Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

A Day in the Life at the Roast Grill

I love Raleigh’s Roast Grill. This little (and I mean little!) hot dog counter occupies a cubbyhole on the ground floor of an old house on S. West Street. An old-fashioned “Hot Weiners” Coca Cola sign hanging over the neon Roast Grill sign in the window beckons to hungry passersby.

This Mom ‘n Pop joint is owned and operated by George Poniros and his Mom, Mrs. Poniros. George’s grandmother, Mary Charles, opened the place for business back in 1940. Not a lot has changed since then and the Roast Grill today is a veritable time capsule. I’ve been going there to get my hot dog fix for more than 30 years now.

On a recent visit this summer I stopped in for my usual 2 hot dogs, mustard chili and slaw and a Sprite, and chatted with George and his Mom some. As a rule the place is packed at lunchtime, but as it was kind of late —2 o’clock or so—the ambience was more relaxed than usual. There was only me, one little old lady and about 4 or 5 young people in there.

As I was sitting at the counter finishing up my lunch and eyeing the homemade baklava and pound cake, one young fellow approached George and asked him about the baklava. I heard him say how his girlfriend was Lebanese and her grandmother made baklava with pistachio nuts. Mrs. Poniros piped up and said, “Mine is Greek!  It’s the real baklava and we use only walnuts!” When the kid asked how much for a piece George told him $2.50. Apparently he and his friends had spent all their money on hot dogs, as he looked disappointed and said he’d have to try it another time.

Well, I couldn’t resist that, so I asked George to give him a piece, on me. I think that gesture acted on George because he treated him to an additional piece as well! He cut the 2 pieces up so the young man and his friends could each have a taste.

As I left they were all animated and were “thanking me sir” and wolfing it down. I felt mighty full then even though I didn’t get any baklava myself! I love that place! You’d never have an experience like that at a MacDonalds!


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