What's Cooking in Rocky Mount? Some of the City's Savory Soul Food

It starts deep in the memory, an echo of the past. Close your eyes and remember: you're sitting at your grandmother's table as the crisp smell of fried chicken drifts from the kitchen. She always knows how to fix it just right---even coffee seems better at grandma's house.

Or maybe it's the fourth of July, and you're enjoying a backyard barbecue with friends. You've got the pig cooker and a beautiful meal spread out, looking like a photo from a magazine. Everyone raves about your sauce, one part vinegar, three parts…well, it's a secret. You'll never tell.


Throughout the South, and particularly, Rocky Mount, soul food provides more than a celebration for the taste buds. It delves deep within our history, bringing warmth, comfort and a sense of home that we carry with us throughout our lives.

Flavorful Heritage

African-Americans have made incredible contributions to the area's cuisine. Barbecue is not the only one, but it is often the one that steals the spotlight. Eastern North Carolina barbecue---like that featured in Rocky Mount—is closer to the original origins of the dish.

 It sprang from a Caribbean tradition brought to the South from refugees and 19th-century slaves.

Many Soul Foods Originated in Africa

Did you know that some of our favorite dishes originated in Africa? Okra is originally from the Congo and Angola areas. It was also cultivated by the Egyptians.

Throughout the centuries, this tasty tradition continued. These dishes were refined and became some of the greatest contributions from the African-American community to the art of cooking.  All of these dishes can be found in Rocky Mount restaurants.

Another transplant? Sorghum syrup. This sweet grain was introduced to the U.S. from Africa.

Other soul food dishes include:

  • Catfish with seasoned cornbread that is fried
  • Chicken livers
  • Chitterlings (more commonly called chitlins). These were prepared from hog intestines that were cleaned and often seasoned with hot sauce
  • Pork rinds
  • Fat back
  • Gumbo
  • Collard greens
  • Milk and bread (some times called "po' folks dessert-in-a-glass")

A recipe for Greatness: Soul Food & Jazz

If you have any question about how soul food has contributed to the economy and is fighting unemployment in the area, look no further than The Prime Smokehouse. Its delectable menu marries soul food another great Rocky Mount tradition: jazz.  Nothing beats some rhythmic tunes while enjoying a great plate of ribs. The perfect mix of soul music with soul food.

Barbecue Restaurants Abound

Rocky Mount is home to the Eastern Carolina BBQ Throw Down, happening annually. This year, the BBQ Throw Down will take place Oct. 7 from noon to 8 p.m. and Oct. 8 from 10am to 6pm. It will be held in front of the Helen P. Gay Historic Rocky Mount Train Station. For more information, the website is www.bbqthrowdown.net

Rocky Mount even has a barbecue park at 377 Morgan Street to honor this tradition. Did you know that former Rocky Mount resident Bob Melton created the first sit-down barbecue eating establishment in NC?

If you're searching for that wonderful Caribbean vibe, Taste of Paradise offers jerk chicken, ox tails and other savory soul food.

Check out Rocky Mount Restaurants

There's no shortage of amazing places to eat in Rocky Mount. If you're a transplant from "up North," try to get invited to your neighbor's pig picking—or even better—their grandma's place for lunch.

The Ibo people of Nigeria have a proverb that perfectly summarizes the importance of soul food:

"Words are sweet, but they never take the place of food."

We couldn't agree more.
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