The Oldest Restaurant in North Carolina Is Still Going Strong 100 Years Later

Waffles with fried chicken and maple syrup, southern comfort food
© Elena Veselova/

Written by Erica Scassellati

Published: November 29, 2023

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North Carolina might be a bit of a sleepy state, but the area’s friendly locals and iconic dishes are enough to make it a worthy destination. The oldest restaurant in North Carolina has a history tied to catering to the area’s students, and it’s still going strong after 100 years!

History of North Carolina

North Carolina’s lengthy history dates back thousands of years, to when approximately 30 Native American tribes lived in the area. Initial attempts by Europeans to settle in North Carolina were unsuccessful. One of these includes the famous Lost Colony which disappeared from Roanoke.

By the 18th century successful European settlements began to take hold. However, North Carolina eventually earned the nickname the “Rip Van Winkle” state due to its slow progress in the 19th century.

While North Carolina residents benefitted from the progress achieved around and during the country’s “Roaring Twenties” (such as women gaining the right to vote), around 75% of the North Carolina population was rural in the 1920s, according to the Johnston County Visitors Bureau.

This meant that most of the state didn’t experience the Jazz Age as depicted in pop culture. However, the state was home to some exciting achievements in the 20th century, such as the Wright Brothers making their first flight in 1903.

The Wright Brothers Memorial lies on top of Big Kill Devil Hill in Kitty Hawk, NC. Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first successful airplane flights in 1903.


What Is the Oldest Restaurant in North Carolina?

Carolina Coffee Shop is the oldest continually running restaurant in North Carolina. According to an article from Spectrum News 1, the establishment first opened its doors in 1922, making it over 100 years old.

Olivia Robertson, the restaurant’s front-of-house manager, explained that Carolina Coffee Shop started as a student post office. From there it developed into a coffee shop, which later offered pastries. Eventually, Carolina Coffee Shop transitioned to serving brunch, lunch, and dinner.

Today the restaurant still caters to the Tar Heels and its restaurants and owners do their best to honor its fascinating history. However, framed newspapers near the front of the shop show that a few things have obviously changed since it opened. “At the time, you’ll see, lunch was 35 cents and the supper was 40 cents,” Robertson stated.


Carolina Coffee Shop lies at the heart of downtown Chapel Hill in central North Carolina. Chapel Hill is around 28 miles from Raleigh, NC, and has a population of 61,960 as of the 2020 census.

Visit Carolina Coffee Shop

Carolina Coffee Shop is open every day from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. The menu features coffee, cocktails, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and small bites. Carolina Coffee Shop serves up dishes such as chicken and waffles, brisket mac and cheese, and pasta cavatappi.

The restaurant recently added a new addition — a cafe named 1922 which offers coffee, breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and pastries.

“That can allow us to invite more students in so if they needed a place to study but didn’t exactly want the dine-in experience they can come over here and grab a cup of coffee and hang out for a few hours and get some homework done,” Robertson told the outlet.

North Carolinians love their southern hospitality.

1922 at the side of Carolina Coffee Shop offers coffee, pastries, and breakfast burritos.

©Maksym Belchenko/iStock via Getty Images

Other Points of In Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC is a historic town that was founded in 1793. Today the town is home to a campus of the University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill also contains the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Ackland Art Museum, and North Carolina Botanical Garden.

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About the Author

Erica is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on history, food, and travel. Erica has over 3 years of experience as a content writer and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which she earned in 2018. A resident of Kansas City, Erica enjoys exploring her home town and traveling around the world to learn about different cultures and try new food.

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