Hit The Road: Dining Around Kannapolis, N.C.

As a Washingtonian, I am loath to suggest any restaurants that aren’t walkable from home. When people ask me where to go to dinner when they visit, my first question isn’t, “What do you like to eat?” but rather, “Where are you staying?” 

The food is too good to let my camera eat first at this restaurant.

So a town like Kannapolis, an area like Concord, is confusing to me. Nearly everything is 8-15 minutes away from everything. I have stayed in nearly every Hilton property in three counties trying to find one that is walkable to a restaurant. I have walked under overpasses, across highways, and alongside freeways because Google Maps shows that a restaurant is less than a half mile away. The app has always been right, but it’s never warned me about the dangerous path. 

I like staying in Davidson, N.C. because it does have two hotels that are walkable to restaurants. For diehard point collectors, Hilton’s Homewood Suites property is pretty conveniently situated about one mile from downtown, no highways or freeways to traverse (Unless you’re trying to go to North Harbor Yacht Club which is thisclose to the hotel but around a traffic circle that is actually an on/off ramp for the highway). For people who don’t obsessively play the points game, The Davidson Village Inn is a perfectly serviceable inn with an incredibly friendly staff and a great downtown location. 

The great location is steps from Kindred. Kindred is the kind of restaurant I would (and have) willingly drive 40 minutes to go to for dinner. It is perfection in small plate form. It’s a James Beard award winner, so I’m not sharing a hidden gem. But I am telling you it is worth the hype. Each time I’ve gone I’ve been impressed with the inventive homemade pastas, rich but delicate sauces, and perfectly cooked vegetables. The broccoli, served like a swanky caesar salad, is a thing of beauty. The squid ink orecchiette beats Buccan’s, hands down (and I think that’s worth a flight to Palm Beach in itself). My only quibble is the restaurant can be a bit loud, which is annoying because I often take business partners there and it’s difficult to do business when it’s as loud as it is there. Instead we end up chatting more casually, getting to know each other and our families and to bask in the delicious food. There are, I suppose, worse things. 

North Harbor Club is another Davidson staple, apparently quite popular with the middle-aged dating app set. The food doesn’t compare to the sunsets, but I believe a good sunset and a cold martini make up for average food every time. The portions are generous and the offerings plenty. Go for drinks, split slightly elevated bar food, leave happy. If you’re walking, watch that whole highway-on-off ramp thing — especially if you’ve had a martini. 

Another restaurant I love for the atmosphere alone is La Cava in Salisbury, N.C. This high-end Italian restaurant is inside an old church, and the filtered light from the old stained glass and the creaks from the wide plank floors add a special charm to the above average Italian dishes. The entrees were terrific, the bread underwhelming. My favorite part is how wonderfully Italian the service is, we accidentally spent over three hours on a “quick” dinner thanks to the indulgent servers who didn’t rush us at any point — even when we were the last people in the restaurant!

Also in Salisbury is Hap’s Grill. Given that I purport to care about health and healthy habits, I can’t in good conscience recommend this place. But damn. It’s good. The menu is basic, exceedingly good chili dogs and hamburgers. There aren’t any seats. But if you want a quick meal, stop at Hap’s. 

In the same vein as Hap’s is Lee’s Sandwich Shop in Kannapolis. This mom-and-pop joint has a u-shaped counter that takes up most of the restaurant, with a handful of four-top tables that usually house the grey-haired populace of the small town. If you ever want to load up on gossip and grease at the same time, visit Lee’s. The owner, Chic, can usually be found behind the grill cooking up an absurdly thick and juicy burger. He always has the best dessert recommendation, and oftentimes will share a tidbit about the going-ons around town. When you walk into Lee’s for the first time, people will pivot in their stools and ogle at you. But Chic will give you a smile and you won’t feel like a stranger for long.  

If you’ve had Lee’s and Hap’s, you’re probably ready for a salad. Park Road Soda Shoppe is known for their ice cream and fried items, but their salads are fresh and consistent. Be prepared for a small dose of Jesus with your Greek salad. 

For something a little heartier, 44 Mills has a truly excellent piece of salmon served atop a bed of fresh vegetables. The portions are oversized, but the ingredients are fresh and if you pretend the ham biscuits don’t exist, you can leave there without ruining your diet. . 

44 Mills is in a massive shopping center (home of a terrific Target), which is pretty standard for the best restaurants in Concord County. My favorite tacos of 2019 are at Taco Express, a very bare bones joint in a small strip mall off Route Three. Go for the tacos, stay for the street corn. The food here is authentic, very affordable, and really, really good.  

What about breakfast? Well, I usually stay in a glamorous property with a super swanky continental breakfast (something like this). But I can’t stomach the hotel coffee, so I always treat myself to coffee out at either Groundwork Common or Editions in Kannapolis. Groundwork in Concord has slightly better coffee, but Editions has an awesome vibe and staff that make you feel like family. Plus, at Editions you can shop for books — and what better combo than coffee and books? I’d call it a wash and visit the one most convenient to you. Groundwork just started serving a limited menu of well-curated, simple, local and healthy breakfast and lunch staples. Highly recommend the adult PB&J. 

Welcome to Cabarrus County. Come for the Cannon Ballers, stay for a meal. Just be prepared to drive to dinner. Which is, of course, complicated by the fact that the area is home to really great breweries, like Cabarrus Brewing Company . But the beer wars are an entirely different post. Plus, that really ventures into the #dogfriendly category, which also warrants its own post.

Me and Boomer, the Cannon Ballers mascot.

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Alicia Amling View All →

Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.

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