Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Mountain crab cakes

Posted July 9, 2012

Who says you have to go to Maryland to get great crab cakes? All you have to do is go to the mountains of North Carolina!

I have eaten crab cakes at River Rock Grille in Sparta on three different occasions now and each time they were exceptionally good. Our waitress said the lump crab meat recipe comes the Chesapeake Bay area which makes sense. These cakes are fresh and void of all of the filler who get in other restaurants. River Rock Grille is located just off the main drag in Sparta next to the Subway Restaurant. River Rock doubles as a bowling alley. I’ll spare you any clichés. Give River Rock a try the next time you’re in the mountains. They also have a nice wine and beer list and some wonderful sandwiches.

Sparta is in Alleghany County.  It's about a three hour and fifteen minute drive from Raleigh.  Take I-40 to Winston-Salem, then US 421 north past Yadkinville and proceed north on I-77 for a few miles until you exit left onto US 21 at Elkin.  Sparta is on up the mountain a ways past Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  

Two questions for you: Where do you go to get great crab cakes? And give us an example of finding a great dish in an usual place.


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  • retiredrobin2 Jul 10, 2012

    My husband and I were recently introduced by our duaghter to the very best crab cakes ever at Cape Fear Seafood in Wilmington at Monkey Junction.

  • mhfullme Jul 10, 2012

    Called River Rock Grill (336-372-2695) to see if crabcakes would be there tomorrow (Wednesday) and found out only if there were any leftovers from today. (They had 5 at 11AM today.) Apparently they make them up principally for the weekend crowds on Thursday, Friday, Saturday. So call ahead & check if you drive out that way. (We were going to vary our route up into West Virginia to stop & eat lunch with them, if they had them on hand. Yes, I'd pay ahead & guarantee with a credit card, .)

  • liskm Jul 9, 2012

    Island Way Restaurant, Oak Island. Wonderful crab cakes and other scrumptious offerings. Excellent service and atmosphere overlooking the ocean.

  • jdlewis76 Jul 9, 2012

    Bill, I'd love to meet you for breakfast or lunch sometime when we're in Sparta at the same time. We go up to visit my in-laws quite often.

  • ncsuwx Jul 9, 2012

    Lee's Inlet Kitchen (Murrells Inlet) has some good real lump crab cakes. It's a family owned restaurant (by the same family since the 1940s). First time I went was in the 1970s. I suggest the off season nowadays for a visit.

    I used to travel often for work. I always make an effort to NOT eat at chains. I ask the people I work with for some unusual places, or research online. Once, on a trip to Ireland, it started to rain out in the middle of this little coastal town, so we ducked in a pub to let the rain pass and ended up having a spectacular roast beef and potatoes dinner with fresh bread that was incredible. The place was no bigger than my office, and no indication that they would have had food other than the barkeeper asking us if we were hungry.

  • dentech Jul 9, 2012

    Backfins in Wake Forest

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Bill Leslie