As Seen On TV Dining

As Seen On TV Dining

The Penguin Drive-In in Charlotte

In North Carolina you’re never far from some great places to eat. Southern classics? Our world famous barbecue? Fine dining? Greasy spoons? Drive-ins, walk-ups and curb service? Take your pick. Just in time for a road trip, here are a few favorites that have been featured on Food Network, Cooking Channel and Travel Channel.

Drive-Ins, Walk-Ups, Burger and Dogs

Stop in at landmark Charlotte restaurant The Penguin Drive-In to sample some of the dishes that made Guy Fieri's (from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) and Adam Richman’s (from Man v. Food) mouths water. The oversized burgers, fried pickles and house-made pimento cheese keep diners coming back for more. While you’re in the neighborhood, save some room for a taste of the Diamond, another Charlotte staple that’s now home to a few former members of the Penguin team that helped put the Plaza Midwood dining scene on the map.

In Durham, Wimpy’s Grill serves up giant buttermilk biscuits for breakfast and bigger burgers for lunch. Try the Carolina Burger (with chili, slaw, onion and mustard) or order the dish featured on Man v. Food but not on the menu, the Garbage Burger, a 1.25-pound burger loaded with every ingredient on the board. You’ll need a few napkins for this one.

Man v. Food also paid a visit to Raleigh’s The Roast Grill, a place know for its crispy grilled hot dogs served smothered in hot dog chili, and Durham’s Dain’s Place, where you can order “The Defibrillator,” a half-pound burger with bacon, chili, cheddar, coleslaw and a hot dog.

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Alton Brown’s Feasting on Asphalt featured Charlotte’s South 21 Drive-in, a curb-service joint with classic drive-in food and must-have fried chicken.

Diners and Delis

Elmo’s Diner in Durham, featured on Rachael Ray’s $40 a Day, is a true diner – breakfast all day, scratch-made desserts and homemade soups. For breakfast, the French toast does the trick. Lunch, time for the Elmo’s burger. At dinner, try the salmon cakes.

While you’re in Durham, go to Nosh for a new take on deli classics; that’s what they did on Man v. Food. After one visit, you’ll be on a first-name basis with your favorite dish – almost every one is named after someone in the Nosh family.

At Neal’s Deli in Carrboro, try a Southern twist on New York Deli classics (think house-smoked pastrami biscuits, a hit on Unique Eats). Or pay a visit to the Landmark Restaurant Diner in Charlotte and try the spanakopita; Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives thought it was fine.

Something Sweet

Man v. Food had the pleasure of devouring one of Durham’s Daisy Cakes gourmet cupcakes during the Doughman Quadrathlon (a culinary and athletic competition). The spot's unusual sweets – like the candied bacon and maple cupcake – and tasty brunch bring in diners from across the Triangle.

Scratch, also in Durham, appeared on Unique Eats and For the Love of Pies because of its chocolate creations – like the chocolate crostada, a chocolate-filled open-faced pie – and seasonal fruit pies.

Pubs and Grubs

Weeping Radish Farm Brewery in Grandy (on the Outer Banks) made an appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, where its authentic Ruebens and decadent cheesy baked potato soup wowed Guy Fieri.

Outer Banks Brewing Station is the first wind-powered brewery in the United States, and the first wind-powered business on the Outer Banks. Both are highly impressive feats, but it was the shrimp and grits recipe and craft beers that caught the eye of Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

International Flair

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives also paid a visit to Ortega’z in downtown Manteo to taste test the soft-shell crab quesadillas, tuna tacos, and shrimp and chorizo. The laid back atmosphere and tasty Mexican inspired dishes won over Guy Fieri.

Caribbean food fans should check out Tortugas Lie in Nags Head for a true taste of the islands. Dishes like the Baja Fish Platter and St. Martin’s Shrimp drew Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to this fun hangout.

New Take on Classic Dishes

Cabo Fish Taco in Charlotte wowed Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with its mango-barbecue mahi-mahi taco and Cabo slaw. Chef-owner Rob Crenshaw discovered fish tacos while he lived and surfed in California and became an instant convert.

For a new twist on Southern classics, Jake’s Good Eats takes the cake. This Charlotte eatery’s country ham grit cakes with blackened flounder was a favorite of Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

The Brine and Bottle, a funky wine and beer bar and specialty food shop in Nags Head, also caught Guy Fieri’s attention on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with its interesting take on deep-fried pickles and soft-shell crab.

Southern Favorites

Fried Chicken? Time Out Chicken in Chapel Hill serves up fried chicken like you’ve never seen – topped with cheddar, sandwiched between a biscuit. The Tar Heel Favorite is a hit with University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students and fried chicken fans across the state. No wonder it caught the attention of Man v. Food.

Price’s Chicken Coop and Baucom’s Best Chicken Farm won the praise of Crave and Charlotte-area diners may have a hard time choosing between the two.

Dish, a Charlotte staple, serves down-home comfort food. Think chicken and dumplings and fried-green tomatoes. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives thought the salmon patties were top notch.


A dining road trip through North Carolina wouldn’t be complete without some barbecue.

Start at the Barbecue Festival in Lexington. Every October, hundreds of thousands of ‘cue fans descend on this Triad town for a day celebrating their favorite food. Food Paradise paid the town a visit and almost didn’t leave.

In Raleigh, you can’t go wrong with The Pit. The only whole-hog barbecue joint in town, this spot cooks two entire pigs a day on its massive grill. The house-made barbecue sauce is near perfect, and the fried chicken, well, it’s so good, you may consider ordering two entrees.

Backyard Barbecue Pit boasts Durham’s only open-pit barbecue where the pork is slow-smoked over hickory and oak. Man v. Food thought this Eastern North Carolina barbecue was some of the best they’d had.

Charlotte’s Bar-B-Q King Drive-in has been making pulled pork and sliced pork barbecue for more than 50 years using the same family recipes. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host Guy Fieri called its ‘cue “a masterpiece.”

Lexington Bar-B-Q Center made an impression on Rachael Ray’s $40 a Day for its Eastern ‘cue, and its classic take on the dish is hard to beat.

Jason Frye

Request your Travel Guide

Download or order FREE guides and maps

Discover Project Project 543

Explore unique spots across North Carolina