Roadside Eats

  • By Sarah Perry & Jeffrey Turner

Get more out of our favorite roadside diners, drive-ins, and dairy bars featured in our March 2013 issue with our downloadable checklist, an interactive map, and a special giveaway.

roadside eats

There comes a time when you’re on the road, when your stomach is growling, and you know that you need food — and you need it fast. We understand the term “convenience,” so we’ve put together a list of 70 great places in the state — all within five miles of a U.S. highway or interstate — to stop when you’re on the go and in a hurry. They’re run by locals, not big chains, and they serve classic American food with their own twists. Enjoy these restaurants for their thick burgers, chili dogs, hand-cut fries, and homemade ice cream. We do.

Editor’s note: This guide is chock-full of classic American eats, except one: barbecue. We intentionally omitted barbecue joints here, because we’re telling you about a different one each month. Check out our Carolina ‘Cue section in the magazine and our website each month.

Download a Checklist

roadside eats checklist.inddGoing on a road trip? Download the checklist for 64 places featured in Our State’s March 2013 issue. You never know where you’ll get hungry along the way!

Editor’s Note: This list was last revised in August 2014. 

Roadside Eats Checklist

Interactive Map

Need help finding all of these great eats? Take a look at the interactive map of our featured roadside spots.

View Our State’s Roadside Eats in a larger map

Did We Miss Something?

From west to east, North Carolina is full of great food served by great people. Now that you’ve heard our picks, did we miss something? Share your favorite roadside eats with us in the comments section below.

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35 Responses to Roadside Eats

  1. Terry Brumfield says:

    Ernie’s in Dunn and The Old Place in Bear Creek have closed. I saw that a new place opened in the Ernie’s location. Grandson’s- I think it’s like Ernie’s was.

  2. patty says:

    You Missed O’Dells in Mt Airy,Fresh prepared food at great prices…my favs are The Big Moe Burger and the Doggie Basket

  3. Peggy Holmes says:

    You missed Four Winds cafe in Climax!

  4. Paul Brant says:

    I travel miles on Thursdays to eat at Wilber´s BBQ on US 70 east of Goldsboro. They still have a pit to cook the bbq. On Thursdays you may have to wait in line because they prepare BEEF bbq. Seems that they have been in business about 60 years. Not fancy but great service!

  5. Lessie says:

    West Side Grill @ 711 Lexington Ave. in Thomasville, NC has some of the best burgers around. They also make some really good Hot Dogs. You can order them all the way or order to suit your taste.

  6. ‪#‎WNC‬ ‪#‎avleat‬ Look! French Fryz Voted Best in Our State Magazine Roadside Eats

  7. David Walker says:

    Noticed while reading about JayBee’s in Statesville that it’s listed off I-77. It’s actually right off I-40 less than a mile. Although it is technically 5 miles or less from I-77, the correct interstate would be I-40. Thanks. Love the list!_

  8. William Samuel says:

    Two places come to mind in Whiteville, NC: Southern Kitchen and Sophie’s, both on Madison St (Downtown). The first one is part of the slow food movement and serves nothing but exceptional European fine cuisine with a twist of Asian and Southern Flair (don’t let the name mislead you!). An “Everything fresh made out from scratch” kin of place with great atmosphere. The second, located in what used to be a drugstore many years ago, must be the best sandwich place I’ve tried in a long time, decorated with fun Americana antiques and the original Soda Fountain from the 40’s, from which they serve homemade ice cream and freshly baked pastries. Who knew Whiteville had moved up so quickly in the restaurant scene?

  9. Kelli McLeod says:

    You missed Mayberry’s on Main St in Brevard. An Apple Cranberry Walnut Pie that just rocks. The Ginger Pork Sandwich and the Cuban are must haves, not to mention the meatloaf dinner and good old fashioned friendly atmosphere. Best Cheesy Potato Soup ever! Too many other great things to try….

  10. Bonnie Black says:

    We have been in business for 32 years & going strong , although Re-located our restaurant last year to a new & improved location in Pinehurst. Please consider checking us out….we have had the same menu for going on 33 years & would love to share our fare with you.

    The Market Place Restaurant
    246 Olmsted Blvd.
    Pinehurst, NC. 28374

  11. JP Sanders says:

    7208 S Virginia Dare Trail
    Nags Head, NC. 27959

    Best FRESH grilled tuna on the OBX!!!

    This popular take-out food and ice cream stand serves up an array of ice cream concoctions— from shakes, sundaes, cones, as well as hand-pattied burgers, fresh grilled tuna, hand-cut fries, Hebrew National hot dogs, the famous garbage dog, chicken sandwiches, onion rings, fresh squeezed orangeades, lemonades, limeades, and much more! The ice cream is absolutely delicious! You can eat on site at a handful of tables on the side deck. If you’re a veggie burger aficionado, get one here with all the fixings. The owner also makes delectable ice cream cakes for special occasions. They’re located across the street from Jennette’s Pier. Though the line if often long at this very popular spot, don’t despair, it moves very quickly and the staff is always ready.

  12. Linda Thomas says:

    You missed Vera’s Diner in Vanceboro. Been around for many years. Good country cooking … Home cooked desserts … great cheeseburgers (all-the-way with slaw .. if you like it that way).

  13. Martha Canipe says:

    Can’t believe you listed Doss’ in Kernersville, but not Mickey’s (formerly Bill and Leah’s). They have a very similiar menu and both are great. Why ignore one?

  14. Martha Canipe says:

    Can’t believe you left off El’s in Morehead City! But also can’t believe you only listed Doss’ Ice Creme in Kernersville. The “other” hot dog place in Kville is Mickey’s (formerly Bill and Leah’s) and it’s simply better. Kville has always had the two and listing one and not the other was an odd choice.

  15. Jane Jernigan says:

    It is very sad that the Southern and Southeastern part of NC was ignored. Someone did not do their job.

    Lumberton is on I-95……….how could this area be missed? Not to mention that Robeson County is the largest county in the state. Not one restaurant mentioned in this area!

    You also missed a wonderful opportunity to feature a little place called Fowler’s in Tabor City. Best cheeseburgers in NC!

    I guess Our State doesn’t include the most Southern and Southeastern part of our state. Guess people who reside in these areas should not subscribe.

  16. Judy Bartlett says:

    Carolina Beach – Island Hots – best hot dogs around and great prices for families!

    • David Walker says:

      Carolina Beach is more than 5 miles from I-40. I agree about Pop’s Diner and their burgers, but Pleaure Island doesn’t fall into the 5-mile criteria.

  17. Elizabeth Broyles says:

    Just off the I-277 loop in Charlotte at the corner of East Blvd and Kennelworth Ave. you will find Berrybrook Farm Health Foods. They have homemade soup and sandwiches for lunch everyday except Sunday. Also the best smoothies I have ever tasted and fresh vegetable juices.

  18. Elizabeth Broyles says:

    You have to try El’s Drive In on HWY 70 Morehead City. Lots of great choices. I love the Oyster Po’ Boy.

  19. Robert Wolfe says:

    Speedy Chef in Mt Airy?
    You have to be kidding – below average.

  20. Cheryl Cook says:

    Kepley’s Bar-B-Q in High Point!!! They have been in business since 1948 in the same location on N. Main St. They have the best bar-b-q and hushpuppies I’ve ever had.

  21. Dave Beck says:

    Lexington BBQ (Honeymonks), off Business 85. Since 1962 and the best BBQ in Lexington, which means it’s the best BBQ in the world.

    Wayne even has a website –

  22. Maurice Landry says:

    I guess we could keep adding and adding but it is a good start… We have a Motorcycle riding club and we ride to eat and eat to ride…. love holes in the wall places…

  23. Betsy Blackley says:

    You have missed 2.

    City Lunch on Main Street in Franklinton has been in a family for 64 years. They serve the best Hot Dogs and Cheeseburgers with a homemade chili that I have ever eaten.

    Holden’s BBQ on US1 in Youngsville (beside the Sheetz) has the best BBQ in North Carolina! Get a BBQ, slaw, and potato salad plate or a BBQ sandwich with coleslaw and a side of potato salad. Good food!

  24. Kathleen Brock says:

    You missed El’s Drive-in in Morehead City. It has been around for decades. Order from your car. Shrimpburger. Oyster plate. Superburger. It’s all good.

  25. Tracy Warren says:

    How did you miss Peaden’s Grill on Hwy 11 N in Greenville? Absolutely the finest cheese biscuits you’ve ever eaten for breakfast (hoop cheese that almost drips down your forearm when you take a bite), the best country cooking this side of your grandmother’s house and homemade banana pudding that is to fight for.

  26. Edward Osborne says:

    How about Johnsons in Siler City.

  27. AGP says:

    What about Kitchen Roselli in East Bend? Or Battle Branch Cafe in Yadkinville, NC? Great places to eat! Must try!!!

  28. pat boyles says:

    How do you leave off Pulliams bbq in Winston Salem??? they were voted best hotdog in the south by everyday with Rachael Ray magazine…

  29. Edith Riffe says:

    Have any of you on your travels to Beaufort eaten at The Spot?? If not you must try it!!!

  30. Steve Spurlin says:

    You must check out Tracy’s in Marshville, one short block off Hwy. 74. They have a variety of food including a daily special. Home cooked vegetables, wonderful fried cornbread and an all-the-way cheeseburger to die for! Warm, cozy atmosphere with an equally friendly staff.

  31. Mandy Buff says:

    You missed Hannah’s Bar-b-que in Claremont. They have a variety of food, fast and friendly service and during their breakfast hours you can have a friendly conversation with the owner.

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