Food & Drink

From beach burgers to eclectic eats

Lots of fathers pass along their burger-grilling secrets to their sons, but Rob Moll has raised the practice to an art form. Moll was a part-owner for 15 years of Sharky's, an Ocean Isle restaurant known for its "Bodacious Beach Burgers." Moll's son, Ross, began working in the restaurant when he was 11, and by the time he left home for college had filled every role from dishwasher to cook to waiter to bartender. Ross graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2005, and after working for a few years in restaurants in northern Virginia, has returned to Chapel Hill to open R&R Grill (137 E. Franklin St.; 240-4411; with his dad.

The father-and-son team has given the former Goldie's Grill space a $1 million-plus overhaul, installing a state-of-the-art kitchen and transforming the dining room into an inviting, casually contemporary space with mahogany woodwork and a well-stocked granite-topped bar. There are two bars, actually, one indoors and the other on the expansive covered patio.

The specialty, naturally, is burgers: a half pound of the Molls' special blend of filet, chuck and skirt steak, ground fresh daily and flame-grilled to order, then served on a brioche bun custom-baked for the restaurant by Guglhupf. The basic burger comes with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle and choice of cheese (blue, cheddar, fresh mozzarella, parmesan or goat cheese), with fries or kettle chips on the side. Burger variations include the R & R (with applewood-smoked bacon, barbecue sauce and crispy onions), sliders and a veggie burger.

The menu also offers an unusually varied assortment of sandwiches (chicken pesto, smoky tuna salad and pulled barbecued rib, to name a few), salads and flatbread pizzas. An eclectic entree offering ranges from grilled garlic-rubbed New York strip steak to Cajun salmon to Saint Louis-style ribs to seafood linguine. The Molls hope to expand the offering in the coming weeks.

The menu is still in flux at Westie's American Grille in Cary (1275 NW Maynard Road; 468-9494), too. Owners Marc and Mary Westerhorstman recently converted their Beef O'Brady's franchise to an independently owned restaurant, and they're still working out the details of the transition.

Freed of the restrictions of a franchise, the owners hope to improve quality in some areas while keeping the menu's focus on traditional American pub fare. Sandwiches now feature Boar's Head meats on locally baked bread, for instance, and create-your-own burgers are made with 1/4 pound or 1/3 pound of fresh ground beef.

One thing that won't change, according to Mary Westerhorstman, is that she'll still be making all the soups (including the popular spicy potato beef) and desserts herself. It's a safe bet, too, that the new Westie's will continue to have the same family-friendly atmosphere that made the old Beef O'Brady's a neighborhood favorite.