The partiality for a particular mill's grits is akin to the taste preference for a brand of ketchup or mayonnaise. While grits in most parts of the country are sold in the Quaker-styled boxed brands, here in the South, the best grits are packaged in flexible bags or paper wrappers.
In Charlotte, Crook's Corner stone-ground white grits are sought after. This is partly due to the popularity of Crook's Corner Café & Bar in Chapel Hill, which the renowned Southern chef Bill Neal opened in 1982. It was here in this restaurant that Craig Claiborne, food writer for The New York Times, discovered shrimp and grits, and thus the grits at Crook's Corner developed a national following. At the time, Bill Neal was chef at Crook's; however, the grits used were those locally sourced from The Old Mill at Guilford, founded in 1767 and still operational. After Neal's death in 1991, Bill Smith joined Crook's co-founder Gene Hamer as chef at Crook's Corner in 1993. Today, Crook's Corner stoneground grits (not from The Old Mill) are sold at specialty shops across the state or from distributor Carolina Cupboard.
The recently reopened Reid's (2823 Selwyn Ave.) is again stocking the two-pound bags of Crook's stoneground grits ($6.99). On the back of the package is the shrimp and grits recipe sampled by Claiborne at Crook's Corner. Stoneground grits from The Old Mill at Guildford are available at Arthur's in Belk. (Note: Arthur's is currently moving part of its store to another location on that same floor and has reduced inventory.)
Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: [email protected] or 704-522-8334, extension 136.