Morrisville, N.C. — When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stops for lunch Sunday in the Triangle, he'll dine at one of the restaurants named by readers of WRAL Out & About as a favorite.
Smokey's Shack, a barbecue restaurant at 10800 Chapel Hill Road in Morrisville, is small but draws a faithful following, earning a 4 out of 5 rating.
Kevin "Smokey" Mote, who started the business six years ago, said Romney's campaign called him two months ago, saying they heard his restaurant was good and asking if he would host the former Massachusetts governor on a Sunday – his only day off.
"Initially, I said, 'No, we're probably not interested in doing anything like that,'" Mote said Thursday, as campaign staffers scoped out the site for Sunday's rally.
He said he changed him mind because he thought having Romney in town would be good for Morrisville.
Since then, Mote, his wife and son have been running the restaurant and getting ready to host a presidential candidate. He's been told to expect up to 1,500 people.
"It's stressful on some of our folks here – on some of my staff and some of my friends pitching in to help me out – but it's exciting for us," he said.
Regulars at Smokey's Shack also have warmed to the hubbub, he said.
"The overwhelming majority say it's a great thing for our business and our community and for the opportunity," he said.
Mote has some political opinions, but he said Sunday's event is about citizenship, not partisanship. He said he would also welcome a visit from President Barack Obama.
"This is a civics lesson in action. You get to see what the political process is about, regardless of what your political affiliation is. It doesn't really matter," he said.
What does matter, he said, is what Romney orders from the menu. He recommended the pulled pork sandwich.
"You're in North Carolina. You've gotta have the pulled pork," he said.
Romney will stop at Smokey's for a 4 p.m. public appearance part of a bus tour that also takes him to Virginia, Florida and Ohio. Doors to Smokey's open at 3 p.m. for the event.