Archive for the ‘North Carolina retro, vintage’ Category

The vintage neon clock on the deco glass brick wall of Tony’s Ice Cream in Gastonia NC clearly showed that it was breakfast time, so we stopped by this family owned and operated business for our first roadfood meal on our retro road trip through North Carolina.

Tony's City Ice Cream Neon Clock
Tony’s has been serving the Gaston County area since 1915, and since 1947 they’ve operated out of this yellow brick building right on the main drag in town. They also make their own ice cream here too, just 20 miles or so outside of Charlotte and a short hop off of 85.
Tony's Ice Cream and Sandwiches Exterior
We parked in the handy parking lot and entered through the side door to find a line of folks waiting for their breakfast fix. I was immediately taken with the tile walls, well kept chrome & red leatherette booths and Formica tables, many of them filled with families and local folks.

Tony's Ice Cream Red Booths
We were still getting our sea legs, this being one of our first food stops on our big retro road trip, so we decided to share a standard breakfast sandwich on toast. Looking at the menu now I wish we had thought to get country ham, or a biscuit or something more adventurous, but am relieved that we didn’t get the liver mush!

Breakfast Menu at Tony's Ice Cream

After placing our order (and trying to ignore the looming vintage scale behind us) we waited at the window for our number to be called, and tried not to get in the way of folks coming in the door. I wanted to grab some photos of the outside of the building so I met RetroRoadhusband out in the car where we unwrapped our delicious amalgam of egg, cheese and the everlovin bacon on white toast.

Breakfast Sandwich from Tony's Ice Cream
Mmmm look at that piece bacon sticking its tongue out!

This was to be one of many meals on the road, and I knew I had a burger in my future, so I graciously allowed RetroRoadhusband to polish off most of this sandwich. Next time we’re going through town I’m definitely getting an ice cream, no matter what time of the day it is!

Tony’s Ice Cream
604 East Franklin Blvd.
Gastonia, NC 28054
(704) 867-7085

Tony's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

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Closed for the season when we drove by on a Saturday morning, Bill’s Belmont Drive In in Belmont  NC has been providing the greater Charlotte area with that classic summer drive in movie experience for over 50 years.
Belmont Drive In SignWith room for almost 300 cars, they offer two first run shows, full service snack bar and Dolby surround sound at the bargain price of $4 per person.

Belmont Drive In ScreenThe Belmont is one of only 6 drive in movie theaters in North Carolina, so if you’re in the area and have a hankerin to see a film under the stars, visit the Belmont!

Belmont Drive In
314 McAdenville Road
Belmont, NC 28012-2424
(704) 825-6044

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I became a fan of Fuzzy Lizzie the Vintage Traveler when she was sweet enough to allow me to share her write-up of The Pink Motel with my Retro Roadmap Readers.

So it is with great delight that I share another one of her vintage place finds, M.A. Pace’s Store in Saluda, NC. She calls it a Time Warp store, and I know exactly what she means. Thanks for the find Lizzie, and for allowing me to put your info on the Retro Roadmap!

Time Warp Store – M.A. Pace’s Store in Saluda, NC

saluda-nc-wa-pace-store-vintage-traveler-retro-roadmapLizzie writes:

If you have been reading The Vintage Traveler for a while, you already know that I love what I call time-warp stores.  These are like little pieces of the past that have somehow survived.  Unfortunately, they are getting harder and harder to find. Lots of times, the owners are getting up in years, and when they retire, that’s the end of the store.  Many times they become gentrified, like the wonderful old Mast Store in Valle Crucis, NC.  Others just sit empty, and are soon forgotten.

I figured I’d better pay a visit to one of my favorites, the M.A. Pace Store in Saluda, NC.  This store was founded in 1899 by the current owner’s father.  It’s been in the same building for 100 years.

I was right to go because the place is for sale.  Mr. Robert Pace is thinking about retirement.  I can just see this place being taken over by the Mast people (think Life is Good tee shirts and Woolrich.  Not bad things, but in their proper place, please!)

But in the meantime, if you happen to be anywhere near Saluda, go see Mr. Pace’s store before it is gone.  And if you are not near it, get out there and find your own time-warp store!  Then let me know about it so I can hopefully wrangle a visit.

The store is now a combination of new and old merchandise, with all the old stuff being original to the store and not for sale.  The original shelves line the walls, and they are full of old shoe boxes (yes, with the shoes inside), sewing notions, and clothing boxes.  There was a sign that read not to open the boxes, but Mr. Pace said he’s turn his head so I could peek into a few!  There is everything from 1910s boots to shoes from the 60s.  And no matter how sweetly you ask, he will not sell – unless you want to buy all of it!

See some of Lizzie’s photos of what she did see in the store here in her Vintage Traveler post, and read more about the neat old town of Saluda, North Carolina on her WNC (Western North Carolina) Traveler blog.

Thanks for bringing this neat old place to our attention Fuzzy Lizzie! Now Retro Roadmap readers can check it out if they’re in the area.

M.A. Pace Store
60 Main Street
Saluda, NC 28773
(828) 749-2401

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Alas this is the final entry from our all too short stay in the south. I would not have been able to cover as many cool places in such a short amount of time if it wasn’t for the “insider skinny” provided by local folks Pat at Charlotte Eats ,Matt Brunson of Creative Loafing and his pal Annie. Thanks and I hope to return the favor if “y’all” are ever in PA!

When you try and cram too many meals into too few hours, you end up doing wacky things, like eating barbeque in your car at 10:30am on a rainy Saturday at the Bar B Q King in Charlotte NC! Serving Charlotte since 1959, this place is a great roadside drive in with speaker service and trays that pull right up to the side of your car.

Bar B Q King Sign

Our eating schedule got all thrown off during our incredibly short stay in Charlotte, having discovered the South 21 and also discovering that many of the BBQ places we thought we might try closed very early. So it was delicious cajun food at the Cajun Queen for dinner (thumbs up!) and then an early visit to the Bar B Q King as we were driving up to Baltimore. Luckily the food, sign and service was worth the detour!

Bar B Q King Saturday Morning

We felt like old pro’s pulling up to the Serv Us Phone and ordering from our car (no indoor seating at the King) just like at South 21. We were the only folks there at this early hour, so as I roamed about taking some photos and dodging the raindrops, one of the kind gentlemen who worked there invited me inside to see one of their crowning glories- an autographed display from Guy Fiore of “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” TV show.

DDD(When people hear about Retro Roadmap sometimes they say, “Oh! Like that Diners show on teevee” and while I do incoroporate places other than food establishments, the relationship is close enough. There’s room in this big world for all of us!)

Our Bar B Q came out hot and fresh, with a tangy sauce and sides of hush puppies (one was scarfed down before I could even snap a photo!) And though there’s no pick, you can see the Charlotte Pickle on the cole slaw.

Breakfast Bar B Q at The King (ok you can see over in the corner that  I put down the pup to snap the photo!)

I’ll be honest and say that the sauce was quite tangy, as I’ve been told North Carolina BBQ is supposed to be, but I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be as tangy as we had it. Locals care to chime in?

I know everyone in NC has an opinion as to who has the best ‘cue, and I’d be more than happy to go back down there and sample some. But for a quick bite on the way home, the Bar B Q King fit the Retro Roadmap bill!

Bar-B-Q King
2900 Wilkinson Blvd
Charlotte, NC 28208
(704) 399-8344

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If you’re like me, a sign like the one at South 21 in Charlotte NC  will make you change all sorts of plans when you see it- even if you’re speeding down the highway towards another destination:


We were en route from one side of Charlotte NC to the other when I saw this sign coming up on the side of the road. We couldn’t pull to the right in time to get into the parking lot on the first try, but it was worth it to do the cloverleaf move so we could check out the South 21 Drive In on E. Independence Blvd. As you can see it’s been luring drivers off the busy road since 1955, and you can add us to  the list.

South 21 Curb Service

Even though we had just eaten our fill (and then some) at Price’s Chicken Coop not a few hours earlier, we knew we had to pull into a parking space stall and order something from the squawk box attached to the menu.

Following the suggestion of the big sign near the road – and the sign above the stalls – and the big ad in the middle of the menu – we got a famous Super Boy burger (to split) – two beef patties, mustard, onions, lettuce, tomatoes and french fries. Ketchup, as you can see- is by request. Delivered by  a friendly gent in a red shirt and black hat, we somehow managed to polish off our tasty burger with little complaint.


Super Boy (trademark #72,797) and the famous “Charlotte toothpickle” (I am applying for the TM on that!)

If we had read the menu a bit closer we would’ve known to order their famous onion rings, that have inspired more than one fan to sing their praises of golden crunchety goodness. I give you this passage from the South 21 website:

Sweet, crunchy, golden brown, circle-shaped slices of bliss. Oh, South 21’s onion rings.They are my love, my life, my soul. For God so loved the South 21’s onion rings that he gave his only begotten South 21’s onion rings, so that whosoever believes in them shall not perish, but have eternal South 21’s onion rings. Ketchup, if it had a voice, would thank you for dipping South 21’s onion rings into it – Travis Oates, Matthews Union Power

Family owned and operated since 1955, there are a couple of other South 21’s in the area, but this is the only one with the car hop / curb service and great vintage signage. Fried chicken seems to be a special on Fridays.

South 21 Billboards

And if we were to go there again (which we will when we’re back in the area, for sure) I definitely want to try the trout. Kitschily named the “Fish-O-Burger” it is another local fave.

South 21 Speckled Trout

John W. Lennon so aptly noticed that “life is what happens when you make other plans” and while we didn’t plan on stopping at the South 21, it is a welcomed addition to the North Carolina Retro Roadmap!

(wacky hours- be warned!)

Closed Sun & Mon
Tues 11 – 3
Thurs 11-9
Fri & Sat 11-10

South 21 Drive In
3101 E Independence Blvd
Charlotte, NC
(704) 377-4509

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I totally dream about the fried chicken we got at Price’s Chicken Coop in Charlotte NC, and in fact am getting ravenous just looking at the photo of the food we had there (scroll to the end if you can’t wait for the big “reveal”!)

So you, my dear Retro Roadmap Reader will be prepared like a local, let me clue you into what Price’s Chicken Coop Is and Is Not.

Price's Chicken Coop

Price’s Chick Coop:

*Has been in business since 1962 and is a Charlotte NC foodie landmark
*Has been written up in Gourmet Magazine by none other than Jane & Michael Stern of Roadfood fame
*Is the most tasty fried chicken I have ever had- the skin was fried to a crispy perfect goodness and the meat was moist and flavorful.
*Is a total bargain- we ordered a 1/2 chicken meal that came with 4 pieces of chicken, 2 hushpuppies, a roll, tons of tater rounds and a container of cole slaw with that Charlotte oddity “pickle on a toothpick” garnish (toothpickle?) and 2 sweet teas- it came to around $12 and we had so much food left over!

Price’s Chicken Coop is NOT:

-Not much to look at – though the signs are kinda cool
-Not restaurant- it’s take out counter only – we ate in our car
-Does Not take anything but cash ( but there is an ATM on site)
-Does Not sell soda, just sweet tea ( but there is a soda machine in the corner)
-Is Not an orderly place – just jump into one of the many lines and be ready to order!
-Not open on Sunday or Monday

Now onto the good stuff- drum roll, please!

Get ready….
Price's Chicken Coop Box

Price's Chicken Coop Chicken

As you can see by the leg with a bite out of it in the corner it was hard to restrain ourselves for the seconds it took to snap a photo. Looking at this photo I now realize why the scale was tipped so heavily after our return, and why I’m salivating right now!

Price’s Chicken Coop
1614 Camden Rd
Charlotte, NC 28203
(704) 333-9866

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With kind permission from Fuzzy Lizzie, I am reprinting part of her fabulous Vintage Traveler blog, highlighting a vintage motel that I’d only ever seen the sign from. When you see that sign, you hope the place is as cool that, and from Lizzie’s report, it looks like it is!

I can remember the Pink Motel from my childhood. We were on our way to Gatlinburg, Tennessee when we passed by it, and my little sister, who was probably about 6 at the time, had a fit to stop there for the night!

The motel is still open, still a mom and pop, and seems to be doing well. We went in (we spotted Pink Motel tees in the window) and the woman in charge told us all about the place. And she also said they are getting ready to repaint the sign. The sign is pretty spectacular at night – all pink except the wings and her swimsuit which are blue, and the star on the wand, which is yellow.

Yes, it really is pink, and pretty darn fantastic. The rooms open up onto the river which runs along the back of the motel.



Thanks so much for the report from the road Lizzie! I can’t wait to share more of your finds with the Retro Roadmap community!


Pink Motel
1306 Tsali Blvd
Cherokee, NC 28719

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