It was recently reported that this Greenville institution will be closing at the end of the month, due to an increase in rent. There are six other clock diners in the Upstate, the original on the other side of Greenville on White Horse Road, but it is not a chain, they all operate independently.
The Clock Drive-In on Wade Hampton is the third clock diner, having opened its doors on June 7, 1953. Originally a drive-in with car hops, it isn’t hard to imagine dozens of (now) antique cars parked awaiting their orders. Nowadays the ordering is done inside, but with stools at the counter and booths filling the diner, it’s your choice whether to eat in your car or inside. Featured on Southern Living's "Carolina's Best Burgers" last year, it received the following write-up; "The Clock started ticking in 1953 as a drive-in where carhops on skates delivered barbecue sandwiches and milk shakes. These days, burgers have replaced barbecue as the top seller, and car service is no more. But the décor and the burger recipes at the original haven’t changed in nearly 60 years."
Not wanting to miss our chance to grab something to eat at this historic burger joint we set out Tuesday to check it out. It was only 11:30am but the place was absolutely packed! The stars aligned and the boys and I snagged a booth after ordering, only to watch the line get longer and longer until it stretched out the door and into the parking lot.
The regulars or those in the know will tell you to order a half-and-half plate; a burger or dog drowned in chili, fries and onion rings and a side of slaw. Since the kids outnumbered the adults this time around I went with a much simpler order, a cheeseburger for myself, a hot dog for the boys and plenty of fries to share. It still came in under $10, and after devouring the burger I can understand why the loyal lunch crowd keeps coming back for more. Just for the record, Southern Living recommends the Chili-Cheeseburger ($3). "Made the way they've been since the 1950s, with a slice of American cheese and a hefty scoop of homemade chili."
If the busy lunch hour is any indication, the Clock Diner will be sorely missed. Make sure to stop in and grab a burger in the next couple of weeks, enjoy the 1950’s diner atmosphere and check out the clock. I’m curious to see what will happen to the space; will it see new development or just a new business (but please keep the clock!)? Good luck to the owners of the business, I wish you luck in your next venture, and my condolences to all the regulars who will be looking for a new Greenville tradition… maybe we’ll have to check out some of the other Clock diners in the Upstate?
WYFF News is reporting that the diner will remain open after all. After support for the decades-old restaurant poured in last month, owner John Banias has negotiated a multi-year lease with the Clock Drive-In which will be signed sometime this week. Glad to hear this local favorite will be around serving up their signature half-and-half for at least a few more years!