When searching for a delicious and unique meal, one often might think they need to book reservations at fancy restaurant and spend tons of money on a so-so experience. When it really comes down to craving a satisfying, delicious meal, you can’t beat a classic diner. The options are hearty and plentiful, the service is friendly, and the ambiance is one-of-a-kind. North Carolina has a wide assortment of great diners, but these 10 are a must!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Mary's Gourmet Diner, Winston-Salem
For brunch, Mary's is a Winston-Salem classic. True to its Trade St. location, it has a cool, artsy vibe with local artwork adorning the wall. But the place still retains classic touches that make you want to sit and stay for awhile. Originally opening in June 2000, Mary's Of Course! gained a large following and eventually became the Mary's we know and love today. The food is always fresh and locally sourced, and after your first meal you'll be craving more (usually within the hour). You must try the jalapeño cheese grits served with a large helping of pimento cheese. Besides being a great stop for brunch, Mary's is very much involved within the Winston-Salem community and the 'themed brunches' (like the recent Zombie Brunch) draw lines out the door.
2. Poole's Diner, Raleigh
Located in the heart of downtown, Poole's diner has kept to its sweet concept since first opening in 1945 by John Poole as Poole's Pie Shop. Today, Chef Ashley Christensen has added modern touches. But classic aesthetics like the double horseshoe bar and red leather banquettes remain to give you a diner experience you won't forget. The large chalkboard menus change daily, and the unique yet simple food selections are locally sourced and always delicious.
3. Smith Street Diner, Greensboro
Smith Street Diner serves up generous portions of classic country fare that make this breakfast joint a beloved gem of Greensboro. Besides the whimsical pig portraits on the walls, the decor is simple - but the heart of Smith Street is in its hearty breakfast options "served 8 days a week."
4. Midnight Diner, Charlotte
Midnight Diner is a beloved late night spot of Charlotte locals and visitors. You get comfort food classics in a true diner environment. From the plush, bright red booths, to the black and white checkered floor, the interior only adds to the essence of this unique diner experience. The burger patties are handmade, the onion rings and fries are hand cut, and the breakfast platters, like The Bubba or the The Uptown, give you a little bit of everything your late night craving desires.
5. Elmo's Diner, Carr Mill
Elmo's Diner is a place where the servers know your name and you always see someone you know. Located in a converted mill, the interior is a mix of comfortable diner classic with rustic modern touches. The famous pancakes are made from scratch and all other dishes come straight from the kitchen. You get quality in ingredients, food, and service at this beloved Carborro diner.
6. Wynn's Diner, Asheville
In a town that prides itself on creative, innovative, and wildly unique restaurants, sometimes it's nice to just find classic simplicity with really good food. Enter Wynn's Diner, a true gem of Asheville. With the specialty sandwiches, gourmet burgers, and classic hot dogs, you can't beat the delicious food and great service.
7. True Flavors Diner, Durham
True Flavors takes your classic diner favorites and adds an upscale touch. With dishes like Howling Moon French (french toast topped with moonshine sauce) fish and grits, and duck hash, your breakfast is snazzy yet hearty. The interior is a mix of traditional comfort and modern ambiance. The brunch selections can't be beat. True Flavors also offers catering for special events.
8. Goody Goody Omelet House, Wilmington
While the exterior might seem simple, the menu, the food, and the quirky yet cool interior is anything but ordinary. Goody Goody Omelet House has been leaving breakfast lovers satisfied since 1977 and is a Sunday tradition for many Wilmington families. Be sure to try the signature Spanish omelets.
9. MaryBills Cafe & Elbow Room, Fayetteville
MaryBills has been called "the best place to have breakfast in Fayetteville," and with their standout reputation it seems pretty true. MaryBills serves diner classics like juicy hamburgers, specialty sandwiches like the turkey melt, and unique yet hearty breakfast options like the crab cake Benedict. With fast, friendly service in a true 'diner' experience, you'll want to check out MaryBills.
10. The "Dive N," Pineville
The Dive N has classic diner charm with stellar food and service. The breakfast menu is full of your favorite classics with unique touches, like Texas Style French Toast or a Junkyard Plate. Aside from a filling breakfast, you can browse from an assortment of 'make it yourself' sandwiches, fried goodness, and homestyle classics.
What did you think of our list? Did your favorite diner make the cut? Tell us in the comments!