Making the Grade: On the Road to Mount Airy, North Carolina



As a child, from kindergarten through the sixth grade, after school I stayed with my Grandma and Granddaddy Patton until Mama and Daddy got off work. From fall of 1968 until late spring of 1975, my grandparents and I enjoyed each other’s company, had snacks and watched “I Love Lucy” reruns on their black and white television set. Therefore, for 54 years, I have been a serious Lucy fan.

When I transferred to Auburn University as a junior in September of 1983, I was introduced to a popular sitcom from the 1960s. I moved into a one-bedroom apartment with an acquaintance I’ll call “Sue.” Unfortunately, Sue was the only child in her family, while I was the baby and only girl in mine. We almost killed each other. OK, I’m exaggerating, but we were both really spoiled, and it was a horrifyingly LONG school year.

However, at least Sue did introduce me to another wonderful sitcom, “The Andy Griffith Show.” Now, like “I Love Lucy,” “The Andy Griffith Show” premiered before I was born. My parents and much older brothers Jim and Mike watched the show, however.

Sue and her father, an excellent former teacher of mine, were “Andy Griffith Show” fanatics.

Within seconds of a show, they could identify which episode it was. Sue watched the show on MY television, so I did, too. Before long, I was also hooked.

Now, my husband Mike, who is three years older than I, can remember watching Andy and Barney, and he is a big fan as well. Therefore, we KNEW that we had to take a road trip to Mount Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith’s hometown and the prototype for Mayberry, the fictional town in the show.

After devouring a delicious breakfast at the Hampton Inn in Mount Airy, Mike and I set out for The Andy Griffith Museum. It was even better than we had imagined, and Mike took lots of pictures. Also, we spent WAY too much money in the gift shop on a Christmas ornament, T-shirts, a book and DVDs. In addition, Mike and I loved visiting the Mayberry courthouse and getting our pictures made in the jail cell. Also, we saw Floyd’s Barbershop and Wally’s Service Station. It was like visiting the past.

While we were enjoying the beautiful, quaint town of Mount Airy (population 10,676 as of 2020), a black and white police car from the Mayberry era drove around, the driver giving tours and firing up a blast on the siren. Small towns are the absolute best.

During our day in Mayberry, we met mother and daughter Gail and Rachel, and Blake and Tyler, Rachel’s little boys. Rachel said that she took her mother somewhere each year for her birthday. Since her mother is such a fan of “The Andy Griffith Show,” to make this trip even more special, Rachel booked Andy Griffith’s home for their lodging. These two ladies from West Virginia were so sweet. They let us come to the house and take pictures. Again, one of my favorite parts of traveling is meeting new people.

Mount Airy’s residents have certainly profited from Mayberry. There are 32 businesses whose names are affiliated with the show. Some of them include Opie’s Candy Store (The fudge was amazing.), Aunt Bea’s Barbecue, The Loaded Goat Restaurant, Barney’s Café and Walker’s Soda Fountain.

For lunch, Mike and I had to eat at the Snappy Lunch, a local diner, which opened in 1923. Andy Griffith ate there often as a boy. Also, this diner is the only business in Mount Airy, which was actually mentioned in the show.

We had to stand in line outside at the Snappy Lunch, but we didn’t mind. The weather was glorious, the wait was short and we chatted with some great fellow fans.

When we entered the Snappy Lunch, I loved the small town, cozy, casual atmosphere. We also enjoyed looking at all “The Andy Griffith Show” pictures on the wall. I laughed at the sign, which said, “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.”

Kayla, our server, was really sweet and helpful. However, she was shocked when we didn’t order their “famous pork chop sandwich.” Kayla said, “You have to have one.” We politely declined; Mike ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, while I chose the all-meat cheeseburger with mustard, onions and tomato (I passed on the slaw and chili and asked for ketchup.) with a bag of barbecue chips.

Our sandwiches were really good. However, I began to feel guilty about not ordering their “famous pork chop sandwich.” In fact, a nearby magazine entitled “Our State: Down Home in North Carolina” proclaimed that this sandwich was “the one sandwich every North Carolinian must eat.” Therefore, we broke down and ordered one to split. Kayla smiled and said, “I told y’all that you had to have one.” She was right.

Not ordering that pork chop sandwich would be like me going to Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar and not ordering my chili cheese dog with onions. That’s just wrong.

When our pork chop sandwich arrived, Mike cut it up evenly, and we began to eat it. Oh, my two times. That pork chop sandwich was a thing of beauty, a delicious, differing concoction of pork, little diced onions, tomato, chili and coleslaw. And to think we almost missed it.

This Alabama boy and girl think that this North Carolina culinary treasure rocks. We only wished we’d listened to Kayla and had ordered two pork chop sandwiches. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Besides our great choices, the Snappy Lunch also serves a variety of sandwiches, including BLT, boiled ham, bologna, bologna and cheese, ground steak, ham and cheese, hot dogs and sausage.

The Snappy Lunch also serves breakfast plates or a variety of biscuits. Believe me, take a visit to Mayberry. Run and do not walk to the Snappy Lunch.

The Snappy Lunch is closed on Sunday. The diner is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.;  Thursday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. (all times Eastern).

The Snappy Lunch makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, “Pooh-sized” people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!

Stacey Patton Wallace, who retired from teaching language arts for 30 years, is a professional diner. Her column, “Making the Grade,” will appear each week in The Observer. Stacey may be reached at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here