this cozy neighborhood joint.

The Bell Tree – Southern Pines – Named one of America’s Great Bourbon Bars with an astounding selection, The Bell Tree is a true classic “tavern of yester-year” with polished hardwood floors, an exposed brick wall, a high-top dark wooden bar and ornamental chestnut-colored ceilings all contributing to an old-school feel and ambience. Cocktails are an art form here and they have a fine selection of local brews and other tasty libations. Settle in for a post round meal as the kitchen here serves fare with flair including Finnegan’s Fish & Chips, Olivia’s Southern Charm Shrimp & Grits, and Chandler’s Smoked Chicken.

Workshop Tavern – Aberdeen – A newcomer to the culinary scene here, Workshop Tavern is garnering rave reviews for their fresh salads, sandwiches, and signature cocktails – Blackberry Mezcal Mule anyone? Specials to look for are their tasty Prime Rib dinners with Asiago potatoes and jumbo asparagus and Seared Ahi Tuna.

Ironwood Creme Brulee

Under par celebrations:

Going low means a lot to celebrate – these local hotspots allow for settling in with style and enjoying the day’s conquests.

Full Moon Oyster Bar – Southern Pines – Good shots take on an entirely new meaning here where oyster “shooters” rule. Start with Moon Rockers, oysters baked on the half shell and stuffed with creamy spinach – Rockefeller never had it so good. Graduate to Fresh Tidewater Sea Scallops, seasoned and steamed to perfection, or try the Low Country Shrimp Boil – be sure to ask for extra napkins.

Ironwood – Southern Pines – A visually stunning contemporary art-infused dining room is complimented by seasonal dining with the freshest seafood, locally farmed produce, and deft chef’s touch at this local stalwart. Follow the classic Wedge Salad with house-made Blue Cheese dressing with a dynamite Tomahawk Pork Chop, hand-cut Ribeye, or Lump Crab Cakes – A hole in one to be sure.

SoPies – Southern Pines – A true slice of New York here in the Sandhills, SoPies NY-style pizzeria has some of the best pizza in the region. Nonna’s is just like your own grandma would make if she were Italian – a thin style Sicilian pie with garlic butter, mozzarella cheese, and homemade Marinara. Calzones, subs, and white pies are all on the menu here at this authentic Italian haunt. Bellisimo!

Wherever golfers get their game on in the Sandhills, there’s several exciting culinary options within an easy chip shot. And unlike the game of golf, with Moore County dining, you just can’t miss.

Read Michael’s blog on the Farm to Table movement in Moore County.

Charlotte’s Michael J. Solender has been captivated by great storytelling since his youth. He now writes about food, golf, travel, arts and curious people. His writing has been featured at Southern Living, Carolinas Golf Magazine, Carolina Mountain Life, the Charlotte Observer, the Raleigh News & Observer, Lake Norman Magazine, and others. His personal essays explore the personalities, back stories, and character behind destinations. Learn more about Michael and follow him on Twitter @MJSolender.