The doors of Blake’s Grill opened promptly at 7 a.m. Monday, and within the first hour, customers had already placed nearly sixty orders.
“We’ll make you a cheeseburger at 7:15 in the morning,” owner Blake Hawthorne assured a customer.
The old-fashioned joint will look familiar to many: it’s in the same space where Old Wimpy’s Grill operated for thirty-two years. The name reflects the new ownership by Hawthorne, who is known to many Durham residents as the purveyor of a beloved concessions stand in the parking lot of Lowe’s.
Hawthorne, who has run the concessions stand for eight years, said he will continue to operate it alongside Blake’s. He’s partnering with Alex Franson, a chef and Culinary Institute of America graduate, and former Wimpy’s cook James Dorman, on the new eatery.
Tim Wheeley, a regular of Old Wimpy’s for twenty-five years, showed up on opening morning and said he was very glad to see it reopened. Blake’s felt “very close” to its predecessor, he said, but added, holding up a take-out bag with two hot dogs in it, that he would withhold judgment until he tried his order.
Old Wimpy’s Grill closed in May of 2019 when Larry and Brenda Mishoe retired after three decades of serving up all-American eats, some of which had become the stuff of legends. In 2009, Man vs. Food host Adam Richman stopped by Wimpy’s to chow down on the menu’s star item, a greasy, hulking “garbage burger” piled with condiments that Our State once described as a “ground-beef boulder shot from a cannon.”
Hawthorne emphasized that, despite the name change and new ownership, things at the grill will feel familiar to regulars. The interior is still dotted with Coca-Cola signs and, on the menu, cathead drop biscuits, hot dogs, classic fatback, pinto beans, bratwurst sausage, and burgers are available between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day.
“We’re trying to keep the integrity of the menu the same, to pay respects to Larry,” he says.
And although a burger of the Garbage Burger’s particularly memorable name can’t technically grace the menu, Hawthorne says that a creative analog is on its way.
“We’re working on it. It’s coming soon,” he says. “Do you have any suggestions for a name?”
Contact associate arts and culture editor Sarah Edwards at email@example.com.
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