Monday, September 12, 2011

Village Inn Pizza Parlor: Lenoir, NC

Wherever a vintage dead mall is to be found, it seems nearby that other vintage items tend to linger.  Places like this ultimately survive, but tend to not update due to multiple factors including that they simply do not have to since they are surrounded by old things and probably do not get the business to modernize as often.  In Lenoir, I found many such places along Morganton Blvd including an abandoned car wash, a very retro 2-screen movie theater and last but not least this gem of a pizza place.

Village Inn Pizza Parlor is not to be confused with the larger Village Inn chain, but does seem to be part of a once national chain that was fractured into similar, but smaller operations run by local businessmen.  Other separately run locations of the same name are found in Michigan and Illinois.  I also covered on this blog a possible former location next to Tri-City Mall.  This place doesn't serve pancakes, and this set of restaurants only has 12 locations in the Foothills/Piedmont region of North Carolina.  This North Carolina group in particular is run by Ray Lackey Enterprises.  Reviews of the restaurant are generally good, but it is also stated that every location is very old as well.  All seem to have distinctive and dated designs, but the one I'm featuring here stood out enough for me to turn around for a few pics with a highly eye-catching Bavarian A-frame design coupled with a 1970's period road sign. 

A moody bavarian-gothic A-frame building with a dimly lit interior greets diners which apparently were few in number early in the afternoon.  The skies were just as moody with a severe thunderstorm about to hit.  The first photo is the sign posted along Morganton Blvd (U.S. 64) looking southwest.

Angry skies overlook a small, quaint and fascinating pizza place.

Since I did not try it, I have no opinion on the food here.  One thing I do know is that apparently each location has its own distinctive design.  The location in Morganton has a Spanish influence, including arches.  Its original location, according to the website, was in Statesville.  My guess on the chain is that it probably has not seen any significant update in 30 years hitting their stride in the mid-to-late 1970's.  I guess that they do what they can to stay profitable.  I would love to hear if anybody has tried this time warped local pizza chain.  Places like this are part of the joy of traveling: especially these archaic chains with dated architecture that give every community some distinction as well as something new for me to blog about.


  1. Interesting to see the rafters actually utilitarian and not simply decorative in poking out of the wall. I wonder if the threat of lawsuits (trip hazard or collision obstacle) would make this design unpopular should this architecture come back into style!

  2. I did not realize Village Inn originated in North Carolina. Dalton, GA had one on South Thornton Avenue(former US 41) that is still operating as a hispanic seafood restaurant, Mariscos Puerta Vallerta.

    The other area Village Inn was in Rome on Shorter Ave, and was last a Chinese Restaurant. It's viewable on Google streetview.,-85.216253&spn=0.000004,0.00327&t=h&z=19&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=34.269295,-85.216374&panoid=cPP4juOS7TBOFYeL7n8y8A&cbp=12,218.87,,0,8.97

  3. Village Inn and Village Inn Pizza Parlor are completely different chains. The latter is local to the NC foothills only.

  4. The only Village Inn, known for pies, etc., I've been to is the St. Augustine, FL location.

    The Dalton and Rome Village Inns were pizza restaurants in A-frame buildings with the same shield signs.

  5. I upgraded this post to show that this was not a local chain but a locally run spin-off of a once much larger chain.

  6. I live in Hickory, NC.

    There are several of these restaurants in the local area, including one former location across from Catawba Mall. An arson apparently torched a couple of them a few years back, but they rebuilt and reopened.

    The pizza is pretty good. It's made in the tasty, thin crust, greasy way we all grew up with (and which is hard to find nowadays). I think most, if not all, offer an all-you-can-eat buffet with salad bar, so give it a shot when you can. The one on 127N in Hickory is always pretty busy.

  7. Pizza and salads are good in this Village Inn Parlor in Lenoir , you should try it !

  8. They brush olive oil on the pizzas before baking. I love the one in Morganton and the one in Lenoir. They have a fantastic meat lovers pizza, a great Canadian Bacon/Pinapple pizza, and good sandwiches, soup, salad and wings. The Morganton location was a former Mexican restaurant, which is where the Spanish motif came from.

    1. There is also one in North Wilkesboro and it is packed every weekend. Their pizza buffet is amazing. You should really try it if you are this way. You have to wait for a table to clear on most Friday and Saturday nights.

  9. I really enjoyed this article I worked in a Village IN Pizza parlor in I believe 1970 that was located on Mall Blvd off of Abercorn in Savannah Georgia. Seeing this picture brought back memory's.

  10. ... there was a Village Inn Pizza on Ward Boulevard in Wilson NC in 1970's. It closed decades ago and building was since a bridal shop and then a church, now a parking lot for one of those Dollar Store's. The same family that operate/d a Village Inn Pizza in Morganton NC (strip mall) owned the location in Wilson - good food and memories!

  11. We had one on Western Blvd. in Raleigh growing up. They always had the buffet, a couple of video games, and an ice cream machine with the waffle cones. Always left stuffed. VIP, we called it. It stuck around until the late mid 90's or so, I believe. The building is still there and changed to something called The Gourmet Factory.