Friday, August 10, 2012

You Won’t Get Burnt at the Roast Grill

The Roast Grill
7 S. West St.
Raleigh, NC

Sometimes “choice” is overrated.

If we’re talking about some “nanny state” politician telling me what size Big Gulp I can buy or whether or not I have to pay union dues, you better not infringe on my freedom to choose.

But at the same time, I can appreciate a certain amount of decisiveness – especially at a good place to eat.

When a restaurant owner presents a grocery store shelf worth of condiments to his customers, it doesn’t inspire much confidence in his food.

I mean, if a guy spends a life-time perfecting some basic culinary delight like a hot dog, he knows exactly how it should be eaten.

If you can manage to attain that elusive state of perfection, why deviate?

I guess that’s why I like this world famous hole-in-the-wall in Downtown Raleigh.

Decisive. Confident. Perfect.

NO cheese. NO mayo. NO kraut. NO relish. NO fries. NO chips. NO coffee. NO hot tea. NO iced tea. NO sweet tea. NO credit cards.

And absolutely NO KETCHUP!

That’s how the Roast Grill markets itself on its basic one-page web site.

How’s that for customer service?

Screw “have it your way.” If you don’t like it, go to Burger King.

But judging by the line to get into this place on a Thursday at 2pm, plenty of folks do like it.

Since 1940, the Charles family has been grilling modest-sized hot dogs at this tiny joint under a sign that says “HOT WEINERS.”

Apparently folks had much shorter legs 72 years ago.

About ten little bar stools with six inches of legroom and two tiny two-top tables crammed against the wall are the only accommodations in this six foot wide lunch room.

I’ve been more comfortable in the middle seat of an American Airlines 757.

But unlike a five hour transcontinental flight of torture, nobody minds the accommodations for the few minutes they spend downing hot dogs at the Roast Grill.

The service is a lot friendlier too.

Mr. Charles (the original owners’ son) and his grill man, George, offer up plenty of Southern hospitality.

They just want to keep their little enterprise simple and efficient.

Here are your limited choices: burnt, medium or light. (That’s doneness of your hot dogs.) And chili, slaw, onions or mustard.

To drink, you can have a Miller Lite. Or, if you are working -- like Suit757 -- an old-fashioned 8 oz glass bottle of Coke.

Cash only. 9% sales tax already included.

Simple. Efficient.

And delicious.

At the risk of getting too complicated, I decided to try three different combinations: burnt with chili, burnt with slaw and burnt with chili and slaw.

I wanted to sample the full spectrum of Roast Grill options.

The chili is from Mr. Charles parents’ 70 year old recipe.

Tangy and zesty, it is an excellent hot dog topper. The burnt skin of the dog adds a flavorful snap to each bite.

The slaw dog left something to be desired. The cole slaw just didn’t have much flavor. No sweetness. No vinegary tanginess. No mayonnaisey creaminess.

Just cabbagey crunch. Probably would have been better with some mustard.

But put the slaw and the chili together on top of the grill-darkened dog?

Now you’re talkin’!

The savory chili gets a nice textural crunch from the slaw. Hot dog, chili and cabbagey crunch in every bite. That’s Roast Grill perfection there!

It was so good, I ordered a fourth dog done exactly that way.

In fact, I left the Roast Grill wondering why they bother giving the customers any options at all.

Clearly, my configuration is the height of Roast Grill hot dog perfection.

And as a compulsive perfectionist, Suit757’s mantra is, “don’t mess with perfection.”

But don’t worry. I’m not going to make a federal issue out of it.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

Roast Grill on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Suit757 has just summarized what many of us have known, in my case for 30+ years, the best darn weiners around ...