People and Places with Pierce: El’s Drive In

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – “Get that oyster sandwich,” said Linster Frazier from Havelock.

“I think the shrimp is good,” said Brady Goforth of Burlington.

“I got the best burger ever,” said Benny Anderson of Salter Path. “The best. Put it up against anyone.”

The next time you’re in Morehead City, there’s one stop you simply have to make.

“As El’s we started out in 1955,” said Mark Franks, owner of El’s Drive In.

“My grandfather was Elvin Franks,” added Shelton Franks, who hopes to be the future owner of El’s Drive In. “They called him El for short. He started the restaurant.”

“We’re known for really good food mostly,” said Mark Franks.

“Everything they cook here is good,” added Frazier.

“People really like the shrimp burgers, oyster burgers,” said Mark Franks. “We have a unique burger here.”

“Look at that,” said Anderson. “That’s happiness right there.”

“The slaw is what really makes the burger,” Mark Franks. “The slaw in the old Carolina way with onions, mustard, and chili. It all just combines to a taste that’s all its own. It’s like it’s got some kind of special sauce on it.”

As for what’s in that famous slaw.

“Only the dog knows that one,” laughed Mark Franks.

A stop at El’s takes you on a trip back in time.

“The old fashioned atmosphere where you pull up and the waitress comes to your car just like they used to do in the old days,” said Shelton Franks. “They can come back here and feel like they did when they were young or reminisce on the memories of their parents bringing them here.”

“I’ve been coming here since I was born,” said Benny Anderson of Salter Path. “My parents came here during high school.”

People sharing the experience has been a recipe for success. You’ll even meet a few friendly feathered friends.

“The seagulls are a part of El’s,” said Mark Franks. “I think that people enjoy them. They’re alright. They’re only dangerous when they’re in the air.”

A quick drive from the Crystal Coast and up Arendell Street takes you to El’s. It’s one of the few 1950’s style drive ins still left in the East. While the food is fantastic, it’s family that has kept this place going for over 50 years.

“My father started the concept all alone and I’ve kept it going,” said Mark Franks. “My son is really interested in keeping it up. I’m really proud of him, my daughter, and my wife too. It’s really a whole family thing.”

“It kind of feels good to carry on the family legacy,” said Shelton Franks. “It’s what I’ve grown up from a small boy wanting to do.”

Whether you’ve never been or you’re a regular, make sure your next stop at El’s isn’t your last.


Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.


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