Charlotte’s Classic Dishes
While new restaurants are opening every day in Charlotte, it’s easy to overlook the old standbys, the places that have grown up next to the Queen City. Our Charlotte’s Classic Eats series shines a light on places you’ve frequented for years, reminding us why they’ve stood the test of time.
“Best Southern Cooking”, “Best Meat n’ Three” and other prizes hang above the register as you enter Gus’ Sir Beef. It’s the kind of restaurant – devoid of any glamor or glitz – that you can feel has a lot of stories to tell.
Some of the stories are easy to swallow – Andre the Giant ducking on the way in, Jim Bakker holding the first PTL Club meeting in a corner booth, and famous wrestlers Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat sharing a meal before a match of Uptown wrestling.
Others are harder to believe – Elizabeth Taylor really eat a whole chicken on her own?
For every celebrity story, however, Sir Beef de Gus produced ten stories for everyday Charlotteans. The late Gus Bacogeorge immigrated to the United States from Greece in 1953, bought Johnny’s Grill in 1957, and opened his namesake restaurant in 1969.
Regulars — many of whom have been eating at Gus’ for years — share stories with Gus’ son, Thrace Bacogeorge, who took over the restaurant in 2000.
“They talk about my dad wearing them on his back to get banana pudding. Or about Hot Wheels and the dolls we used to give to kids,” Thrace told CharlotteFive. “We had a lot of really cool moments.” Thrace, who grew up in a house behind the restaurant and hosted his pee wee football team at the restaurant for pizza, enjoyed a front row seat to many of them.
Gus purchased Johnny’s Grill from the Couchell family (of Showmars fame) in 1957. When the City of Charlotte purchased this property in 1967 to expand Monroe Road, Gus decided to open another restaurant, this one bearing his name.
“Sir is kind of a sirloin game,” Thrace said. “Also, being an immigrant, ‘sir’ carried with him a sense of respect. Dad wanted another word between Gus’ and Beef so people knew it wasn’t just another steakhouse – so it became Gus’ Sir Beef.
Since its inception, the restaurant has satisfied Southern appetites by offering entrees accompanied by a wide array of vegetables – collard greens, green beans, fried squash, applesauce and corn among them. However, Gus wanted to offer healthy versions of these dishes, so he chose never to use fat or MSG.
Going further, Gus bought a farm in 1972 to grow many of the vegetables served at his restaurant. “We were really the first farm-to-table restaurant in Charlotte,” Thrace said. Gus’ Sir Beef still gets lots of its vegetables from local farms, and many dishes are homemade, including some of the higher-calorie options like banana pudding and potato salad.
Country cuisine and warm service
Talk with Thrace for a while and he’ll probably mention his father’s work ethic. Spend time in a restaurant and it’s obvious that the work ethic hasn’t skipped a generation. “Okay, more spaghetti. Have you done the salads? We need more green beans too,” he shouted from the kitchen during a recent lunch rush.
Thrace added a few items to the menu, but they had so many vegetables to start with that he mostly added main courses. Fried pork chops and kielbasa with onions and pepper are among its most successful additions.
“A lot of Greeks ended up in restaurants, and we knew we had to serve what people wanted. So we have a little Italian section on our menu, some Mediterranean options, and a lot of American food,” he said. declared.
Gus’ Sir Beef has seen its fair share of changes over the years – from different locations to various menu items. “We were one of the first pizzerias in town, before it became so popular and chains appeared,” Thrace said. “We kept the spaghetti, but skipped the pizza – the cost was prohibitive.”
More importantly, Gus’ Sir Beef has retained what works. Beef tips, fried squash and collard greens have remained top sellers since the restaurant opened. Country cuisine, warm service and regulars keep the business alive.
“We always have newcomers,” Thrace said. “But it was our regulars who kept us going during COVID – and they’ve been great ever since.”
Like other classic Charlotte restaurants, Gus’ Sir Beef welcomes newcomers and would like to attract more regulars. If you visit – be sure to try the fried squash – it is world famous after all.
Sir Beef by Gus
Location: 4101 Monroe Road, Charlotte, NC 28205
Food: Comfort Food, Southern
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 11am-8pm
To order: Dine in or call 704-377-3210 for takeout.
This story was originally published April 4, 2022 06:00.