I’ll let you in on a little secret: get to Poole’s Diner around 5:30pm and put your name on the waiting list. The dimly lit, small diner starts filling up around 6:30pm. Hang out at the bar as you wait for your friends to arrive. The bar is not to be missed! Chalkboards cover the walls listing an extensive drink menu. The drink menu is like 20 times the size of the food menu and includes drinks like specialty sangria, wine and locally-brewed beer. No wonder Poole’s recommends leaving your kids at home. I ordered an El Toro Cream Ale by Fullsteam Brewery and talked to the bartender about what foods to order while waiting on Courtney to arrive.

The friendly bartender suggested we order the pimento cheese as an appetizer, which is made with Hook’s 3-year-old cheddar and comes with crunchy bread slices called crostini. The pimento cheese has an excellent kick because it uses one of North Carolina’s well-known hot sauces, Texas Pete. Ashley Christensen, owner of Poole’s Diner is always changing the menu and uses as much local products as possible. The pimento cheese is a staple item and is one of the only dishes that have remained on the menu. The helping of pimento cheese was definitely generous and our bartender even brought us more crostini (without us asking) to finish off our heap of cheesy goodness.

Courtney and I met up with two more friends and we were seated in a comfy, red booth. We looked up at the chalkboard menu directly above our booth to decide what to eat for dinner. Courtney and I split the Starlight watermelon salad. I knew this would be a good choice since I saw an employee walking through the dining room with a fresh, whole watermelon in tow. The salad was a big chunk of watermelon topped with avocado slices, fresh basil, locally produced Goat Lady Dairy chevre, and champagne vidalia vinaigrette. Courtney and I stared at each other after taking our first bite; we were in bliss. Thank you, Ashley Christensen for this incredible, creative food innovation. Each item in the salad contributed to the wonderful flavor of the dish. I will never think of watermelon the same. You must go to Poole’s to get this salad before watermelon is out of season and it’s erased off the menu.

After this life changing event, a massive bowl of mac and cheese au gratin was placed between Courtney and me. Yes, life was about to get even better. The mac and cheese was bubbling and the cheese was golden brown and crispy. The cheesy aroma of the mac and cheese filled our booth. We immediately dug in! Talk about food euphoria. I will be disappointed if you do not order the mac and cheese at Poole’s Diner; it’s seriously addicting. Just when you think you can’t eat anymore, the bowl is wiped clean. One of my friends even dropped a noodle on the table and debated eating it; the mac and cheese is just that outstanding.