Time for Dinner? Head to Aberdeen
02 Dec 2022
Enticing eats are yet another reason Aberdeen beckons
By Ray Linville » Photos by John Patota
What’s the new food destination of the area? Are you surprised that it’s downtown Aberdeen? These five are drawing rave reviews from not only locals but traveling groups visiting the Sandhills as well.
Mason’s Restaurant & Grocery
The local brunch hangout place has quickly become Mason’s, named after the son of owners Brian and Alison Hainley. He, a chef and previous restaurant owner, and she, a marketing food specialist, have combined their talents to offer delicious seasonal fare inspired by their Southern roots.
Local and regional specialties from scratch biscuits to craft cocktails are featured. All menu items are served all day, so you won’t be disappointed when you visit.
For true Southerners, the buttermilk biscuit with sausage gravy is irresistible. A hungrier appetite is more than satisfied with the Train Wreck served on a split biscuit that is topped with a crispy chicken thigh, smoked bacon, over-easy egg, cheddar, and sausage gravy.
Griddled items include hotcakes, Belgium waffle, and brioche French toast. The lunch items include a “smash” burger, a fried green tomato BLT, and Nashville hot chicken. The dining experience is enhanced by bubbles, brews, wine, and other beverages.
Next door to Mason’s is the second contribution by the Hainley family to the local food scene. The long-anticipated opening of Pizzeria Grazia, named for the couple’s daughter Grace, arrived a few months ago. Creative salads, panini, antipasti, and desserts are served in a casual, counter-service setting. Don’t miss the mural designed and painted by tattoo artist Sean Robinson, owner of South Street Social Club.
The main draw is authentic Neapolitan pizza traditionally eaten with a knife and fork. It is crafted with the most refined Italian milled flour used for pasta making. Known as doppio zero (meaning double zero) because it has the lowest level of bran, it creates a dough that is silky and maintains a chewiness when cooked.
The dough is allowed to develop for 24 hours before being stretched by hand and cooked in an 800-degree wood-fired oven that produces a slightly charred crust. All pizzas are approximately 14 inches. Just close your eyes when you have one and you’ll think you are in Naples. The marinara made with San Marzano tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, and pecorino romano is extraordinary.
The Workshop Tavern
Turn the corner at Pizzeria Grazia and encounter The Workshop Tavern. Nestled on the ground floor of the former Aberdeen Hotel annex, it has created quite a following with enticing sandwiches, mac ’n’ cheese bowls, and creative cocktails.
You know that you are in a foodie destination when you learn that it has no freezers or walk-in coolers. Only fresh products are served as they live out their motto, “Perfect your craft.” Every day the kitchen slow-roasts the meats that go into all of the dishes. Check out the daily special.
Although the sandwiches and wraps are remarkable, the mac ‘n’ cheese bowls deserve special attention. Loaded with your choice of barbecue pulled pork, spicy chicken, chili, or other signature toppings, they are well worth the visit. Yes, the recipe for the famous five-blend mac ‘n’ cheese sauce, made from scratch, is a secret, so don’t ask.
Noteworthy: On Friday and Saturday nights, the Tavern serves what may be the area’s best prime rib dinner; it comes with two sides and garlic bread. Don’t miss Sweet Carolina Ice Cream, which is next door.
Only a hop, skip, and (big) jump away is the premier bakery in the Sandhills, The Bakehouse, which has now transitioned to its new owners, David and Ginny Tran. They have left the recipes largely unchanged (particularly the beloved Barcelona Burger) in the café, and continue to honor the bakery’s Austrian and Spanish roots.
The Barcelona Burger combines beef, spinach, and onions and is topped with cheese and the bakery’s own garlic sauce. Chef Jason Matthews, who trained under and worked with Martin Brunner, the former chef and owner, is incorporating more farm-fresh products while staying true to the recipes The Bakehouse has had for over 15 years.
Stop in for breakfast or lunch and savor one of the made-to-order dishes. Several have a delightful Mediterranean spin that is not found elsewhere. Everything is homemade and, of course, pairs great with the freshly baked bread selections. Visit and discover what fills the morning air with a scrumptious scent. The plentiful bakery counter with its daily selection of fine European pastries can be boxed up and enjoyed at home.
El Chapin II Grill and Catering
Intrigued by Hispanic food and flavors? Perhaps it’s time to savor foods traditional to Guatemala. After opening this past spring, El Chapin II has brought authentic Guatemalan dishes to the food scene in the Sandhills.
Owner Rony Ordonez, whose family started the restaurant in Durham in 2015, fell in love with Aberdeen and opened a second location here. Beef, chicken, pork, and seafood are seasoned with Guatemalan flavors; most are served with salad, rice, and beans. The carne guisada is a delicious Guatemalan-style beef filet that is cooked in a homemade sauce with vegetables and accompanied with beets, cabbage, salad, and rice.
One specialty, the licuados milkshake, is a novelty for anyone not familiar with this style; it is blended milk and fruit similar to smoothies but not as thick. On Saturday and Sunday, traditional Guatemalan breakfasts are served. Step outside your comfort zone and travel south of the border.
Outside Historic Downtown
Of course, Aberdeen has even more choices for adventurous foodies. What else should you consider in Aberdeen but just outside the historic downtown area? Here are several worth checking out:
House of Fish, a perennial favorite of Sandhills foodies, was moved to L.A. (Lower Aberdeen) by owner-chef Danny Hayes several months ago where he continues to offer enticing seafood entrees.
Mariscos Mauricio Fresh Seafood Bar & Grill on Highway 211 serves fresh succulent seafood caught on the N.C. coast with a Mexican Yucatan taste.
Thai Orchid, the first authentic Thai restaurant in Moore County, was established in 1993 and is still owned a proud food-oriented family.
Vito's Pizzeria of Pinehurst, despite its name, is within the town limits of Aberdeen; its pizza is made in the finest traditions of the Gironda family. Even north of Vito’s on N.C. 5 but still within town limits is Benji's Rincon Jarocho that uses bold flavors and ingredients for preparing traditional Mexican dishes.
Take the south bound drive and find some place new.