I'll never forget my first Greek grilled cheese. As an awkward teenager touring UNC-Chapel Hill's campus, I followed a pack of cool college kids up a rickety staircase on the corner of East Franklin and Henderson streets to Hector's. That sandwich as a concept seemed brilliant to me: grilled cheese mushed into a pita, dressed with the vegetables of my choice plus a heaping dose of tzatziki sauce (made thick, the right way). Little did I know I, and the rest of my college peers, would find it a genius after-party meal at 3 a.m. for many years to come.
Residents and students in Chapel Hill during the 1970s through early 2000s can attest to the greasy beauty of a double cheeseburger pita with a side of onion rings. Now, we can look forward to a reincarnation. The Thrill at Hector's (twitter.com/TheThrillCH) officially opens tomorrow as a bar at 157 E. Rosemary St. (beneath Bub O'Malley's), with a full kitchen slinging pita sandwiches to follow.
Hector's quickly became a beloved staple when the Galifianakis family opened it in 1969 (yep, relatives of comedian and N.C. native Zach Galifianakis). The snarky Hector's Rules T-shirt was as much of a best-seller as the sandwiches. Among the rules: "Unless you are sleeping with the help, no free food" and "The Gyro is seasoned lamb, not human thigh."
"Hector's was such an integral part of the campus. It was a fun place. We're just glad we can work it out and we can open it with, of course, the same menu," says Jim Paliouras, who bought the business in 1989 and ran it for the following 20 years. He now serves as the new spot's landlord and business advisor.
The Thrill at Hector's is owned by Kyle Heath (also owner of The Library and part-owner of Jack Sprat Cafe) and Scott Campbell. The kitchen will be run by Juan Bautista, who started running the kitchen with the Paliouras family in the '80s.
"It will be interesting to see what the new crop of freshmen think," Paliouras says.
"Everyone who's a senior right now, they don't even know what Hector's is all about," says Heath. "We're keeping the original menu. Only thing we might do is add chicken wings. We got the iron sign that was hanging out at the location on East End. Bringing back the tradition is pretty neat."
The official grand opening of the college bar is tomorrow at 9 p.m., complete with alcohol slushee machines. Heath says once all the permits are squared away, they'll begin serving lunch starting at 11 a.m. with a full menu until 10 p.m. when the bar opens. From then, most everything will be available to go until 3 a.m. or later. He encourages patrons to stay and eat on the large outdoor patio.
The Rathskeller, another Chapel Hill institution famous for its burgers and spaghetti specials, is slated to reopen this month, too. However, no one could be reached for official comment.
Speaking of bringing back traditions, learn how American craft brewers are reinterpreting the European legacy of intentionally soured beers at Sour-thon on Saturday, Aug. 20, noon–4 p.m. at Sam's Quik Shop (1605 Erwin Road, Durham, samsquikshop.com, 286-4110). Sample more than 20 sour beers from 15 breweries for $40 plus tax; tickets must be purchased in advance from Sam's.
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