Nobody can say exactly when the original Village Diner opened in Hillsborough, but the best guess is 1975. That’s according to Joel Bohlin, and he should know. He bought the restaurant last year, and he has become something of an expert on its history.
He can tell you, for instance, that The Village Diner is the oldest restaurant in Hillsborough. And that, in its heyday, it was a prime gathering place for the community, where mill workers and politicians commingled over fried chicken, meat loaf, collard greens and banana pudding.
Bohlin, a Hillsborough resident who has worked as general manager at Hillsborough BBQ Co., has seen local tastes evolve over the years. When he learned that The Village Diner was up for sale, Bohlin — a Culinary Institute of America grad whose resume includes an externship at the renowned Aquavit in New York — saw his chance to update the old local favorite in response to those changing tastes.
Bohlin hired Justin Cole, who grew up in Hillsborough (where he regularly ate with his grandmother at The Village Diner) and cut his culinary teeth as chef at Nana’s under renowned chef Scott Howell. He brought along David Petipas to man the grill and make desserts. He cooked for Fetch, the food truck that Bohlin owned before shutting it down to focus on the restaurant.
The Village Diner
600 W. King St, Hillsborough
Cuisine: Southern diner
Rating: 4 stars
Atmosphere: modest but cheery
Noise level: low
Service: welcoming, attentive and knowledgeable
Recommended: tomato soup, Bibb salad with fried oysters, fried grit cakes, vegetable plate, salmon patties, fried chicken, meatloaf, banana pudding
Open: Breakfast and lunch Wednesday-Sunday, dinner Wednesday-Saturday.
Reservations: not accepted
Other: beer and wine; accommodates children; excellent vegetarian selection; parking in lot.