Once a thriving cotton mill village along the Haw River not far from Chapel Hill and Pittsboro, North Carolina, the town of Saxapahaw, like most communities in North Carolina saw tough days after the mill closed in the mid ‘90’s. In 1844 a Quaker settler by the name of John Newlin built the first mill which was later demolished to construct a large brick structure. After a tornado damaged the mill in 1994, Dixie Yarns, owner and operator of the mill ceased their milling operations. After sitting abandoned for several years the remodeling of this structure was completed in 2006 and is now known as Rivermill. The newly restored structure now houses apartments and businesses and is responsible for putting Saxapahaw back on the map.
Offering marvelous views, homes and businesses alike partake in all nature has to offer only yards away from this gorgeous river. Presumably named after the term ed-dy, (noun) a resting place on the river, the Eddy Pub indeed sits in the old mill on the bank of the Haw River. The pub sources their food locally with a seasonal menu and affords its customers not only mouthwatering food, but stellar views of the town and river. On my first visit to the town about a year ago I enjoyed the Braeburn burger served on a soft, house brioche bun. The trimmings included NC hoop cheddar cheese, house mayo, a sumptuous mango chutney, lettuce and Lusty Monk mustard on the burger and a side of crisp fries.
The real star that day though was the pawpaw cake with peanut butter icing. What is a pawpaw you ask? I never heard of one either, but have learned that it is the largest edible fruit native to North America and is similar to a banana/mango/papaya. The cake was moist and spongy and not too sweet, similar to banana bread. I loved it so much that I attempted to recreate it using a banana bread recipe substituting papaya, as pawpaws are not easily found. From what I can gather, their “season” is towards the end of summer and when ripe are only good for a few days. This not-too-sweet treat paired well with the fluffy peanut butter icing. Need I say more?
Last weekend I visited again. Unfortunately I didn’t check the hours for the Eddy Pub, which opens at 5PM. Having left the girls at the house around 10 I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay for dinner at the risk of their puppy bladders. Fortunately, the Saxapahaw General Store is several yards from the pub, and they offer a huge selection of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
They offer so many choices, in fact, that it is nearly impossible to choose. A popular spot, judging from the crowds gathered around tables and waiting in line, this store is a local favorite. After sampling the Farmhouse Burger, the Beef Pastrami, and home fries, I understand why. The robust pastrami was paired with the right amount of tangy sauerkraut on a crusty bread. The savory burger was seared to perfection and which harmonized perfectly with the sharp cheddar and fresh mango salsa.
The mill, now the town hub, also includes a coffee shop, a butcher, an indoor concert venue, and every Saturday from May to August also features a farmer’s market and concert series. In all honesty I didn’t try the coffee shop because I was full from lunch at the Saxapahaw General Store. The coffee shop is awash with light due to a large wall of windows, yet industrial touches from the old mill are seen throughout. It is also home to the Haw River Ballroom, a concert and event venue.
Easily my favorite place at the mill is the Left Bank Butchery. A real butcher shop is so much better than going to a grocery store, even an upscale one. Where I grew up, we frequently went to Herring Brothers, a local butcher with great meat products. In rural places, a butcher seemed to be commonplace. Not so much in larger suburbs or cities. That is a shame. Local butcher shop = locally sourced meat. Doesn’t that sound better? I think it does. I can go on and on about sourcing food or eating locally, whether it’s meat, dairy, bakery goods or restaurants. It makes sense. It makes sense for the economy, the environment, and the community. Anyone can eat or shop at a chain restaurant or store, but if you really want to live, go off the beaten path and go local!
Back to the Left Bank Butchery. Like most butcher shops they have meat. Lots and lots of meat. Pretty meat. Meat you want to eat. It was hard to choose what to purchase to take home and cook but I did a little mental inventory of my freezer and I realized I had no pork. Lucky for me, they had a selection of pork including the most wonderful looking pork chops I’ve ever spied with my two eyes and Toulouse sausage. I asked about the sausage. I was not familiar with Toulouse sausage. The butcher, Jesse, explained that it was made with white wine, herbs and garlic. It intrigued me. I had to try it. Two please! I left the butcher shop with my pork chops and Toulouse sausage in hand, wrapped in crisp butcher paper, thinking of the endless possibilities for dinner.