Owner Ronnie Horton of Ronnie’s Country Store in downtown Winston-Salem is all fired up—the fresh dried pintos are in. “It’s the most exciting thing that happens in Winston-Salem every year,” he says. While some may dispute that proclamation, the tender beans do create a buzz in the store, despite the fact that Ronnie didn’t run his usual radio ad announcing their arrival this year. Customers flock in to buy them, to the tune of 300 pounds a day.
The customers and the store may be old-school, but Ronnie’s was hip to slow food before it became a buzz word in culinary circles, mostly because it’s the owner’s way of giving his customers what they want. Here, tradition matters. From chow-chow made by the McCutcheon family in Maryland, to stone-ground cornmeal from Boone, Ronnie’s shelves are filled with are homespun, authentic foods, many produced by the same families for nearly 100 years.
Here are 5 Southern favorites you’ll find at Ronnie’s:
Salt-of-the-Earth Country Hams Ronnie bought the store from the White family, and still buys country hams from W.G. White in Mocksville, NC. “I could buy cheaper hams,” he says, “but these are so consistent–they’re sugar cured and salty, but not extremely so. No others I buy have the flavor these do.” He also sells Sugar Grove hams, which are aged 6 months longer, but 90% of his customers prefer W.G. White brand. Every other Saturday morning (and occasionally during the week) Ronnie fries ham slices on a hotplate in the back, stuffs them in dinner rolls, and places them on the counter for all to enjoy–free. “They make the store smell good,” he says.
Molasses on Tap The 55-gallon drum of blackstrap molasses attracts a varied audience. Bakers use it in Moravian cookies and gingerbread, while fishermen put it in dough balls to attract carp. A few people just eat it for the iron. Barbecue aficionados put it in their sauce. “Every man who develops a barbecue sauce thinks his is the best,” Ronnie says.
Beans And More Beans If there’s a dried legume you’re craving, chances are good Ronnie’s has it by the barrelful, whether it’s Anasazi beans, lentils, or chickpeas.
Country Side Meat, Fatback, Lard Just what you need to season those beans is available in the meat case. “In this part of the country, fatback rules,” Ronnie says. “It only takes a couple of pieces to season 2 pounds of pinto beans.”
Hard to Find Candies You only thought Mary Janes, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Chick-O-Sticks are extinct. You’ll find them alongside Goetz’s Caramel Creams (bulls eyes), double- and single-dipped peanuts, Bit O’ Honey, Peanut Butter Bars, Banana Splits, King Leo Peppermints, and many others. 642 N Cherry St., (336) 724-5225