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Fried Baloney Sandwiches at Tony’s in Gastonia

Tom Hanchett, 2010

“Fried baloney sandwiches? Everybody who lived on the mill villages ate those,” laughs Bob Brown.  “Mama would buy a pound of baloney and you’d slice it yourself.  Country ham, chicken – those were expensive foods.”

Brown grew up in the 1940s in the Majestic textile village in Belmont, one of the dozens of blue-collar towns that dot Gaston County just west of Charlotte.  Today he’s a volunteer at Belmont Historical Society, telling stories of mill village life in the Society’s lovingly restored Yates Abernethy Mill House in downtown Belmont.

Brown’s stories made me hungry, so I headed straight to Tony’s Ice Cream on Franklin Boulevard in the heart of Gastonia. The yellow-brick building with its short-order grill and store-made ice cream seems to have changed nary a lick since it opened in 1947.

Behind the counter is Louis Coletta, whose grandfather started the business.  “He served sandwiches like people fixed at home,” says Coletta.

A thick slice of baloney is fried on a griddle, then slapped onto a hamburger bun.  There’s a savory layer of chili and onions, a secret recipe that Coletta refuses to divulge.

Altogether, it tastes like one of the best hotdogs I remember from when I was little – just sorta flattened out into two dimensions.

“We’ve all got these things we enjoyed as kids,” agrees Louis Coletta.  “This is tradition.  This is the South.”

Tony’s Ice Cream Co.
Hours: Monday – Saturday 7am – 10pm
Sunday 10am – 10pm
604 East Franklin Boulevard (US 29)
Gastonia, NC  28054
(704) 853-0018

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