What’s HOT in Fayetteville!

May 17, 2018

Sizzling concerts, smokin’ barbecue, fireworks, spicy ramen and more made my list of “What’s HOT in Fayetteville!” this summer. As you may have guessed, I spend a large part of my job tracking all the events, attractions and restaurants that pop up in Cumberland County, but I also make a point to visit as many as I can. I’ve narrowed down my extensive list to a few personal suggestions on the hottest places to be this season. It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy in Fay!

blues n brews

Sizzling Concerts

Festival Park is the destination for folks wanting to hear the hottest sounds of the summer. This concert season is kicking off over Memorial Day weekend with the Music Megafest: Heart & Soul in the Park. Each year the alumni of E.E. Smith High School get together for a massive reunion, but for the first time, they’re inviting the public to join them at a big bash in the park, May 25th and 26th.

The impressive line-up for both days’ concerts is stirring up quite the buzz around here, and we aren’t talking small-time musicians, either. The Temptations and Blackstreet will be headlining the Megafest, and several other special guests, such as Con Funk Shun and the Ying Yang Twins, will be heating up the stage. Food trucks, plus beer and wine, will make this a true festival experience for everyone. All you need to do is grab your tickets and bring your chairs or picnic blanket.

Tip: You don't want to miss the hot Music Megafest After Party, An Evening of Jazz: The Eric Darius Experience, on May 27th at the Bourdeaux Convention Center (Ramada Plaza)–featuring acclaimed jazz musician Eric Darius with special guest Black Seed, plus hors d'ouevres and a cash bar.

I simply can’t talk about summer concerts without discussing the Blues-N-Brews Festival (BNB), now in its 16th year. The Cape Fear Regional Theatre (CFRT) will be presenting a brand-new “Music City Edition” of BNB in Festival Park on June 2nd. This new theme will take the fest in a country-blues direction, and it ties in nicely with CFRT’s upcoming theater season, which will open with Music City and close with Memphis.

As for the hot sounds you’ll be hearing at BNB, headliner Casey James is a country musician from my home state of Texas who left his mark on American Idol when he placed third on season 9. The Tom Euler Band—a semi-finalist in the 2018 International Blues Challenge—will be bringing their bluesy rock vibes to Fayetteville’s front door, and Nattalyee Randall, of CFRT Dreamgirls’ fame, is sure to delight the audience with her soulful renditions of blues hits. Also, a popular local group, The Guy Unger Band, will be treating VIP ticket holders to a pre-fest concert.

Of course, cold beer keeps the festival-goers cooled off, and this year’s list of brewers features about 25 just from North Carolina (a record number). Make sure you start your BNB “tour” with a taste-testing of all five of our own local breweries. Huske Hardware House, Mash House, Dirtbag Ales, Bright Light and Lake Gaston will be representing Cumberland County well. For a sneak peek at what all the breweries will be serving, be sure to check out the Beer List (subject to change).

Tip: BNB newbies can learn a bit more about what to expect at this fest with a blog I wrote last year: “Tips for the Ultimate Blues-n-Brews Experience.”

blues n brews

blues n brews

Smokin’ Barbecue

New to town is a barbecue joint that had already made a name for itself in the catering world. As soon as Southern Coals officially opened their restaurant, they were flooded with customers. On their extensive menu, you’ll find a wide variety of smoked meats, such as baby back ribs and wings, and traditional side dishes like mac and cheese and coleslaw. When I recently visited, I ordered the brisket, potato salad and baked beans, with a slab of cornbread and sweet tea.

Now, I’m a self-confessed briskaholic who thinks it’s nearly impossible to find decent brisket outside Texas, but Southern Coals passed my test. Juicy, tender beef with a nice smoke ring—served with my sides on brown butcher paper, old-school style. Don’t take my word for it, though. Southern Coals’ customers have given them a perfect 5/5 reviews rating on Facebook. That says everything! You can bet I’ll be back to put their ribs to the test next.

Tip: If you don’t stuff your face with Southern Coals’ banana pudding after your meal (or even if you do), step next door to their famous sister store—Burney’s Sweets & More, one of the top three bakeries our locals recently voted for (read more on “How Sweet It Is”).

blues n brews

blues n brews

A Steamy Classic

Maybe you know this theatrical classic because you’re acquainted with Tennessee Williams’ body of work. Perhaps you watched the infamous cinematic version that starred Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. Regardless of how you were first exposed to it, the steamy classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, is making its way to Gilbert Theater’s stage this summer.

For this heated drama about a wealthy Southern family, Williams won a Pulitzer Prize, and the 1958 big-screen adaptation was nominated for six Oscars. Since its original Broadway production in 1955, it’s had numerous revivals on stage. This is the last production of Gilbert’s 2017-2018 season, and with a play as celebrated as this one, their talented troupe is sure to close out the season with a bang. Choose either an evening or matinee show to attend between June 1st and 10th. Just be sure to grab your tickets before they sell out.

Tip: Join Gilbert Theater on June 10th for a Matinee & Fundraiser at The Capital Room, where local and regional musicians will be treating you to an afternoon of concerto music and wine and beer will be served.

blues n brews

Fireworks + Hot Dogs

You don’t have to wait till the 4th of July to take in a fireworks show here. Every summer, my family and I join the locals in packing out J.P. Riddle Stadium to watch our beloved Fayetteville Swampdogs take to the field. Fireworks are a big part of the tradition here, with four baseball games each summer ending with a lit-up sky. The very first show will happen on June 2nd, after the Swampdogs vs. Morehead City Marlins Game ends. Here’s the insider info I love to give folks about these games: pay a few extra bucks and grab a seat in the Miller Lite Liberty Lounge. The hot dogs, burgers and beers are just a buck each on this patio, while the popcorn, peanuts and soda are free. You can’t beat the price for a night of family-friendly entertainment!

Tip: Purchase the Swampdogs’ Fireworks Extravaganza package and you won’t have to miss one of the four fireworks shows planned this season; follow @GoSwampDogs for more info and to track all their theme nights thru the summer.

blues n brews

Spicy Ramen

My newest foodie obsession is what I call “adult ramen”—a completely different flavor experience from the noodle packets we grew up eating. Thanks to Fayetteville’s international diversity, I recently discovered Gohan Bistro and immediately added it to my “This-Is-Why-I-Love-Fayetteville List.”

One of Gohan’s owners previously worked as a chef at 5-star hotels in California before enlisting in the military, which led him to Fort Bragg. His passion for excellent food, specifically California-style Japanese cuisine, led him to open Umami, which specializes in sushi. The owners experienced such success with it that about two months ago, they opened Gohan Bistro, specializing in ramen and poke.

On the list of dishes I’ve tried at Gohan is takoyaki, a popular street food that translates to “oyster balls” (think fried dumplings stuffed with oyster meat). I also indulged in the Chasu Shoyu Braised Pork Belly poke bowl with spicy tuna. I could talk a lot about just these two dishes, but what will bring me back to this gem is their Spicy Pork Belly Ramen. Braised pork belly, sprouts, egg, corn and noodles are swimming in a rich, spicy miso broth. This is what foodie dreams are made of!

The build-your-own-ramen and the poke burritos, bowls and salads mean you can get experimental here, for sure. If spicy isn’t your thing, then you’ll want to stick with the paitan ramen or go the poke (raw fish) route. I must insist you try one of Gohan’s unique teas, as well. The Honeydew Milk Tea was a refreshing burst of melon flavor, offering a perfect foil to that spicy ramen in my bowl.

Tip: Once you’ve gotten your ramen fix at Gohan, make Umami your next foodie destination and prepare yourself for some banging sushi (see Hot Night Roll) and even Japanese curry.

blues n brews

blues n brews

Hot Rides

Classic car lovers, unite! Cruise-In to Paradise is a family-friendly event, hosted by Paradise Acres, that takes place on the second Sunday of the month (thru October). The next cruise-in is scheduled for June 10th, and you’ll find many makes and models of classic cars and trucks, even motorcycles and tractors, lined up for a hot rides’ “show-and-tell.” Paradise Acres’ visitors can also count on eating well from a tasty buffet, as they’re known for their Southern fried chicken and Eastern Carolina-style barbecue. Don’t hesitate to bring the kids along for the Sunday afternoon fun, as there’s plenty for them to do at this countryside venue in Hope Mills.

Tip: Fayetteville Motor Speedway is the hottest destination here for racing fans, and “The Memorial,” scheduled over Memorial Day weekend, will be kicking off a busy summer season of Speedway Races that are fun for the whole family.

blues n brewsPhoto Credit: @paradiseacresnc

So what else is hot in the greater Fayetteville area? I recently featured some of our most popular adventure destinations on the blog. Learn more about those on "Group Adventures at Our Recreation Gems" - Part I (indoor) and Part II (outdoor). Additionally, you'll find all the summer fun going on around Cumberland County on the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau's Calendar of Events.


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