The Great American Small Town Diner

12/07/13 9:45 AM

You know as Brett and I prepared to open Belle Grove Plantation, we have worked hard to “research” places to eat for our guests. Yes, it is a true “hardship” to go to these fabulous restaurants and sample all these great foods. But we do it for the good of our guests. And nothing is too good for them!

But during the week, while I am here alone, I like to go to one of the local diners for breakfast. It gives me a chance to enjoy seeing and talking with others. Not that I don’t get visitors at the plantation. But this is a little more laid back and casual. And since I will be cooking others breakfast soon, it is nice to have someone make it for me now.

I started out going to a place located in Port Royal called Hornes. It is a landmark diner on the corner of Route 17 and Route 301. The staff there is wonderful and the food is good. But I found another place that I have been drawn back to over and over again.

Howards Store Front

This little diner is called Howard’s Bakery and Restaurant. It is located in King George (about 5 or 10 minutes away from Belle Grove) along Route 3. Now I tried to do some research on the history of Howard’s, but of course there isn’t much on the internet about it. What I did find is that it had changed hands a few times over the past 40 plus years. It once was called Clift’s and then Shirley’s and now Howard’s.


To see it today, you wouldn’t give it a second glance. Β The outside isn’t flashy and it is saddled up next to a car garage. But as Brett and I have learned through our travels, looks can be very deceiving.

Howards table

Inside you will find what you would expect of a small town diner. Booths, tables and a lunch counter in a small room. No fancy decorations and no frills. The only decorations for July is the banner of American Flags hanging in the front windows and the paper party decorations for the 4th of July.

Howards Frieda

I have come to know the staff at Howard’s and they have come to know me. I come in and have a sit and they walk over with my morning beverage before I even sit down. Talk about a good memory! Then they ask me if I am going to have the same breakfast as last time, which I always seem to do. Then she starts writing it down as she repeats each items from before. It is as if I just ordered it! You think about the number of faces they see and to remember a single order is just amazing! How many places in the larger cities do you know that remember you name, let alone your order from two or three days before!

Howards Bar

Over time, I have come to understand the back lunch counter is where it is at. Howard’s isn’t just a diner that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is where the locals come to meet and talk. It reminds me of the coffee houses and taverns in Colonial America. This is where the citizens of our new country would go to get news of what was going on. That holds true to Howard’s. One of the first times I came in, just after moving up in April, I was at the lunch counter to pay for my breakfast. There sat two gentlemen enjoying their meal. As I stood waiting for the cashier, one of the gentleman asked me how the bed and breakfast was coming. Now mind you, I have never met this person before, never seen him, and yet he knew who I was and what I was doing in King George. I am learning that news and gossip travels faster here than on Headline News television.

Today, almost every time I go in, I see someone that I know or meet someone new. I hear about what is going on in King George as I sit alone in my booth enjoying my breakfast. You can’t help but eavesdrop in a room this size. But I see the same faces almost every time. And believe it or not, it is comforting. It is great to know that Small Town America is still alive and well. That a Β pleasant “hello” from a stranger is a sincere greeting and that stranger won’t be a stranger for long.

Yes, Howard’s food is good. Best Down Home Cooking you can wrap your lips around. But it isn’t just the food, its the people inside that makes this place somewhere you don’t want to miss. Cracker Barrel doesn’t have anything on this Small Town Diner.

To see more places we have been

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 30 Comments »

30 Comments on “The Great American Small Town Diner”

  1. Before moving to Vero Beach, we lived for 15 yrs in Worcester Ma, home of the Worcester Lunch Car company, a manufacturer of diner cars from 1904-1961. There was a great book written about this company: :

  2. sugarbeechronicles Says:

    This does look like a great book; I’m going to take a look! There was (maybe still is) one of this lunch car type diners in St. Paul, Minnesota I used to go to years ago, but I can’t remember its name, but it was open 24 hours a day and really good food!

  3. Thank you! We will have to see if we can get the book!

  4. Terry Says:

    food and good people always go good together. I am glad you feel at home and have a place to escape the business part of your day

  5. Thank you! I am glad there is a haven for me somewhere lol!

  6. sugarbeechronicles Says:

    Given the choice of the “known” of a chain restaurant and the “unknown” of a local diner no matter where live or travel, we opt for the local diner — better food, sometimes new types of food, and the people are fun to talk with and get to know!

  7. That is why Brett and I always ask where the locals hang when we go somewhere.

  8. sugarbeechronicles Says:

    Absolutely! I— I just love how things are coming along for you and the ‘project of lob’ — such beauty; we hope to make a trip next year to see all your efforts and grab lots more history! ~Susan πŸ™‚

  9. Thank you Susan! We hope to see you soon!

  10. wandakrobinson Says:

    Please no longer send me these to this email address, I just went in and signed up for it to follow posting to the new email address.

  11. Ok thank you!

  12. I have a love affair with small American diners x

  13. You know, we do too! They are just such treasures!

  14. We have this awesome one where I live, I would love to send a piece on it to you πŸ™‚

  15. I would love to read it! Thank you!

  16. As soon as I get back from my trip next week I am all over it! You don’t need to twist my arm lol (plus I could sure use a burger and a shake).


  17. πŸ™‚

  18. gardeniahung Says:

    Small town diners can be wonderful places for breakfast, lunch, and dinner sometimes…

  19. They can be…

  20. Dianna Says:

    Love those small town diners: the people really do make them special!

  21. Yes they do! I know of some in Smithfield that I really enjoyed!

  22. Nin Ashmore Says:

    This place sounds great! If I was in close proximity, I would love to check it out.

    You may already have your dishes for the B&B . I wonder If you have seen the Johnson Brothers, Heritage Hall #4411 Ironstone Dinnerware?
    This set is neat because there is a different scene on each set of the the plates and bowls.

    The dinner plate has a Georgian Townhouse, a popular townhouse design found in many eastern cities towards the end of the 18th century.

    The salad plate is French Provincial, a typical home of the Vieux Carre District; French Quarter of New Orleans.

    The bowls have a Pennsylvania Fieldstone, as found throughout the Penn. countryside.

    Just another thought for you.

  23. I don’t think I have seen these! I do have our dishes already but I will look these up just to see. Thank you for sharing!

  24. jamieaaron03 Says:

    Lol I think it sounds great, I love little dinners, I was wondering I’d bell grove has any ghost stories???

  25. Thank you! I love them too! Ghost Stories.. hum… maybe πŸ˜‰

  26. jamieaaron03 Says:

    I knew it!

  27. Are you into ghosts?

  28. jamieaaron03 Says:

    Yeah, I like the paranormal, and anything that’s just odd and mysterious

  29. If you will email me at and let me know who you are, I will tell you a few ghost stories. πŸ˜‰

  30. jamieaaron03 Says:

    I’m excited, I’ll email you tomorrow morning πŸ˜€