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Gus' Sir Beef Food Review: Celebrating a Charlotte Legend

Updated: Mar 1




Our Foodie Review this month is a bit unusual as you will not be able to eat there.  But when I discovered that this landmark establishment recently closed its doors, I decided that I had to write a tribute.  


Background

Gus’ Sir Beef was established in 1968 by Constantine “Gus” Bacogeorge.  Born in Greece, Gus was part of a wave of Greeks who immigrated to the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  He first lived in New York then Washington DC before finally settling in Charlotte.  Charlotte was experiencing significant growth during that period nearly doubling its population from 1950-1970.  Like many Greeks who immigrated, Gus went to work washing dishes in the  kitchen of a restaurant named Johnny’s.  It was a popular steak place located at the corner of Wendover and Monroe Roads and was owned by fellow Greek, John Couchell.    John’s son, George, later went on to start the successful local chain called Showmars - a must try if you have not already.  So Gus pays close attention to the way that Mr. Couchell ran his restaurant.  Gus saved his money, and in 1957, when Mr. Couchell decided to sell, Gus was there ready to buy it.  He ran Johnny’s until it was partially destroyed by a fire.


At the time, the city was planning to widen Monroe Road which was going to make rebuilding the restaurant difficult. So, Gus bought the lot across the street from it.  Naming the new restaurant Gus’ Sir Beef, it initially served a similar menu to Johnny’s.  A few years later, a long-time Johnny’s customer suggested that there was an unmet demand for a restaurant that served Southern-style fresh vegetables with no seasoning from meat or meat drippings.  So Gus decided to give that a try with fresh vegetables that he would purchase at local farms.   


Later, Gus purchased 18 acres in East Charlotte near Idlewild and Sam Newell Roads and there he started growing some of his own produce to serve in the restaurant.  There was a code on the menu that would indicate the origin of a vegetable dish.  “Fresh My Farm” meant that it came from Gus’ farm, “Local Fresh” indicated something grown by a local farmer, and “Farm Fresh” meant that it came from a farm outside of the Charlotte area - usually in  South Carolina.  Gus was adamant about serving only fresh vegetables.  The only exception were the canned beets, since he thought that they took a marinade better.


Like many Greek-owned diners, Gus’ menu was quite extensive from the fresh vegetables, hamburger steak, fried chicken, to Italian dishes such as chicken or veal parmesan and pizza. Surprisingly, their pizza was quite good.


(Gus and his Grandson)

Our Menu Favorites


Growing up in Charlotte, my dad and mom would take my brother, Jake, and me to Gus’ frequently. It was part of a rotation that also included Morrison’s Cafeteria in Southpark Mall (before it was largely a collection of luxury stores, Dino’s Pizza (also on Monroe Rd), and The Diamond in what is now called Plaza Midwood.  At that point, my dad was a spendthrift.  So when we ate out, it was almost never anywhere nicer than a diner.   But my brother and I didn’t know any better.  For a long time, the waitresses (that’s what they were called then) wore matching pink uniforms with name tags.  We knew them all, and they knew us.   We got to know Gus and his wife as well.  If he could slip away from the kitchen, Gus would circulate to see how his customers liked their meals.  


Dad would usually get a vegetable plate. My mom really only liked the fried chicken which was the Wednesday special.  So if we went on another night, it was just Dad, Jake, and me.  My go-to was usually the hamburger steak with mashed potatoes and fried squash though occasionally, Jake and I would split a pizza.  The squash is still the best that I have ever had.  


Gus would never share his recipe with anyone, and his son, Thrace, who later ran the restaurant, had to sign a contract with his dad to never divulge the recipe as well.   


Dad usually came straight from work, and Mom would bring Jake and me.  On most occasions, Jake and I would split up on the ride home.  And then Mom and Dad would “race” home.  Jake and I kept tabs on who won each time.  


In later years, while the food remained consistent and delicious the facilities became run down - to be kind.  When driving down Wendover-Eastway, the building began to look like it had been condemned and remained like that until the restaurant closed.  However, Dad still loved the place.  He would almost always say “yes” if I suggested that the two of us go to dinner there. 


I so wish that we could go there for dinner once more.  For a hamburger steak with mashed potatoes and some fried squash like I had been getting for almost 50 years. (picture below)




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