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!
Of course, we’ll share our thoughts on the awesome Chef and the Farmer but in this guide, you’ll find 11 more must-eat Kinston restaurants beyond that mainstay.
Must-Eat Kinston Restaurants
Special thanks to Visit Kinston for hosting many of the meals covered here. All opinions within this article are our own.
Chef and the Farmer
Website | 120 W Gordon St
You can either thank A Chef’s Life or the amazing food coming out of Vivian Howard’s kitchen. This renowned 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.
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.
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!
Website | 320 N Herritage St
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!
Website | 108B W North St
Vivian Howard’s second Kinston restaurant, Boiler Room, is across the street from Chef and the Farmer. Kinston’s proximity to the coast makes Boiler Room a great spot to slurp down fresh seafood. Howard’s inspiration behind this place came from being dragged around Eastern Carolina’s oyster bars with her parents as a child.
She sat there as they slurped oysters, slaw, and saltines and she grumbled that there wasn’t anything for her to eat. The Boiler Room fixes that problem for future mini Vivian Howards with a kids’ menu! Beyond that, the serve fresh North Carolina and Chesapeake Bay oysters alongside house-made saltines, burgers, and salads.
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
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!
Queen Street Deli
Website | 117 S Queen St
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
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!
405 E New Bern Rd | Website
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.
Facebook | 211-C N Herritage St
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.