Driving to the quaint village of Saxapahaw can be a fun endeavor by itself. The rolling pasture land is beautiful and yet, you are a mere 15 minutes from Chapel Hill. In recent years, Saxapahaw has had a bit of a renaissance after the old cotton mill was renovated. One of the many establishments that is in the building is the Saxapahaw General Store. Actually, the General Store had been operating as a gas station convenience store for many years, but when former owner Mac Jordan sold it to current owners, Jeff Barney and Cameron Ratliff, that’s when these two entrepreneurs decided to try something different. They wanted to take the concept of going local, selling items that were produced nearby, and items that people from the community wanted.
I have heard people rave about this place for a couple of years, but never had a chance to eat there until recently. We usually come to Saxapahaw for the summer concert series and to shop at their farmer’s market, but it’s really crowded in the village then and we are focused more on the music instead of food. So, we were really excited to try this place out and we were not disappointed!
When you first enter the General Store, you think, “Am I in a gas station convenience store?” and indeed, it is the place where you buy gas, and maybe pick up a pack of smokes, but if you look past the cash register, you see an open kitchen and a black board with the daily menu. All the dishes here are made from mainly local, organic ingredients. We decided to try the tuna and the brisket dishes. More about those in a minute.
While waiting for our food, we perused the store. There are freezers and refrigerators full of local foods, such as meat and ice cream. Desserts and baked goods are displayed in the middle of the front area of the store. A great assortment of wines are available, and if you want something to drink, you can purchase a bottle of wine and ask the staff to uncork it for you, or you can purchase some wine to drink at home. In the back area, there are aisles of other products, such as beauty items, shampoos, motor oil, and other assorted items.
The tables, chairs and some booths are scattered around the store. This is what I would call a hippie hang out. I love it! If you come here, be ready to sit in a very casual dining place. Feel free to wear your tie dye t-shirt and jeans. As my husband likes to say, “these are my people.” The night we were there, it was getting close to Valentine’s Day, so there was a wine expert displaying his wines and allowing us to try them, along with pieces of chocolate from local chocolatier, Escazu.
We sat in a booth towards the back of the store and watched the line steadily increase as the dinner crowd commenced. We were lucky to have gotten there a bit early. Our meal was splendid. It was bitterly cold that evening, one of the few we’ve had this season. The wind was whipping outside and I was glad I had a heavy jacket with me. This made me crave comfort food, which is why I ordered the hormone-free beef brisket. It was served with creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes. The brisket was served with roasted tomatoes and the tanginess of the tomatoes was baked through the brisket giving it loads of flavor. It was served with a side of collard greens which were the best collards I’ve had in a long time. They were tender, but not overly cooked, as often happens with this side dish. There was enough left for leftovers the next day and the dish was just as good reheated.
My husband’s tuna was served with an amazing ginger sauce. The flavors were intense, but didn’t overpower the tender tuna steak. The broccoli rabe was tender and again, cooked just right. Many times I’ve had broccoli rabe undercooked and it’s not very pleasant that way to me, but this was great. The sushi rice was creamy and seasoned well and really complemented the tuna. No wonder this place has been written up in the New York Times!
After we ate dinner, we poked our head into the The Eddy Gastropub and had a beer. It was so crowded that we couldn’t find a place to sit, but decided this gives us an excuse to come back and review this place some other day. The Eddy is also owned by Cameron and Jeff. We finished off the night by going to a fundraising event that was held in the Haw River Ballroom, which is at the other end of the cotton mill.
The Saxapahaw General Store is located in downtown Saxapahaw in Alamance County at 1735 Sax-Beth Church Road. They are open Tuesday – Friday, 6:30am-9pm, Saturday from 7am-10pm & Sunday 10am-9pm. You can follow them on @saxgenstore on Twitter or like their Facebook page.