Big Spring Cafe [5/5]
5 (100%) 1 vote

Big Spring Cafe

Like many people my age, I run in a cashless world. I do everything with debit or, occasionally, by check. I found myself looking for a Monday lunch spot when I realized that, thanks to a friend who paid me back over the weekend, I actually had cash on hand! Which was all it took for Lady A and I to point ourselves in the direction of Big Spring Cafe, a small spot which operates on a cash-only basis.

I’d heard of the restaurant a few times over the years. “Old fashioned charm”, “the best burgers”, phrases which had always caught my attention but seemed at odds with the tiny building I would pass on Governors. Coming during the lunch rush, I wasn’t sure Lady A and I would be able to find parking, but the lot was more spacious than it appeared at first and we were both able to secure spots.

Walking in, we quickly discovered that we were a little pressed for space. Stepping in the door had put us in line and we did our best to make room for those who came after us. To our left was a longer counter, with stools for maybe 10 people. To our right was a shorter bar with about 4 stools and the only table in the place, which seated 4-6. The shorter bar was for placing and collecting to-go orders. Everyone else, waiting for seats at the eat-in counter, arranged themselves where they could and waited until the appropriate number of seats opened up to seat themselves.

Our wait was brief, and I was pleased by how bright the space was. The wall behind the barstools was all windows which meant there was lots of natural light and cheer. We found laminated menus tucked between the napkin dispensers and the ketchup and studied our options. Hamburgers, special hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings…there was more variety than I expected, but it was a still an uncomplicated menu. A friendly server came by to take our order and we asked him for clarification–what exactly was a “special hamburger”? Turns out the “special” is all in the fixings. A standard hamburger has mustard and onions and comes on a square bun. A special hamburger is served on a round bun and has lettuce and mayo. A cheeseburger is a special hamburger with a slice of American cheese. If you want the standard hamburger with cheese, then that’s how you will need to ask for it. (I relish little twists like that, so I found that little fact just as charming as the fact that Big Spring Cafe has been open since the 1920s!)

Thanking our server for the information, we placed our orders. A cheeseburger with an order of fries and a 12oz Pepsi for me and a special hamburger (mustard instead of mayo) with onion rings and water for Lady A. The beverages were another point of fascination for me. The most popular choice was a soda I’d never heard of–a Double Cola–and other options included grape and orange soda. Unsweet tea is not an option, just sweet, so those of you who enjoy unsweet tea, be forewarned.

Lady A and I chatted, taking in the decor (and the delicious smells). The grill was directly in front of us and we could watch the cook pinch off small balls of raw hamburger, form them into patties, and drop them on the grill. Overhead an old school signboard with the sliding letters listed some of the breakfast options–mainly various breakfast biscuits which sounded delicious.

Our burgers arrived promptly and were followed very shortly by our sides.

Big Spring Cafe

What may not be obvious from these photos is that these are tiny burgers. Think of the tiniest fast food burgers and then downsize that diameter a smidge, but with a thicker patty. Of course, for less than $2 each, their small size is not a problem. Many of the other patrons were ordering 2 burgers and a side or a burger and a hot dog and a side. As for me? I was smitten. Not only is the small size adorable–it was the perfect lunch sized portion. Most of the time, if I order a burger for lunch, I’m taking half back with me and sometimes I still feel like I’ve overeaten. This one? Perfect.

As for the burger itself, the patty was loose with a cooked exterior and a meaty flavor. The grease from cooking the patty had soaked lightly into the bun, adding some flavor to the bread. The tomato slice was fresh and the mayo creamy. The slight crunch from the iceburg contrasted nicely with the soft bun. Normally, I am not a fan of American cheese. And that’s probably overstating my fondness. But in this case, it worked. I’d probably have been equally happy without it, but it blended nicely and didn’t jump up and down screaming “plastic cheese!” like it usually does.

My fries were thick and fresh, served unsalted. I didn’t think to look for a salt shaker, instead I poured myself a large pool of ketchup on the pieces of white paper which acted as a plate. There is a certain joy in loading up fries with great heaps of ketchup and I delighted in doing so.

Big Spring Cafe

Lady A was taken with her onion rings and urged me to try one. Fresh onions, coated with a thick batter, perfectly crunchy on the exterior–I was enamored too.

I was happily surprised by Big Spring Cafe. The burgers were delicious, the atmosphere friendly, and the air conditioning robust enough to make it pleasant even on a warm summer day. My entire lunch was under $5 and we were in and out quickly. The only downside is that the limited seating made me conscious not to linger, but I didn’t feel pushed out or rushed. By the time Lady A and I were taking our ticket up to the register, I was already planning my next visit. Next time you are in the neighborhood (and have cash in your pocket) stop in and give them a try.

Total for my meal: $4.95 (included one cheeseburger, one side of fries, and a Pepsi.)

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