Why follow a compass that's lost? The Lost Compass is for people who can't stop travelling, who always seek out the next destination. It's for those who'd rather take a backroad than the Interstate; who wonder what happens when you get off the beaten path and look up an odd nook or cranny. It's about finding the little gems, wherever they may be hidden. It is for those who embrace travel as an experience - not stopping just at a tourist trap, but finding a local cafe, bookstore, or dive bar to stop and talk to the people who make up the town. What happens when the compass' needle spins off you the beaten path? Keep reading to find out.

04 January 2012

Fayettenam? Bragg-dad? Is that REALLY Fayetteville?

**Updated 1 July 12!**  Look for the purple.  :)

Before I moved to Fayetteville, I heard it all...  Fayettenam...  Fort Braggdad.  I was warned repeatedly that I was moving to the most undesirable, unappealing, unattractive city to grace the fair state of North Carolina.  Most North Carolinians who have been through here without living here remember the pawn stores and strip clubs that line Bragg Blvd, the violence and crime rate, and the generally downtrodden, factory-town atmosphere of a town built by and for the military.

I think those fools haven't stopped by Fayetteville in 5 years.  I have now lived in this area for almost three years and go into Fayetteville regularly (even though I'm equally close to Raleigh).  I have been blessed to discover so many treasures!  You've heard of 4th Friday, right?  From Martini Mondays and Wine Tasting Thursdays in two of my favorite restaurants, to an arthouse cinema that's not afraid to bring some artsy-fartsy to a more rough and tumble town, from a place that makes cupcakes soaked in all kinds of crazy cocktails, to the only treat that makes muscadine grapes taste good, Fayetteville is a city of surprising depth and wealth, if only you're willing to get off Bragg Blvd and look.

Speaking of Bragg Blvd, two of my favorite bookstores grace this otherwise sketchy street.  Edward McKay is a gigantic store filled with thousands upon thousands of used books, DVDs, videos, video games, and music.  Looking for an old school Nintendo game?  If anyone in Fayetteville has it, they do.  How about a recent bestseller that you don't feel like paying full price for?  Yup, it's probably there, too.  You can check out their inventory online (but what's the fun in that??) although the online inventory and in-store inventory are kept separate.

A more hidden gem off Bragg Blvd is  Lori's New and Used Books, which has thousands of books packed into a smaller, more intimate space.  Lori is the owner and only employee, and she remembers you after a while.  If you are looking for something, she'll know exactly where it is.  She's also more inclined to take your trade-ins, if you're looking to cast off a few books (although why anyone would do that is beyond me.)
An Afternoon Downtown
Have you been in downtown Fayetteville lately???  I swear, between Turner LaneBob and Sheree's Wine Shoppe, and The Chocolate Lady to taste and nibble away the afternoon, Cameo Art House to see the latest indie flick, and City Center Gallery and Books for shopping, I could happily wile away an afternoon.  And don't get me started on dinner, there's just too many good options in three or four blocks!

When I have visitors come to town, the first place we head is downtown.  We start at Turner Lane, where Elaine has jars of different jams and jellies made locally, fresh breads, and ciders to try.  During the summer, she also has muscadine slushies.  As much of a wine fan as I am, I just can't enjoy muscadine wines.  This slushie made the muscadine taste good!!  I always keep some of her hot pepper jelly at my house, as well as whatever fruit jams tasted good on my last trip.  She has tons of stuff to sample and her prices are really reasonable!
Bob and Sheree's Wine Shoppe is usually the next stop on my tour.  Around the corner and down a couple stores from Turner Lane, Bob and Sheree's is where I learned to love Muscato, Brachetto, and all of the wines for which I'm now famous among my friends.  There's always at least one Muscato to sample.  The downtown location is more of a boutique than the Raeford Rd store, which has a much larger selection of beer.  However, I love the walking convenience of the downtown store.
The Chocolate Lady moved from right near the Methodist Church to across from Market Square earlier this summer.  They're my favorite place to stop and grab a cupcake (or four), handmade chocolates, or an ice cream.  Did I mention that their cupcakes are made with alcohol and come in tantalizing flavors like Strawberry Margarita or Mudslide?  There's definitely a tang of alcohol in them... and it makes them delicious!  I've definitely popped in, grabbed one of each flavor, then served it up for dinner that night to two or three friends; that way we could all sample all three or four flavors without guilt.
Cameo Art House is, hands-down, my favorite movie theater in Fayetteville.  They only have two screens, which means they usually only show movies for a week or two before they move on to the next one.  The lobby includes a small wine and beer bar, coffee drinks, and more standard movie snacks.  The downstairs theater is standard, smaller, old-school theater.  Their upstairs screen is my favorite retreat – filled with comfortable, overstuffed chairs, slight stadium seating, and a more intimate atmosphere.
City Center Gallery and Books is the only bookstore in downtown, specializing in both new and used books, especially local interest.  They also carry art by local artists, including paintings of Ft Bragg's military heritage.

**UPDATE! **  There's a new intriguing wine shop and cafe now open on Hay Street!  The Wine Cafe opened right after I got pregnant, so I have yet to partake of it.  However, I plan to enjoy myself with a bottle of wine and some friends as soon as possible.  They also have cheese plates and other munchies for you and friends to share as you share a bottle (or a few glasses) of wine.  I've looked around, but have yet to sit and sample the wares.

4th Friday is another great way to experience downtown Fayetteville.  All of the little boutiques, bistros, galleries, and shops stay open and it turns into a great block party!  At different times of year they have different themes, including the Zombie Walk the 4th Friday of October.

Meals for a Foodie
I must admit, I'm PICKY when it comes to food.  I can handle a chain restaurant, but if I'm not craving cheese biscuits at Red Lobster or French Onion soup at Red Robin, I'd much rather support a local restaurant.  Luckily for me, Fayetteville has a few that knock it out of the park!

Luigi's is my one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Fayetteville.  Remember Wine Tasting Thursdays?  Yup, that's hosted here - a free wine tasting from four or five bottles, with nibbles to accompany.  Of course, you're always welcome to stay for dinner.

For the other favorite, we have to head back downtown to Pierro's.  Fabulous pastas and wines to fill you up any night of the week.  Since it's right next to Cameo, it's definitely my default for dinner and a movie.
Unfortunately, it gets packed at Pierro's sometimes, so Circa 1800 is my other default for great upscale American dining.  Although small, I can usually find a seat at the full-service bar.  Reservations would probably be smart, but I just don't roll that way.  Martini Monday can be found here!

Thai fans have two great choices here, Thai Pepper and Orchid Garden.  Both have amazing lunch buffets and are pretty close to the southern gates of Fort Bragg.  If I want cold coconut milk soup for dessert, I hit Orchid Garden.  Both lunch buffets are great for the price.  If you're on the northern end of Fayetteville, Sawaddee is a great place to pick up some Pad See Euw or Pad Thai.
My favorite lunch spot in all of Fayetteville is Roly Poly (yes, it's a chain, but it's not nationwide!).  GREAT soups and sandwiches with very flexible fillings lead to one happy camper.  They also have a Military Monday discount.  **UPDATE - Roly Poly closed at this location after Christmas.  I've heard rumors they would reopen during the summer, but have yet to see it happen.  Sad day, OPEN AGAIN SOON!!!**

Need a great local beer?  Both The Mash House and Huske Hardware are microbreweries with flights of great beer.  We tend to hit Mash House more frequently, as the food is usually better.  However, if you're making a night of it downtown, then Huske is the place to go.  
**UPDATE - for some reason, the food at Mash House has gone downhill significantly in the last few months.  The steak I had there a couple months ago was barely edible and far too overdone.  In addition, the waitstaff has become very lackluster and the management really didn't seem to care when I mentioned the flaws piling up.  It's off my rotation for now until they get their act together.  I'll try them again later this summer or fall, maybe.  I did hit Huske a few weeks ago for a going-away dinner and was impressed by their buffet.  It was off-menu, but good quality.  If the hubby needs a local beer fix, we'll probably go to Huske for the near future.**
Wrapping it up
As you can see, I've become very devoted to my current town.  Whether you're looking for an amazing dinner, drinks with friends, or just a place to take visitors that's a bit unexpected, I hope you find what you're looking for here in Fayetteville.

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