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12 Must-Eat Kinston Restaurants

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on November 8, 2022.

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When talking with folks about our favorite Kinston restaurants, the conversation usually shifts to Chef and the Farmer. Now, we don’t disagree that Vivian Howard’s first restaurant is a must when in Kinston. We just know there are other fantastic places to eat in the area, too!

In this guide, you’ll find 12 must-eat Kinston restaurants that will make your mouth drool!

This post is part of our coverage of small towns and Kinston. We also created this guide that details how you can enjoy a weekend there

Must-Eat Kinston Restaurants

Chef and the Farmer

Chef and the Farmer is currently CLOSED. We are hoping it reopens soon and will keep this article up to date with any current news!

Website | 120 W Gordon St

Many folks know Vivian Howard from A Chef’s Life but if you get the chance to visit Chef and the Farmer, you’ll agree that there’s some amazing food coming out of her kitchen. The James Beard-recognized chef has excelled at mixing her culinary creativity with her Lenoir County roots, elevating recipes that she grew up eating and making.

And after eating at her first Kinston restaurant, I can vouch for the food being dynamic and most importantly, delicious. Another great thing about Chef and the Farmer is that the food is seasonal and as locally sourced as possible. For example, our late summer oysters were topped with pickled peaches and crema.

Restaurants in Kinston NC Chef and the Farmer Image

No matter the season when you stop by, a meal at Chef and the Farmer is a lifetime experience that continues to convince many people to visit Kinston. You can also keep some of Chef Howard’s recipes for yourself with her Deep Run Roots.

Read More: How to Explore the NC Oyster Trail (10+ Adventurous Ways!)

Ma’s Hot Dog House

Facebook | 2515 US-258

Ma’s Hot Dog House has spent nearly 30 years serving breakfast and lunch to the people of Lenoir County. This family-run restaurant sits in a former gas station and pumps out amazing food.

And you know something? Hot dogs aren’t the only thing Ma is known for! Their burgers are freshly hand-pattied and cooked to order, which is something you can definitely taste the difference in!

Lovick’s Cafe

Website | 320 N Herritage St

Kinston Restaurants Lovicks Cafe Image

The affordable quick bites of Lovick’s Cafe have been an institution in Lenoir County since 1941. Originally sitting between two tobacco warehouses, Lovick’s was the perfect Kinston restaurant for farmers who were in town selling their crops. And when they stopped, many would order the Doughburger, a product of meat rationing during World War II.

This delicious sandwich has stuck around and I think you should eat it at least once in your life. Their other lunch items and breakfast menu are also filled with amazing finds, so you’ll need to come back more than once to this place. 

Sugar Hill Pizzeria

Facebook | 211 N. Herritage St

Everyone we talked to while in Kinston asked us if we had been to Sugar Hill Pizzeria and we can see why. Slicing up New York-style pies, salads, and legit submarines, Sugar Hill is the best place for pizza in Kinston. After you’re greeted by the friendly staff, order a whole pie or just a slice and sip on a Cheerwine while you wait!

Sugar Hill, Mad Hatter’s, Captn’s Corner, and Inside Scoop are all owned by the same people and with each place’s success, you can see they clearly know good food!

Whiskey Pig Craft Butchery

Facebook | 214 N. Herritage St

At Whiskey Pig, you’ll find grab-and-go meals, sit-down deliciousness, and butchery options (of course!) for every cut of meat you could imagine! They also take all the guesswork out of where your food comes from. This whole animal butcher shop sources from family farmers they personally know, as well as from their own Rainbow Meadow Farms.

It is guaranteed that all of the animals at Whiskey Pig are raised outdoors in a pasture, hormone- and antibiotic-free. The menu changes weekly, so make sure to check their Facebook! Also, don’t leave Lenoir County without one of their cream cheese cinnamon rolls!

Hawk’s Nest Cafe & General Store

Facebook | 100 S Queen St

Restaurants in Kinston NC Hawks Nest Image

Hawk’s Nest is on the corner of Queen Street and sits inside a building that served as an important milestone in civil rights activity. While Greensboro’s Woolworth lunch counter sit-in on February 1, 1960, gets more press, Standard Drug #2 (now Hawk’s Nest) saw the second non-violent demonstration.

And as a result, Standard Drug #2 became the first eating establishment in Kinston to offer non-segregated dining and even hired African Americans to work. Today, Hawk’s Nest honors that history with the original bar stools, tin ceiling, and delicious home-cooked food. In the back of the restaurant, you’ll find carefully curated North Carolina made products.

Make sure to ask to sample some jelly with your biscuit because it is delicious!

Read More: Fun Museums in Greensboro (Kid-Friendly, Contemporary Art, and More!)

Queen Street Deli

Website | 117 S Queen St

Kinston NC Queen Street Deli Image

Wholesome and delicious is exactly what you’ll find at Queen Street Deli every Monday to Friday. Open since 2011, Queen Street features freshly made from scratch soups and side items using only the best ingredients. In addition to delicious deli sandwiches, Queen Street Deli also offers breakfast, take-out dinner choices, and freezer items.

Don’t skip out on dessert because Queen Street’s cookies are made with in-house ground flour and hand-flaked oats. And trust me, you really can taste the difference! 

Upstairs at The Market

Facebook | 222 N. Herritage St

While Upstairs at The Market is not a traditional sit-down restaurant, it is definitely a Kinston fixture that you do not want to miss! This place dishes affordable market meals and quick snacks, make it perfect for grabbing meals to go on the way to or from the beach.

And if you’re spending a weekend in Kinston, you’re going to want some of their Chicken-n-dumplings and melt-in-your-mouth caramel brownies! Stop by and let Upstairs at The Market do the cooking for you!

The Mad Hatter

Facebook | 212 W North St

Food in Kinston NC Mad Hatter Image

Grab a delicious gourmet burger or wrap from The Mad Hatter on W North Street! Serving up “All American” grub, this Kinston Restaurant also has some cool album artwork and concert posters lining the walls. That’s because the Moores and the Elmores are big music fans.

For further proof of that, the owners named this establishment after Tom Petty’s role as the Mad Hatter in “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” We absolutely loved the Fiesta Burger topped with queso, pico de gallo, and tortilla strips!

King’s Restaurant

405 E New Bern Rd | Website

North Carolina Barbecue Kings Kinston NC Image

With over three generations of deliciousness behind it, King’s Restaurant ensures you’ll oink your love for barbecue. Frank King first opened up in 1936 as a country store and filling station outside of his farm to supplement his income. And today, it’s owned by community icon Joe Hargitt, filling bellies in four locations across Lenoir and Greene Counties. 

We’ve visited their US Highway 70 spot a couple of times. At this King’s location, you’ll find a buffet on one side and an eat-in room in the front. Be sure to arrive early before all the tables fill up because they will! We recommend getting their Pig in a Puppy, which is Eastern Barbecue between two slices of a massive hushpuppy.

And if you’re feeling really homesick for North Carolina’s best barbecue, King’s ships with their Oink Express delivery service! 

Inside Scoop

Facebook | 211-C N Herritage St

Kinston NC Inside Scoop Image

After digging into all these incredible Kinston restaurants, give your sweet tooth some attention. Head over to Inside Scoop where you can grab delicious hand-dipped Hershey’s ice cream! Bring some quarters and be ready to battle it out on their arcade games and share a banana split! 

Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!

With these 12 local places to eat in Kinston, folks who live nearby are blessed with plenty of options. We love that these family-owned restaurants strive to source from as close as possible, which adds to the tastiness of their dishes.

So whether you live in the area, are staying for a weekend, or passing through, we think any of these Kinston restaurants are worthy of your next meal. 

Disclosure Note

Special thanks to Visit Kinston for hosting many of the meals covered here. All opinions within this article are our own.

16 thoughts on “12 Must-Eat Kinston Restaurants”

  1. You really should not overlook H.O.W.II. Their Korean beef Thursday night special is fantastic, as is their service. And The Peach House serves truly unique, delicious items. The best cheesesteak I’ve ever had came from Olympian. And for down-home cooking, you can’t beat Smith’s Cafe.

  2. Thank you for writing this piece! Come back and see us! I am one of the artists over at Art105 (there’s like 20 of us)- we’re super close to the Mother Earth Lodge on Blount St. The salsa picosa at El Nuevo San Juan is sooooo good. 🙂

    • We eat at H.O.W. at least every other week while visiting Kinston on Business. Great food always served Hot and Fesh.Every entree on the menu is outstanding!Great atmosphere, great staff with great service.I recommend H.O. W.and it should have been in The Top Ten Best places to eat in Kinston!

  3. All of these are great options but you missed a couple of Kinston’s best options! Olympian has the best gyros, lasagna and subs (not to mention their Hershey cake which is perfection!)
    Peach House has amazing salads, paninis, coffee and desserts!! Don’t forget a piece of chocolate fudge if you visit!


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