‘Little’ Washington becomes a culinary port of call 

Bill's Hotdogs in Washington, N.C.

WASHINGTON — Located in quiet Beaufort County where the Tar River meets the Pamlico Sound, “Little” Washington is known as one of the state’s smallest but most charming coastal communities. In any season, a visit to Downtown Washington offers recreation, shopping and most of all, a restaurant scene that is worth the visit alone. 

Bill’s Hotdogs, established in 1928 by Bill Jackson, has been serving customers deep-fried “old school” red hotdogs for close to 100 years. The hotdog stand now has three locations, two in Washington and one in Greenville. The original building lies in the heart of Downtown Washington on Gladden Street, a local favorite spot.  

Bill’s Hotdogs serves their signature dogs with mustard, onions, and their secret recipe spicy chili. Many have tried to recreate this unique recipe, but alas, none have succeeded.  

Recently, Bill’s Hotdogs created “Bill’s on Wheels”, a Bill’s Hotdogs food truck that travels around the state to spread the delicious savory snack to as many hungry individuals as possible.    

Shep’s Grill opened almost five years ago, and is owned by Jason Sheppard, a Washington local. Sheppard long had plans of opening a restaurant and with Shep’s, his dreams have come to life.  

“We have a family atmosphere, we treat our employees like family,” Sheppard said. “Even our customers, when you come in you might even catch some of them up helping the servers get things done.” 

Shep’s Grill prioritizes their family-oriented atmosphere, serving breakfast and lunch with a menu consisting of classic North Carolina comfort foods.

“We have things that other breakfast places here don’t have,” Sheppard said. “We’re the only place in town that serves Eggs Benedict. I have people that come from Raleigh, just for the Eggs Benedict.”  

Moving into the coming year, Sheppard plans to release a new menu featuring one of his favorite items to cook: smoked meats. The new menu will launch May 12th, the anniversary of their opening.  

“Everything we have sandwich wise will be some smoked meat, we try to have a menu with stuff that no one else in town has,” Sheppard said. “Of course some things will be similar, we’ll always have a burger, but no one else in town smokes their burgers.”  

Shep’s Grill in Washington, N.C.

One special menu item, the smoked brisket, is Shep’s Grill’s most ordered lunch item.  

“The main thing I love about my restaurant is having an open kitchen,” Sheppard said. “I love talking to people, I love socializing with people, and I love hearing feedback from people.”  

“Come to Shep’s Grill, if you happen to be in the Washington area,” Sheppard said. “Come on down, we have nice things here in Washington, it’s a good little town.”  

The Hackney Restaurant, Bar, and Distillery opened in Downtown Washington in January 2019. It all began as a birthday gift from Suzanne Hackney to her husband, with a trip for a distilling course in London. The gin industry became of interest to both Suzanne and Nick, and the pair created their dream of opening an English inspired fine dining restaurant, cocktail bar, and distillery.  

The restaurant sources all of their produce, meats, and seafood locally. The menu is seafood-focused because of the coastal location and passion for seafood shared by Executive Chef Jamie Davis.  

“The ingredients speak for themselves, really we are all farm to table and we stick by it,” Hackney said.  

Chef Davis creates Southern cuisine for a seasonal menu that is changed almost daily to ensure use of fresh ingredients, with the most popular menu item being their shrimp and grits.  

“Someone sent us Jamie’s resume, we met and we all got on really, really well,” Hackney said. “We hired Jamie long before we opened, we were very lucky to find him and we really shared visions the more we talked and met together.” 

The atmosphere of The Hackney is filled with furniture and a custom bar designed by

Photo courtesy of The Hackney

vanCollier, based in High Point. Italian leather chairs, custom barstools, and a velvet banquette, allowing the interior design the opportunity to nod to the twenties, corresponding with the exterior of the building.  

“We don’t rush people, we have several courses,” Hackney said. “It’s more of that European experience, fine dining experience like you would have in Raleigh or Charlotte.”  

Alongside The Hackney restaurant and bar came the distillery, 1000 Piers Coastal Carolina Gin, came to life. 1000 Piers Coastal Carolina Gin is now rated with 96 points by USA Spirit ratings and is considered one of the top four gins in the world.  

“In terms of evolving, I hope the whole town will keep evolving,” Hackney said. “Fingers crossed that people will start coming out of the pandemic and I think they are, so I am happy about that.”