The 'best of' Washington, NC

Want to experience what the locals say is the must-do/try/eat list in town? Well, here it is! The 'Best of Washington!' With insider tips straight from the locals!

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Paula Stephenson
, Washington Tourism Development Authority
This article was written by our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.

Have you been to Little Washington lately? Or as locals proudly refer to it as the 'Original' Washington! Want to experience what the locals say is the must-do/try/eat list in town? Well, here it is! The 'Best of Washington!' With insider tips straight from the locals!

Washington, North Carolina, is known for many things: rich history, the first town to be named after George Washington, the Pamlico River. What you may not know is that many people know about Washington solely for Bill's Hot Dogs.

An unassuming 'hole in the wall' hot dog place that serves bright red wieners with a white, spicy chili. Local Tony Apple says they are the best in Washington or anywhere else.

"I love the chili. I always ask for extra chili because I love the taste and the heat that comes with it! By far Bill's has the best hot dogs because of the chili," Apple said.

Get your dogs to-go (no inside seating), and walk a few steps to the waterfront to eat at one of the picnic tables. Bill's has been in business since 1928 so they must be onto something!

When it comes to burgers, there is no shortage of fantastic ones in Washington. From high end wagyu beef to bison to shrimp burgers, the restaurants here have every kind you can imagine.

Eighteen-year-old William Mayo says you can't get a better old-fashioned burger than at either Dairy Palace or Slatestone Grocery & Grill.

"Either a Dairy Palace burger because of the quality meat they use, or Slatestone Grill for their superior cheese and meat. Both use really fresh ingredients and both are excellent," Mayo said.

Dairy Palace is a drive in, walk up to the window type of joint. Just a couple of blocks from the waterfront, it's also a great place to order and take your food to the waterfront picnic tables. And Slatestone Grocery & Grill is a few minutes outside the city limits, but worth the drive for a custom burger just the way you like it.

Did someone say tacos? Many of Washington's dining spots feature tacos from traditional Mexican, shrimp, fish and even vegetarian tacos.

For resident Jacob Edwards, though, in his opinion, the best are found at El Charrito.

"El Charitto has the best tacos," Edwards said. "For years my friends and I have had a ritual of going to El Charitto on Tuesday because they have $1.00 tacos. The tacos were always amazing, especially in the company of loved ones."

After all, the only thing better than exceptional tacos is eating them with exceptional friends!

Being on the water, Washington is a haven for great, fresh seafood. Most of the Wasington restaurants serve some variety of seafood, whether it's fried, broiled, steamed, over pasta or with grits. Native Valda Belyeu says the best seafood is found at Washington Crab. Formerly Crab & Seafood Shack, locals affectionately just call it 'the Shack.'

"I like the crab shack the best. The flavor of their seafood is the best I have tasted in town," Belyeu said. "I guess this would be the everyday person's place. Unpretentious and just good food. Their shrimp is my favorite but I keep hearing about the salmon. I need to try that too."

Owned and operated by the Hall family, they also own Washington Crab & Oyster Company, a seafood market in town that furnishes the seafood to the restaurant. So you KNOW it's fresh.

When resident Andrea Dixon's sweet tooth hits, she heads to Val's Gourmet Baked Goods. Housed inside the Historic Turnage Theatre, Val's offers cakes, pastries, even the savory Southern tomato pie.

"The best dessert in Washington for me has to be any cake from Val's Gourmet Baked Goods on Main Street. I can't even pick a favorite because they are all so delicious," Dixon said. "I think what sets it apart is the special cheesecake layer in the middle. You just have to go try it out for yourself, and I'm sure you will agree with me."

Along with those sweets, you'll want a good cup of java. Local resident Gary Ceres says the best cup of coffee can be found at Cups & Cones.

"Cups & Cones is the best because they carry quality coffee and are always eager to accommodate your preferences," Ceres said.

The coffee is locally sourced and the beans are roasted exclusively for them. They also have a balcony that has a wonderful river view.

Speaking of the river, young, old and every age in between loves the Pamlico River. Whether it's the waterfront parkway, the boardwalk over the wetlands (where you can spot turtles, ducks and a variety of birds), or one of several boat and kayak launches, you're sure to enjoy the scenic views in this quaint river town.

Local resident Connie Graddy says just being near the water is therapeutic for her.

"My favorite place is Goose Creek State Park. It's just so beautiful," Graddy said.

Only 10 miles east of Washington off of Highway 264, this state park is an oasis of live oaks draped with Spanish Moss, indigenous wildlife and hiking trails. Situated on the Pamlico River, you can enjoy a swim beach, camping (tent, RV and 'little' cabins), fishing, boat launches, and picnic areas with public grills.

Havens Garden is among the best places to take the kids in Little Washington.

Havens Garden also ranks as the best place to take the kids, according to Beverly Jarvis, who lives in nearby Bath, North Carolina.

"The kids love Havens Gardens playground. It's free and it's cool because of all the shade trees, and it sits on the water so you get that breeze," Jarvis said. "Plus you have a great view of the pier."

Your fur baby deserves the best place to play in Washington, too! Local native Ashley Padgett said, "We love to take Bella to the Washington Dog Park after work. We also love Goose Creek State Park and any of our great restaurants that have outdoor dining. "

She continued, "The dog park gives Bella an opportunity to play with dogs of all sizes. At Goose Creek, we like to hike and play in the water. We love taking her to restaurants just because. Live music, good food, drinks, and a sweet dog is a fun way to spend an evening."

Other fun ways for the grown-ups to spend an evening include enjoying live music.

Anissa Lewis from Washington says two of the best live music venues are right downtown.

"Market Street Pub is fun because of the people, but Ribeyes Steakhouse is great, too, because they have delicious food," Lewis said. She says they both have some of the best regional bands perform there.

Also for the adults, Washington boasts some of the most innovative mixologists at the most beautiful bars. Washingtonian David Carraway says the best is a gin and tonic at The Hackney.

"I'm a basic guy. 1000 Piers Gin, the signature gin of the Hackney Distillery, with fever-tree tonic is my favorite. I like simple things. Those two together are the best in town," Carraway said.

The Hackney manufacturers 1000 Piers Gin on site in their own distillery. Distillery tours are available, too!

As for the best place to buy a gift in Washington, local Keith Warren prefers two shops in town.

"I would say The Little Shoppes/South Market Antiques is the best place to find a gift because of their various selection and agreeable price points," Warren said. "Nauti life is great too with their high end selections."

Both locations have a plethora of Washington logoed merchandise, too. So it's a win-win for gifts and souvenir swag!

Talking about taking home souvenirs and memories that last, you may ask where is the best location to take photos in town? Washington native and photography enthusiast, Jack Willard, says you can't beat the waterfront.

"I think generally the best location for photos is at the waterfront due to the great views and a variety of subject matter," Willard said. "I sometimes just walk the waterfront without a particular photo in mind and just let the photo come to me. I am usually not disappointed."

With so much waterfront in town, there are a lot of options for family pics, sunsets, sunrises, wildlife photos and more.

You can't go wrong with any of the fun, exciting things to do and taste in Washington; these selections came from a handful of locals. There are many more delights and adventures that await you.

Come visit and make your own 'best of' list. After all, that's what 'being an original' is all about!

This article was written by our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.


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