Crusader, March 31, 2000, Vol. 41, No. 19
Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, PA
By Carl W. Erdley, Editor in Chief
An interview with Linda Forrey, the daughter of Cam Forrey, last owner of Biff-Burger in Hummels Wharf, and local Central Pennsylvania patrons.
A small, plain bright orange sign is all you see. Set between the franchise burger masters, the orange all lower-case "biff-burger" sign and the odd wing-shaped Biff-Burger roof has been a beacon for those seeking a good burger deal for as long as most can remember. Biff-Burger was the first burger joint on US Route 11 & 15 in Hummels Wharf, Pennsylvania, commonly referred to by the locals as the "strip", but in the next year and a half it will shut its doors. Its current owner of 13 years and counting, Cam Forrey, is planning to retire. The land the restaurant is on is currently up for sale with several adjacent lots and is being marketed to franchises.
Located on routes 11 and 15 north just beyond the intersection with Park Road in Hummels Wharf, PA, Biff-Burger (Biff stands for "Best In Fast Food"), serves an extensive menu of traditional fast food items but is best known for its made to order burgers.
Linda Forrey, Cam Forrey's daughter, said, "We don't make anything that sits under a heat lamp."
Tom and Phyllis Pickering of Sunbury have been coming to Biff-Burger since its beginning in 1965 and according to them not much has changed.
"This was the first burger joint on the strip," Mrs. Pickering said. "You could bring your family here for pennies. It was 19 cents a burger."
Although those days are long gone, for $3.39 you can get the daily special, a "Super Biff with cheese", loaded with lettuce, tomato, onions and mayonnaise, small fries and a small soda. Rising prices aside, the taste is still the same as it used to be.
"[The Super Biff with cheese] has its own flavor all to itself," Mr. Pickering said. "The taste is pure nostalgia. It still tastes the same (as it used to)."
The customers still order from the same window and pick up their food from another one further down after their number is called. The days of in-car dining have given way to a seating area built at the front of the building after the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flood, according to Linda.
Although Biff-Burger will never win any awards for ambiance with a ceiling that is duct taped in spots and a cracked brown tile floor, the decor is evidence that the restaurant was established in a day when appearance did not matter much and all people really wanted was a big burger and fries.
Linda said her clientele are quite devoted. People often fly into Penn Valley Airport, near Selinsgrove for lunch and then fly back to Washington, D.C. and New York City for their afternoon meetings.
Although some customers have requested a drive-thru, Linda said that would be impossible.
"We'd have cars backed up out into the road waiting for all the food," Linda said.
The building's winged roof, which was built separately from the original building, has absorbed three direct hits by tractor trailers in recent years, according to Linda.
One faithful Biff-Burger regular, a trucker from West Virginia, avoids this problem by staying away from the parking area.
Instead, he parks his truck, trailer and all, in the center turning lane of Routes 11 and 15, runs in, orders his food "very fast," and leaves.
A regular Biff burger has a special barbeque sauce of which, Linda said, everyone tries to guess the ingredients. She would reveal only that the main ingredient is ketchup.
"It does not taste the same if you make it at home," she said.
Many customers order up to 20 burgers and freeze them for later, Linda said. One regular from Bradford, Pa. stops in and buys mass quantities of burgers to quench Biff-Burger cravings.
Linda commented on that, saying Friday afternoons are busy and the small cooking staff, just she and her mother, would not be able to handle the crowds.
Linda said she thinks it will be at least another year and a half before a major franchise buys the land. Regardless, the Pickerings said they hope it never closes.
"It's going to be sad to see it go," Mrs. Pickering said. "I like Burger King but these burgers have a taste of their own. I hope she never sells it."
Copyright Susquehanna University, Mar. 31, 2000