With each burger, with each bite, with each second, Whiteford’s Giant Burger of Laurens, South Carolina, gets better and better.
I found the place by chance one Thursday afternoon. Ironically, I was returning to my residence in Greenwood, S. C., from an appointment with my diabetes specialist in Greenville, S.C., where I’d learned my cholesterol was high. I’d told myself upon seeing the lab results it was time to “get back on the wagon” as far as my eating habits went.
Two hours later, I was seeing a billboard outside of Laurens boasting a photograph of three wonderful hotdogs – one with ketchup, another with chili and the final (this being the one that sealed the deal) with chili, ketchup and sliced pickles. Two hours and 12 minutes later, I abandoned the wagon again – this time, backflipping off the damn thing.
It was sooo worth it.
The thing about Whiteford’s is it has the coolest sign I’ve ever seen. I defer all description of this 40-foot masterpiece to the photo section of this post. (What is that thing holding a plate? A politically incorrect Native American with a Coke?) The restaurant itself outside makes a compelling case that it’s absolutely filthy inside – also cool, in my (likely unshared) opinion.
Inside, it has the feel of a down-home place that attempted to go artsy at some point in its 50-year history. While I can see why owners tried to modernized its decor (somewhat recently, by my estimation), I do not agree with their decision. If you’re going to give your customers menu boards with home photo-quality pictures of your food and only offer fried chicken, hotdogs and hamburgers, don’t bother with marble-finish light fixtures suspended from the ceiling, clean tables and fancy wall partitions depicting silhouettes of burger platters.
But here’s a business idea I would support:
Offer free food and salaries to the table of old men I saw near the center of the dining room. They are exactly what I hoped to find upon entering. While I did not sit nearby due to one of them having a machined robot voice likely resulting from years of smoking cigarettes (personal history with these contraptions suggested I’d get caught staring at some point in the meal – yes, I am quite childlike when it comes to these things), I normally do. Old men sitting around a table at a Mom and Pop restaurant down South are a valuable resource to an outsider – they know how schools should be run, churches should be attended and local government should operate. Every restaurant should do whatever it takes to keep an old man or six seated inside, even if that means recruiting them from nearby gas stations.
When it came time to order, the choice was clear: one Giant Burger platter. I didn’t come to Whiteford’s Giant Burger for something wussy.
“Do you want slaw?” the young girl taking my order asked.
Silly question. I was off the wagon the moment I walked inside – might as well poison the horses as well.
“And to drink?”
Hey – I am a diabetic.
My request was granted 90 seconds later. My “for here” platter came in a Styrofoam box on a plastic tray. Inside was a pack of plastic silverware, napkin and one packet each of salt and pepper.
Dining at its finest.
As I filled my bucket-like cup from the Diet Coke fountain, I began to salivate. My tray weighed about 50 pounds. It smelled like charcoaled goodness. They should make that in a cologne. They should make women like charcoal-scented cologne.
I raced for a window seat and opened my Styrofoam. There it was: pure, utter almost-hot lusciousness, unspoiled and unadulterated by cholesterol tests.
Normally, I’d feel bad for making something so beautiful disappear, but it conveys natural order to do so. In fact, eating the Giant Burger felt so wonderful that I ordered a second (this one with a side of collards) … and loved it equally.
I could feel my fingertips tingling as I walked out of the place. My cholesterol was probably higher than my blood sugar, both of which were likely far greater than my body weight.
I can get back on the wagon later, I thought. You can’t come to a place like this and eat like a hippie.