Today’s Axios Raleigh newsletter referred to Charlotte as “the Applebee’s of cities.” While this seems like a fairly apropos burn of the Queen City, it’s not exactly accurate. According to four-year-old tweet from Rabbit Hole supporter Nick Andersen that has now entered the North Carolina Internet Canon, Charlotte is actually the Chili’s of cities:
Sure, they seem the same, but there are very subtle differences between Chili’s and Applebee’s. Only those with a trained palate and an eye for corporate feng shui can guide you, much in the same way that a skilled sommelier might help you choose the perfect variety of Boone’s Farm.
What I’m trying to say is that there are many chain restaurants. There are many cities in North Carolina. In the comments below, I’d love to hear your pairings. So fill in these blanks: (NC city) is the (chain restaurant) of cities, and if you want, leave a line or two that explains your reasoning (One ask: Please be somewhat civil). I’ll collect and analyze your selections for an upcoming Rabbit Hole. It’ll be the Sponsored Yelp of newsletters, if you will.
Thanks again, readers!
I'll start: Raleigh is the Panera Bread of cities. They have hazelnut coffee. Like Raleigh, it's exotic but not TOO exotic.
Asheville is the Mellow Mushroom of cities; generically unique as the franchise grinds the edges off.
One wrinkle: Reader Stephen Horn asked what NC city most resembles Cook Out and that's gonna occupy too much space in my brain for the rest of the day. Please help.
Not quite on point. this conjured a quote I always remember from the great columnist Jerry Bledsoe who, after spending a few years in Charlotte, penned words to the effect that, "People in Charlotte fancy themselves as Little Atlanta... but they're really just Big Spartanburg."
Cary is the Sheetz of cities. Clean restrooms, good lighting, but bigger than it needs to be and ultimately, just a convenient stop.
Charlotte is the Chick-Fil-A of cities. Everybody complains about the traffic, but they want in and they want what we got -
Greensboro is the Biscuitville of cities, Actually pretty good, underrated, and only known to people in central NC. Plus super car dependant.
Winston-Salem is the Little Richard's BBQ of NC cities. Do I even need to explain? So very satisfying with a legacy based on smoking.
Chapel Hill is Starbucks. Corporate and expensive, and they get new stuff all the time but it's never there for long.
Gastonia is the truck stop with a Taco Bell of cities.
Boone is the Whole Foods Cafe of cities... mostly wholesome but if you look close enough you can see the nose prints on the sneeze guard
Greensboro is the Golden Corral of cities. Friendly people, plenty of choice, but not very good for you and a bit unsatisfying.
Morehead City is the Buc-ees of cities. Determined to bring in all the tourists to eat, drink, pump gas and buy trinkets. We leave you smiling until the credit card bill comes in.
Salisbury is the gas station McDonalds of cities. Quick stop right off the interstate, usually not the cleanest, but it gets the job done and you're back on the road in no time.
Wilmington is the Olive Garden of cities. They play it up as more exotic and elegant than any other place but it’s really just the Italian version of Chili’s.
New Bern is the Bonefish Grill of cities. Smaller, but pleasant and water-adjacent. Only Pepsi products allowed on the drink menu!
Elkin, N.C. is The French Laundry of cities, by the way, the heart of Yadkin Valley Wine Country with a goddamn bus serving visitors to 25 wineries and vineyards, we don't care if you're from Ohio or Ontario. dubya-dubya-dubya dot explore elkin dot com this message presented by the Yadkin Valley Rotary Club
Burlington is the Biscuitville of cities, and vice versa.
I don't know if this is on topic or not, but my father came home from a business trip around 1981 with an absolutely epic tale of the horrid meal he got at the Wadesboro Hardee's, to the point that, to this day, Wadesboro, Hardee's, and shitty food are top-of-mind recall when my brother and I shoot the bull.
If Chapel Hill is the Chipotle of cities, then Carrboro is Sweet Greens without an option for drive through
Wilmington is the Red Lobster of cities. Lots of seafood available. Once in a while it's actually good. Usually overpriced.
And yes, part of the joke here is that Wilmington doesn't have a Red Lobster, much to the consternation of newcomers.
Blowing Rock is the Kilwin's Ice Cream of cities. A higher-end sugary treat.
Durham and Asheville aren't traditional chains. They're beloved local restaurants that have opened up a few more locations and feel a little overextended now (see also Rise, Dame's)
High Point is the Waffle House of cities. The name tells you what it is. I haven’t worked the rest of this metaphor out, but it seems to fit.
Ocracoke is the Tupelo Honey (Asheville) of cities while Bald Head Island is the Tupelo Honey (Raleigh) of cities. They’re both good and quirky, but one was there first.
Fayetteville is the Arby’s of cities. It’s fine, but 30 minutes later you wonder why you stopped.
Nags Head is the Chuck E Cheese of cities.
Fuquay-Varina is the Ruth's Chris Steak House of cities in that the name is too complicated for anyone to say it correctly on their first try.
Hot take: my hometown of Cary is the Starbuck's of cities—maybe once, decades ago, it was genuinely a small, local coffee shop, but now it's this sprawling nightmare that's far outgrown its roots and is more about the aesthetic of quality and luxury than actually achieving it.
Belmont, the "Chik-Fil-A Off I-85" of cities.
I’m surprised no one has labeled anywhere as Hooters. (I dare not do so.)
Goldsboro is the Five Guys of cities, an inappropriate destination if you have even the slightest of peanut allergies
Raleigh is the Hardees of towns.
Greenville is the Subway of cities.