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“History + Best Sweet Tea in Jacksonville, NC”

I’m continuing my quest to learn more about what makes Jacksonville, Jacksonville.

A Little History

The USO in downtown Jacksonville on Tallman Street is the longest operating USO in the world. Eleven percent of U.S. military active duty forces call North Carolina home. With seven major military installations, North Carolina has the fourth largest demographic of active and reserve duty components in the country. This past April, the USO celebrated 75 years of connecting America’s service members to family, home and country.

A Whole Lotta Sweet Tea

I stumbled upon this Adrian Miller piece called “Why Sweet Tea Is the South’s Quintessential Drink.” It reads: “Bicker all you want about its regional varieties, or where to draw a geographical line—no drink represents Southern culture like sweet. Miller cites Allison Glock in Garden & Gun—”Sweet tea isn’t a drink, really. It’s culture in a glass”—and food historian John T. Edge, who muses that sweet tea is “a kind of culinary-cultural Global Positioning System, an indicator of where we are and, yes, who we are.”

And he’s right. Us southerners swear by our sweet tea and drink it by the gallons all year round with just about every meal. Brewed fresh and sweetened just right, there’s an art to making sweet tea. Besides making it at home, here are my favorite local spots to grab a good old cup of sweet tea. But first, I made my selection based on the following criteria: 1) How strong? 2) How sweet? 3.) How much and what kind of ice is used? Because we all know ice isn’t created equal.

1. Waffle House. I know, I know! I was told one must be drunk enough to choose to eat at the Waffle House but we happen to enjoy the food not to mention it’s super cheap and the service is fast. Besides it also being the BEST place to people watch, it is also the BEST place (according to me) to get sweet tea in Jacksonville. Ask for Leigh at the Western Blvd location. She’s awesome.

2. Smithfield’s. Its sweet tea is as much as a signature as the barbecue, fried chicken and hush puppies. But most importantly, they use the “good ice”, the nugget chewable ice just like Sonic that amplifies any and every flavor. When you’re done with your tea, eat the ice. You can thank me later.

3. Kettle Diner. This place has been in Jacksonville for many years. It’s the perfect spot for a little comfort food.  It’s a nice budget-friendly family style restaurant where you can enjoy oldies but goodies music while you eat. It’s also best known as the go-to breakfast spot after a night at the club and my third best spot for good sweet tea.

4. Dunkin Donuts. This is probably the last place you’d think to order sweet tea. As advertised it’s always delicious and always freshly brewed in store each day and served over ice just like it’s supposed to be. I am a little bias to locations. The Marine Blvd location is consistently sweet and just right.

5. Cookout. I still say if you haven’t been to a drive-thru only Cookout then you haven’t had the full Cookout experience. Back in my Aggie Suites days, I would frequent the drive-thru daily for cajun seasoned fries, hush puppies and a large sweet tea. Almost 20 years later, I still order the same thing.

Alrighty…Who should be added to the list?

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