Cheap Eats: Old-school burger joints

July 26, 2012 

Don’t get me wrong. I love those fat, juicy gourmet burgers that are all the rage as much as the next person. But there are times when only an old-school burger will do.

Any of these joints can scratch that itch.

Barry’s Café

2851 Jones Franklin Road, Raleigh


In a nutshell: Friendly wait staff and walls covered with firefighter memorabilia set the mood for classic diner-style burgers, available in three sizes: Papa, Mama and Baby. The five-ounce Mama burger is just right, with a side of onion rings and an old-fashioned milkshake.


107 N. Columbia St., Chapel Hill


In a nutshell: OK, the list of topping options – everything from avocado to wasabi mayo – flirts with gourmet. You can even get a turkey burger or veggie burger. Stick with the hand-patted Angus chuck, though, and keep the toppings classic, and you’ve got a burger that can hold its own with the best of the old-timers.


Multiple Triangle locations

See website for addresses and phone numbers

In a nutshell: The original Char-Grill opened in 1959 on Hillsborough Street, and a visit to any location is still a trip down memory lane – from the order form that you fill out with a pencil and slip through a slot to the guy in the retro paper cook’s hat who flame-grills your burger to the crinkle-cut fries served up on a sheet of foil. Not all Char-Grills offer indoor seating, so you may find yourself traveling all the way back to the restaurant’s early days, eating in your car.


1520 E. 11th St., Siler City

In a nutshell: Johnson’s is at least a half-hour drive from the Triangle, and it’s only open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays – and it closes earlier if they run out of burgers. You’ll search in vain for a website or phone number, so your best bet is to get there early. Even so, chances are you’ll stand in line to place an order. One bite of beefy goodness dripping with molten Velveeta, though, and you’ll know why people have found it worth all the trouble since 1948.

MoJoe’s Burger Joint

620 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh


In a nutshell: Burned out and bleary-eyed from trendy noshing and barhopping along Glenwood South? Relief is just up the street, in the modest building with an awning-covered patio at number 620. Get the Classic Big Moe, and call it a night.

Wimpy’s Grill

617 Hicks St., Durham


In a nutshell: Just think of the grease stains on the paper bag your burger and fries come in at this hole-in-the-wall takeout joint as a seal of old-school burger authenticity. Schedule your visit for a weekday (they’re only open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays) and bring cash (that’s all they take). Oh, and grab plenty of napkins. You’ll need them.

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