No trip to the South would be complete without eating out in a diner. Along with barbecue joints, the diner is guaranteed to be packed with both locals and tourists in the area. Below is our pick of the 12 best diners in the southern states, who have exemplified themselves with their history, style and by offering a real taste of the south.
Big Bad Breakfast (Mississippi)
Big Bad Breakfast will make you never look at a breakfast plate the same again, in the best possible way. Breakfast is the most important meal, and Big Bad Breakfast will certainly ensure that you look forward to it. Offering a large variety of breakfast foods, all of which come in substantial portions, their skillets are particularly popular, but definitely require you to bring a big appetite. They make their own bacon, breakfast sausage and cured ham, and eggs come from the nearby White Oak Pastures.
A famous Southern landmark responsible for a sizable chunk of Spartanburg’s tourism, The Beacon Drive-In lends much of its success to embracing its traditions. For example, it is one of the few drive-ins in the country to still offer curb service, and their famous Beacon iced tea is so popular that they sell more tea than any other restaurant in the US. Their food comes in large servings, with chili cheese-a-plenty, sliced pork-a-plenty, onion rings, Pig’s Dinner and ice cream being a few of the favorite dishes among regulars. Dinner in true drive-in style.
OK Café (Georgia)
The support given by the local community after the restaurant had to be temporarily closed following an electrical fire shows just how important OK Café is to Georgia locals. But as their slogan goes: ‘no worries…everything’s OK.’ Serving up breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner with one of Atlanta’s largest selections of dishes. It is traditional American fare cooked from home recipes that have been kept within the diner since its opening some 30 years ago.
Camellia Grill (Louisiana)
A testament to the Camellia Grill‘s popularity can be found in the outpouring of support during its closure following Hurricane Katrina. It reopened in 2007, and while physically updated, it continues to honor its traditions which date back to its opening in 1946. The most popular dishes include the pecan pie heated on the grill, giant omelettes, cheeseburgers and freezes. The service style is also very traditional; it still offers counter service and many of the staff have been around long enough to know most of the customers by name.
A tradition since 1938. Bogue’s Diner has been the go-to spot for Birmingham locals for the best part of a century. It has moved location several times in order to accommodate increasing demand, most recently in 2012 following a petition to save Bogue’s when their old landlords proposed to knock the building down. The décor may be quite new, but the restaurant still retains the essence of its history and it feels very much like a vintage diner. Its large menu and changing daily specials keeps diners coming back time and again to sample their favorites or try something new.
Galaxy Diner (Virginia)
The bright lights and promise of breakfast all day and night has long drawn customers into the doors of Galaxy Diner. The décor combines the two elements of its name, as a 50s diner meets outer space odyssey with chrome and leather in abundance. In addition to all day breakfasts and classic American fare, the diner also offers Tex-Mex, meat platters, deli sandwiches and ‘galactic’ baskets and appetizers for a meal that’s ‘outta this world’. Space puns or not, Galaxy gives a masterclass in how to do a themed diner right.
Lucy’s Diner (Arkansas)
Open 24 hours a day with breakfast served round the clock, Lucy’s Diner really knows how to cater to its customers and this has made it Arkansas’s go to diner. Their food calls itself home-style country cooking ‘just like grandma made it’. Variety is aplenty here, from burgers and breakfasts to local specials, salads and even drinks, with over 100 drink choices. Its free pie on Monday and Thursday is another reason that keeps locals and visitors coming back. Always open, ever popular.
The Diner (Oklahoma)
A 50s-style diner specializing in big, hearty portions of classic American and Tex-Mex cooking, Oklahoma’s The Diner has been open since the 1950s, and is very proud of its history. The interior and exterior décor of the diner has stayed true to its roots. The building has housed the restaurant since it was first built in 1890, making it an interesting stop for those who are interested in 19th century restaurant architecture. For everyone else, their extensive breakfast and lunch menu is sure to be enough to keep you occupied.
Elmo’s Diner (North Carolina)
In true diner style, Elmo’s Diner serves up all day breakfast and homemade food with seating available at the counter or in comfortable booths. This is a restaurant closely connected to the North Carolina community, with many regular customers who have visited for years and are on first-name terms with all of the staff. All of their food is homemade, and their turkey and beef is slow roasted to give that perfect melt-in-the-mouth texture.
Magnolia Café (Texas)
The Texas diner that everyone knows and everyone goes. Austin’s Magnolia Café is a 24 hour establishment, with its welcoming sign proudly declaring ‘sorry, we’re open’. The menu is ‘kind of like your favorite aunt’s giant kitchen, if she had one.’ Offering Tex-Mex, breakfast throughout the day and night, and sandwiches, burgers and desserts, it’s very much what you would expect an Austin aunt to serve up. Along with high quality food, its contribution to the local community has made locals truly care about the café and make it the city’s choice diner and breakfast spot.
Toasted Mango Café (Florida)
Toasted Mango Café has won accolades such as the Best Diner in Florida by MSN Food & Drink. Its diverse menu of locally inspired home cooking and fast, friendly service is a real testament to the hype. For after-meal eating, Frosted Mango offers up frozen treats and smoothies. The diner gives full table service and gets particularly busy during Florida’s many warm, sunny days when the dog-friendly patio, complete with water views, is in operation.
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