Lunch wasn't much to write home about, and she was picking at her plate pretty sadly. Sometimes the food at the nursing home is downright tasty, but usually it's mediocre and occasionally it's just awful.
This was a bad day.
Happily, I knew how to salvage the situation.
"Mom, I'm going on a Char-Grill run."
Just in case you've ever wondered, it *is* indeed possible for a blind person's eyes to light up.
Char-Grill is a Raleigh original, a holdover from the glory days of drive-ins. Located on a noisy stretch of Hillsborough Street about four blocks from the State Capitol, Char-Grill has Raleigh's finest young men cooking hamburgers behind huge plate glass windows. Drop off your handwritten order in a little slot and wait with the dozen or so hungry people whose ears perk up each time the loudspeakers crackle.Although it's been ten years since I've lived in Raleigh, I still have the preferred Char-Grill orders for my entire extended family memorized. Mom is a Hamburger Steak Jr., well done with "everything" (and please put some extra raw onions on top.) As noted above, this is "slow" fast food - you fill out your own order slip (click the graphic above right to see mine) and wait for your number to be called.
Back home in New York City, I live virtually next door to the restaurant that is widely considered to serve one of the best burgers in town - the Corner Bistro - and yet, I make a beeline for the Char-Grill every time I visit Raleigh. (Char-Grill and its unrelated brethren in other Sunbelt cities are *exactly* what Danny Meyer has patterned his Shake Shack burger after... the Shake Shack is a hybrid of a Midwestern custard stand and a Southern burger grill.)
How was it, you ask?
Do you even have to ask?