LG, this is not an entry about your beloved dachshunds.
Raleigh residents and visitors over the years (since 1940) have been fond patrons of this anti-ketchup lunch counter. Order ketchup here, and you get the boot. Well, I doubt owner George enforces that rule, but he definitely doesn’t have any on hand. Ketchup’s just too sweet, and detracts from the savory, salty carne taste. There are no sides, but just dogs with approved toppings and some Greek desserts. Sodas are served in glass bottles.
I posted up at the counter between two old men and ordered 2 dogs all the way: that’s two dogs blackened on the grill with hot, steamed buns, mustard, onions, slaw and homemade chili (grandma’s recipe). That’s the extent of available toppings (no cheese, bacon, pickles, kraut, Goldfish. Just the basics). There was some Texas Pete on the counter, so I added some dashes for heat. Boy, what a good dog. But apart from the quality food served up, I enjoyed talking to the regulars beside me at the counter. We discussed work, The Roast Grill institution, cigar smoking, ex-wives and local universities…including the great debate. Is “Carolina” UNC or USC? Since UNC lays claim to first public univeristy (chartered 1789, Old East 1793, doors opened 1795), I side with the UNC-Chapel Hill side of the debate. But anyhow, the conversation made for a genuine, Roast Grill experience and hospitality.
This thin corridor of a restaurant is occupied by the large grill and hot dog prep station, lunch counter (sits about 10) and two two-top tables. So occupancy = not many. Come early if you want a seat at the counter. Also, it’s cash only.
Travel Channel’s Man v. Food visited recently. Hungryman Adam Richman successfully topped the record books by consuming 17 dogs in 33 minutes (with buns, 1 pint chili, 1/2 pint mustard, 3 drinks). His picture now adorns the wall of fame. To get an idea of how much food that is, here’s a former record holder. The Roast Grill episode is set to air on the Travel Channel on March 18 at 10pm.
Visiting The Roast Grill reminded me of some of my favorite hot dog eateries I’ve visited in my day. I’ll give a brief run-down.
1. Sutton’s Drugstore, Chapel Hill, NC
- My all-time favorite. Much for sentimental value. I’ve gone here since a wee tot with my dad and family. And in my college years, went frequently for lunch with friends. It was always a hoot.
- The staff is awesome. They recognize familiar faces and always cut-up with you.
- You can’t beat the Hot Dog Special. Cheap. 2 dogs (chili, slaw, Tobasco sauce, mustard), fries, drink. Also, delicious milkshakes.
- A popular spot among athletes and coaches.
- The drugstore is decorated with sports memorabilia, and photographs spanning decades. I love the photo of a young Dante Calabria.
2. Zack’s, Burlington, NC (my hometown)
- A multi-generation institution in downtown Btown
- Servers yell “Clear!” to the cooks before shouting out hot dog code. This place is super fast. Zack doesn’t have time to waste.
- Glass bottle drinks, including Cheerwine!, and cartons of chocolate milk
- Fend for yourself to snag a table
3. Jim’s Tastee Freez, Graham, NC
- Pink hotdogs
- Stick around for dessert, like chocolate dipped cones of soft serve ice cream