Review by: ayersian


To someone growing up in Rock Hill in the late ’70s, the Varsity Restaurant was definitely the town’s most curious building: a very large tree grew out of its roof! Originally an open-air market with a tree out front, the builders eventually enclosed the space and simply built around the tree. In 1980, having outgrown the original building, a new, larger Varsity was erected next to it, and the smaller space was christened the Varsity Ice Cream Parlor. The ailing tree’s branches were cut, and its trunk was carved into a giant ice cream cone to advertise the business. Termites claimed the tree in the late ’80s, and the newer building took over as the primary space.

Despite its many facelifts, the Varsity owners still pride themselves on their home-cooked plate lunches and from-scratch desserts. All meats and poultry are delivered fresh daily, and it remains the town’s sole proprietor for Watkins hot dogs. The Varsity’s owners bought and ran Watkins Hot Dog Stand downtown for over twenty years before closing its doors in 1999. Their famous chili recipe lives on, and hot dogs still account for a large percentage of the Varsity’s output today.

Reminiscent of Iowa’s loosemeats, Watkins’ pebbly meat chili boasts a wonderful balance of spices and beefy goodness, and when mounded on a steamed Carolina Pride wiener with a line of mustard and homemade coleslaw, it is the quintessential Rock Hill lunch. Homemade pimento cheese is also a favorite, especially when grilled with sliced tomato and crispy bacon. Their fried bologna sandwich is thick, evenly browned on the griddle, and bunned with Duke’s mayonnaise, cheese, and pickles. Fried chicken remains a local favorite, as do chicken fried steak, chicken salad sandwiches, and marinated chicken salad—and the chicken, hamburger meat, and hot dogs are purchased fresh every day.

Breakfast is served all day, including the usual Southern staples like biscuits, grits, country ham, and livermush. Homemade soups, pork BBQ, salmon patties, and spectacular sides round out the menu, and if you’re still hungry for dessert, there are several fresh-baked pies and cakes on display. Those in the know order them whole for take-out with advance notice. Rock Hill is a city of constant change, with box stores, strip malls, and chain restaurants sprouting up everywhere. But the Varsity remains the same, and locals appreciate the good food, great service, and the hometown atmosphere that pervades the place.

What To Eat

Watkins Hot Dog

Fried Bologna Sandwich

Eggs and Hash Browns

Sweet Tea


Varsity Recipes


What do you think of Varsity?

One Response to “Varsity”

Rick Collins

August 21st, 2009

As a kid back in the early 70s, every Saturday we would ride our bikes to town to Watkins on Trade Street and Ricky Sexton would be there and one day Rob told Rick “two hotdogs, hold the onions.” To that Ricky said, “WHAT hold the onions,” (and in the way only Ricky could say), “man old the onions, dat wat make de fabor, I chopped dem omnions all mornin, you can’t eat dem wif no onins like dat.” “OK, OK,” Rob said, “put them on there.” Ricky’d give that smile only he could give, and a Pepsi to go with that too!

Man we laughed and then had SUPER DOGS with that really cold Pepsi while, at 13 years old, trying to sneek a peek at the mags hanging high on the walls. You all know what I’m talking about. Thanks to Mr. Watkins for the gift he gave to Rock Hill and thanks to Roy for keeping the tradition alive for the future kids and grownups alike. Rick Collins and all us youngins you know he’s in Hot Dog Heaven fixing God the best dang eating there is!


Nearby Restaurants

Lee’s Famous Recipe

Rock Hill, SC

521 B-B-Q & Grill

Fort Mill, SC

Flipside Cafe

Fort Mill, SC

La’wan’s Soul Food Restaurant

Charlotte, NC

Wagon Wheel Restaurant

Fort Lawn, SC

Bill Spoon’s Barbecue

Charlotte, NC

Article’s & Guides Tagged Bill Spoon’s Barbecue


Connect with us #Roadfood