Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sweet Tea's - A visit from the Food Network!

First night (December 4th) - windows are covered and remodeling is happening inside

Second night (December 5th) - owners out front waiting for Robert and the unveiling

Robert preparing the owners to go inside and check out the renovations (above and below)

Robert leading the owners inside

Eyes closed...

Packed inside and outside during the dinner service

Tom the carpenter gets called into action for a quick repair of front

Robert takes a moment to come outside and say hello to the crowd

Restaurant Impossible (currently the most popular show on the Food Network) was in the Charlotte area on December 4th-5th to try to save a failing restaurant. The basic premise of the show is celebrity chef/host Robert Irvine has 48 hours and $10,000 to save an about-to-close eatery by remodeling the interior, overhauling the menu, retraining the staff, and educating the owners on how to successfully operate a restaurant. Sweet Tea's in Pineville was selected out of thousands of nationwide requests to be rescued. From watching the show, Robert Irvine appears to be passionately driven and determined to save every restaurant featured on the show. Not your typical Charlotte Eats post, but a unique opportunity to experience an aspect of restaurants not usually seen in person.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

House of Hunan

From 1980 comes this nice look at the then-popular House of Hunan restaurant on Woodlawn Rd. Open until about ten years ago, it would also feature a short-lived location at Cotswold Mall in the late-80's as well as the area's first offering of Mongolian Barbecue. Great peek into the dining room as well!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Leo's Deli

Mid 1990's shots from the original location (building since torn down)

Leo's Deli opened in 1942 at 1503 Elizabeth Ave. It would move one block over in 2002 to 1421 Elizabeth Ave and would eventually close in August 2010. At the time of it's closing, it held the distinction of being Charlotte's oldest deli. It was operated from 1976 until its close by the Maheras family.

Avondale Pharmacy

January 1987

The Avondale Pharmacy was in Dilworth on Park Rd. It opened in 1947 (when the road was called Avondale Ave) and closed on January 21, 1986. Like most drugstores of the time, it's most popular attribute was it's lunch counter. It's eight-stool counter was always packed and featured everything from ice cream cones to burgers. Original owner Gordon Eldridge sold it to Bob Lewis in 1981 who ran it until it's closing in 1986. It transitioned into a Kerr Drugs and currently houses the popular eatery Fran's Filling Station. 

The drugstore lunch counter represented a bygone time in Charlotte restaurant history. The below article from 1987 paints a good picture of the culture and loyalty of the lunch counter:

"Picture a marble-topped counter - or at least a Formica one that looks like marble - lined with stools.
A straw dispenser, a milk shake machine, a glass-domed container full of
lemon meringue pie.
And maybe, if you`re lucky, a little grill for fixing hot dogs and BLTs.

The drugstore lunch counter was a beloved fixture on the American landscape during my growing-up years. You could find one tucked in a corner of every
pharmacy, every dime store, every town.
Now the counter is vanishing.
Being squeezed out by expanded cosmetic displays, automotive equipment
shelves, racks of best-sellers and all the other merchandise the discount drug chains offer.
Maybe luncheonettes aren`t as profitable.
But where, I wonder, do weary shoppers stop these days for a cup of coffee? How do kids survive without a freshly mixed, after-school cherry Coke?
And what do older folks do without a neighborhood hangout, a place they can count on for a simple lunch and a soul-nourishing visit?

The old-style luncheonette isn`t completely gone from the scene, thank
Here and there around Charlotte, a few survive: at several Woolworth`s, a
couple of aging Eckerd`s, and Avondale Pharmacy on Park Road, among others.
I often take my kids to Avondale`s eight-stool counter for ice cream cones. It`s a perfect spot for children - who love twirling on the stools,
dripping chocolate ice cream on the counter, and sticking straws out of their mouths to look like walruses.
Most of the regulars are older folks from the Dilworth and Sedgefield
neighborhoods. Some, I`m told, nurse a cup of coffee there for hours every
``I don`t know where else they`d go,`` an Avondale employee told me last
week. ``This is like a home to these people.``
So is the Eckerd`s on Providence Road, in a little shopping center behind
the A&P and the Town House.
And last week, when word leaked out that Eckerd officials planned to close
the Myers Park store`s counter, the regulars went wild.
``I don`t usually get this mad,`` said Joyce Cranfill of Queens Road West.
``But that little counter is a community institution for people from 8 to
``How can they let the profit motive supersede their community spirit? I`m
going to my garden club right now, and see if I can get a protest going.``
Margaret Harbison of Malvern Road was one jump ahead of her.
The minute she heard the news, Harbison drew up a petition asking Eckerd to keep the counter open. Within a few days, she`d collected more than 500 names. ``That kind of place is part of what makes a community,`` Harbison said.
``All sorts of people wanted to sign the petition - older people, families,
even kids.
``One little boy signed, and asked if he could put his dog`s name, too.
`` His name is Oscar Mayer,` the little boy told me. And he eats all the
leftovers.` ``
Eckerd officials - who took a lot of flak when they closed the counter at
Park Road Shopping Center a few months ago - sat up and took notice of the
Myers Park uprising.
``That closing has been postponed,`` Rose Houser of the district office
told me last week. ``We`re going to reevaluate the situation.``
Cranfill, Harbison and the other protesters were jubilant.
``We know it wasn`t an easy decision for Eckerd`s,`` Harbison said, ``but
we`re very grateful. With Charlotte growing so fast, it`s hard to lose the few old amenities we have left.``
I know what she means.

The Providence Road Eckerd`s may not have Charlotte`s biggest collection of lawn chairs, car care products, household goods and all the other stuff the
discount chains carry.
But I hear they make a mean hot dog."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cheesecake in 1974

From 1974 comes this great article focusing on finding the perfect cheesecake in Charlotte. Where did you go for cheesecake in the mid-'70's?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Standing Room Only Pub & Deli

1981 menu

Standing Room Only Pub & Deli opened in March 1980 in the Westpark Mall on Tyvola Rd. Besides great food, it holds three important distinctions in Charlotte restaurant history--- it was the first place in town to serve wings, it's beer selection rivaled other eateries in town due to both quality and quantity of selection (only The Hotel Charlotte came close), and it gets credit for being one of Charlotte's earliest sports bar.

Owner Kirk Weaver would operate SRO for the balance of the decade before opening the Township Grille in Matthews in 1988 and then, most recently, Lebowski's Neighborhood Grill on East Blvd. 

Much thanks to Kirk Weaver for supplying the photo and menu!

Friday, September 21, 2012


Native Charlottean Tom Pickhardt provided these great matchbooks highlighting some popular Charlotte eateries from the past. Most flourished in the late-70's to early-80's - only one is still in operation today. How many did you frequent and what were your favorite memories? Thanks, Tom, for this fun peak into Charlotte's restaurant past!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Landmark Charlotte restaurants

The latest issue of Southpark magazine has a great article showcasing some of Charlotte's classic restaurants.

Click here for the article

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Yates Louis "YL" Honey

The Minute Grill

The Minute Grill - 1937

The Minute Grill - 1937

The Minute Grill kitchen - late 1930's

Looking towards the Minute Grill - 1940's

Early Minute Grill counter

Later Minute Grill counter

Minute Grill menu

Minute Grill menu

1943 ad

1948 ad

1950 ad

Minute Grill in Gastonia - 1939

Minute Grill in Gastonia - 1940's



Honey's dining room

Original drive-in menu


Sketch of new location - 1966

Sketch of new location - 1966

1956 ad

1957 ad

1959 ad

Early 1960's ad 

Early 1960's ad

Early 1960's ad

1962 breakfast menu

1960's postcard

1983 ad

Sign at the Durham location (photo courtesy of Steven Swain)

Few people in Charlotte's restaurant past are as important as Yates Louis "YL" Honey. A true visionary, he was ahead of his time on most every aspect of the restaurant industry in Charlotte.  If you grew up in Charlotte from the 1930's through the 1950's, YL was an important part of your life. You might not have known his name or face, but you knew and loved his food. For three decades, he owned many of the area's most popular eateries, including the Minute Grill (at Morehead and Tryon -- Charlotte's first drive-in). Honey along with his brother-in-law Salem Suber also operated several other Charlotte institutions - The Green Gables (located on Providence Rd where the Manor Theater now stands) and the famed Townhouse at the corner of Providence and Queens Rd. The Minute Grill would evolve into Honey's Restaurant - YL's most famous and successful eatery. Honey's would grow into several locations throughout the state. Throughout his career, YL would also delve into other businesses including hotels, convenience stores, and commercial real estate. 

David Bedinger worked with YL and still works for Honey Enterprises. His memories and recollections are below:

"Yates Louis Honey, Sr. (“YL” to his friends) graduated from R.J. Reynolds HS in Winston-Salem in 1930, and opened a small ice cream luncheonette in Thomasville NC that same year. He opened a 2nd site in Concord and in Feb 1932 opened “Goody Goody BBQ Service" on the corner of Morehead and Tryon Streets. Within a few years, he had changed the name to the “Minute Grill”.  In 1933, he purchased Blue Bird Ice Cream Company at the corner of Mint and Morehead Streets (where I-277 is now located). Mr. Honey made many real estate investments in Gastonia, and always referred to it as “his second home”. Around 1935, he opened a restaurant called Green Gables at 1414 East Franklin Avenue Gastonia. He and his brother-in-law, Salem Suber opened another Green Gables Restaurant on Providence Road, in Charlotte at about the same time. In 1939, the Gastonia restaurant‘s name was also changed to the Minute Grill. Sometime in the 50 or earlier 60’s the name was changed to Honey’s restaurant at Gastonia and Charlotte. Additional Honey’s Restaurants were built in Charlotte, Durham and Greensboro  in the 1960’s, and in the 70’s in Greenville SC(Augusta Road/US 25 and I-85), and Boone NC, and several other places. He also built a Sheraton/Holiday inn at Augusta Road/US 25 @I-85 in Greenville in 1972. 

In 1967, Mr Honey built a 64 room Honey’s Quality Court motel  adjoining the Minute Grill/Honeys in Gastonia.   In 1984 the old restaurant bldg in Gastonia was demolished and a “D ‘Lites”  restaurant was built, a new, fast growing chain. D’Lites soon failed and the building was leased to Arby’s.  Also in 1967, Mr Honey built a facility for Southern Bell (Bell South/AT&T) at 2300 Remount Road. In 1972, he built the District Southern Bell Offices at 412 South Broad Street.

Mr. Honey, Sr. passed away in 1997, at age 86. His wife Rose still lives in Charlotte.
Yates L Honey Jr., “YL’s” son, now is President of Honey Enterprises, which focuses on managing our real estate investments in NC and SC. The last remaining Honey’s Restaurant is still open in Durham NC, at I-85 at Guess Road. Opened in 1962, we no longer are involved with management, and license the Honey’ name to a long time manager, Buck Dickerson."

In the 1960's, YL bought the 4-acre tract at the corner of Morehead and Tryon that was home to his restaurant. He had always envisioned the city square of Charlotte (several blocks north) eventually switching to this intersection. The restaurants he ran on this corner are long gone and the square never migrated south, but the building still remains and the family still owns the property on the corner.

David Bedinger also gave a fascinating recollection of the history of that 4-acre corner:

"An approximate time line of the corner is as follows: Mr. Yates Louis “Y. L.”  Honey graduated from RJR High School in Winston-Salem in 1931, and decided to go into the ice cream business, opening a small retail shop in Thomasville, NC in 1932. He soon began selling sandwiches, because he soon realized that ice cream sales dropped in the winter. He then opened another restaurant in Concord, and a wholesale ice cream mfg company in Charlotte. He was driving down Morehead street in Charlotte in the early 1930’s and saw a dilapidated wood-framed restaurant, selling bbq, was on the corner of Morehead and Tryon. (Mr Honey said that the first time he saw the site the restaurant operator had allowed a traveling side show with a muzzled bear tied to a pole was set up in the front parking lot). Mr Honey liked the location and met the owner of the restaurant, and worked out a deal to purchase the restaurant, subject to a lease. The bldg and land were owned by H.M Wade, whose Wade Mfg. made him one of the wealthiest people in Charlotte. Mr Honey leased the site from Mr Wade but after only a few years, Mr Wade wanted to tear down the old wood building that Mr Honey’s restaurant occupied, and build a large, modern bldg for American Oil Company(AMOCO), for a district office and a service station. Mr Honey persuaded Mr Wade to build a 3000 sq ft restaurant adjacent to the AMOCO bldg. The original restaurant was named “Minute Grill”. It was later changed to “Honey’s”, sometime in the 1950’s. Eventually, Mr Honey would expand the restaurant into the entire 16000 sq ft bldg, with a restaurant, catering and banquet operating from the bldg. In the mid 1960’s, when Mr Wade passed away, Mr Honey purchased the building and land from the Wade estate.

The last restaurant located on the corner was in the early 1970’s. By then, the neighborhood had changed,  and was no longer suitable for a restaurant.

As of 2010, Honey Properties, Inc still owns the corner, and an adjoining office building.  Yates L. Honey Jr. is President. Mr Y.L. Honey Sr’s wife Rose is a young 95, and still loves checking out new restaurants in Charlotte.

The current occupants of the building include: Uptown Cleaners, AA Insurance, Coffey and Thompson Art Framing and Gallery(including interior design servicees, and Edwin Gils Gallery), and Catawba Lands Conservancy and affiliate Carolina Thread Trail."

****Much thanks to David Bedinger for his invaluable contributions to this post***