New Char-Grill carries on N.C. tradition of great burgers
by Staff Writer
DAVIDSON – Walking into the new Char-Grill restaurant at 624 Jetton St. is a trip to the past.
Davidson’s new restaurant is more than just another high-end burger chain, co-owner Austin Green said. It’s part of a tradition.
For more than 50 years, Char-Grill burgers have been a staple for N.C. State University students, fueling countless study sessions from the original location on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh.
That’s where manager J.J. Roberson said he “fell in love” with the brand.
“I started at Char-Grill in ’88 as a freshman at N.C. State,” he said.
He worked his way up the chain and now has a lot more responsibility. But he still loves serving up burgers and nostalgia.
“We have people walk in daily and say they’re so happy we’re here,” Roberson said.
The Davidson restaurant has stayed busy since it opened on April 19, he said.
The new location is the ninth Char-Grill restaurant, and the first in the Charlotte metro area. Most of the others are located in the Triangle area.
Though it’s small compared to other top-end burger chains, the Raleigh-based restaurant is gaining national recognition.
USA Today recently named Char-Grill’s signature Hamburger Steak Sandwich the best burger in North Carolina.
Char-Grill has a massive following in the Lake Norman area, Green said, partly because many of those N.C. State students and Raleigh natives work nearby.
Though Char-Grill is a franchise, expansion has been a slow, deliberate process, Green said.
The restaurant employs 22 people. Some were trained at other locations before the Davidson store opened, Green said. The owners wanted to give staff enough time to perfect their cooking technique.
The ownership team also put a lot of thought into location. “We probably looked at 35 sites before we came to this one,” Green said.
Being a half-mile from Davidson College and close to other schools, churches and shopping destinations has helped keep Char-Grill busy.
The restaurant has a college-town atmosphere, with pictures of the Raleigh location on the walls and classic diner décor.
“It’s cool to see all the other college students coming in here,” Jordan Hunter said. He’s a Davidson resident and a Belmont Abbey College student, working at Char-Grill this summer.
In addition to burgers, hot dogs, fries and milkshakes, Char-Grill Davidson also serves up grilled-chicken sandwiches, salads and chicken tenders.
It’s a far cry from the classic drive-in scene in Raleigh, but it’s a welcome treat for hard-core fans.
Since the restaurant opened in April, Green said, customers have come from as far away as Hickory.
Others drive in from Statesville, Ballantyne and elsewhere to pick up lunch or dinner, he said.
Roberson said he’s heard the same stories.
“Someone says, ‘We drove from Weddington just to come to Char-Grill,’” Roberson said. “I’m not even sure where Weddington is.”
The national recognition that Char-Grill is getting, beating out national brands to be named best burger, has been huge, Green said.
“We’ve got tons of people constantly begging us, ‘Put a store in Charlotte so we don’t have to drive as far,’” Green said.
Though there’s no timeframe for expanding, the Davidson Char-Grill is sure to be the first of several new locations, Green said.
“We want to make sure we cross the t’s and dot the i’s before we expand,” Green said.
Find more information about the new Char-Grill location at its website, www.chargrilldavidson.com.