Second Street Lunch

  • By Leah Hughes
  • Photography by Lissa Gotwals

If you stop in at Second Street Lunch in Roanoke Rapids, order your burger any way you want it — and pay no mind to owner Danny Haislip’s notorious attitude.


Editor’s Note: This story was first published in June 2011.

Last year, when Roanoke Rapids residents voted for the Scrooge of the Year, Danny Haislip won hands down. It wasn’t even a contest, really. If they do it again next year, he says, they need to get some competition.

But every day, people flock to Danny’s place — Second Street Lunch — the brick building on the corner of Hamilton and East Second streets, with the tinted windows and striped awnings. They understand the gruff 71-year-old seaman with a scratchy beard and gray hair. They know the rules.

They don’t wear UNC T-shirts; Danny’s a State fan. They don’t pay with plastic; Danny accepts only cash. They don’t need a menu; Danny recommends his hot dogs and burgers full-dressed.

Best in the valley

Second Street hasn’t changed since 1965, when Danny took over for his father, Bill, who started the restaurant in 1949. Danny buys fresh hamburger, anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds, every day from Elias’ Butcher Shoppe on 10th Street. He purchases 35 to 50 pounds of cabbage that he turns into six or seven gallons of sweet slaw. The thin, mild chili is made fresh every day. Last year, the local paper pronounced Second Street’s hot dogs and burgers the best in Roanoke Valley.

Brenda Williams knows the routine well. She’s been a waitress at Second Street for 34 years, since she was 17. She’s a waitress, but she also cooks, busses tables, and collects the money. All the waitresses do. They always have. That’s the way Danny likes it.
Brenda walks over to a table of regulars, notepad in hand, her blue apron already stained with chili and the lunch rush hasn’t even started. Along with their order, she discusses local Girl Scouts cookie sales and lets them know she helped a troop sell 32 boxes.

“I like it,” she says, beaming. “I like dealing with the public. I have the same customers that wait on me to take their orders. That makes you feel good.”

Brenda scurries behind the counter to prepare their food. She throws thin patties on the flattop grill. She beats them with the edge of the spatula — a rhythmic sound that echoes steadily throughout the building.

She stacks the burger on wax paper — steamed bun on the bottom, chili, burger, cheese, a big scoop of slaw, raw onions, mustard, steamed bun on the top — full-dressed.

Some patrons insist certain waitresses make the food different ways. One brave man even told Danny that his father made better burgers than he does. But you won’t convince Danny. “It’s just your taste buds,” he says.

Aiming to please

Danny’s father ran the business, and he could cook, but Danny got his culinary skills from his mom. “I would help mother cook Sunday lunch in order for me to hurry up and be able to get out of the house,” Danny says, “’cause I always wanted to be out and doing something else. But I enjoy cooking, especially when people eat it and act like they like what they’re eating.”

Yes, the Scrooge likes it when his customers are pleased. That’s one reason Second Street Lunch serves both Coke and Pepsi. Customers can order a fountain Pepsi in a plastic-foam cup or an 8-ounce Coke in a glass bottle. Whichever they think goes best with their burgers.

Danny has a ready answer every time the soft drink companies ask him to sign a contract. “I don’t let people dictate to me what I sell,” he says.

When the credit card company told him they could make his business more efficient, he had a quick response for them, too. They told him they’d have the money in his bank account within two days. “I’ll have my money in my hand before they leave,” he said.

Danny doesn’t like things to change, and neither does his son, Greg. That’s why Greg and his wife, Vickie, come down to Roanoke Rapids several times a week from their home in Richmond, Virginia. They’re learning the business, so they can take over for Danny when he retires.

“I’m just trying to get back home,” Greg says. “It started in 1949, and Granddaddy did it. Daddy did it. It’s just part of the family. No one else needs to be taking it over.”

Customers agree.

“When people come in here, and they’re talking about it, it’s like they’re coming home,” Vickie says. “It looks the same. It tastes the same.”

Tastes like home

Three ladies sit around a table sharing pictures and swapping stories. They remember Danny’s parents running the business. They talk about their days at Roanoke Rapids High School, just down the street, in the mid-1960s when the Key Club ordered food from Second Street as a treat for its members. They chat with Brenda, who knows their orders by heart — burgers, full-dressed.

“You really haven’t arrived anywhere if you haven’t been insulted by Danny,” Joan Perkinson says. “Everybody knows you just take it. It’s OK. His bark is worse than his bite, I guess.”

When the ladies know of someone who can’t make it to Second Street, they bring them hot dogs and hamburgers. Danny insists Second Street is an international business because he’s sent care packages to Italy and Germany.

Before Greg began making frequent trips, he encouraged anyone heading toward Roanoke Rapids to bring him back a care package.

It’s that familiar taste, that combination of chili and slaw, that just tastes like home.

“That’s what makes a lot of people around here prejudiced,” Danny says. “They grew up on it. And I understand that; I do.”

Beneath the shell

Although Danny displays a “Bah Humbug” plaque on his wall, he has a soft spot.

When he coached Greg’s baseball and football teams, he often picked up kids who had no ride to the ball field. In 1988, he took up shagging because it was something he and his wife, Ann, enjoyed doing together.

He insists he was nice in 1965, when he started. Years of opening a restaurant at 5:30 in the morning and going home every night exhausted and smelling like grease harden a man. So Danny has a shell; that’s how he gets through the days doing the same thing six days a week at Second Street Lunch.

But if you get to know Danny — like the locals who come in every day to order a burger full-dressed, the Roanoke Rapids alumni who hold their class reunions at the restaurant they remember, and the college students who stop by Second Street Lunch even before going home to see their parents — you understand that he only picks on the ones he likes.

Second Street Lunch
22 East Second Street
Roanoke Rapids, N.C. 27870
(252) 537-5635
Hours: Monday-Friday, 5:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 5:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Leah Hughes is the assistant editor of Our State magazine.

Our State

About Our State

Since 1933, Our State has shared stories about North Carolina with readers both in state and around the world. We celebrate the people and places that make this state great. From the mountains to the coast, we feature North Carolina travel, history, food, and beautiful scenic photography.
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32 Responses to Second Street Lunch

  1. Pingback: That’s My Burger and Barbeque: Southern Food Rocks! | I Love Working in Restaurants

  2. Susan Williams says:

    I grew up eating at 2nd Street and went back when in town once. I was honestly scared to eat there. Place needs to be remodeled or scrubbed down good. None of the staff seemed happy or glad to be there. Food didn’t taste as good as I anticipated. Guess back in the old days it was a treat to eat out and anything would have tasted good….even Hardee’s. It is pretty apparent that Danny is cheap. I will just ride by for nostalgia next time.

  3. Gloria Parnell Hoell says:

    I moved away from RR in 1966, but while living there we went. The food was always great. I live outside of Williamsburg now, but come back to RR about four times a year to visit family and friends. I never leave without going to Second Street at least once or twice while I am there. Everyone is correct about Danny though. He is not a nice person. I know the last time I went in there he was yelling across the room to one of the waitresses. I think I would have told him to go jump. He should not correct or yell at people the way he does in public or even in private. He could handle the problem a little different. This will eventually close the doors to Second Street Lunch. That would be a shame because it has always been the “in” place.

  4. Glenn Massey says:

    When I was a kid I was raised in the 200 block of Jefferson St. I would walk downtown to the Peoples theater every saturday for the matinee , but before I got there I would stop at the first 2nd St. Lunch . I can still close my eyes and see Mr Haslip with that little white hat behind the counter flipping burgers . Those were such carefree days back then . My wife and I stopped by 2nd St. today for some of those still great tasting burgers and dogs. Hopefully Danny’s son will keep the place open for years to come , but I do have a suggestion for him . He needs to run Danny’s evil looking self away from there . The whole time we were there today he was barking out orders to everone like they didn’t know what to do . Theirs a time and a place to fuss at the help and in front of the customers is not it. He would have a very bad bedside manner if he were a Dr. !

  5. Glenn Schlarman says:

    My mother was from RR (on Jackson Street, a few blocks from Second Street Lunch). Back in the 60s when we’d visit my grandparents (Roscoe & Charlsie Wrenn), we’d walk to the original location for hot dogs and hamburgers full-dressed. (As a little kid, I’d eat several of each)

    I’m 60ish now and have been back only few times over the years. But not only are they still the best (both the dogs and hamburgers), I’ve never had any like them anywhere. (I will say, my mother made a reasonably good counterfeit “skinny hamburger” and made them for my brother’s birthday every year until she passed away.)

    Let’s have a memory test here — As I said we always asked for the burgers to be full dressed but I am almost positive cheese was NOT included way back in the day. And, I do not recall having to ask for full dressed but no cheese. Anyone have any similar recollection?

    Regardless, I never did and never will have cheese on my Second Street Lunch hamburger ’cause it’s just not what I had as a kid and I think it would upset the balance of nature.

  6. Kenneth Kidd says:

    2nd street lunch hot dogs have been a part of my life since I was a kid. My grandmother Mattie Etheridge and granddaddy D.W. lived across the street from the restaurant on Hamilton. They bought a restaurant from Bill Haislip and moved it and owned the first 2nd Street restaurant before selling it back to Bill years later. My mom Betty Etheridge Kidd and my dad Roy would always take us across the street to get the chili slaw dogs everytime we went to see Granny. I have lived in California fror 32 years but I always make a point of going to Roanoke Rapids every time I go back east so I can get the hot dogs. I have the Granny’s chili and slaw recipes and will make the hot dogs at home for family and friends since I don’t get back east often enough. Everyone just raves about them. I grew up in Elizabeth City, NC and used to even drive to Roanoke Rapids (2 hour drive) to get some hot dogs and take them back to Elizabeth City for friends to taste. That’s how much I loved them and bragged about them. So happy to see 2nd Street will continue with Danny’s son at the helm. I look forward to meeting Gregg and Vickie the next time I take a trip home. Long live 2nd Street Lunch.

  7. Betty N. Bridgers says:

    Don’t get me wrong I really enjoy eating at 2nd St Lunch especially at Breakfast time,but when you got the management theretalking outloud real uproarly to the waitresses you got a problem. This happened the other morn when we were having breakfast there. One of the waitresses was eating at the counter and the management walked up to her and starting fussing at her and talking real loud at her. This really upset me knowing he was doing that in front of everyone. I think he needs to take the Dale Carnier course on how to talk to people. He acts like everyone is scared of him. He needs to treat his employees like he would like to be treated. Better idea just Retire and enjoy the rest of your life. How does these girls take all that crape I will never know !

  8. Grady Lee Neal Jr says:

    This was a great article and a great tribute to Second Street Lunch!!! I now live in Wisconsin and one of the things that I truly miss about Roanoke Rapids is Second Street Lunch and Getting to see Danny. The food is great and all the ladies working there make it a pleasure to dine there. Yea Danny may seem like the Scrooge, but he is really just a big teddy bear. Can’t wait to visit Roanoke Rapids again so I can take my fiance to Second Street and get her the best burger in town!!!

  9. Debbie Wrenn says:

    This is a great tribute to Second Street Lunch…I could taste those hamburgers and hotdogs just reading the descriptions! I live in Cary but every time I go home to Roanoke Rapids, eating at Second Street Lunch is a must!

  10. Katheryn Lewis says:

    Danny has done a great job with keeping his family tradition going. Knowing Greg is going to take over is comforting. His Mom and Dad were top-flight in-laws!

  11. Rob Martin says:

    The burgers and hotdogs at Second Street were always the best. I can remember coming into to town on a Friday evening for a weekend visit at grandmas and the first place we’d stop was Second Street for a hotdog and an Orange Crush! You never forget things like that as a kid. I had lots of great memories there as a RRHS-er too. I hope it’s around for years to come!

  12. Edna Langston Garlow says:

    What memories! I remember the original location! The hotdogs were my favorite! Still have not found one as good. A trip to Roanoke Rapids means a lunch at Second Street!

    • Catherine Heustess Smith says:

      I, too, remember the original location of 2nd Street (right across street from current location). Edna L. Garlow is right – a trip to RR means a lunch at 2nd Street!!! Dickey and I have taken our children there many times on visits back home. I have often taken a tupperware container and bought a quart of the chili to bring back home – best chili around!!

  13. Tracy King Spragins says:

    I’ve lived near Raleigh for almost 25 years and can’t find a hot dog as good ole 2nd Street Lunch! It’s exciting to hear that Greg will be taking over the business.

  14. Ken Medlin says:

    Love it! Second street was made famous by “Second street”. I remember when the restaurant was a tiny hole in the wall on the opposite side of their current location. I think it may have been even better then. Even though I’ve been in Fla for over 30 years, each time we vist the double R, Second street lunch is a must do!!

  15. Chuck Kennemur says:

    Back in 1964 and 65 the Key Club would talk Joe Parker into letting one of us go to 2 St and get lunch for everybody for our regular meeting . That was a great change from the cafeteria .It was really special and a memory that brings back thoughts of Chuck Wills, Bob Williams and Joey Page. They could eats some hot dogs.

  16. Tony Gowen says:

    I grew up eating at 2nd St. Lunch and remember the first location next to the original Daily Hearld in downtown Roanoke Raipds. Bill Haslip would make their delicious flat hamburgers by rolling them out with a large water glass on wax paper. Bon Appetite! Tony Gowen, Lynchburg Va.

  17. Becky Mahaffey Hux says:

    Although I know live in Chester, VA, Second Street Lunch is my first stop when I go “home” to the RR City. NOBODY can make hamburgers and hotdogs like Danny. In fact in Virginia they don’t know how to make them. Here all you get is mustard and maybe chili or relish. NO Way is that a real hotdog or hamburger. My daughter boyfriend went home with us one week end and had never had cole slaw on a hamburger. He did that day and fell in love. Everytime we went back he wanted to go just for the hamburgers. Nothing beats going “HOME” especially to good food like they serve at Second Street. I hope and pray it NEVER closes. Roanoke Rapids would not be the same ! ! ! !

  18. Ann Martin says:

    I always enjoyed the thin hamburger patties at Second Street. Got to have chili and slaw, too. I am not a full-dressed fan. I think the article was great and appreciate our special place being featured in the magazine.

  19. Deborah Wright Lyttle says:

    I grew up in Roanoke Rapids and The Haislips were our next door neighbors. And they were always good neighbors. I do remember eating at 2nd Street – a lot! My favorite was the Pizza Burger… can’t find anyone that makes them like 2nd street. Oh how I wish I had one now! With fries, of course! My Mom and Dad would always get the hot dogs. I am glad to hear that Greg is going to carry on the tradition!

  20. Linda Whitfield Silfee says:

    I am truly delighted to see this article in your magazine! I have so many fond memories of this wonderful place, as I grew up in Roanoke Rapids and now live in Maryland. Second Street Lunch has been a part of my life as long as I can remember! I confess that I am personally one of those many college students who “just had to stop by Second Street” to get my cheeseburger-fix before going home to my parents! They have long been gone, but whenever I pay a visit to my brother, friends, or for a function in town (i.e. class reunion), I ALWAYS make Second Street Lunch the first place I stop in Roanoke Rapids…and during my stay…and, again, before I leave town! With shameful pride, I confess that my personal record at one sitting is eating 6 cheeseburgers; and of course, they have to be full-dressed with a dash of Texas Pete hot sauce, too! (When you get to visit only once in a while because you happen to live out-of-state, you have to make up for lost time, right?!!) When anyone from Roanoke Rapids comes to visit me in Maryland, I beg for them to PLEASE bring me some cheeseburgers! I’m also bringing in my husband and 3 grown sons every chance I get when we visit, too! …Just sign me, A Fanatically Devoted Fan…for life!

  21. I was just visiting with a high school friend this weekend (Tim Hux and his wife Judi) and 2nd St was one of the first things we talked about. You just can’t mention Roanoke Rapids without mentioning a hamburger from 2nd St… or the smell of my hometown! Burgers just don’t get any better than this. And I’m so happy to know that Greg will be back home to take over. The RRHS baseball player who’s picture faded years ago will be a welcome sight! Looking forward to seeing if you’re as handsome as you were in school Greg! One last thing- I think I despise a ringing telephone due to Danny. I never knew why people would call during lunch. Everyone knew he wasn’t going to answer!

  22. Kevin Manning says:

    Yeah the person responsible for this article hit the nail on the head and drove it home. Danny will more than likely win Scrooge of the year forever, there is no competition for him. Just like there is no competition for Second Street Lunch Best Hotdogs and Hamburgers in town, best service in town, til you get to the register, That is when Danny is there… But like the rest of the Roanoke Valley I know his bark is much worse than his bite…..

  23. Gary says:

    This article is highly accurate. I’ve always enjoyed when Danny would wait on you…he would walk up to you, pencil and pad in hand, and just stare at you like “you know i ain’t saying nothing to be friendly; just spit out what you want”….But the food and atmosphere is great…I would have to play scrooge myself for a bit…2nd Street has the best cheeseburgers in town but only the 2nd best hot dogs in town; that honor goes to Brownings.

  24. Ross (Barnett) Oglesbee says:

    Second Street is great – once you try it, no other hamburger or hotdog will satisfy that 2nd street craving. I remember years ago when Danny was complaining that his son would not get a haircut and said something along the lines of: “As long as he lives in my house, he’s going to cut his hair!” I asked Danny how old his son was and Danny said: “Three”. Love it!

  25. Greg Daughtry says:

    This is the BEST!!! Second Street Lunch was my all time favorite place to eat!! Even better were the memories forged around the faux marble mint green tables at lunch with my RRHS friends. Also, I can still remember one Friday evening when the place was PACKED and the phone was ringing, and ringing and ringing. Finally Dwight Berry answered the phone and took customer’s order. Now THAT was funny!!! Thanks Danny for the awesome food and for watching out for us kids on Briarcliff Circle.

  26. Chuck Wills says:

    Grew up in RR and probably had hundreds of burgers and dogs full dressed at the original location and served by Mr Haislip . Left in ’66 to go off to college in Va. and still consider those dogs and burgers the best ever . You don’t forget what’s good .

  27. Teri Noel Towe says:

    My father spent much of his youth in Roanoke Rapids, and several of my favorite relatives still live there. A trip to Roanoke Rapids is incomplete without a couple of visits to Second Street for burgers full dressed. They are both incomparable and unsurpassable.

    And I have prevailed upon friends driving North on I-95 to make a detour and bring me a care package!

  28. Susan Grizzard Thompson says:

    My grandparents lived 2 blocks from Second Street Lunch. When the Hux clan was hungry back in the 50’s and 60’s they would send us kids to pick up 30 hot dogs full dressed. The folks at Second Street lunch never missed a beat. Our order was ready in just a few minutes. Best hot dogs and hamburgers anywhere!

  29. Marcia Allsbrook-Royal says:

    This is a great tribulte to 2nd Street Lunch, the place where everyone who comes “home” to Roanoke Rapids flocks. Yes, Danny is a bah-humbug, so true, but everyone still loves to go to 2nd St. Its nostalgic and comforting, like holding on to a piece of the past. Many memories and great eating there!!!!

  30. This articule hit the nail right on the head….and its 100% correct…EVERY single time we return to Roanoke Rapids (we live in Gulf Breeze FL) which is 4 times a year the very 1st thing we do is run to Second Street for a hot dog and hamburger (full dressed). There is no other resturant in the world like Second Street and I have traveled the US extensively being military for 20 years..NO WHERE can compare to this place… As for the OLE GRUFF..he’s NOT that bad…..Thanks for featuring OUR SECOND STREET…..

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