My family has our traditions when going to and returning from the beach, both when we used to go to Carolina Beach and now when we go to Topsail Beach.
PAUL'S FAMOUS HOT DOGS
One definite stop, either going or returning, is Paul's Famous Hot Dogs on US-117 near Castle Haynes, about twenty miles outside of Wilmington. They have been in business since 1928 and feature hot dogs on a steamed bun with some of the best special sauce you'll ever found.
At one time, they were 10 cents, but now $1.60. You can get the special which is 3 dogs and a drink for $5.85. This past time, I saw that you can also get it with slaw, something I'll have to try next time.
Off I-40, it is easy off, drive a few miles along 117 which parallels 40, then continue to Castle Haynes and get back on.
SMITHFIELD BBQ AND CHICKEN
This is a chain in North Carolina with a lot of places along the interstates. This spot is in Warsaw, North Carolina. I suggest a combo of Carolina BBQ, double slaw, hush puppies and chicken for around $8. Mighty good eating to say the least. And, the chicken is as juicy as you'll ever taste.
Gettin' Hungry Just Typing This. --RoadDog