The Rat is back.
More than two years after the Chapel Hill landmark closed its wooden door, the Ramshead Rathskeller will again be open for business by the end of the year, said Diane Fountain, a future owner who will be overseeing the project.
“I’m committed to reopening it, and I’m finalizing all of the documents and numbers and plans,” said Fountain.
“So many people want to be involved. It is a blessing, and it shows how much people want the Rathskeller back.”
The Danzigers, a family of Austrian immigrants, opened the Rathskeller in 1948 after moving to Chapel Hill. The term “rathskeller” originated in Germany as the name of a restaurant in the basement of a town hall.
Chapel Hill’s Rathskeller, nicknamed “The Rat,” sits on Amber Alley below Franklin Street and across from Bandido’s Mexican Cafe.
“We want every student that’s on that campus, that’s been on that campus, and that’s going to come to that campus,” Fountain said. “We want every one of them there.”
Adrian Archer was born in Chapel Hill and graduated from UNC in 1994. He said he remembers the Rathskeller as one of the few old-time landmarks left in the town.
“The Rathskeller was iconic,” Archer said. “They had these old-time jukeboxes on the tables, but I don’t think they ever worked. You could put your money in, but it was a risky proposition.”
Jason Luck, a lawyer with Seibels Law Firm in Charleston, S.C., said he can remember going to the Rat as a 15-year-old and ordering the non-alcoholic cider served in a frosted mug.
“When you’re a kid in early years of high school, it makes you feel like you’re drinking a beer,” Luck said. “I remember seeing it coming out of a keg tap, and I thought that was just wonderful.”
Luck graduated from UNC in 2000 and said he and his friends went to the Rat about once every two months to meet over food that “you had to learn to love.”
“I always got ‘The Gambler.’ The meat was so cheap and so poor quality that you had to eat it hot,” said Luck, who remembers his steaks coming out sizzling. “If it cooled down, it became a piece of gristle.”
Luck said he was crushed after hearing the Rat had closed in 2008 and would love to be able to take his children there one day.
“I talk so much trash about this place, but I was devastated to see it go,” Luck said. “That place was just memories for generations of Tar Heels.”
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