If your idea of outdoor food is fried, fried and fried, the next two weeks offer lots of opportunities at the N.C. State Fair, which kicks off in Raleigh Thursday, Oct. 16 (www.ncstatefair.org). In addition to traditional fair food from a variety of vendors, there are several specialty cooking contests that challenge Tar Heel natives to try their hand at award-worthy dishes featuring North Carolina-grown products such as peanuts, pecans, pork, apples and eggs. The festivities run through Sunday, Oct. 26.

If all the lights and rides are not your style, the Saxapahaw Rivermill (1616 Jordan Drive, Saxapahaw, 336-376-3122, rivermillvillage.com) serves up a different style of outdoor food and entertainment this weekend. The historic mill complex hosts its Oktoberfest from 3 to 9 p.m. Oct. 18, with local brews, barbecue and bands.

Located about 10 miles west of the Carrboro town limits, the mill is a leisurely drive from anywhere in the Triangleclose enough for a half-day trip but far enough to escape the hubbub. Even if you miss this weekend’s fun, it’s worth the travel another time to check out the local food scene happening there since Jeff Barney took over the Saxapahaw General Store in June.

After serving since 2005 as the founding operational manager at Pittsboro’s organic grocery co-op, Chatham Marketplace (480 Hillsboro St., Suite 320, Pittsboro, 542-2643, www.chathammarketplace.com), Barney relocated westward four months ago to convert a former convenience store and gas station into a local-food mecca.

“Saxapahaw has been a hidden gem for artisans and organic farmers for a long time,” Barney says.

Barney does the cooking while his partner, Cameron Barnett, bakes at their newly refurbished restaurant and retail store, which offers eat-in, take-out and catering for breakfast and lunch daily, weekend brunches and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.

“Saxapahaw is developing an intensely local food economythat’s the direction it’s moving,” says Barney, who buys most of his ingredients and retail products from area farms. The menu features sandwiches, casseroles, entrées such as Cane Creek Farm pork with local figs, and plenty of vegetarian-friendly options. The store also stocks artisal bread, local produce and other goodies like chutneys and jams for sale (in addition to the weekly Saturday farmers’ market, also on-site).

Local art and seasonal music events draw customers from outside the immediate area, and hungry cyclists pass through the scenic countryside.

Plans are in the works for an additional larger restaurant and pub in an adjacent mill building, Barney says, with tentative opening set for spring 2009.

Meanwhile, back in the Triangle, Durham’s Pao Lim at 2505 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd. has shut its doors temporarily while owner Hai Fang converts the former Asian bistro and bar to a Japanese restaurant called Kimono (419-1771, no Web site yet). Fang says a sushi bar will be the main attraction, and he will continue to serve lunch and dinner daily. He expects to open at the end of the month.

Know about a fun food happening in the Triangle? Send it to Now Serving at food@indyweek.com.