When I think of incredible diner food, I always jump back to my childhood. My mom was constantly carting my brother and me to practice and school events and there wasn’t a lot of time for cooking. We frequented two small diners that both had neon signs and hugged busy main roads. One had slick booths with glittery Formica tabletops and plastic menus. The other had silver bar stools that swiveled back and forth and a spinning carousel of pie and cake slices.
I always went for the classic grilled cheese on thick buttered Texas toast and crispy french fries, my brother chose ahamburger or hotdog, and mom chose a grilled chicken salad or BLT. Taking the time to sit down those nights with mom, no matter how long, gave us time to catch up. The memories will always hold a place in my heart, and classic diner foods take me back to those times.
If you are seeking an all-American classic diner with its roots planted in Greenville’s food culture, then get ready to sink your teeth into Cubbie’s at 600 E. Arlington Blvd. Headed up by owner Dean Barrow, Cubbie’s has been a fixture in Greenville for 35 years. When you walk in, you can feel the energy like sitting at a football stadium before kick-off. An open kitchen offers a full sensory experience. Hear the sizzle of hamburgers on a flattop grill and smell the aroma of hotdogs, chili and fries.
The decor is l a yearbook of Greenville’s past and present with diner food at its core. The walls are adorned by photos of coaches and newspaper clippings of sporting events. Barrow describes the restaurant as a family hang-out people come back to time and again. “We are known for our old-fashioned burgers, cooked to order, full steam bar and down-home laid-back feel where everyone feels welcome.”
East Carolina med student Spencer Jackson and his dad, Jay, have been coming to Cubbie’s regularly since he moved here in 2012. “This is a long-standing tradition for my dad and me. It’s our father-son hang-out that always has great food, a good atmosphere and it gives up time to catch-up,” Jackson says.
Cubbie’s has a menu full of diner favorites from hamburgers, hotdogs and shrimp burgers to homemade chicken salad, BLTs, grilled cheese, veggie burgers and fried chicken sandwiches. Cubbie’s plates include grilled chicken with mushrooms, onions and peppers in a smooth gravy or fried shrimp with coleslaw, hush puppies and homemade cocktail sauce. They have hearty soups and salads, and the kiddos can have a PB&J or a sweet milkshake. And don’t forget sides like sweet onion rings and crispy Freedom fries.
About five years ago, Cubbie’s added a wide U-shaped steam bar that seats twelve people. It is open from 5-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Enjoy an ice cold beer and a bucket of steamed oysters on the half-shell with crackers and cocktail sauce or raw oysters on the half shell. Oyster season has just stared at Cubbie’s and continues through the early spring, so it’s the perfect time to enjoy fresh oysters and shrimp.
I wanted to sample items showcasing the steam bar, so I first tried the downeast clam chowder. The dairy free golden broth was brimming with boiled sliced red potatoes and clams. Simple ingredients, but when paired together they meld into a savory broth of clams — which taste like a meatier and robust mushroom with hints of salt. They also have a vegetable beef soup for those who don’t fancy clams.
Next I wanted to sample one of their low-country boils — a smorgasbord of delicious pairings starting with a handful of tail-on steamed shrimp, baby red potatoes, fat chunks of smoked sausage and the prettiest ear of shiny yellow corn. The sausage had that nice meaty snappy chew, the potatoes were mellow and soft, the shrimp was tender, and the corn offered a nice sweetness at the end. Your boil is served with their slightly spicy homemade cocktail sauce, a bowl of fresh drawn butter, which I like to dip my potatoes in, and a side of hush puppies. This is what steam bars are all about.
Before I ended my visit at Cubbie’s, I had to partake in a crowd favorite, the homemade banana pudding with whipped cream, sliced bananas and sweet cookies running through was the perfect close to my diner tour. It’s safe to say they will be around for another 35 years so customers can hang out with friends, enjoy incredible diner food and make memories for years to come. Cubbie’s is open for dine-in, curbside and to-go ordering from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Sunday. For more information call 252-321-8091.