Advertisement

Iconic Stag & Doe restaurant in China Grove reopened after two-year closure

The dining rooms will remain closed for now, but those familiar meals are now being served carry out.
The Stag & Doe on Highway 29 is a local landmark and one that many people have been missing.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT

CHINA GROVE, N.C. (WBTV) - At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, an iconic restaurant in China Grove opened back up after being closed for two years due to the pandemic.

The Stag & Doe on Highway 29 is a local landmark and one that many people have been missing.

“My dad, Dan Morton, founded it in 1953,” said Gary Morton. “He wanted to open up a pub like he had been to in England, and the pub in England was named Stag & Doe.”

And so it was from 1953, until 2020.

“It was the hardest thing this restaurant has ever been through was to make the decision to close and to not know when we would open back up,” Morton said.

But Wednesday was finally that day, the first day back for the popular restaurant.

“I’d say the popularity of this place is as much about the customers’ relationships with each other and the camaraderie as it would be the food,” Morton said. “You never know who you’re going to see when you come in here. I think that’s the excitement of it. Coming here and seeing friends and seeing people you haven’t maybe seen in 10 years from out of town that may be in on the weekend. You’ve got people that are 60-70 years old that came in here when they were teenagers, so it’s a memory for them, and it’s a good meal.”

The dining rooms will remain closed for now, but those familiar meals are now being served carry out.

“We’re ready for it, come what may,” Morton added.

“We have a good kitchen staff back there. We’re prepped up, we’re ready to go, and we’re ready to see all the smiling faces of the customers,” said Matt Efird.

And along with reopening, there’s something else happening; Gary is selling the place.

“We have somebody who I think is very qualified to take the baton and run the next 50 years with it,” Morton said.

“It’s been here since 1953,, it has a vibe to it,” Efird added. “The first night here I was a dishwasher,”

Efird, a former Rowan County Sheriff’s deputy, first worked at Stag & Doe when he was 16. One night he even got into a little trouble with Gary.

“He drank too many Cheerwines so I had to get onto him about that,” Morton recalled.

“Every time Gary would see me I had a bottle of Cheerwine in my hand,” Efird said. “One day it was in the kitchen, he pointed at me and he said boy, you’re drinking too many Cheerwines a day, I just looked at him with a grin and said you don’t need to worry about it, I’m going to own this restaurant one day.”

The joy of the new beginning is tempered somewhat by what has been lost over the last two years. Gary says there are several regular customers who won’t be back…COVID took their lives.

“They’re not going to be back physically, but...” Morton said.

Talking about it was difficult, but Gary wanted to say this: “We’ll always remember them, and they’ll always be part of the Stag & Doe.”

Morton also wanted to let regular customers know that “Donna” was back on the job, along with her daughter and granddaughter to make three generations worikng at the restaurant.

Copyright 2022 WBTV. All rights reserved.