Avery Ruzicka moved away from her hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina, her sophomore year of high school to finish high school in Europe. Since then, she’s lived in France, Chapel Hill, New York, and now in the San Francisco Bay area, where she runs the James Beard Award-nominated bakery Manresa Bread, dishing out loaves, pastries, and pies, all made from flour milled in-house.
But recently, like many expat Southerners before her, she’s felt the draw home. “I’m thirty six now and realized that I’ve spent more time in my life away from my family than with them,” Ruzicka says. Her family purchased a 1912 Queen Anne Colonial Revival home in Greensboro’s Aycock neighborhood in 2000, but the house sat empty until last year when Ruzicka decided to renovate it from the inside out and split her time between there and California.
“My house is about a ten minute walk from downtown, which has a very small-town feel. To me, it feels a lot like Santa Cruz, just without the beach,” she says. “In the South, the people are incredibly friendly, and there’s the comfort of feeling at home. I love being able to go back to a place with an established history.”
If she’s not working on restoring her home, here’s how Ruzicka spends her perfect day in the Gate City.
“One of my favorite places to go when I’m home is Biscuitville. They have locations throughout central North Carolina. They make their biscuits in-house—you can walk in there and see someone rolling biscuits all day long. There’s a very big debate between that and Bojangles in this part of the state. Both are great, but I have to go with Biscuitville.”
“The farmers’ market downtown on Yanceyville Street is open Wednesdays and Saturdays, and it’s really, really awesome. They have all kinds of local produce and wares sold in this beautiful old building across from the baseball stadium that’s now a war memorial. This place is Greensboro at its best.”
“My favorite places are some that really haven’t changed at all since I was a kid. Elizabeth’s Pizza is a great slice joint that’s been around forever, and Yum Yum is a hot dog and ice cream shop on UNC Greensboro’s campus. Recently, they’ve put a lot of money and energy into making the campus more cohesive for walking, so I’ll get a hot dog and walk around. Yum Yum is a Greensboro institution.”
“I spent a lot of my childhood antiquing on Elm Street—a lot of it is gone now, but some of the shops are still there. Recently, there’s been a huge push for historic preservation in town, and the historic preservation society’s architectural salvage is one of my favorite places. Instead of just demolishing a piece once it’s taken out of a home, it’s brought to the salvage. It’s such a treasure trove of things to poke through. There’s so much history there. Of course, it’s only cool for people who get excited about say, an antique bathroom sink, but I love to noodle around there.
The Extra Ingredient is a really awesome cooking store owned by one of my elementary school peers. They sell everything you could possibly need in a kitchen. And it’s a great place to get gifts because they have lots of local producers.”
“Maxie B’s is a female-owned cake place that has been in business since 1985. They serve cake by the slice and only use eggs from Lawrence and Patsy Ward’s chickens. The Wards used to sell at the farmers’ market, but since COVID, the only place in town you can get them is Maxie B’s. You can sit outside and look through a window and watch the bakery as they make every kind of cake you can imagine.”
“I won’t say there’s hiking here, but Greensboro really lives up to its name: It is so green. There are a lot of walking paths like at the botanical gardens, which I love to explore. Where I live, the parks in the neighborhood are all interconnected. The city has recently put in greenways and I love walking these trails when it’s cooler in the afternoons and evenings. And as basic as this is, I just really love exploring the historic neighborhoods.”
“Green Valley Grill in the O.Henry Hotel is where I first started working. It’s owned and operated by a local family and is very farm-to-table. They serve simple, happy food and it’s the type of place where the same servers have worked there for fifteen years. They also own Lucky 32, and when I go to either place, I like to get North Carolina dishes. Anything that includes fried green tomatoes or grits or pimento cheese. Those are some things you just can’t get in California.”