I’ve been doing A LOT of eating lately.  It’s not my fault, really.  How can a gal not fall victim to sensory overload in this food-filled city of Charlotte?  Every street, every corner, every nook and cranny of this beautiful city is buttered with interesting restaurants to try–from fancy schmancy steak and lobster grilles to down-home-country barbecues to fabulous food trucks and every single flavor combination in between.

Let’s just say I’m in glutton heaven, and I’ve made it my personal goal to try each and every restaurant in the city.  I’m dedicated to this cause.

As I try more and more places, I’ve started picking up on some of the soap-operaesque back stories of the local establishments.  One that is particularly intriguing is the story behind The Penguin Drive-In in Plaza Midwood.

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In the past, the Penguin was just one of those places you had to go.  If you were a true Charlottean (yes, that’s what they call us), you’d been to the Penguin a hundred times and you’d eaten your fair share of their famous fried pickles.  Newbies in town didn’t know what they were missing as they walked right by the Penguin’s dilapidated building and awfully awkward parking.

But then Guy Fieri stopped in at the Penguin for his show Diners, Drive-in, and Dives, and all hell broke loose.  I’ll admit, I love the show, and I love seeing places I’ve visited on TV.  It’s almost like for that millisecond when the image flashes across the screen you are actually a part of something famous.  As if your emotional investment in the place somehow makes you a part owner, and you burst with pride when you see your baby on the big screen.

What, just me?


Anyway, due to some disagreements, two of the four guys who ran the Penguin left to open Pinky’s Westside.  The remaining two owners couldn’t come to an agreement with their landlord, so they were forced to abandon the Penguin.  The landlords of the building then decided to run the Penguin themselves, and the other two guys opened up the Diamond Grill, literally a block away from the Penguin. I think I’ve got that straight…

Interestingly, all three restaurants serve hotdogs and all three have fried pickles on the menu.  The newly-owned Penguin has the “famous Penguin fried pickles,” Pinky’s has “Greg’s pickles,” and the Diamond has “classic fried pickles—the neighborhood’s first and best original recipe.”  Can you smell the rivalry brewing?

Of the three restaurants, I’ve only been to the Penguin so far, which many other Charlotteeans are boycotting in favor of the Diamond.  Let’s hope this post doesn’t get me blacklisted.

The Penguin had a TON on the menu that I wanted strike that NEEDED in my belly.


But as I perused the menu, one item made my heart sing.

The Ma… the Meatloaf Hot Dog. 


Chili. Onion. Slaw.  Seriously?!?!


Let’s make brief note of the MONSTROUS side salad that came along side with a balsamic dressing was to die for.


But really, chili, onions, and coleslaw on a hotdog?!  My world was officially rocked.  Hands down THE BEST hot dog I have ever consumed.


Now that I know the backstory I feel it is my moral foodie obligation to give all three of the brawling restaurants an equal tasting.  I MUST go to the Diamond and to Pinky’s to give their Weiner Wonderlands an equal shot.  Seriously, it says Weiner Wonderland on the menu… get your head out of the gutter already.

Nutritional stats on the hotdog:  1 clogged artery, 1 full belly

Penguin on Urbanspoon


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  1. interesting back story!! it’s kinda funny there are three “original” pickles. I think I’d have to go get an order from each place and have a taste test all together!! how fun, right? just me? 😉

    1. I totally agree!! My mom and I used to do a similar voyage for french fries and hit up 3 places in a row just ordering the fries at each place. Those were the days 🙂

  2. ohhhh emmmm geeeee! i [[[HEART}}} hot dogsssss! i had one for lunch yesterday which i might add, looked incredibly lame-o compared to the one you enjoyed! (mine was a microwaved ball park!) i reiterate~i love any kind, any where, any time!!!
    glad you are finding all these really cool places to eat!
    we were just down in florida last week and the calypso restaurant which was a few blocks from where we were staying, had featured MAN vs. FOOD. we didnt get a chance to try it, but it sounded amazing as well!

  3. I used to go to the Penguin all the time. I haven’t been back since it changed owners. I have been to the Diamond and it’s pretty good. Haven’t tried Pinkys. That hot dog looks delicious!

  4. I had a hot dog like that once years ago. It was from this little hole in the wall place and it was so delicious! The slaw was unbelievable!
    So cool that you are in Charlotte! I live in Holly Springs, just outside of Raleigh and have lived in this area for 9 years. Hope you are enjoying it!

  5. I used to eat at the Penguin when I lived in Charlotte. Loved the pickles! I haven’t made it to Pinky’s, but I did eat at (and enjoy) The Burger Company which I believe is very close to Pinky’s.

  6. Hey so I recently just moved to charlotte with my boyfriend a few months ago. I ran across your blog today reading about my new fave here…intermezzo…not sure how I came across your blog but I love it. I have been on a food mission since I have gotten here and now feel that I need to start documenting my food quest. I just wish I would have started when we were living in cleveland last year. I LOVED the food there. Anyways I live close to penguin and diamond and I actually like penguin more. To each there own but thats just my take