A strange confluence of events this evening as I was getting ready to do some maintenance on the blog. I took a look down at the website hit counter and noticed that it had crossed the 9,000 mark en route to 10,000 (and maybe more). I had kind of told myself that when we hit 10,000 I’d feel this experiment was a success. It got me thinking about how this blog started and then a ping came from the mail program and my Google Alerts set for “burgers” showed a story (1,2) about Beef Burger in Greensboro, NC…which in actuality is how this whole blog started.
While late night websurfing a few years ago I came across a website dedicated to a burger chain called “Biff Burger.” This site stunned me in its simplicity and the depth of information it held on this burger chain from the history books and started me thinking how many other stories were out there. Fast forward a bit and sites like A Hamburger Today and the site/book Hamburger America pretty much fill the niche for this type of info, but I thought there were probably a few stories that could be told and so I set up shop @ burgatory.com to tell them, toss out recipes, report burger news and generally learn how blogging works from the back-end.
Each summer we load up the family truckster and hit the open road searching for hole-in-the-wall burger joints and salt-air beaten clam shacks. Last summer we pointed the car towards Greensboro, NC to visit “Beef Burger,” one of two remaining locations of the original “Biff Burger” chain. I’ve been sitting on this post for ages due to lack of inspiration, but the fact that the pictured burger can be yours today and tomorrow for a mere $0.59 is reason to pull it out of the draft folder and send it live to offer my opinion.
1040 W Lee St
Greensboro, NC 27403
A while back I stumbled upon a website dedicated to a burger chain called “Biff Burger.” After years of driving past one of the last outposts of this chain on the way to college I searched for info in hopes of planning a trip and sadly found out that the restaurant had by then closed. And, with its closure, the Biff Burger chain was down to only two locations (one in St. Petersburg, FL still using the Biff Burger moniker and one in Greensboro, NC now called “Beef Burger.”) Having blown the opportunity to enjoy a burger at a location within reasonable driving distance from home I vowed to get to one of the two remaining restaurants when the opportunity presented itself…and thus the itinerary for this year’s burger vacation was set…we’d make our way to North Carolina.
Located in an industrial section of town, across the railroad tracks from UNC-Greensboro’s campus (and home of the ridiculously great hot dog and ice cream joint Yum Yum), Beef Burger still draws in the crowds. Polite and orderly, folks line up inside the tiny lobby which no doubt was outdoors at some point (and thus much less claustrophobic) and feast on traditional American roadfood fare.
I ordered the SuperBurger combo with a Cheerwine (yet another reason why the South rocks -from a culinary standpoint) and settled into a formica booth to enjoy the fruits of the laborious drive (Philly to NC via Pittsburgh/West Virginia). By sheer will alone that burger had to taste good, and it did.
As C. Catherman notes on his tribute site, Beef (ne Biff) Burger’s signature feature, the Roto-Broiler:
…was an ingenious specially designed broiler which gave Biff-Burger the leading edge over many other Drive-Ins during the day in which fast-food hamburgers were common. But the burgers at Biff-Burgers weren’t just your “ordinary” hamburger. The burgers at Biffs had a unique char-broiled taste which were unlike any other. Every original Biff-Burger sign, regardless of design used, indicated “Roto Broiled”. The “roto-broiled” process was indeed Biff-Burgers signature to fame and the reason why so many people enjoyed their burgers!
With the gift of hindsight I must honestly admit that the burger was nothing earth shattering. It didn’t rise to the top of my own personal list of best tasting burgers, though the thrill of the chase more than made up for that. The broiler certainly helped provide a unique flavor to the burgers and I can see why Mr. Catherman and hundreds of others are still partial to this cooking method.
The carousel of meat effect was pretty amusing and my daughter and I stared at it for a while before she made her way outside to the coin-op human version on the sidewalk (that is her in the corner of the pic). The lower level of tis ingenious machine toasted the buns and that was a plus, too! Brought together in a styrofoam container with a decent side of fries and the aforementioned sugar-shock inducing soda, this was burger escapism at its best. A real retro experience worth searching out, even hundreds of miles away.
If you want to learn more about Biff Burger/Beef Burger, I implore you to check out C. Catherman’s site. He truly has a love for the history of the chain, a keen eye for detail and a photographic memory about his experiences at the restaurant.
As we get closer to 10,000 hits (I know – not much for a real website, but heck…my mom would be proud if I took the time to explain to her what a blog was) I will dig out and repost some of the old stuff that I am particularly proud of and finally (I hope) finish a story I have been working on for a few months about the greatest hamburger icon of the 20th Century (seriously)! Thanks.