by Whitley Adkins | photographs by Richard Israel
Built in the early 1930s, Ebenezer Grill, about a half-hour drive south of Charlotte in Rock Hill, S.C., is located in a small wooden house that was converted to a neighborhood store in the mid-1940s.
“The first business owners brought in a trailer and parked it out back, so they could live there while keeping an eye on the business,” says Loyd Ardrey, the grill’s current owner. Initially, Ardrey says, the store sold cold cuts, milk, bread, candy and ice, with two gasoline pumps out front. “There were six owners in total before me,” says Ardrey, who bought the business in 2003. “They sold a lot of hot dogs and sandwiches. Then, probably about 40 years ago, the owners made it more into a restaurant. It’s been like that ever since.”
The grill offers a traditional breakfast menu of omelets, pancakes, French toast and breakfast sandwiches. “And we’ve got great grits,” Ardrey adds. The lunch menu features hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecue and sandwiches, served with crinkle-cut French fries, onion rings and homemade coleslaw, along with daily specials. Ebenezer Grill used to be open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday. “But after Covid came along, we went to three days, and that’s still working for us,” Ardrey says. The cash-only restaurant (with an ATM in the back, just in case) is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Perhaps the best thing about this longstanding, beloved neighborhood gathering spot? “We’ve got customers from all across the board. Some customers are extremely wealthy, some are extremely poor, and we’ve got everything in between,” Ardrey says. “All people come in here, and we’re all good friends. … We try to know everyone’s names. We work at that. It’s a friendly environment — inexpensive, too.”
When I spoke with Ardrey over the phone on a recent Thursday morning, he was playing cards with two customers. “We’ll play a hand or two for breakfast. It’s quality time with special friends.”
When asked about the future of the Ebenezer Grill, which is situated in one of the fastest-growing counties in the region, Ardrey assures me the restaurant will be around for new generations to enjoy. “We’ve got a great crew — a caring, dedicated crew, and that’s the reason we’re successful. My manager, Taj, will eventually end up with the business. I don’t know when that’s going to happen, because I like being here a lot, but the future of Ebenezer Grill is secure, and we love new visitors and friends.” SP
Ebenezer Grill is located at 1525 Ebenezer Ave. in Rock Hill, S.C.