Mecca Restaurant Raleigh NC

“He Profits Most
Who Serves The Best!”
Dedicated to Michael Stephen Johnson
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The Story Behind the Garry Dorn Burger

While the Mecca has a number of signature dishes,  none invite quite as much curiosity as the Garry Dorn Burger.  The most common question we get is, of course, “Who’s Garry Dorn?”  To clear up any confusion, we’re going to begin this post by giving you the three fundamental facts about the Garry Dorn Burger that you need to know:

Downtown Raleigh News Restaurant Breakfast Lunch Dinner Late Night Bar Historic Diner

The Garry Dorn Burger

1.  It’s delicious.

2.  There are two ‘r’s in “Garry”

3.  It’s named after local sports celebrity Garry Dornburg, who remained a close friend of John‘s for over 30 years.

Now, for the back story…

Garry began working at WPTF, the area’s largest AM station¹, as a teenager in the 1960’s.   For years, he appeared on on the “Great Morning Wake-Up” with Maury O’Dell, a regular listen for those of us who were driven to school by our parents in the ’80’s.  He also hosted various sports call-in shows and a weekly opera program.

True local sports aficionados, however, will always remember Garry as being the color commentator for NC State’s football and basketball broadcasts on the Capitol Sports Network from 1975-1997.  A true Wolfpack legend, Garry was in the booth for the 1983 national championship in Albuquerque, NM, and called dozens of other memorable games during the ACC’s glory years.   He established a reputation as one of the best in the business, won numerous awards, and got to watch great players like David Thompson, Michael Jordan, Ralph Sampson, Danny Manning, Johnny Dawkins, Len Bias, Kenny Anderson, and so many others.

Downtown Raleigh News Restaurant Breakfast Lunch Dinner Late Night Bar Historic Diner

Garry in the studio with Wally Ausley. Courtesy NCSU Libraries

Starting in the ’70’s and lasting until his death in 1998, Garry maintained a close friendship with John Dombalis, our owner from 1952-2002.  He was a VIP at the Mecca, and usually came in five days a week.  When it was time to find a parking spot, he would would find a couple of orange cones reserving him a primo spot on Martin Street.  Garry loved our food, and liked to make up his own dishes when he came in.

The dish he ordered most often involved the Breaded Veal Cutlet, which was once a dinner item on our menu and was a favorite of his.  His concoction is exactly what you see on the menu today: one breaded veal cutlet, served on a hamburger bun, topped with ketchup, one slice of tomato and two slices of onion, with a side of fries.  By 1980, it found a spot on our menu, a testament to both John’s sense of humor and Garry’s special place at the Mecca.

Downtown Raleigh News Restaurant Breakfast Lunch Dinner Late Night Bar Historic Diner

Garry in the studio

The News and Observer once noted that “Change is Greek to the Mecca”, and nothing truer could be said about us.  For better or for worse, we tend to remain pretty static.  In fact, it sometimes seems like our food can take a back seat to our history.  In the case of the Garry Dorn Burger, the opposite has been true.  It has always been a steady seller, but, sadly, its original meaning has been somewhat forgotten.  It’s been 15 years since Garry’s passing, and over 30 years since John put the Dorn Burger on the menu.  Yet, there it is, underrated, under appreciated, misunderstood.  A hidden gem.



¹ For those of you born before 1990, AM Radio was a method of audio transmission first successfully carried out in the 1870’s.  In olden times, it was quite common for people to get their news, or even listen to music, on AM Radio.  For a demonstration,  get in your car and you turn the “Band” switch over to AM.


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