Monday, April 28, 2008


Zack's famous street-side sign

Retro-style umbrellas out front

Interior seating has been added, but the original Bell's exterior walk-up window is still there

(Thanks to Rick Fisher for contributing all of the above photos!)

Original owners James & Anna Demopolous

Son George and wife Elaine are now in charge

1963 ad for Bell's Hamburgers Drive-In (Pineville Rd is now called South Blvd)

Zack's Hamburgers opened on South Blvd and Scaleybark in 1975. With established competition from South 21 (just two blocks away--though closed since last Fall) and Mr. K's (also just down the street), Zack's has survived and flourished with amazing hamburgers, hot dogs, and home made onion rings. Zack's is also known for its fried chicken and multiple favors of milk shakes. Originally owned and operated by James Demopolous, his son George has been at the helm for the last decade.

The building originally opened in 1961 as a Bell's Hamburgers Drive-In. The franchise was created by Glen Bell in California and was an early competitor to McDonald's (it's said that Bell's large walk-up order window was copied by McDonald's). Glen Bell eventually started selling hard-shell tacos at his West Coast locations which would lead to his creation of the Taco Bell chain. Inside Zack's, the original Bell's ordering window still exists. Over time, exterior walls were built  around the perimeter and interior seating was added, but customers still walk-up to the original window to place their orders.

Even in the face of continued competition from long-established neighbors and increased competition from area fast-food franchises, Zack's has continued for over 30 years and is still going strong.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Town House **HALL OF FAME EATERY**

1950 ad

1952 ad (courtesy of Charlie Richardson)

Late-'70's photo of Salem and Lillian Suber

Town House regular/fixture Hugh McManaway directing traffic outside of the Town House in 1976 (a statue in his honor was erected at the intersection of Queens and Providence Rds.)

1988 interior shot with Jack Fulk

Fall 1991 menu

Spring 1992 menu

Summer 1993 lunch menu

Summer 1993 dinner menu

Early photo of the Town House

Late-'90's photo (under new ownership)

As it looks today (photo courtesy of David at Groceteria)

The Town House Restaurant opened in the heart of Myers Park in 1938. Originally a drive-in restaurant, it was instantly popular ("Talk of the Town" became the restaurant's nickname). During the restaurant's heyday from 1955 through 1980, it was owned and operated by Salem Suber and featured family-style home cooked food. Breakfast at the Town House was a tradition among the Charlotte business world. From 1980 until 1988 it was owned by Ike McLaughlin who, except for some minor renovations, changed little about the place. During its peak, the 150 seat eatery averaged 550 customers a day, seven days a week. In 1984 the restaurant was bestowed a plaque honoring the establishment with being "Charlotte's oldest restaurant serving the city from the same location seven days a week".

In 1988 the restaurant was bought by Jack Fulk (his father had founded Bojangle's). The restaurant was overhauled to include a bar and began life as a white-tablecloth, upscale place to dine. The Town House would continue through the 1990's earning rave-reviews for its five-star cuisine. When it closed, the space would be absorbed into the neighboring Harris-Teeter supermarket.

Though it would spend the last part of its life as a high-profile, upper class restaurant, most native Charlotteans will always remember the Town House as a simple place for great hamburgers and hot dogs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hollywood Grill

1976 photo showing the lunchtime crowd

The sign says it all

Farewell hugs on the last day

Goodbye, Buddy! (note the trademark Indian out front wearing tinsel on the last day)

Watching the building come down in this 1987 photo

The Hollywood Grill was a downtown institution for 51 years. The restaurant got its name from the early days when most of its customers worked in nearby "Film Row"- an area of downtown heavily populated by motion picture distribution houses. It was opened in 1935 by Sam Perry and operated on Fourth St for 20 years until it moved to 215 W. Third St. In 1971, the restaurant was bought by James "Buddy" Hoyle who would run it until its close on December 17, 1986.

"Home Cooked Meals Every Day" was the restaurant's slogan. The Hollywood Grill was famous for its country-style steak, barbecued pork, mashed potatoes, stuffed cabbage, pinto beans, and corn bread. It featured a serving line, so in some respect it was like a cafeteria. There was always a choice of four meats and five vegetables. It had a loyal following for both breakfast and lunch. 

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Barley & Rye/Ocho Cafe

1980 exterior shot

1990 interior shot

Looking towards the solarium from across the pond

1979 shot of the lounge

Looking from above in this 1988 photo

1981 ad

1984 ad

1985 ad

Original matchbook (courtesy of Robert McEwen)

1992 ad promoting the new patio at Hayden's

1994 interior photo of Ocho Cafe

The patio at Ocho Cafe

Working the bar at Ocho Cafe in 1994

Currently occupied by Bricktops

Few restaurants in Charlotte history have the notoriety as Barley & Rye. Located across the street from Southpark Mall, Barley & Rye opened on December 5, 1979 in the Specialty Shops on the Park. It introduced Charlotte to a new type of upscale restaurant. Rather than being stuffy and elitist, Barley & Rye was sophisticated while still retaining a relaxed atmosphere. The menu offered no fried items and featured over 24 varieties of fresh fish each day (unheard of at the time in Charlotte--more fish choices than any other city restaurant). The restaurant also was famous for its "seafood" salad bar which included oysters on the half shell, cold boiled shrimp, and crab and shrimp salad (as well as the usual salad bar fare). In addition to having a large wine cellar, Barley & Rye was also popular for its own house-blended Biltmore Estate Champagne. Barley & Rye had three differently, distinctive dining rooms. The main dining room, the "Tool Room" (which featured antique farm implements on the walls), and (most popular) the solarium room (which overlooked the small pond next door).

The Barley & Rye stayed in business until 1991 when it became Hayden's. Hayden's was a sister restaurant in the Barley & Rye company and featured a more casual, bistro-style fare (similar to Bennigan's). There were also Hayden's in Pineville and in Gastonia (a location planned for the UNCC area never materialized). Unfortunately, the food was terrible and within two years, Hayden's was history.

In 1993, Ocho Cafe, a Mexican restaurant, opened in the former Hayden's location. In a town dominated by average Mexican chain restaurants, Ocho Cafe was more upscale and featured some of the best Mexican fare Charlotte had ever seen (even through today). One of the signature focal-points of Ocho Cafe was homemade tortillas made at a tortilla-making station. Ocho Cafe would continue successfully for the next few years.

From the late-'90's through 2007 several restaurants would come and go in this location (several with a then-trendy Southwestern theme). All would fail due to high prices and poorly executed menus. Bricktops currently occupies the location and appears to be a return to form in the tradition of Barley & Rye.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Newmarket Cafe at Belk-Southpark

Review of the Newmarket from August 1986

Before Arthur's moved into the first floor of Belk-Southpark, the space was occupied by the Newmarket Cafe. Modeled after the emporium at Harrod's of London, the Newmarket Cafe opened in 1986 as a joint venture between Belk's and Harris Teeter. The center attraction was the Cafe which featured sit-down waitress service in a high-end setting (with high end prices, too--especially during this era at Southpark). The Newmarket also featured a deli and speciality prepared foods area (pictured above), a candy counter, a bakery, a wine shop, a floral department, a coffee counter, and an area of assorted gourmet cooking items. This entire concept was unheard of in Charlotte before the Newmarket Cafe arrived. Though the concept was an immediate hit, the unrealistic high-prices in the restaurant most likely led to the Newmarket's ultimate demise.

The Newmarket lasted for five years, closing in 1991. At that time, Arthur's relocated from Dillard's down the hall and took over the space. If you ever dined at Arthur's before the 2001 renovation, you will recognize the glass case that is housing deli meats in the above photo on the left. This was where the line formed at Arthur's and the glass case showcased their salad selections. You will probably also remember the candy counter and bakery at Arthur's--all hold-overs from The Newmarket Cafe.