The North Carolina
“Lefler’s Place Café and Grocery”, is everything real North Carolina barbecue should be. First of all, Lefler’s is in one of North Carolina’s most historically significant areas. Lefler’s is in the Pee Dee community (officially a part of Mt. Gilead) near the river for which it was named. Pee Dee is basically a cross-road.
Native Americans populated the banks of the Pee Dee long before recorded history – the Town Creek Indian Mound is just on the other side of Mt. Gilead from Pee Dee. White folks settled in the area some time in the early 1700s. This was cotton plantation country through the Civil War and cotton remained the driving force of Montgomery County’s economy well into the 1900s.
Lefler’s Place opened in 1922. As of today, Lefler’s has been in business for about 86 years. Consider that most restaurants in America close in under three years from opening and you’ll begin to realize just how unique is Lefler’s Place. Consider also that little has changed in the way Lefler’s cooks and serves its barbecue over those 86 years – I think they may be onto something. I’m not the only one to recognize the quality of Lefler’s; the restaurant was a favorite of both Elvis Presley and Dale Earnhardt!
I’m told that Lefler’s has the last remaining outdoor, wood burning barbecue pit in Montgomery County. I checked out the pit and found it to be the real deal:
Lefler’s is a true “wood burner”. See the wood in the chimney ready to be burned? Here is a closer look (backyard barbecuers take note, this is how a real barbecue pit should be built):
The wood burns, the coals fall through the grates and are shoveled under the pork shoulders. The big steel cover raises up using a pulley system weighted with cinder blocks, and the meat cooks on the grill.
Lefler’s Place is the oldest operating store and grill from Montgomery County to Charlotte. The atmosphere is great - down home, southern – part old country store and part barbecue joint.
Pictures of Dale Earnhardt line the wall as do huge mounted bass (the fishing is great in the Uwharries).
Each menu bears their message, “We want our customers to feel at home at Lefler’s Place. Our family enjoys making you smile and feel warm and welcome. We strive to give you excellent service. We thank you for your patronage and hope the atmosphere was an enjoyable one! And.. May God Bless You.” They also promise, “to provide the highest quality food while giving you courteous and dependable service at an economical price.”
The pictures above of the pit speak to the quality of the food. You don’t cut any corners cooking barbecue that way. What you may not know is how much hard work goes into cooking barbecue the traditional way – hours of hot, sweaty, backbreaking work, burning wood, shoveling coals, smoke in your eyes, getting burned, etc. – that’s all part of the process.
Lefler’s place also does hamburgers, hot dogs, fried bologna sandwiches (a southern classic), BLTs, chicken, a full breakfast menu and even salads… including my favorite regional specialty, the barbecue salad (a large serving of chopped barbecue piled on top of a fresh green salad, served with a tangy dressing). They also have fries, onion rings and curly fries and a soft drink menu that includes “Cheerwine products” meaning that you can get that wonderful cherry soda in a can, bottle or 20oz size!
I really can’t say enough good things about Lefler’s Place, the Pee Dee Community, Mt. Gilead and Montgomery County. There is just something about the place that exemplifies everything good about the South. It is slow paced, rural, friendly, historically important – the river, the dense forests, rolling cow pastures, old white columned and Victorian homes, downtown department stores with Coca-Cola ads painted on the brick walls, live country music on weekends, a church on every corner and a real sense of community. There is also truly great food.
Pee Dee may no longer be “the land of cotton”, but old time places like Lefler’s should not be forgotten!
Lefler’s Place Café and Grocery
Tuesday & Wednesday 5:30 am to 2:00 pm
Thursday and Friday 5:30 am to 7:00 pm
Saturday 5:30 am to 3 pm
Sunday and Monday – closed
Dine in or take-out
6423 NC Hwy 73 West
Mt. Gilead, North Carolina