My commute from Chapel Hill to Hillsborough is one of the highlights of my day. It’s a simple drive – pull onto Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Chapel Hill and continue straight down 86 for exactly 18 minutes before I arrive at VIETRI. The Old 86 feels like it hasn’t changed a bit, and I find myself daydreaming on every drive.
In the morning, I think about the day’s work ahead, who is where and what they might be doing, about my husband Bill’s commute to his work. If it isn’t too early, I call my mother in Rocky Mount to catch up on her night’s sleep and tell her anything I might have forgotten the night before! And then I just look – in front of me and to the sides (front angle, of course!).
My favorite intersection is at 86 and Mount Sinai Road. There is a white clapboard house set on the hill to the right. My college friend Kurt Newman lived there our junior and senior years at Carolina. That was 1972 and 1973! Even then, we were all cooking together and having a great time! Kurt stayed in Chapel Hill for medical school and is now a pediatric surgeon in Washington DC.
To my left is Allen and Son BBQ, a great stop for takeout for dinner. I always take our Italian visitors there, and it’s normally their first time trying southern barbeque. Allen and Son has not changed in thirty years – red and white checkered tablecloths – plastic for easy cleaning – and delicious “q” and the fixings, including homemade desserts. If you like bread pudding or coconut pie, this is the place!
Across the railroad tracks is Lockhart’s Trading Post. This is another “take you back some years” outpost – delicious sandwiches, coffee, and usually farmer’s produce. Every morning, the pick-up trucks are parked outside, and I like to imagine that the drivers are catching up on gossip. The store feels like good ol’ country living.
And then there is Mark Day Catering. Mark’s company is in the yellow house. I love working with Mark and his great team. He is a genius with food combinations and believes in using as many locally grown ingredients as possible. If you go through the side door before they close, they have a take-out freezer which makes for a great place to pick up dinner…again! My husband, Bill, and I went to Mark’s 49th birthday party on the top of 140 West Franklin on Saturday. His birthday cake was beautiful – it was iced in blues and greens and featured a few very chic flowers. On it, it said “ME ME MINE MINE!” We thought that was particularly funny, because Mark Day is one of the most humble people we know.
After this plethora of food stops, the road begins to wind. I take a deep breath and smile, thinking about how lucky I am to work at VIETRI in Hillsborough, to live in Chapel Hill, and to be a North Carolinian!