There was a time when Winston-Salem was known for one thing: tobacco. What else would you expect from a city whose name is a mashup of two popular American cigarette brands? Today, however, the “Twin City” is known for its fast-progressing cultural and food scenes, as well as being a major player in the fields of finance, medicine and technology.
Back to that hyphenated name: visitors may be surprised to learn that it actually has nothing to do with smoking. It started back in 1753 when Moravian settlers came to the area, attracted by fertile land, a temperate climate, and pristine water sources. They called the heart of their new home Salem. It was a self-sustained community, with each sex and age group having specific tasks to keep the town running smoothly. The Moravians were skilled craftsmen–woodworkers, tanners, potters, ironsmiths–and visitors to Old Salem can still witness these trades being practiced just as they were more than 250 years ago.
About a hundred years later, a more secular industrial center formed north of the Moravian community. Winston (named after Revolutionary war hero Joseph Winston), eventually emerged as a leader in textile and tobacco manufacturing. By 1913, the two cities merged, and the rest is a proud history that current residents are proud to share with those who visit North Carolina’s fifth-largest city.
We took a spin around the town to discover the best eats, shopping and activities. Next time you’re in the Tarheel State, here’s how to do Winston-Salem…like a local.
Coffee Shops & Cafés
Twin City Hive Coffee Lounge (301 Brookstown Ave.) has only been on the scene for two years, but they quickly became a favorite local hangout due to the quality of their ingredients, support for local artisans, and friendly staff. All the beans here come from North Carolina roasters, and you can also pick up locally-crafted gifts like mugs and pottery. This spot is so popular, in fact, that they recently moved to a bigger space with more room to work and hang out.
Krankie’s (211 E. 3rd St.) is a good choice when you want options. Serving breakfast, lunch, supper and weekend brunch, they also have a full bar in addition to an impressive ethically-sourced coffee selection. A hipster hangout (sans hipster prices) with a cult following around town, the vibe is relaxed and the décor funky. Don’t miss the smoked fish toast and pickled veggies straight from their garden.
Two words: breakfast and dessert.Midtown Café and Dessertery (151 S Stratford Rd.) excels at both, and has lunch and dinner options, too. Vegetarians will love the variety of choices (think banana crunch or sweet potato pancakes) and the French toast is a no-brainer. But the star of the show is the extensive selection of homemade desserts–try the Hummingbird cake, a Southern specialty.
Art Galleries & Gardens
Reynolda House (2250 Reynolda Rd.) is the former private residence of prominent tobacco mogul R.J. Reynolds and his beloved wife Katharine. Today, it’s a museum and gallery that boasts an extensive collection of American art, and regularly features work from renowned artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Grant Wood and Stuart Davis. Outside, a formal rose garden and manicured grounds are works of art unto themselves.
If you’ve ever seen glassblowers at work, you know it can look pretty intimidating–but it doesn’t have to be. At The Olio (918 Bridge St. NW), you can watch artists create, or even learn how to blow glass yourself. For those who want a more hands-on experience, they offer two-hour beginner classes where you can learn more about the medium. You’ll leave with either a small sculpture or paperweight that you make yourself. Or, just browse the gift shop and support this creative nonprofit that way.
The name might not sound trendy or exciting, but the treasures held within the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (924 S. Main St.) are every bit as impressive and noteworthy as its contemporary counterparts. Showcasing, furniture, silver, textiles, art, ceramics and other items from the early South, the museum is open daily for self-guided tours. To delve deeper, spring for the one or two-hour guided tours, which provide a knowledgeable guide and access to the study galleries.
One of the premier wineries in the state, Raffaldini Vineyards (450 Groce Rd., Ronda) sits on acres of rolling hills, framed by panoramic views of the Blue Ridge mountains. The Raffaldini family is constantly experimenting with new fermentation and processing techniques, mixing old world artisanship with modern technologies. If possible, plan to visit during one of their quarterly Four Seasons dinners, which feature seasonally-inspired courses paired with wines chosen personally by the owners.
What do wine and llamas have in common? They’re the co-stars of the show at Divine Llama Vineyards (4126 Divine Llama Lane, East Bend). Here, you can take a (haltered) llama on an easy hike through the fields and forest surrounding the winery, all while learning more about these cuddly camelids, local history, and the winemaking process. After the walkabout, relax at the tasting room with your new buddy (they love treats). It might seem like an odd pairing, but somehow it works.
Winemaking is literally in vintner Sean McRitchie’s DNA. His father was a winemaker in Oregon and California, and Sean grew up to work in renowned wineries from Alsace Lorraine to Australia. The vintages at McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks (315 Thurmond Post Office Rd., Thurmond) are outstanding, but what distinguishes this vineyard from others in the region is its hard cider program. Heritage apples are handpicked from an orchard in North Carolina’s Brushy Mountains, fermented, and nurtured into a crisp, clear artisan cider. Bring a picnic basket and spend the afternoon at this tranquil oasis just 15 minutes from downtown.
Named one of “America’s Best Farmers Markets” by U.S. News and World Report, the Cobblestone Farmers Market is a lively, year-round market featuring the best bounty from regional producers. Vendors are rigorously vetted to ensure their products adhere to strict animal welfare and sustainability standards, so you can be sure that what you’re buying is not only good for you, but for Mother Earth as well. Browse (and sample) from local cheeses, meets, fruits, vegetables, breads, flowers, jam, wine and much more. On average, products travel just 21 miles from production site to you. (Various locations depending on season.)
Located in the heart of the Winston-Salem Downtown Arts District, Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery (601 N. Trade St.) features works from nearly 400 talented craftsmen from across the United States. From exquisite jewelry to handmade garments, decorative items to functional housewares, you are sure to find just the unique item or gift you’re looking for. Exhibitors must complete a rigorous juried selection process based on their skills and professionalism, ensuring that shoppers not only have access to quality craftsmanship, but excellent customer service as well. When it’s time to shop for take-home gifts, this should be your first stop.
If it’s North Carolina-themed gifts you seek, look no further than Design Archives (636 W. Fourth St.). The funky selection of apparel, pillows, jewelry, home décor is constantly changing, and there’s also a section for vintage clothing and accessories. Multiple vendors, collectors, artisans and resellers lease space inside the store and operate as “mini shops,” ensuring a rotating inventory that keeps locals coming back to check out what’s new.
One of the more unique shopping–and lounging–experiences in the city, Twin City Cigar Company (301 Mill St.) has a “Buena Vista Social Club” vibe. The owner, a former deejay from New York, always has some great (often Cuban) music playing, and there are several outdoor smoking areas as well as two indoor lounges with leather smoking chairs and state-of-the-art ventilation systems. So you can stay connected, there’s free wifi, a charging station for your devices, and printing and faxing services, too. Of course, the walk-in humidor is a beautiful sight to behold. Order an espresso or filtered water and plan to stay awhile.
Monkee’s of The Village (217 Reynolda Village) is the place for upscale ladies shopping. Cute dresses, jackets, sweaters, shoes and brand name jewelry such as Chanel and Michael Kors fill the boutique floor, ensuring you’ll look great for a night out downtown. The friendly and knowledgeable staff can help put your look together.
Restaurants & Pubs
It’s hard to pick a favorite part about The Porch (840 Mill Works St.): the friendly staff, gargantuan portion sizes, eclectic décor, and cooler stocked with take-home menu favorites make it hard to choose. Menu standouts include the chopped salad and pimiento cheeseburgers. If you visit at brunch, don’t miss the French toast sticks and Bloody Mary bar.
By the time he was 12 years old, legendary moonshiner Frank Williams was operating his own still. Now, patrons at Broad Branch Distillery (756 Trade St. NW) can sip for themselves what all the fuss was about. After years of “chasing” Mr. Williams around, he agreed to let owners John Fragakis and Joe Tappe produce his secret whiskey recipe. Due to recent changes in North Carolina’s beverage control laws, locals and visitors alike can now purchase one bottle per year at the on-site tasting room. Stop by on the first or third Friday of the month, when you can hop on a tour at 6:30 p.m.
Inside Winston-Salem’s swankiest new hotel, The Cardinal, is The Katharine Brasserie (51 4th St. E.), named for tobacco mogul R.J.’s wife. Here, diners can savor perfect mashups of traditional brasserie fare and Southern cooking. Think baked escargot with crispy hushpuppies, duck confit with grilled peaches and pickled mustard seeds, and sweet potato crème brulée. A raw bar and robust cocktail and wine lists round out the tasting experience.
Local celebrity chef Tim Grandinetti (who has appeared on the Food Network’s popular Chopped series) operates two of the hottest restaurants in town. At Quanto Basta (680 W. Fourth St.), he adheres to the namesake Italian concept: “as much as you want, as much as you need.” Small plates and antipasti make the perfect beginning to an evening with friends, while hearty, heaping plates of pasta with rustic sauces, artisanal pizzas and charcuterie will appease those with a growling tummy. An extensive wine list featuring Barolo, classified-growth Bordeaux, and other hard-to-find varietals offers the perfect complement to whatever dish you choose.
Craft beer is all the rage in the U.S., and Winston has its own artisan brewery to be proud of. Hoots Roller Bar & Beer Co. (840 Mill Works St.) prides itself on serving “blue collar brews” alongside its signature offerings like lagers, stouts, wormwood sours and heather ale. Think you don’t like beer? You might become a convert after listening to the bartenders speak lovingly about their brews and the quality ingredients that go into making them. In case you’re wondering, the name comes from the building it occupies–the former Hoots flour mill is a historic backdrop to the modern interpretations of Old World classic brews.