NC Food

Chapel Hill and Snack Cakes

Little Debbie

Earlier this year I visited North Carolina to meet a famous cicada expert (Bill Reynolds of the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, NC). While I was in the Raleigh area, I decided that it would be a good idea to visit Chapel Hill, NC. I had not been to Chapel Hill since the 1990s, and at the time I had a blast, so I felt it was worth a second visit.

Chapel Hill has spawned many interesting musical acts, but perhaps their most iconic is Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS). SCOTS is a perfect mix of elements of rock, psychobilly, country and novelty music — it’s like they took parts of each, and made something better than the sum of the parts. One of my favorite SCOTS songs is Camel Walk, which features the lyrics:

OWWWW WEEE, Little Debbie, Little Debbie
I’m a comin on home, baby, ’cause you make me wanna walk

The problem is the Little Debbie, Little Debbie part. A problem you say? Yes, because I became momentarily obsessed with Little Debbie snack cakes. The problem with that is when I eat too much Little Debbie snack cakes, it saps my energy. Realistically speaking, you should only eat one dessert a day — and not buy two or three boxes of snack cakes and some Pabst tall-boys, and then spend the majority of your vacation watching YouTubes and napping in a hotel room (a little hyperbole, but close enough to the truth).

So, to recap, you can see how my unrestrained mind works: 1) Visit North Carolina, 2) think about visiting Chapel Hill, 3) think about Chapel Hill’s best band SCOTS, 4) think about their song Camel Walk and its lyrics about Little Debbie snack cakes, 5) go to Walmart to buy a USB cable but leave with Pabst and boxes of snack cakes, and 6) hang out at the hotel — instead of Raleigh or Chapel Hill — because I ate too many snacks.

My North Carolina Breakfast of Champions

Learn from my mistakes: no matter how delicious banana cakes are, limit yourself to one a day. You will appreciate them more, and you will get more out of life.

That was a massive tangent. Back to Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill is the perfect college town. They have all the right ingredients.
√ Music venues.
√ Music stores.
√ Brewpub(s).
√ Museum(s)
√ A variety of non-chain restaurants.
√ (I will assume) bookstores.
√ a College (UNC).
√ better weather than most states north of North Carolina.
√ an interesting local culture featuring unique art, music, and food.
√ College students.

Visting Chapel Hill for the second time was like visiting a movie set after watching a really awesome movie about it. So what do I mean by that? Well, last time I visited I was with friends, we partied, drank, played cards, went to amazing local restaurants, bars, and music events — heck, my friends and I even danced on stage at a SCOTS show! SCOTS drummer David Hartman (dating a friend at the time) took me to a favorite BBQ joint. You couldn’t ask for a better Chapel Hill experience.

Visting in 2015, all the right elements were there: the Local 506 bar, CD Alley, the brewpubs, the restaurants with their painted goats, colorful band flyers and stickers festooning every vertical surface. I’ll say it again: it was like visiting a movie set of a movie I’ve already seen. (Now I’m thinking of the NLP technique where you step outside a memory and view it objectively, but let’s not go down another tangent.) Sobriety, daylight, time limitations, and a lack of companions made my visit decidedly different — but I still had fun.

Goats and Music in Chapel Hill

What I enjoyed about Chapel Hill this time around:

  1. CD Alley (405-C W Franklin St): a great little record store, with a good selection. Appropriately, I bought a CD of SCOTS’ Zombified album (which is great Halloween rock n’ roll music). CD Alley feels like an authentic record store: cramped, dark, decorated outside with stickers and fliers of local bands — for a music obsessive, it feels like home.
  2. Carolina Brewery (450 W Franklin St): good brewpub. I had the Firecracker lager (I think), which was tasty.
  3. Local 506 (506 W Franklin St): they were closed, but it was great just to stand outside the door and take in all the interesting, multi-colored band flyers
  4. All the interesting stickers and band flyers all over town. Some people don’t like graffiti, especially when it is done to their property without their consent, but in a college town, it just makes sense. Light poles and mailboxes would look naked without it.

Stickers and Band Flyers of Chapel Hill North Carolina

Even though my second Chapel Hill visit was not as “epic” as my first, there was one thing that made it special — one thing that I would not have experienced the last time around, and that is the Ackland Museum (101 S Columbia St,). Ackland was around last time I was in town, but leisurely enjoying a well-curated museum was not on my agenda in the 1990s.

Ackland is a wonderful medium-sized museum with a well-balanced diversity of art spanning many centuries and styles, from the ancient…

Lion art hasn't changed much in the past 4000 or so years.

… to ultra modern…

Glitter Deer in the Ackland Museum in Chapel Hill NC

And in-between.

Nam June Paik

A video posted by Dan Mozgai (@danmozgai) on

So what did we learn:

1) Go easy on the snack cakes, but do enjoy them from time to time.

2) If you return to a place you’ve been in the past, don’t expect it to be the same, but do enjoy it for all that it is.

3) Sometimes you get more out of life when you take it fast, but it is also enjoyable when you take it slow.

Dickies’ Peanut Patties

Indy discovers Dickies Peanut Patties

I drove into Arkansas and I was exhausted. I needed something to WAKE ME UP, so I rolled the Silver Muffin towards the first food store I saw.

As I rambled through the isles of the food store looking for Red Bull, I remembered to look for local foods or beverages: stuff I can’t get in New Jersey. Food & beverage brands are pretty much the same from California… all the way to Maine, but every now and then you can find a local brand that is so unique and POWERFUL that it doesn’t get pushed from store shelves by the BIG BRANDS.

On this occasion, I discovered Dickies’ (not sure where to put the apostrophe) Peanut Patties in the 6 count “Family Pack”. I know what you’re thinking: “has Dan had his glucose levels checked recently?” Yes, and they’re a-okay. But seriously, you’re thinking “what is a peanut patty”? A peanut patty is a disc-shaped disc, about the diameter of a hockey puck and the height of the width of a #2 pencil, made of de-shelled peanuts suspended in what seems to be solidified meat-colored sugar. And even though I don’t have a family, I bought that entire family pack.

My original intention was to bring the family-size pack to New Jersey to show off to people, like Indiana Jones bringing back an artifact from some far-away haunted ruins… but I ate them the next day within an hours time. Yes, I realize I ate a portion meant for an entire family. I was hungry.

So, what did they taste like? They tasted like Beer Nuts, or if you don’t know what Beer Nuts are, they tasted like peanuts suspended in subtlely-sweet sugar. You know how a persimmon fruit is sweet but not crazy sweet like a ripe pineapple? It was that kind of sweet: a gentle, classy, refined sweet. Getting the patties out of their wrappers was a unique experience — each patty is shrink wrapped and you have to scrape away at the plastic until an opening is created allowing you to access the candy. If you’re driving while eating the family pack, I recommend breaking them in half using your thigh for leverage. You will also notice peanut patty crumbs covering your t-shirt when you are done eating the entire family sized pack… grab a pinch of your shirt between your thumb and forefinger and SNAP IT, sending all the peanut patty crumbs flying all over the cab of your vehicle…

I give Dickies Peanut Patties a rating of 4.2/5.