We sometimes joke in the TCB office that the Triad doesn’t have real celebrities, and with Maya Angelou’s passing a couple years ago, it’s more true than ever.
Yes, a few folks found fame after leaving, like the often-overlooked Bob McAdoo, a former NBA star named league MVP in 1975, now an assistant coach for the Miami Heat. (He’s won five NBA titles, two as a Lakers player and three as a coach.) There’s Chris Paul, 9th Wonder, and O. Henry too, but they also bounced.
There are a few true celebrities in the Triad, though I can count them on one hand; Rhiannon Giddens and Melissa Harris-Perry are the only two who come to mind, unless you count Snood inventor and Guilford College professor Dave Dobson.
That’s why I’m not calling this a Dining With the Stars Guide, because it relies on celebrities who don’t live here. Your chances of finding anyone famous at these establishments are virtually zero. But it’s fun anyway, and it tells us something about the restaurants themselves and how our region is perceived to outsiders.
This list is incomplete, of course. Visit the online version of this story and share your own local celebrity dining stories.
Jesse Jackson isn’t quite a native son, but he did spend his college years as an undergrad at NC A&T University. That’s where he started to make a name for himself as a civil rights activist. Naturally Jackson — who can regularly be seen at the Greatest Homecoming on Earth — has eaten at plenty of establishments in town. After I interviewed him several years ago, I tailed him and Melvin “Skip” Alston to the Summit Café, a small Southern joint that’s been around since 1989 — well after Jackson’s college years in the ’60s — and is now serving Caribbean food, too. More recently, locals spotted Jackson at Dame’s Chicken & Waffles just before the presidential election.
Speaking of, Lena Dunham popped into the Gate City as part of a campaign swing on Hillary Clinton’s behalf in 2016. She showed up at Coffeeology on Tate Street to extol the importance of voting but, according to a friend on the scene, Dunham didn’t actually eat at the coffeeshop, instead snagging food from the chain Chipotle a couple doors down instead.
If we should trust anyone’s taste on this list, it’s Rachael Ray. The celebrity chef, author and TV personality dined at Crafted: The Art of Street Food last year. The decision makes sense — it’s easily one of the most creative and interesting restaurants in Greensboro. Crafted is run by Kris Fuller, who is, I should add, what most people around here consider to be a celebrity, and to be fair, she did appear on an episode of “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
Barack Obama might be leaving office shortly, and writers have already filed their big reflections and thinkpieces on the first black president’s legacy and tenure. No doubt none mentioned his stop at Stephanie’s II, the venerable soul food restaurant in south Greensboro. There’s a picture on the wall to commemorate the event. If you’ve never been, you should be embarrassed. I sure gave our columnist Anthony Harrison hell when I learned that he — a native son — had never been. His whiteness really showed on that one.
George W. Bush and Donald Trump are very different kinds of Republicans, but the two men have more in common than being either side of the Obama sandwich or being known as idiot quote machines. They both stopped in at Stamey’s barbecue, Bush as president in 2006 and Trump as a candidate back in September.
You may prefer other ’cue in the area — I favor Short Sugar’s in Reidsville, Mr. BBQ and Little Richard’s in Winston-Salem and Boss Hog’s in Greensboro — but it’s hard to deny that Stamey’s fits with the populist image both men try to cultivate.
Given Stamey’s proximity to the Greensboro Coliseum and the state’s reputation for barbecue, it’s likely that countless other out-of-town celebs have ordered pulled pork here as well.
I can’t independently verify it, but a friend in college reported seeing LL Cool J leaving Smith Street Diner in downtown Greensboro. Normally I’d say, “Pic or it didn’t happen,” but this was back before we all had high-quality cameras on our phones. Supposedly he’d been in town, and who could blame him for wanting one of those biscuits the size of your head? I ate one a few days ago alongside the Mexican eggs (sub homefries for the grits) and will gladly attest to their deliciousness.
This one is more of a stretch, and it’s definitely the most talked about on this list (at least in my circles), but years ago Bruce Springsteen spent an evening at the old Rhino Club across from the Carolina Theatre downtown, after a concert at the Greensboro Coliseum. That was before the Boss touched off a boycott against North Carolina following the passage of the discriminatory HB 2 by canceling a show at the coliseum.
I’ve thought to myself more than once that I should be the guide for celebrities trying to figure out where to eat in the Triad — I act as an informal resource to friends with requests like “Where should we get Italian dinner on a Sunday night for my grandpa’s birthday?” all the time anyway in addition to my more official capacity in these pages. I’ve even considered showing up at Print Works the night of a Bryan Series lecture, operating under the assumption that our icons are likely staying upstairs at the Proximity.
If you’re a star or you’re responsible for booking one, hit me up and I’ll be your guide. Otherwise I’ll see you at one of these venues, phones hopelessly at the ready to snap pictures of a celebrity sighting as you chow down on what’s most likely a plate of classic Southern fare.