The Rat. I went there for the first time with my dad, probably in the mid '60s. We came over for a game. It was a lot of fun. Everybody would go there, it was very popular. They had some pretty good things to eat. They had a rare roast beef sandwich that was kind of famous, I think it was $1.10, which was a lot of money at the time. This was a time when you could get a hamburger for 20 cents.

People would just go, and maybe it was because there were multiple rooms and it just seemed kind of exotic, maybe it was 'cause the wait staff was unchanged. They were kind of characters, and that also gave it a bit of a charm.

So it was kind of exotic and cool and had all these different rooms. I remember going on dates in the Rat now and then, you'd go and you'd get lasagna or they had this thing called a Gambler's Special. The pot lasagna. Then you'd have the rare roast beef sandwich. There were three or four things they were known for. Pizza, they had pretty good pizza.

People would just go, and maybe it was because there were multiple rooms and it just seemed kind of exotic, maybe it was 'cause the wait staff was unchanged. There was this group of guys, I believe all of them African American, every one of them had been there a long time. They weren't obsequious; they weren't trying to make you feel like it was really special. They just came up to you and said "What do you want?" and you'd tell them and they'd go get it and they'd bring it back. They were very efficient, very fast, but they weren't fawning all over you and everything. They were very good. They were kind of characters, and that also gave it a bit of a charm.

Steve Allred

I always liked to go to the Zoom Zoom, which had the same food as the Rathskella. It was also owned by the Danzingers, but was upstairs. I always had a little phobia that there would be a fire in the Rat and nobody could get out because there's only one way in and out and that was at the front door. If you've got a fire in the kitchen, half the restaurant wouldn't be able to get out.

Bob Epting

The Rathskeller was certainly a favorite whenever we'd be hanging out on Franklin Street on Friday or Saturday night. We'd go in there, a group of six or eight of us and sit at a big booth that used to be up under the sidewalk and we would order one glass of tea with the free refills and one order of French fries and six or eight of us would sit there and eat one basket of fries and drink one glass of tea. And they never did throw us out; I mean, they were good hearted about it; so that was a favorite place.

There was one time when we went in during exams at Chapel Hill High. We actually were allowed to go off campus to eat lunch during the exam periods. And we went down and had lunch down there one time and we ordered this pig pizza and first thing that happened when it came out is I picked up the Parmesan cheese container and just sprinkled sugar all over the pizza, thinking it was Parmesan cheese. And we all took a bite and just about spit. And the waiter was very nice, Ulysses Cozart. Cozart was the waiter that day as I recall and he went and got us another pizza and threw that one in the tray. But yeah, all those guys at the Rat were cool—Squeaky and Cozart and Pops, you know, all those old waiters that are probably long since gone.

Robert Humphreys

The Rathskeller was the place for birthday parties. There was no pizza unless you went to New York City in those days when we were little. I mean, just imagine there is no such thing as pizza. And, the Rat had pizza, so we would have birthday parties at the Rathskeller just to come eat pizza. So, we loved to go there.

The tables had red and white checkered tablecloths and individual chairs, but the alley to get between the two tables was very small. And the waiters and you would have to duck down to sit down, but it was dark and romantic, and we thought that was also a favorite.

And, of course, sitting in the Train Room for date night because you had to sit next to the person the way the little booths were. That was a big deal. The Train Room was all white painted wood. The booths and the tables, they had, maybe, some curlicues on them a little bit. They seemed extra small, and there was one whole side, I think, where you had to sit next to each other and face just like you would on a train.

At the end of this room was a big table that had semi-circular seating, and it was right under the glass opening on Franklin Street. So, you could literally see the shadows of people. You could sit 10 people, 12 people there at that big table and just marvel that people were walking overhead.

They had sayings, little proverbs or Benjamin Franklin kinds of things, written behind your heads, and they had hat racks. But, it was all done in white and on a much smaller scale. There were no cushions on the seats. You would just slide in, and you really and truly felt that you had stepped onto a train. Each little table had its own window looking outside, you know, faux painting. You just felt like the rumble of Franklin Street and going on that you were really on a train going places. At some point I think they even had a whistle that blew periodically, probably when someone's pizza was done, but you knew it was the train pulling in the station.

And then the other favorite date room was Cave's which was really made to look like the inside of a cave. They had a candle on each table, and that was the only lighting in the room. The tables had red and white checkered tablecloths and individual chairs, but the alley to get between the two tables was very small. And the waiters and you would have to duck down to sit down, but it was dark and romantic, and we thought that was also a favorite.

Missy Julian-Fox