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Remembering the favorite places that have come and gone for UNC students on Franklin Street

The ever-changing landscape of Franklin Street, yet the memories continue on.

UNC Fans React to National Championship Game Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images

It is the place to celebrate with other Tar Heel fans after a Final Four berth. It is the place where thousands of college students gather in costume every October 31st. It is the place to take a TIME OUT from studying for a Chicken n’Cheddar biscuit. Whatever Franklin Street is to you, it is synonymous with every student who has attended the University of North Carolina.

Maybe it is where you tried sushi for the first time, where you celebrated your 21st birthday, or where you met your future spouse while dressed up as a Ghostbuster. Maybe it is where you jumped over bonfires after the 2009 National Championship, or where you sat in stunned silence after Kris Jenkins’ 3-pointer. It is hard to believe that a street, and the businesses that align its sidewalks, would stir so many emotions and bring back countless memories for nearly every student who has graduated from the university.

With the recent news that Target would be coming to Franklin Street in 2017, it really made me think of how much the businesses on the street have changed over the years.

So here’s a list of my favorite bars, restaurants, and stores on Franklin Street that are no longer in business. Maybe it will spark a memory of one of your favorite places on Franklin Street. Perhaps it will persuade you to call one of your old college friends/roommates and reminisce about the good ole’ days.

The Rathskeller

I wouldn’t have been allowed to write a list of long gone Franklin Street businesses without including the Rathskeller (or “The Rat”). I will admit I didn’t venture down the stairs of Amber Alley often, but I certainly got the chance to try the Lasagna (“bowl of cheese”) and the Gambler before leaving school. If you are feeling nostalgic for replicas of these two items, head to S&T’s Soda Shoppe in Pittsboro for a trip down memory lane.

Sakura Xpress

Compared to other “hibachi-style” Japanese restaurants, Sakura was not fancy. It was the first “hibachi-style” Japanese restaurant I experienced that didn’t have a chef cook (or do fancy tricks) in front of you. It was always an easy place to grab a quick lunch and load up on shrimp sauce.

Schoolkids Records

A great place to pick up an album by one of Chapel Hill’s local bands, or by a group that performed the night before at the Cat’s Cradle. It is great to hear that this store has made a return to Franklin Street (recently took over the CD Alley store).

Thirsty Turtle

I am not sure many people will remember the Thirsty Turtle, but it was located below the East End Martini Bar. On certain nights, they would offer penny drafts and ten cent pitchers. It was the place where you and your friends could bring only a handful of change and still have a lot of fun. Although I’m pretty sure the bartenders hated those penny draft nights and receiving their tips in change.


Not necessarily on Franklin Street, as this club was located under Bub O’Malley’s. It was the first dance club that I ever went to, and it probably should have been my last.

Gumby’s Pizza

I have to say that I never visited the actual store on Franklin Street, but it was certainly delivered to our dorm in Hinton James numerous times (968-FAST). Who knew that Pokey Stix and ranch dressing were made for each other? It was one of the best foods to eat while having a late night study session.

Buffalo Wild Wings (B-Dubs)

There is nothing really special about a BW3s, but the one on Franklin Street will always hold a special place in my memory bank. BW3s is where I watched the 2005 National Championship game vs. Illinois. After the final buzzer, it was a mad rush to the center of Franklin Street with thousands of other UNC fans, but I was quick to grab a picture with Serge Zwikker first.

Ham’s Restaurant

After moving off campus, this was one of my favorite places to go to watch a big sporting event. My favorite memory from Ham’s was watching the 2003 ALCS game between the Yankees and Red Sox when Aaron Boone hit the walk-off homer to send the Yankees to the World Series. My friend was a big Red Sox fan, and as soon as Boone hit it, he stood up, threw down a whole bunch of money, and walked out of the restaurant. The rest of us just stared at each other and realized he wasn’t coming back because he was so mad; however, we did notice that he had pretty much paid for everyone’s meals.

Ram Triple Theater

Similarly to Treehouse, this was not on Franklin Street but was located on Rosemary. It was an old movie theater with sticky floors and comfortable seats that reclined too far back (not sure if they were meant to recline like that or not). The only movie that I ever saw there before it closed down was the cinematic masterpiece, Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me.


Rule #11: Everything is better on a pita. Who knew that cheeseburgers tasted so good on pita bread, and with that tzatziki sauce?

23 Steps

This is the bar my friends and I reminisce about the most. In my opinion, 23 Steps was the best bar on Franklin Street (He’s Not Here is a close second). It had such a laid back atmosphere, cheap beer (75 cents on Thursdays), and foosball. What more do you need?

(Note: I am sure I left off your favorite Franklin Street establishment, so leave your favorites in the comment section below.)

It is sad to know that these businesses are no longer around for future Tar Heels to experience and enjoy. It makes me appreciate places like Sutton’s Drug Store, Top of the Hill, and Cosmic Cantina that have been around for so many years. Change is good for Franklin Street, but the older I get sure makes it hard to say goodbye to yesterday.