That’s the magic number when you’re eating at Cook Out. Or maybe it’s $7.57 if you go full on out and add the milkshake upgrade. No matter how you count it up, Cook Out is all about wonderfully cheap eats, quick casual and delivered through a take-out window with a smile. What’s that you say, my Yankee friend? You’ve never heard of Cook Out?! Well time for a quick lesson, you can thank me later! (Note: The popular Cook Out tray is now $5.99 as of July 2021)
When I first got to Raleigh I was introduced to Cook Out by a friend! I remember my first visit on Western Boulevard and thinking to myself, this place is sorta weird. Walk-up window, double drive-thru’s and pretty much no place to sit. So I ordered up my burger and foot-long without thinking twice about it. Five years later and all I can say is that I’ve got Cook Out in my blood, both literally and figuratively speaking. I mean, where else can you spend $5 and get a great meal? And where do you go if it’s 2am and you’ve got the hungries gnawing at your insides? Cook Out delivers again, they are open way late on the weekend. So yeah, if you’re a transplant or newbie to the area, you’re going to learn about Cook Out really quickly. Because unless you’re vegetarian or vegan, Cook Out will keep you happy and full even if you’re on a total budget. Think Extra Value Meal but way better and really local. Definitely one of the best grills around in the Triangle and a total bargain!
Cook Out was founded by the Reaves family and is a privately-held company so there’s not that much information out there. No website, no publicity, they just keep opening these wonderful little drive-thru’s. Supposedly there’s over 100 Cook Outs spread throughout NC, SC and Tennessee. And that’s what so odd, you see them everywhere and you really don’t know much about the business but who cares, we’re here to eat! My three favorite locations are the classic Western Boulevard-NC State Cook Out, Capital Boulevard and the Cary-Walnut Street location. Food is consistent at all of them, with some slight differences in access and egress to locations. The Western Boulevard spot is a hard, uphill right off the street, work your way around to the back unless you want to order at the window and grab one of their outdoor tables. They’ve got the usual double drive-thru but as a plus, both allow for pick-up on the drivers side. Not the same for the Cary location, you have to work your way to the parking lot off a busy intersection. Hit the double drive thru but if you go to the shorter line on the left, you better have a second person or do the lazy Ron tactic. Pull up REALLY close to the window, unlatch your seat belt and do a super-yoga move to pay for and grab your food out the passenger window. Probably doesn’t work too well for SUV’s and larger vehicles. And the same deal for the Capital Boulevard Cook Out. This location has an even odder configuration on a corner and in some cases, you have to cut through multiple paths of traffic to exit so be careful!
Once at the menu, Cook Out has a bunch of classic grill offerings ranging from foot-long hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches and wraps. But it’s just about ALWAYS a better deal to go with the Cook Out tray which delivers one sandwich, two sides and a drink for a ridiculous $4.99. The key to the Cook Out platter is to know all the options out there and bling out your order. They’ve got two types of burgers wrapped in foil in four different styles. Cook Out style with homemade chili & slaw, mustard & onions. Steak style with A1 sauce, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo. Out West style with BBQ sauce, bacon, mayo, pickles, onions. Cheddar style with cheddar cheese, bacon, grilled onions, and mayo. All the styles are generous in their toppings. The standard 1/4 pounder is thick and meaty while the Big Double consists of two thinner patties which are a bit more charred. They’re all pretty solid styles and any Cook Out burger type is satisfying!
The foot-long is a nice grilled dog with a lot of surface area for you to slather condiments on. Cook Out’s barbeque is even pretty good, a nice pile of vinegary, pork topped with a mild cole slaw and a couple of shots of Texas Pete, yum! The chicken sandwiches are solid but not my favorite, Cook Out delivers them in plain-grilled, spicy and cajun. And finally their chicken strips, whoa-so-good! I tried these for the first time recently and was way impressed. You get three largish, breast meat pieces in a crunchety coating that isn’t greasy or salty, perfection. Add in some honey-mustard sauce and you may have THE best main item for your Cook Out platter.
But wait, there’s more! For your two sides choose from fries, onion rings, hush-puppies, slaw, a chicken or bacon wrap, there’s even a corn dog on the side menu! I favor the hush-puppies and corn dog but I’ve got my eye on the chicken wrap too. The bacon wrap is a tortilla wrapped around 2 – 3 slices of bacon, lettuce and shredded cheese. Toss in a variety of fountain drinks, and you can even bump up to a Cheerwine or Coke float for your Cook Out platter for free! However if you notice the Cook Out menu, they’ve got a SLEW, a PLETHORA, a whole BOAT-LOAD of milkshakes which you shouldn’t miss. For a $1 upgrade to your platter choose from 40+ flavors. I enjoy the peach cobbler and watermelon (seasonal) which makes for a happy ending dessert. Seriously, for $5.81 you’ve got yourself a full-on, high calorie delicious meal.
Beyond the food, the kids working the window are usually super polite and sweet, bonus! They do train them well from a customer service standpoint. The only downside to Cook Out is its popularity so there’s typically a line. Thankfully, Cook OUt has started opening restaurants with indoor seating, woo-hoo! So yeah, if you haven’t been to Cook Out you better be a vegetarian. Or a food snob. Because what they do here is amazing for the price even if my pictures don’t show the food off, properly! Just drive on over, you don’t even have to get out of your car to enjoy their grilled deliciousness. Grab your little white styro-foam container from the drive-thru window, pop it open and it’s time for bon appetit!