The Our State Great Debate: Smashburger or thick burger? A hand-lettered sign next to the sliding takeout window at Concord Grill offers fair warning: “We cook to order here. So
The Our State Great Debate: Smashburger or thick burger?
A hand-lettered sign next to the sliding takeout window at Concord Grill offers fair warning: “We cook to order here. So if you CAN NOT wait PATIENTLY do not place one. Thank you. Have a good day.”
There’s no indoor seating at this restaurant northwest of Roxboro in Person County, so folks can either wait in their cars or stand — patiently, of course — in the parking lot, which, on a nice day, turns into a town square. People swap news and tales while dodging cars and trucks as more customers arrive to order food or to duck into Twin’s Country Mart, a convenience store attached to the small building that houses the grill.
There’s talk about fixing a car’s chassis or hunting, and musings on how the workday’s going. Local politics are discussed in a corner next to the order window, beneath the plastic menu sign that informs diners, “All the way here is: mayo, lett, tom, pickles, onions, hot peppers, must, ketch.” You can run into just about anyone before they get their orders and leave, or you can claim a spot at one of two picnic tables in an adjacent grassy area.
Although Concord Grill has a Roxboro address, it’s located in an unincorporated community across Semora Road from Concord United Methodist Church. The steam towers of a Duke Energy power plant rise from the hills on the horizon. Matthew Kendrick, who’s waiting on his burger order, says that a lot of people who work at the power plant, which is about three miles away, visit the grill. It also draws folks on their way to boat or fish at Hyco Lake. “It’s good food, and you get your money’s worth,” says Kendrick, who works for a family business.
There’s no doubt that Concord Grill serves big, juicy burgers that drip with freshly melted cheese, but exactly how big are they? “I just grab a handful of meat and throw it on the grill. I just want to fill the bun up,” says owner Martha Dew, laughing at the very question of portion sizing. You don’t ask a lot of questions at the order window, because she’s a busy woman in a tiny kitchen, although she makes time to say quick hellos to regulars.
Dew doesn’t use frozen meat, and each patty is made Martha-size when you order, not before — hence the need for patience. “I don’t make the patties ’til I’m ready to cook them,” she says. The fries are fresh-cooked. The slaw and chili are homemade, too. And so are the biscuits; the grill is open from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m., six days a week, and it does a brisk breakfast business. All of this in a tight space that accommodates one fryer, one flat-top grill, and three people. Payment is cash only.
There’s nothing fancy here, but Dew is very particular about everything she prepares. “Something I do not like is cold food,” she says emphatically. “If I go out somewhere, and what I get is cold? I do not like that. It’s going to be hot food here.”
The lunch menu includes other items, too, such as hot dogs, wraps, grilled chicken sandwiches, and BLTs. But burgers are the draw, including the special Power Plant Burger in honor of the nearby facility. “It’s bigger than the cheeseburger, and it’s all the way plus bacon,” Dew says. “People fight over bacon here. We never stop cooking bacon, ever.”
Dew isn’t sure how long Concord Grill has been around, but she’s owned it for 20 years, and she worked here for six or seven years before that, when it was already an established community landmark. She’s been around the area long enough to know why the store that’s attached to the grill building (owned separately) is called Twin’s. The family that ran it for 32 years named it after their twin sons.
The grill’s tight-knit kitchen staff reflects the close community of which it’s a part, which comes together when folks need help, as Dew did in 2012. She had kidney cancer, and the two women who work for her kept the place going by themselves for six months. “Without them and my family, I couldn’t have handled it,” Dew says. “I didn’t know if I’d get to come back, but — woo-hoo! — I was so ready to come back.”
Back to the crowded kitchen and to her customers, who are everything to Dew. There’s the man who comes nearly daily, and if he misses a day, she gets concerned. And the folks who show off their cars in the parking lot while enjoying her burgers. Dew never knows whom she’s liable to see. “I have great customers,” she says. “You got to have some good food, and you got to love what you do. Doing this for the money is not going to work.”
5950 Semora Road
Roxboro, NC 27574
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