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Summerton Diner

33 Church St., Summerton, SC - (803) 485-6835
Posted By Michael Stern on 10/1/2003 7:21:00 AM
Straight off a plane from New York, we drove from the Charleston Airport to the Summerton Diner for meat-and-three. It was the height of lunch hour; the girls were short-handed – two of them managed the counter and all the tables as well as take-out orders – and we were ravenous. The meal took no longer than an hour, start to finish, but as we waited for sweet tea and a bread basket, we found ourselves in the agitated state of hungry impatience that we so often bring with us from the Northeast when we head south. A few sips of tea, a sniff of the steamy insides of a warm biscuit, and we began to relax. When the partitioned plates piled with food arrived, serenity was ours!

The good old Summerton Diner is that kind of place: relaxing and reliable. Since Lois Hughes opened it for business in 1967, this little cafe on the outskirts of town has been a favorite of locals and a beacon for travelers along I-95. After Lois's daughter Lynelle Blackwell took over in 1987, she enlarged and remodeled it, but today the diner has the feel of an ageless eatery: well-worn Formica counter, blond wood-paneled walls, each table set with bottles of hot vinegar peppers for brightening up orders of collard greens.

There's a full menu; and such items as fried chicken or steak & quail are always available, but at lunchtime the thing to order is the special. For exactly $6, you get an entrée, three vegetables, dessert, and tea. Plus cornbread and biscuits. The Monday we stopped in, the meats included calves liver with onions and gravy, baked ham, beef stew, and baked chicken supreme. We love that chicken! It is crusty and fallapart tender; the waitress asks if you want white or dark meat. Like all entrees, it comes on a partitioned plate along with two of the vegetables you choose. (The third vegetable, for which the plate has no room, comes in its own bowl.) As you might expect in a true-South café such as this, the side dishes are superb: earthy fresh rutabagas, spicy stewed apples, porky sweet greens that still have an al dente oomph to their leaves, mashed potatoes blanketed in gorgeous, beef-shred gravy, hefty blocks of macaroni & cheese with crusty edges and creamy insides, rice infused with soulful gravy. Et cetera!

The serving of pudding is small but classical: pale yellow custard in which sliced bananas and softened vanilla wafers are suspended, all under a Kewpie-doll spiral of whipped cream.

NOTE: The Summerton diner is closed Thursdays. It is open for three meals a day the rest of the week.

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Collard Greens
Baked Chicken Supreme
Fresh Rutabagas
Baked Ham
Macaroni & Cheese
Stewed Apples
Sweet Tea
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

That's a crisp breast in the foreground on the partitioned plate, rutabaga to the left, a block of mac & cheese in back. Not pictured: lima beans.
"That's a crisp breast in the foreground on the partitioned plate, rutabaga to the left, a block of mac & cheese in back. Not pictured: lima beans."
Michael Stern





This meat and three plate shows baked ham in the foreground, collard greens on the left, and mashed potatoes with cream gravy in back. The third side dish was pickled beets, in their own little bowl.
"This meat and three plate shows baked ham in the foreground, collard greens on the left, and mashed potatoes with cream gravy in back. The third side dish was pickled beets, in their own little bowl."
Michael Stern


Southern ice is colder than northern ice ... or so it seems when you get a tall tumbler of good sweet tea in a place such as the Summerton Diner. The glass is loaded with shaved ice; the tea is sweet, but not TOO; and of course, refills keep coming as long as you keep drinking.
"Southern ice is colder than northern ice ... or so it seems when you get a tall tumbler of good sweet tea in a place such as the Summerton Diner. The glass is loaded with shaved ice; the tea is sweet, but not TOO; and of course, refills keep coming as long as you keep drinking."
Michael Stern


Balmy banana pudding. It's a small serving, part of the $6 lunch special, but it is a Dixie paradigm: soft and sweet.
"Balmy banana pudding. It's a small serving, part of the $6 lunch special, but it is a Dixie paradigm: soft and sweet."
Michael Stern


Known on the menu as the ''Diner's Special,'' you get two thick pancakes, one egg, and your choice of meats for $5.00.
"Known on the menu as the ''Diner's Special,'' you get two thick pancakes, one egg, and your choice of meats for $5.00."
Cliff Strutz


Soft and spicy, stewed apples are a good companion for any savory lunch (or for breakfast ham, too!).
"Soft and spicy, stewed apples are a good companion for any savory lunch (or for breakfast ham, too!)."
Michael Stern


Part of the country charm!
"Part of the country charm!"
Cliff Strutz


Although it was expanded and remodeled a while ago, the Summerton diner is still a very small place, and is often full-up at lunch time.
"Although it was expanded and remodeled a while ago, the Summerton diner is still a very small place, and is often full-up at lunch time."
Michael Stern


When you get off I-95, you'll see this old sign by the side of Route 301 ... pointing the way to a classic Roadfood meal.
"When you get off I-95, you'll see this old sign by the side of Route 301 ... pointing the way to a classic Roadfood meal."
Michael Stern



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