I'd heard about some weenie who stole the hot dog sign in front of Ebenezer Grill in Rock Hill. In fact, the story grabbed the national spotlight. Still, I'd never been to this "culture icon," as a friend put it, for those good ol' American hot dogs. Sometimes, just as I get a craving for burgers, I crave sinking my teeth into a good hot dog.
As we pulled into the place off busy Ebenezer Road, we were transported from the city bustle to the country sticks. There's lots of parking in the back behind, behind the house and mobile home, yet still, it was packed this lunch time. (It packs out daily so consider getting there early or later if you're in a hurry.) Walking into the little house-style grill, you're greeted with the smell of dogs, Rock Hill memorabilia from newspaper stories on the wall to Winthrop banners, and friendly staff ready to serve.
I searched the menu for their award-winning hot dogs, naturally. One dog costs $1.83, a footlong all the way with slaw, chili and the works costs $3.25, while two hot dogs with fries runs $4.49. There's also vegetable soup and a hot dog for $5. I went with the two-dog meal so I could try the chili and then one plain with just ketchup, the way I used to eat 'em as a kid.
My friend, of course ordered a hot dog, too, but decided to try something else off the menu. This famous hot dog place also has burgers (recommended by the waitress) from $3.60 to $5, sandwiches from $2.49 for a toasted pimento cheese to barbecue for $4.25 and clubs, bologna, tuna salad and more for $3.59 to $6.25. There's also another favorite -- soups and grilled cheese combo, available in take-out, too. My friend ordered the chicken salad plate (at the waitress' recommendation) served on a bed of lettuce for $5.50 off the "Light Menu," which offers an array of salad options. (FYI: They accept cash and checks only.)
As we waited for our meal, I took in the decor and saw one of the coolest items I've seen on a wall in a restaurant, maybe ever: marker marks run up two doorway panels with children's names, ages and heights. Now, that puts the "home" in hometown. Cooler yet, we watched a small child get to make his mark on the wall. It made me think of my childhood and my dad, who loved hot dogs. I always thought it was a little silly that his favorite food was the hot dog. I mean, come on, a hot dog, your favorite, really?
While the hot dogs aren't longer than the bun, like I usually like, I enjoyed the juicy chili and just a plain ol' dog wrapped in soft buns. There's something about the way they make 'em that you can't recreate at home or find anywhere else but at a diner.
As we enjoyed our lunch, I couldn't help but think about how wonderful a hot dog really is. I mean, it's what I like off the grill on July 4 or around a campfire; it's what I like about going to the city, getting a hot dog off a street vendor; it's what I get at sports games like watching the Knights or Checkers; and it's dog diners like Ebenezer that were really the only places we went out to eat as a family when I was kid.
So the hot dog isn't just something we eat, it should hang on the wall as an American icon. And since the owners and staff are so hospitable, it's no wonder Ebenezer Grill continues to make its mark as the "culture icon" wall of not just the city of Rock Hill, but York County.
Catherine Muccigrosso, Lake Wylie Pilot editor
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; breakfast served until 10:30 a.m.
Phone: (803) 327-6700
Ambiance: Hometown friendly American cuisine
FOR RESTAURANT INSPECTION RATINGS: Visit mecklenburg.digitalhealthdepartment.com to find out about Mecklenburg County restaurants. Visit heraldonline.com and click on the top left "Restaurant Inspections" link to see DHEC scores.