Hometown Eats: Carl’s Place

Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 5:14 PM EDT
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PENHOOK, Va. (WDBJ) - “Carl’s is a place where people from everywhere meet. Meet you at Carl’s is one of our sayings,” explained the owner of Carl’s Place, Marie Ogden.

If you’ve traveled along Highway 40 just south of Smith Mountain Lake any time in the last 75 years, you’ve driven right past Carl’s Place in Penhook, and if you haven’t stopped in, shame on you.

“They drive a good distance to come here and eat, some out of North Carolina,” said Ogden.

50-year employee Mary Lou Gibson greets those Tar Heel customers frequently. “They say we drove all the way up here to get some hot dogs today; you know, that’s very impressive!”

For perspective, it’s a 45-minute drive to the state line, but a solid reputation of good homemade food goes well beyond borders.

Carl and Mabel Dalton began this story in 1947, and you can read all about on the back wall. Carl worked for the division of forestry while Miss Mabel was running the business, selling hot dogs, hamburgers, and her famous coconut cream pie which she still makes at 98 years old. A true family business that eventually called their daughter, Marie Ogden, home.

“Growing up I told Momma and Daddy I’m not working here. I’ve been here about 35 years now,” joked Ogden.

And it’s not just Marie who has put in some serious time here. Mary Lou Gibson, whom you’ll find on the register, just hit 50 years.

“We’re all like one big family, even our customers we even treat them like family,” said Gibson

“How long have you been coming to Carl’s? I’d say 50 years,” said regular customer Jack.

“When I turned 14, I got my worker’s permit and I started working here as a waitress part-time,” explained manager Amy Ramsey.

That part-time work turned into a manager role for Ramsey, but her elders keep her honest.

“She’s mean to me, she’s a bully, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve adopted her and Linda as my granny, we’re all just a big family,” joked Ramsey.

Like a family, you see them a lot.

“We have our string of regular customers who come in here once, twice, and sometimes three times a day,” said Ramsey.

“About every day. If I’m not out of town, I’m eating here,” said Jack.

And it tastes just like what you remember from your family kitchen.

“It’s just home,” said Ogden.

Carl’s Place, a hometown eat where family comes to meet.

You can find Carl’s Place at 15800 Old Franklin Turnpike, Penhook, VA 24137. They’re open seven days a week, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.