Editors’ Picks: Southern Pit Stops for Thanksgiving Travel

When the Garden & Gun staff hits the highway, here are their favorite places to stop

Perhaps more than any other holiday, Thanksgiving prompts us to hit the highway. AAA anticipates nearly 47 million Americans will get behind the wheel this week—and considering the South’s deep-rooted appreciation for food and family, we’d be willing to wager that a sizeable chunk of that figure will be folks below the Mason-Dixon. At G&G, our editors are no exception. And when we need a break from traffic—to stretch our legs or our stomachs (because even the biggest meal of the year won’t keep a Southerner from exploring a good roadside food attraction)—you’ll find us at these stops.

Ross MacDonald

If you’re near…

I-85, just south of Winston-Salem, NC
“On my way to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I always stop at Lexington Barbecue (just off I-85 on U.S. Route 52) in Lexington for a large, coarse-chopped platter, with extra brown. Lexington has some twenty barbecue joints, and I used to visit a different one each time. But none beat the flagship. If I’m on the road early, I’ll also stop at Hite’s in West Columbia, South Carolina, off of I-26 for a rectangle of tender, mustard-sauced rib meat, cut from a whole hog. There’s only so much of it, and it can sell out soon after the restaurant opens at 8:00 a.m.”—Jed Portman, Assistant Editor

I-55, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA
“The Smiths gather every Thanksgiving at our family camp in Amite, Louisiana, and my favorite pit stop is right off of I-55 on my drive up from New Orleans—Berry Town Produce in Ponchatoula. The original location, around the corner from my godchild’s house, is where I often stop for snacks like Cajun boiled peanuts or a piece of peanut butter fudge, but they also sell local goodies, produce, and wine, and soon they’ll be making their delicious strawberry-filled King Cakes.”—Lauren Smith, Editorial Intern

Highway 17, just north of Charleston, SC
“If we’re heading to my husband’s family’s place up in Litchfield, South Carolina, we always pop into the Sewee Outpost (along Highway 17; just north of Charleston) for two things: cheese biscuits so good they only survive the car trip because they’re frozen and barbecue for day-after-Thanksgiving turkey fatigue. If we’re heading to our hometown, Camden, South Carolina, we make a pit stop at the Square Onion in Mount Pleasant for breakfast casseroles to fuel all the day-of cooking and provide a base for the inevitable pitchers of Bloody Marys.”—Jessica Mischner, Senior Editor

Ross MacDonald

I-40, between Asheville, NC, and Knoxville, TN
“A short fifteen-minute drive off I-40 via Exit 440 for eastbound travelers or Exit 443 for westbound (that one’s a short spur of the scenic Foothills Parkway) will land you in Cosby, Tennessee, where you can make a lunch stop at Carver’s Apple House Restaurant and Orchard, on Highway 321. The orchard abuts the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and apple fritters and cider come with every order at the restaurant. If you need to get a jump on your holiday shopping, too, there’s a shop stocked with wares from the orchard, like homemade apple butter, jams and jellies, ciders, and fried pies.”—Phillip Rhodes, Executive Managing Editor

Highway 17, between Savannah and Charleston, SC
“On my way to Fripp Island, where my family spends every Thanksgiving fishing, eating, and firing up the oyster roast pit, I love to stop at the Shrimp Shack on St. Helena Island (on U.S. Route 21) for the famed shrimp burger. Sitting beneath the live oaks in the cool fall air enjoying a shrimp burger is about the best possible way to kick off Thanksgiving—especially now that I can introduce my son, Sam, to the family tradition.”—Dave DiBenedetto, Editor in Chief

Ross MacDonald

U.S. Route 280, between, Macon, GA, and Montgomery, AL
“If you’re traveling through Columbus, Georgia—maybe trying to avoid the interstates around Montgomery, Auburn, or Macon—Ruth Ann’s, a Columbus landmark since 1959, is sure to quench your appetite for classic soul food.—Margaret Houston, Associate Photo Editor

I-26 or I-77, between Charleston, SC, and Charlotte, NC
“My family spends every Thanksgiving on my grandparents’ peach farm in Filbert, South Carolina—not far from the North Carolina line. If traffic along I-26 hasn’t slowed to a crawl yet, and I’m taking the interstate instead of the back roads, I always make time for a cheeseburger and chocolate shake at Rush’s, a local burger and fried chicken chain that’s been around since the 1940s. —Elizabeth Hutchison, Assistant Editor

I-24, northwest of Nashville, TN
“After staring at taillights on our ten-hour drive to visit my in-laws in Murray, Kentucky, we often need a change of scenery and the Elk & Bison Prairie at Land Between the Lakes is a great short detour. It’s right by the Kentucky Lake about an hour and a half from Nashville heading west on I-24. Yes, it’s a bit random, but if we have the time (and it’s still daylight) we’ll pull in for a quick tour. They’re open 365 days a year, dusk to dawn, and there’s just something cool about seeing bison instead of an eighteen-wheeler outside the car window.”—Kim Alexander, Digital Director

What’s your go-to Southern pit stop? Tell us about it in the comments.

Ross MacDonald