1921 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte
HOURS: Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–2 a.m., Sun. noon–2 a.m.
COST: Most entrées less than $10
It’s not an exaggeration to call The Penguin the most iconic restaurant in Charlotte . Need proof? Just take one look at the lines that wrap around the building.
The nondescript restaurant has been sitting on the same corner since 1954, serving up hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, fried pickles, and cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s long been a place for the working class to grab a beer and a bite after work.
There was much concern when the original owner, Jimmy Ballentine, sold The Penguin in 1999, but much to the relief of locals, the new owners—Greg Auten, Brian Rowe, and Jimmy King—were committed to preserving the Charlotte landmark. Even after an extensive renovation, the partners maintained the original look and feel of The Penguin, including its wood paneling and red and black checkerboard floor.
It is now just as it was: a restaurant serving good food and cold beer at reasonable prices. Go ahead and wait in line; you won’t regret it.