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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Chapel Hill needs a Cook Out

Cookout in Durham during a nighttime rush on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.

Many things are dear to a college student’s heart. For some, it’s the idyllic nature of a spring day relaxing on the quad. For others, it's the roar of a crowd at an athletic event. 

But there is one thing all college students can agree upon: the beauty of a late-night meal. Be it Late Night at Chase Dining Hall or a quesadilla from Cosmic at 2 a.m., we all know of a meal that brings us joy, replenishment and peace. 

But many of these places are gone due to the ravages of the pandemic-induced recession. One of the first classic nocturnal nourishment spots in Chapel Hill to be washed away was Waffle House — or as some refer to it, the Waffle Home. Next came Lotsa. Then, in the most cruel act, Ms Mong was put down like a prize horse in its prime.

In the depths of this despair, however, there exists a bright light. One glorious temple of late-night grub, a tabernacle of trays, a sanctuary of sizzling goodness. That place is known by one name: Cook Out. 

If only Chapel Hill didn't have an ordinance against drive-thrus.

Cook Out operates as a drive-thru-only business, hobbling students' access to pure goodness.

Cook Out's hours (10:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.) fill the gap created by the nighttime closure of other restaurants. Its method of drive-thru delivery is extremely user-friendly. And don’t forget how accessible its prices are. Any other deal (Wendy’s 4 for $4, McDonald's 2 for $5, whatever Burger King is peddling) pales in comparison to the Cook Out Tray. Where else can you get two corn dogs as a side? Does any other late-night food spot let you add a milkshake to your meal for only a dollar?

You may be already drooling as you read this, thinking of your next midnight meal. However, there exists a large obstacle to the accessibility of Cook Out. The closest one to Chapel Hill is in Durham. (Yes, the home of the Blue Devils.) To have access to the shrine of sustenance, one must have access to a car — a hard ask. 

But why? Why must we be deprived of our daily bread from that neon-decked city on the hill? It can all be traced back to 1998, when Chapel Hill and Carrboro put a ban on drive-thrus without special permitting. This legislation — a curb on free expression of food — remains a major roadblock to the establishment of a Cook Out in Chapel Hill. How shameful. 

So I beg you all, let your voice be heard: shout to the heavens, yell to the gates, email the heck out of Cook Out. Beseech of them to open up a walk-up only Cook Out in Chapel Hill. Could you imagine the scene at 3 a.m. at Cook Out in a post-pandemic future? This image is second only to two things in our minds: the "Mona Lisa" and Beyonce's Super Bowl halftime show. 

The people have been hungry at late hours for too long. Let them be free. 


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