I’m pretty proud of myself. I’m actually working my way through my North Carolina bucket list. Okay, I’ve done two of the things on the list. But considering I only have 13 things on my list, I’m now 15% complete.
This past weekend, I was able to scratch this one off my list:
- Visit the North Carolina Zoo (for about the 134th time) and stop at Johnson’s Burgers for, well, a burger
I’m guessing a trip to the zoo and a burger for lunch doesn’t sound all that adventurous. It wasn’t really. But man, was that burger good. I think everyone should have a burger from Johnson’s Burgers at least once in their lives (except for you vegan/vegetarian types, but even then, it’s still worth the trip for a grilled cheese just so you can enjoy some of the vintage ambience.)
As you travel along U.S. Highway 64, you’ll pass through a blip of a town called Siler City. You’ll see a little brick building that stands in the middle of it with the sign above. It’s been around since 1946 and I don’t think much has changed.
The outside of the building is quite forgettable. It looks like an old house with an unplanned addition.
But there’s no mistaking what’s inside. The large plate glass window gives you a view to all of the satisfied diners enjoy every last bit of Johnson’s magical beef.
As you head inside, you’ll feel like you stepped back in time. The no-frills burger joint is lined with stools and booths covered in turquoise vinyl.
You’ll also find that it’s usually standing room only. Patrons cram themselves along the wall by the entrance waiting for a booth or set of stools to become available. It’s first come, first served but everyone seems to understand the rules. We waiting for our shot at the turquoise vinyl booth complimented by the formica table tops. Is it vintage? No. I’m pretty sure it’s original.
Once you’ve found your seat, you’ll have to carefully study the menu hanging over the grill. We come for the cheeseburgers and fries. I take mine with mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, and onions. My husband goes wild with chili, onions, and slaw.
While waiting for your freshly prepared burgers to be grilled, you can have a Coke and a smile. Not really. Sadly, this original machine is not in use for soda as Johnson’s is now a Pepsi house.
Along with the old-fashioned scenery, you get your soda served with old-fashioned ice. The kind you used to get at the soda fountain at the old timey pharmacies.
While you are trying to wait very patiently for your bun of goodness, you can take in your surroundings. The countertops and stools and tile… all reminiscent of 1946.
You can examine the antique radio built into the wall that probably once delivered the news or the farm report and now serves as a masking tape holder.
You can take a peek at the cook that is somehow related to the original Mr. Johnson. He’s always here. Always. He is very systematic. He cooks his burgers in a big batch while the waitresses set up the buns. He slathers on a thick slice of Velveeta and sends them off to their respective tables.
And this is what the drive and the wait has all been for. A little bun of heaven. Real beef ground up every day. Burgers cooked when you order them. And a slice of cheese with blatant disregard for your arteries. Worth. Every. Bite.
There’s only one problem…
They open at 10am on most days and they close at 2pm or whenever the burgers run out. You can guess which one usually happens first.