My hometown, Soddy-Daisy, has precious few restaurants. When Great American Burger Company opened in the neighborhood where I grew up and now teach (and where my parents still live) a couple of months back in the former location of another restaurant (whose name I’ve already forgotten) I’ll admit I kind of rolled my eyes. Truth be told, I’d never seen anyone at the former joint-though, to be fair, their hours were such that I really never drove by when they were open. Now I drive by every day on my way to and from work and have noticed quite a few people at this little road-side stand on the road adjacent to “Soddy Lake”(some eating at the picnic tables out front), so I decided that an afternoon when I was staying late for a training was a perfect excuse to give it a try.
It was just after five when I walked up to the window at Great American Burger Company. A very friendly guy opened the window and greeted me. I told him I needed a minute to look at the menu. There was a little chalkboard standing by the window with specials listed, including the Big Papa Burger (with smoked sausage on top), fish tacos, and a fish sandwich. The items on the regular menu board included burgers, a BLT, a fried bologna sandwich, barbecue pork and chicken sandwiches and tacos, deep-fried hot dogs (known as “rippers” because they burst open a little while cooking) with a variety of toppings, and a Philly cheesesteak. There were a few other items but I can’t remember them at the moment.
I decided on a regular cheeseburger (there was also a spicy cheeseburger listed on the menu) with no onions and, declaring that he would have a heart attack at age 40, Philip (on the phone) told me to order him a Big Papa burger. Our burgers were basically the same: large, irregularly shaped burgers (a good sign, showing that they are more than likely hand-patted rather than frozen patties) on store-bought buns with American cheese, mayo, mustard, shredded (not leaf) lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and in Philip’s case onions and a split piece of griddled smoked sausage. Because he has gotten spoiled by sausage from places like Link 41, he wasn’t super-thrilled that it was basically a piece of Hillshire Farms sausage (or something similar) but he said it tasted pretty good on the burger so he got over it. It was a well-seasoned, well-cooked burger that wasn’t overly drenched with condiments. It was a very good burger-not a gourmet burger, just a good old cheeseburger. Sometimes you just want a straight-up good burger. We both ate the whole thing. Don’t judge me. Teaching PreK is hard work, and I am pretty much always hungry.
We decided to try out both the fries and the onion rings. The fries were crinkle-cut, a gigantic bag of them to be exact. They were crispy and well-salted, not mouth-searingly salty but not unsalted like those that you get at some places (I will never for the life of me figure out why so many places are so afraid to salt their fries. I’m sorry, but fried food should be salted when it is fresh out of the oil or the salt will never stick. I understand that some people cannot eat salt, but can’t special orders of unsalted food be made for them????). The onion rings were battered, not breaded, with a slightly sweet taste to the batter. I like my onion rings a little thicker than these were with a more oniony flavor (because while I hate raw onions I do love cooked onions) but they weren’t bad. I’m pretty sure the fries and onion rings were frozen (I have yet to come across a restaurant that serves hand-cut crinkle cut fries) but they were pretty good and I have to admit that frozen crinkle cut fries are kind of a comfort food for me.
When I was growing up, JJ’s, which was on Dayton Pike in the location that is now Shuford’s BBQ, was a mainstay….a place to go for a gigantic burger or a huge bag of crinkle-cut fries so hot they’d burn the roof of your mouth. It wasn’t gourmet cuisine, but it was good. I loved that place. I don’t think I even realized how much until I became an adult. I remember a lot of weekends when I would come home from my college dorm that my mom would ask me what I wanted to eat and I would request JJ’s. When it became “Jan’s” sometime after I got married, I knew the end was near. It lasted a little while but eventually gave way to Shuford’s. I’d be exaggerating if I said I shed a tear, but I was a little sad. The food at Great American Burger Company reminded me a lot of JJ’s so I guess you could say it fills a bit of a void-that great little neighborhood burger stand. Since it’s on my way home from work it seems like a great solution for those nights that I end up working a little later than usual or I just don’t feel like cooking…or for in-service days when I just can’t bring myself to pack a lunch. I would like to give some of their non-burger menu items a try as well. By the way, our total was $14.37.
Great American Burger Company is located at 202 Durham Street, Soddy-Daisy, TN 37379. They are open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with occasional Saturday hours for special events. You can call them at 423-618-3186. They do not have a website right now, but you can like Great American Burger Co. on Facebook. Soddy-Daisyans (or anyone else who is in the area and looking for a yummy burger!), support your local burger stand!