Where Highbrow Meets Biscuits & Grits -- Raleigh has its share of posh cosmopolitan dining spots, but a defiantly down-home restaurant in the City Market is still packing 'em in. Big Ed's City Market Restaurant, 229 Wolfe St. (tel. 919/836-9909), remains stubbornly old-fashioned despite the encroaching gentrification that surrounds it. Its allegiance to old-time country tradition has endeared it to hundreds of local residents, who crowd in every day for much more than just breakfast and lunch: Some social commentators have likened this place to a deep cultural immersion into Hillbilly Chic. Breakfast platters cost $4 to $8 each and come with grits and red-eyed peas flavored with ham hocks. Main courses at lunch cost $8.20 to $11. Don't even think of showing up here on a Sunday or after 2pm. The folksy-looking dining room evokes a cross between a church bazaar and a grange, all of it layered with nostalgic mementos from the rural South of old. It's open Monday to Friday 7am to 2pm and Saturday 7am until noon. No credit cards are accepted.
The Most Historic Hot Dog in North Carolina -- The most famous hot dogs in North Carolina are dispensed from one of the state's smallest storefronts, and if you weren't seeking it out, you might simply pass it by. The Roast Grill was established in 1940 by members of the Salikis family, who had just arrived in Raleigh as new immigrants from Greece. During its tenure at this address, the Roast Grill's hot dogs have been sampled by every politician in North Carolina, including formidable right-winger Jesse Helms, whose picture and written thank-you letter join several such pieces of nostalgia decorating the grill walls. Today the likable owner is George Poniros, grandson of the founders, who, like his forebears, imports his hot dogs from Michigan, serves them on thin sheets of waxed paper, and outlaws ketchup as antithetical to the proper flavor of the hot dog. (Chili, mustard, and cheese sauce are still well-accepted garnishes, however.) Hot dogs cost $2 each. No other food items are served, with the exception of desserts, priced at $1.35 to $2.50 each. The joint contains only two or three tiny tables, plus a half-dozen seats at the luncheonette-style countertop. The Roast Grill is located at 7 S. West St., Raleigh (tel. 919/832-8292; www.roastgrill.com). It's open Monday to Saturday 11am to 4pm and accepts cash only.
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