By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
As Joann and I have mentioned, we love to picnic on our photography trips. We have several reasons for doing this. The first is that we never want to go to a restaurant and waste precious time waiting for our food. The other is that we can enjoy excellent homemade food out in nature and be back to photographing quickly. We usually have our binoculars at the picnic table in case we see some sort of bird, or I happen to spot something off in the distance that might have photographic possibilities.
On our trip to North Carolina in April of 2010, it was close to lunch time when we came to the town of Linville. I had marked the Old Hampton Store and Grist Mill as something we needed to check out. The store dates back to 1882 when it was a connection on the old Eastern Tennessee & Western North Carolina railroad, known as the Tweetsie. In 1921 the store became a general mercantile store and they have been smoking meat ever since. The grist mill is one of the only remaining grist mills still grinding in the state.
There were quite a few cars already at the store and several people eating at tables on the porch. We decided, as we usually do, to take our photos first. Joann took some photos of the store, and then we walked behind the store to check out the grist mill. While we were back there, a man in a white apron stepped out the door and told us about the smoker and how it was the original smoker, still going strong.
Since we arrived at the store close to lunchtime, and it was a sunny day, we decided that we should enjoy some local food. (The noon hour on sunny days is not good for photography.) Once inside, we spent a little time talking with the owner, Abigail, about our travels. She told us they hadn’t owned the store for long, but they were really enjoying it. We told her how happy we were to see people like them taking care of this cool old history.
She moved on to talk with other people, and we went to the back of the store to look at the menu board. Joann asked if I knew what I wanted, and I said I wanted the pulled pork. I couldn’t go out for food in Western North Carolina and not have BBQ! Joann decided to try the fried bologna sandwich on sourdough bread.
We took a seat at one of the tables covered with red and white checkered tablecloths to wait for our meal. We read a lot of the humorous signs posted around the store. It wasn’t very long before our food arrived and we dug in to our meals. The sourdough bread and buns were excellent, and we each enjoyed our food.
If you travel to North Carolina and visit Grandfather Mountain, you’re very close to some good BBQ and a piece of North Carolina history. Find your way to Linville and the Old Hampton Store and BBQ. You won’t regret it.