For years, Ann Medlin had a $50 gift certificate to Winston’s Restaurant tucked away in one of her purses.
Medlin, 77, of Raleigh, always planned to use the gift certificate for a special occasion. But as it does, life got in the way.
Her fiance got sick. Her mother got sick. Medlin was busy helping a niece who has nine children.
Every time Medlin would drive down Falls of Neuse Road past the North Raleigh restaurant, she said she would think: “I’ve got to go to Winston’s.”
Then her fiance died last year. And a close friend of hers from Westminster Presbyterian Church, lost her husband. Finally, two weekends ago, Medlin decided it would be a nice treat to take that friend, Justine Piper, to Winston’s Grille. And of course, she used the $50 gift certificate, handwritten on white paper, tucked inside an envelope.
“I haven’t seen one of those in forever – forever,” said Winston’s Grille owner Wil O’Neal. “I was just floored.”
Nowadays, few restaurants last as long as Winston’s, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in October. Restaurants close. Owners change concepts or move onto other projects.
Even Winston’s changed course in its early days. The restaurant’s first iteration was as Winston’s Restaurant, which is what is actually listed on Medlin’s gift certificate and gives a clue to its age. O’Neal opened it with Charles Winston Jr., whose father opened the Angus Barn in 1960 with Thad Eure Jr. Winston’s Restaurant was a white-tablecloth, fine-dining restaurant when it opened in 1986. Three years later, O’Neal and Winston could see the trend in restaurants going more casual so they changed the restaurant to Winston’s Grille.
Almost 30 years is a pretty long run. O’Neal attributes their success to two factors. First is the dining experience. “We’re not foodie. We’re everyday food,” O’Neal said. “We try to offer great service and great food at great prices.” Second is the staff. Several employees have been with the restaurant since the 1980s. On Tuesday, O’Neal said they celebrated Dave Nichols’ 21 years of service as their maintenance guy.
About her recent experience, Medlin said, “It was just a lovely evening.”
Winston’s Grille is at 6401 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh. Info: 919-790-0700, winstonsgrille.com