TOTS serves healthy fast food

Can good ol' Southern cooking be healthy?

It is, to a large degree, at TOTS Taste of the South, which opened Aug. 23 in the Mooresville Gateway center at Interstate 77 Exit 33.

The restaurant even trademarked the slogan "Healthy in a Hurry."

TOTS uses turkey bacon, turkey ham and turkey sausage, and real cheeses as opposed to processed ones.

Patrons can select such breads as wheat pita and wheat flatbread for sandwiches and baked potatoes instead of fries.

TOTS burgers use Meyer premium certified Angus beef. Meyer cattle are raised naturally on the company's 40,000-acre ranch in western Montana and are certified as being humanely raised and handled. They are vegetarian-fed and free of hormone injections. TOTS also uses injection-free chickens.

You might think such healthier selections would cost more, but the most expensive items are two $6.89 platters. Burgers top out at $4.59; chicken selections, such as the cucumber wasabi grilled chicken, are also under $5.

Everything is made to order but gets to the customer in about a minute.

The 160-seat restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays and has a drive-through, a patio and a 50-seat conference room that groups can use for free.

Signature menu items include chicken salad, Southern Beer Battered Fish and Chips (using Corona beer) and key lime pie dipped in chocolate on a stick. (Don Smart of Smart Choice Catering in Charlotte makes that dessert.)

Breakfast includes the Southern Breakfast Bowl ($4.29), three scrambled eggs with turkey sausage, potatoes and gravy topped with cheddar cheese. The coffee is Rainforest Alliance-certified.

TOTS is the first of what owners Bill Hamilton and Allan Casavant hope will be a chain. They're planning a second one on Tyvola Road in Charlotte in December.

Casavant is a developer who lives in Pinehurst and builds Family Dollar stores.

Hamilton lives in Huntersville. He cooked at the first Wendy's, in Columbus, Ohio, in the late '60s.

He spent 23 years with Wendy's and 17 years with Checkers restaurants. He also was director of operations for a 22-restaurant Jack in the Box franchise in Reno, Nev.

Triangle restaurant opening in Davidson

Raleigh-based Char-Grill will open its first Charlotte-area location in January in Davidson Commons retail center near Interstate 77 Exit 30, the (Raleigh) News & Observer reported.

Char-Grill, a late-night dining staple in the Triangle, is celebrating 50 years. It has four company-owned locations in Raleigh and four franchised stores, in Cary, Durham, Garner and High Point.