Editor’s note: Riccio’s Italian Restaurant was mistakenly included in the original version of this story. Riccio’s is still in operation, at 9213 Baybrook Lane.
You miss the Charlotte of lunch counters, fish camps and pizza joints. You miss the Charlotte of prom-night filet mignon and the days when a special date included dinner at the airport, when you could actually walk into an airport without a ticket.
When I put together a list of Charlotte’s oldest restaurants that are still in existence, I also asked: Which vanished restaurant do you miss the most? Names flooded in, with almost 80 restaurants making someone’s list. Not all of the favorites were old: Recent departures, like Blue and Greek Isles, turned up, too.
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Which one got the most shoutouts? First place was a tie: The Athens, a favorite hangout of late-night denizens that closed in 2006, and the Ranch House, the steakhouse on Wilkinson Boulevard that closed in 2011, shared the highest number of mentions.
Next on your lists: The Epicurean tied with the Knife and Fork, followed by Valentino’s, the “Continental cuisine” spot that was next to the Charlotte Coliseum on Independence Boulevard until 2002.
One big vote getter wasn’t actually a restaurant, it was a category: Lunch counters, from Woolworth’s and Belk’s uptown to Wad’s on East Boulevard, got special call-outs. An awful lot of you have the same favorite memory of going shopping with your mother or father and getting rewarded by perching on a stool to get a hot dog and a fountain drink (go, fresh-squeezed orangeade).
Patricia Thomas Pena, who now lives in Texas, sent a long list of places she remembers here, including the Woolworth and Eckerd’s lunch counters at Park Road Shopping Center.
“Eckerd’s had great vanilla Cokes I drank at the counter, and Woolworth’s had great combo lunches eaten in a booth. My mother always treated me to ice cream at the downtown Woolworth’s after every dentist appointment I had when I was little.”
William Newton was an enthusiastic supporter of the Epicurean.
“I first went there in 1971 with a date from Queens when I was a freshman at Davidson, and returned many times. While I did not marry my date, I did marry a Greek, who approved of their pastry appetizers.”
Here’s the list of places others named:
Anderson’s; Barclay’s Cafeteria; Bavarian Haus; Blue; Brown Derby; Cafe Eugene; Cafe Flavors; Casa Gallardo; Catherine’s; The Chateau; Coffee Cup; Copal Grill; The Cupboard; Dikadee’s Front Porch; Dino’s Pizza; The Dogwood Room at Charlotte Douglas Airport; The Drawbridge; The Drum; Dugan’s Lunch; Farrell’s Ice Cream in Eastland Mall; Flamingo Grill; Grady’s; Greek Isles; Gus’ 49er;
Hereford Barn; Herlocker’s Drive-In; Hideaway Inn; Hollywood Grill; Hotel Charlotte; Ho Toy; Kofinas; The Lamplighter; Lanny’s Deli; Las Ramblas; Lil’s Soul Food Cafe; Lineberger’s Fish Camp; Little Italy; Meadowview Steakhouse; Mangione’s; Manzetti’s Tavern; Nakato Japanese Steakhouse; Old Hickory House;Olde Original BBQ; Ol’ Smokehouse; The Oriental; The Peddler Steakhouse; The Pressbox;
Restaurant Tokyo; Rheinland Haus; Riverview Inn; Rogers Barbecue; Roma; Roney’s Lunch; Sam’s Deli; San Remo; S&W Cafeteria; Shakey’s Pizza; Silver Cricket; Spaghetti Warehouse; Stassino’s; The Steak Palace; The Stork; Swain’s Steakhouse; The Town House; Town & Country Drive-In; Venus; Victoria Station; Wad’s; White Horse.