Best-Kept Secrets

Best-Kept Secrets: Winston-Salem offers best of both worlds

Best Kept Secrets: Hanging Rock

Experience a trip to Hanging Rock State Park near Winston Salem, NC. Video by Chuck Liddy, cliddy@newsobserver.com
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Experience a trip to Hanging Rock State Park near Winston Salem, NC. Video by Chuck Liddy, cliddy@newsobserver.com

No, Winston-Salem wasn’t named for the two historic brands of cigarettes. R.J. Reynolds, the hometown tobacco company, honored the city in the 1950s by naming an iconic cigarette in a red package “Winston,” while its menthol cousin in a green package was christened “Salem.”

Winston-Salem, meanwhile, got its name in the early 1900s with the merger of Salem – a peaceful, religious settlement founded by Moravians – and Winston, the more secular tobacco-factory town nearby.

To this day, North Carolina’s “Twin City” continues to wed two distinct cultures that – at once – look back to a more idyllic time and forward to a fast-changing future.

You can still see plenty of elements of the Moravian past. Many of Salem’s buildings are still around – it’s now known as “Old Salem.” Dating even farther back is the historic Bethabara area, where the Moravians settled before moving to Salem.

The area’s natural history is preserved at parks such as Hanging Rock State Park, just north in Stokes County. And its culinary past is still alive in restaurants such as the down-home Hillbilly Hideway or Pulliam’s, which has been selling hotdogs for more than a century.

But don’t think Winston-Salem is just relishing its past. Even as the tobacco and textile heydays of the Reynolds and Hanes families have tapered off, the city has positioned itself on the cutting edge in both medicine and the arts. Here you’ll find the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, museums such as the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and one of the South’s most vibrant arts districts, along Trade Street downtown.

Winston-Salem is proud of its role as two cities in one. Even its minor-league baseball team is known as The Dash – though language purists would argue that it’s actually a hyphen and not a dash between Winston and Salem.

Our series appears online and in print each Monday through Labor Day.

Morning

Hillbilly Hideaway

The Hillbilly Hideaway restaurant is just open three days a week, and breakfast is only available on Sundays. (And not even then November through February.) But it’s worth seeking out. Think bacon, sausage, country ham, sliced tenderloin, scrambled eggs, two kinds of gravy, grits, fried potatoes and apples. Plus, there’s a savory “hoecake” and a sugar cake that’s a decadent mix of butter, dough and brown sugar. There’s no need for menus – everything is rolled on a cart right to your table, and refilled bowls will keep coming as long as you’re hungry. The down-home Hideaway – with years of patron graffiti on the walls and antiques hanging from the rafters – offers dinner Friday and Saturday nights and lunch and dinner on Sundays. Those menus include fried chicken, country ham, green and pinto beans, meat loaf and white fish. From March through October, the restaurant’s adjacent Music Hall has live gospel, bluegrass and country music on weekend evenings. The restaurant’s many fans love the nighttime all-you-can-eat feasts, too. But we can’t quit thinking about that breakfast. 4365 Pine Hall Road in Walnut Cove. Open Friday and Saturday 4 to 9 p.m., Sunday breakfast 8 to 11 a.m. (March through October), Sunday lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. year round. 336-591-4861.

Hanging Rock State Park

You don’t have to travel to Asheville or Boone for scenic mountain vistas that will take your breath away. Just about 30 minutes north of Winston-Salem, Hanging Rock State Park has some amazing views – plus waterfalls, cliffs, lakes and hiking trails. Nestled in the Sauratown Mountains – named for the Saura Indian tribe that used to live in the area – Hanging Rock’s features include Moore’s Knob, House Rock, Wolf Rock and the Upper and Lower Cascade Falls. In addition to the many trails, the park offers swimming, fishing, camping, canoeing and riding trails. 1790 Hanging Rock Park Road, Danbury. Open daily 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. through September, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in October, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in November and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in December. Admittance to park is free, though some activities have fees. 336-593-8480.

Afternoon

Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem isn’t your typical art museum with paintings on the wall and sculptures on pedestals. First, there’s no permanent collection. Instead, SECCA – which is affiliated with the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh – has a series of exhibits that rotate in and out for a few months. Currently on display is “Devin Leonardi: Figure at Dusk,” a selection of paintings of American landscapes at twilight from a late artist. It runs through Oct. 4. From October through January, SECCA will spotlight the works of 18 North Carolina artists from a variety of mediums. Another unique thing about SECCA is its location – adjacent to the former family home of James G. Hanes. (Yes, one of the leaders of the underwear and hosiery company that grew out of Winston-Salem.) SECCA visitors can look at the contemporary style of the newer museum building or the traditional style of the Hanes home. Also setting SECCA apart are its many programs that go far beyond artifacts – from a series of “film noir” movies to Saturday’s “Sugarcane Revival and Hurricane Party” musical event to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. “There’s a wide variety of ways to experience art,” said Meghan Parsons, SECCA’s director of marketing. 750 Marguerite Drive. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Closed Monday. Free admittance, though some events have fees. 336-725-1904.

Pulliam’s

For more than 100 years, Pulliam’s has been a Winston-Salem fixture with a amazingly simple menu – barbecue (it’s pretty good), barbecue with cheese (interesting in concept, at least) and hot dogs (perhaps the best you will ever eat.) No less an authority than Rachael Ray has declared the Pulliam’s dog the best in the South. It’s hard to pinpoint the secret to its success. Some say it’s the bun – lightly buttered and toasted on the grill. Others swear by the slaw or the chili. Either way, Pulliam’s draws blue-collar workers, tobacco company executives and Wake Forest University students to its nondescript building in the Ogburn Station neighborhood. There’s no seating, unless you count the cement porch out front or the tree stumps beside the building. No fancy fries or sides either. You get a bag of chips and a bottled or canned soft drink from old-time coolers. It’s all about the hot dogs at Pulliam’s. You’re going to want to order more than one. 4400 Old Walkertown Road. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday. Closed Sunday and Monday. 336-767-2211.

Historic Bethabara Park

The Old Salem area first comes to mind when you think of the Moravians and that religious denomination’s contributions to Winston-Salem. But Salem wasn’t the first stop for the Moravians in North Carolina. Just a few miles north of Old Salem is Bethabara (be-THA-ba-ra), where a small group of the German-speaking Protestants settled in 1753 and stayed until the bigger Salem was built. Unlike Old Salem, with its many restored buildings, Bethabara is smaller, quieter, more natural. It’s the perfect spot for an after-lunch walk with a little history thrown in. You can explore several trails on your own, see the “Gemeinhaus” 18th century church (with living quarters), look at architectural ruins and antique farm equipment, or immerse yourself in the Bethabara museum’s exhibits and videos. 2147 Bethabara Road. Grounds and trails are free and open every day. Museum tour is $4 for adults and $1 for children. Visitor center open 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 336-924-8191.

Evening

Trade Street Arts District

Tamara Propst still remembers the reaction when she and her husband, Ron, announced nearly 30 years ago that they were going to open an art studio and store along Trade Street, which at the time wasn’t the most desirable address in downtown Winston-Salem – or anywhere else in the city. “People said nobody’s ever going to come downtown,” Propst recalled. Boy, were those folks wrong. Now, the thriving arts, retail and restaurant district surrounding Trade Street where it intersects 6th Street is the envy of many other North Carolina cities. Propst, whose The Other Half gift shop is in the center of the district, said she often hears from visitors from Charlotte, Raleigh or Greensboro who say, “I wish we had a street like this.” These aren’t your usual shops and restaurants. There’s Earthbound Arts, with its eclectic selection of beads, skin-care creams, herbal mists and soaps. (“The sales of soaps are what keep the doors open,” said Gordon Jones, the bearded, tattooed proprietor who has been a Trade Street fixture for 15 years.) The Kindred Spirits shop offers Tarot readings and “aura cleanses,” the 6th and Vine Wine Bar and Cafe touts its crepes, and Sweet Potatoes serves home-style Southern fare. (“Well shut my mouth!” its sign proclaims.) Mast General Store recently opened a multilevel Trade Street store. And while you’re in the arts district, be sure and follow the red lines on the sidewalk to the nearby ARTivity on the Green urban park, with its lighted art smokestacks (a nod to the area’s tobacco factory past) that sometimes release water to cool guests. Most shops, studios and galleries are open daily.

Coming next Monday:

The Lake Norman area

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