Last spring, I shared the 7 best burger places to try in the Triangle, and while I confessed that I don’t eat a ton of red meat, I love a good cheeseburger. One of my favorite memories growing up was eating at little dives that my parents loved, and David and I have incorporated that into our travel as well. Today, I’m sharing the Top 10 Best Burgers in North Carolina.
Top 10 Best Burgers in North Carolina
You can’t go wrong with Al’s Burger Shack on Franklin St. I consistently recommend the Sean’s Cheeseburger and crinkle fries with a cup o’ sauvignon blanc because why not.
This cash only spot north of Raleigh is my favorite kind of spot to grab a burger. It’s small, quaint, and everyone knows everybody in the restaurant. Get a cheeseburger, fries, and a sweet tea. It’s my go-to order at these types of restaurants and I’ve never been disappointed.
The Cardinal (Boone):
David and I stopped at the Cardinal for lunch on our way to Blowing Rock and we loved our meal. Order a farm burger and add bacon, and maybe even an egg (if you like your burger like David does).
The original Char-Grill down on Hillsborough St. in Raleigh is my guilty pleasure. I order a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a fountain Cheerwine. There are other Char-Grill restaurants around the Triangle, but the one on Hillsborough is the best.
El’s Drive-In (Morehead City):
El’s Drive-In has been a Morehead City staple since 1959. You pull in the parking lot, make your selection from your car where the menu is posted on large signs, and then someone comes out to your car to take your order. You can also call ahead, which during lunch time, holidays, and weekends down at the beach is helpful because there is always a wait. Order a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake (or order a shrimp burger, but that’s a different post for a different day).
I’ve raved about The Freez and my personal connection to this restaurant in print and on this space, but you can’t go wrong with a burger, fried okra, and a chocolate milkshake here, either. Of course, there are other delicious options on the menu as well, but I don’t get to eat there often, so I always go with my favorite order in those situations.
Johnson’s Drive-In (Siler City):
\I often stop and grab a burger and fries from Johnson’s on my way home from Greensboro. It’s only open 10:00-2:00 Tuesday-Saturday, so be sure to plan accordingly on time because there is usually a line. They use Velvetta cheese on their burgers and it seals the deal.
Miller’s Restaurant (Mocksville):
On our way to Bryson City last summer, we made a pitstop in Mocksville for a pimento cheese burger at Miller’s Restaurant. It’s a quaint restaurant and the pimento cheese burger is delicious plus they serve fried okra.
Second Street (Roanoke Rapids):
Growing up, one of my favorite treats was to go to lunch with my dad at Second Street. It’s a staple in Roanoke Rapids and their burgers and fries are the best. They also serve both Coke and Pepsi products, because we know that soft drink brands can be polarizing.
I was introduced to PT’s when I was in college visiting some friends down at UNC-W and I’ve been a fan ever since. I even rode down to Wilmington one day last spring with David just so I could eat at PT’s. We usually place an order to go, grab a beer on their patio while waiting for them to prepare our order, and then head down to the Riverwalk or to Wrightsville for a picnic. Thank me later.
I’ll tell you that most of the places listed here have been a part of the community for decades. There are locals who meet here to enjoy lunch together, banter with the employees and owners, and that’s one of my favorite parts of eating at these places. It is quintessential small-town North Carolina and it reminds me of why I started focusing on travel in North Carolina. Many places haven’t changed since their opening to pay homage to their families who initially opened the restaurants, and that feels like a simpler time to me as well.