by David Cecelski
One of my favorite places to be in Eastern North Carolina on a Saturday morning
is Lovick’s Cafe in Kinston.
Located on Herritage St.,
a stone’s throw from the NeuseRiver, Lovick’s is the
kind of place where everybody feels at home. When you walk in the door, you’ll
find the joint hopping—every table full, customers shouting greetings to old
friends across the room, sassy line cooks giving orders like field generals, and
waitresses running with insouciant flair back and forth between the kitchen and
the dining rooms, of which there are three, plus a counter.
in 1942 by Milton Lovick and now operated by his great-grandchildren, Lovick’s
serves heaping plates of pancakes and bacon, salty country ham and rice, fluffy
biscuits stuffed with fresh country sausage, grits and red-eye gravy, and all
kinds of other country-style breakfast dishes. You’ll also discover good
company there—young and old, black and white, factory workers, farmers, and downtown
lawyers. All come to Lovick’s to revel in the good food and good cheer.
the waitresses—don’t even get me started. They’re not just the kind of servers
who call you “honey” or “sweetie.” I mean they do that, too, bless them, but they
also ask after your momma, your kids, and what’s troubling you if you’re
looking a little haggard. They seem to believe that there’s not much that country
ham and grits served with a smile won’t cure. These are ladies who understand
the human soul.
also thoughtful. When I was there a couple days ago, my waitress grew worried
that one of her other customers’ food was getting cold while he was visiting
with a friend on the far side of the dining room. She put his plate back under
the hot lamp until he got back.
whole place has a wonderful community feeling to it. One wall is covered with
Little League baseball plaques won by teams sponsored by Lovick’s. There was an
announcement near the cash register for the upcoming reunion dinner for the Kinston
Fire Department (6 PM, May 30, at King’s Restaurant). A Lion’s Club poster
announced that you can donate your old eye glasses and hearing aids to people
who need them while you’re at the cash register.
then there are the “dough burgers.” Lovick’s is famous for them. They’re a fried
patty of beef, flour, onions, and salt and pepper served on white bread. I was
told that they’re one of those Great Depression dishes concocted to fill the
belly without emptying pockets. Hard times or plush, Kinston’s residents have sworn by Lovick’s
dough burgers for generations. At lunch the line for them can be out the door.
days, dough burgers are usually associated with the Deep South, where, I’ve
heard, there’s even kind of a “Dough Burger Belt” in North
Mississippi. If that’s true, I don’t know how they got to Herritage Street
all those years ago, but the word in Kinston
is that that Milton Lovick and a pal invented the restaurant’s recipe more than
60 years ago.
one of the largest tobacco markets in the world, Kinston has been struggling of late. On Herritage Street
though, you can start to see some signs of a renaissance. A block north of
Lovick’s, there’s a very fine fish market, the Reynolds Seafood Company, and the
Lenoir County Farmers Market, next to the river, is a bustling place on a
Saturday morning. There’s also a passel of other interesting-looking businesses
up and down the street now—some new; some, like Parrott’s Hardware, revitalized.
And nobody—and I mean nobody—could have breakfast at Lovick’s Cafe on a
Saturday morning and not be filled with a sense of hope and optimism.
Lovick’s Cafe is located at 320 Herritage
St., Kinston, and is open for breakfast and lunch six days a week, closed
Sundays. The restaurant also serves breakfast Tuesday evenings from 5 to 8 PM. For
something really special, get a copy of Sarah Bryan’s new Moon North Carolina travel guide here and
look up Kinston:
her architectural tour of Queen
Street, a block east of Herritage Street and the center of the
city’s old business district, is one of the book’s many little treasures. Breakfast
at Lovick’s and a romp down Queen
Street would make for a very fine morning.