image courtesy of flickr
If it’s true that some things never change, then that has to be a big part of why the Char-Grill on Hillsborough St. in Raleigh continues to thrive, having unwavered in its devotion to deliver that most quintessential of American meals – a burger, fries, and a shake - since 1959. The large sign out front says all you need to know about the place, and, for over 50 years, there have been no frills and probably no surprises to the steady stream of customers: Char-Grill maintains its commitment to the classicly simple even into this age of gourmet burgers, extravagant toppings, and duck-fat fries. Place your order on a slip of paper, slide down a little metal chute, wait for the flames to erupt on the grill, and, a few minutes, later, your name is called. There’s no ambience except the nostalgia of an institution, and there’s hardly anywhere to sit, but where else can you have the exact same experience that your parents, and maybe their parents, did?
As for the food itself, it’s cheap and reliable, even if the burgers and hot crispy fries aren’t much better than average. For this style of burger and fries, Five Guys does it better, and Only Burger easily surpasses them both, especially with it’s commitment to sustainable beef and the offering of occasional specials.
Over the years, the restaurant has expanded to a handful of locations across the Triangle. But the atmosphere and history of the Hillsborough St. one lends it a distinct charm. And that makes Char-Grill something to hold on to in Raleigh. So here’s hoping that some things never change.