Balentines Cafeteria opened at Cameron Village in 1960, but after dinner Thursday night, the kitchen will be closed.
"They have the best food in Raleigh," one customer said.
Balentines is a place known as much for its customers as for its food.
"Some of these people eat here twice a day. Some of them eat lunch and come back at night," said owner John Balentine.
Years ago, customers included actor Dennis O'Keefe, baseball legend Stan Musial, and in 1960, then governor-elect Terry Sanford. But what began as the Green Grill on Salisbury Street in the 1940s is closing its doors after nearly four decades in Cameron Village.
"It's going to hurt," Balentine said. "I guess you could compare it to a funeral."
Balentine says the years have taken their toll on the restaurant. He said it is time for renovations, but that Cameron Village is up for sale and the owners will not offer him a long enough lease to make the investment worthwhile.
"We need a brand new kitchen," Balentine said, "that is really what it all amounts to. Without a new building lease, it is hard for us to go out and buy new equipment."
Long-time patrons are turning out in droves for one last meal, and to say goodbye. Former state representative Ray Sparrow ate at the restaurant on the first day it opened, and he had to stop in once more before it closes.
"Johnny and I figured out I've eaten about 11,000 meals here, and I don't know what I'm going to do after tomorrow," he said.
Balentine hopes loyal customers will stay in touch. He is hoping to cook up a new location -- possibly at Mission Valley Shopping Center. Until then, customers will long for a taste of the past.
The cafeteria will close for good after dinner Thursday, which ends at 8:15 p.m.