Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone......
Yahoo 360º,  Railyn's Blog
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Posted By Railyn

But sometimes, you can do something about it.

I belong to several websites and forums, most of which are pop-culture and nostalgia themed. While it's always been around, I've been noticing a lot more "End Of An Era" type posts which talk about a favorite store or restaurant going out of business, and I've been participating in my fair share.

The other day I thought about the loss of a much loved restaurant in my family: the Biff Burger. Chances are good that a lot of people out there have never heard of it. At one time, it was a pretty popular hamburger joint/drive-in, largely in the southern states. In the early 1960's, a gentleman in my area, who owned his own business and travelled south frequently, fell in love with Biff Burger, and decided to bring one north. It opened in 1965. Our local newspaper ran an article a few years back, and I remember it saying that our Biff Burger was the one furthest north in the entire chain.

Biff Burger was a classic drive-in. It was a small building - white enameled metal, with a large window across the front. On either side of the window were it's signature 3 large diamonds: one turquoise, one orange, and one yellow. Above the ordering window was a metal plaque indicating that the building was manufactured by Biff Burger Systems. If I remember the newspaper article correctly, it was brought up either whole, or in pieces and assembled.

At some later point, what I call "wings" - an angular metal roof structure - were added, as well as the addition of an enclosed dining room to the front (my mom believes it was shortly after Hurricaine Agnes in 1972 which would make sense as I don't remember it any other way). The drive-in was on it's way out at that time, and the harsh winters here probably didn't help matters either. Biff Burger was the first fast food restaurant in this area, beating McDonald's by a good 10 or so years.

The food at Biff Burger was great - typical American burger joint stuff at it's best. The Biff Burger (called a Biff or Cheese Biff) was one of a kind. It was an incredibly flimsy patty (think a standard McDonald's burger) with a secret sauce (which I believe to be largely barbeque sauce and pickle relish). They used a roto-broiler to cook the burgers, and it just gave them a great flavor. There was also the Super Biff, which was a quarter pound burger with lettuce, tomato and mayo; the Super Fish, which was two batter-dipped fish fillets on a bun with lettuce, cheese, and tarter sauce; and the Biff Dog - a hot dog which was notched and bent in to a circle and broiled on the roto broiler and served on a hamburger bun - a favorite when I was little. Their fries were shoestrings, and always fried crisp. Over the years, they added more items (like chicken nuggets) as tastes changed, but the ones above were unique to the Biff Burger franchise.

Sadly, we lost our Biff Burger in 2001. It was one of only two true Biff Burger restaurants that remained. The other is in Florida, and going strong. As I thought about it the other day, I remembered going down on the last day. I ate both lunch and supper there, and took some Cheese Biffs and Biff Dogs home. I bought a t-shirt. I gave the owner a hug, and brushed back the tears as I left. Looking back on that, I began to think how pathetic I must be to get so worked up over a little thing like a restaurant, but then again, not really. There's more to it than that. I have a history with that place.

My mom was relatively dirt-poor growing up. It was a real treat every Saturday to get to go out and eat after going to the market house. Because Biff Burger had good, inexpensive food, they stopped there a lot. When I was small, mom began taking me to Biff Burger. We were financially ok, but every little bit helps, and again it provided for a good meal at a low price. Often, we'd have her mom, my Grandma Rose, along for the trip because we took her shopping (she didn't drive). After Grandma Rose passed on in 1980, my mom would often get wistful when we'd stop. She said every Saturday, for 20+ years without fail, Grandma Rose would get a Super Fish combo, with a Pepsi to drink.

My dad worked odd hours, so mom and I would leave the house in the evening if dad was on a certain shift to allow him to get some sleep. We'd often go down to the Biff Burger for dinner and conversation (Dad wasn't fond of the place, so it worked out well). When I first began dating my husband, I introduced him to the wonders of Biff Burger because he wanted to take me out, but only earned minimum wage. When we first got married, that again became our stop of choice for dinner out because we were on a tight budget.

Over the years, we never abandoned the Biff Burger, but many did. We got an influx of people from other areas who would laugh every time they'd drive by. We'd ask if they had tried it, and they always made a face and emphatically said "NO". We got an influx of younger people as well, who had never known the magic of a Cheese Biff, as the chain had all but disappeared. Sadly, I even heard comments from some that they didn't want to eat there any more because in its' later years, it was owned by an ethnic family.

In the late 90's, it was put up for sale. When it was sold, we were optomistic, but when we found out it was to Sunbury Motors Kia, we knew it was over. They announced plans to knock the building down, and build a car lot - just what we needed. They made up some t-shirts, and announced closing week. You couldn't touch the place. All of a sudden, people began talking about how much they would miss the place. Some still do. This makes me mad. The place had been up for sale for years. The owners wanted to retire. They wanted someone to buy the place that would keep it going, and they told me they turned down offers that wanted to level the place, and finally caved with the car dealer when they felt they had no other choice. Perhaps if people would have patronized the old Biff Burger a little more often, maybe they'd have had an easier time selling to someone who wanted to keep it up. Toward the end, we'd often times be the only ones in the dining room.

I still feel a little sad when I pass by Sunbury Motors Kia, or hear their annoying jingle (We're gonna see-ya in a KIA!!!). I had some good memories attached to the old Biff Burger. Memories of growing up, of long deceased relatives, of early days with my husband, and good times with friends. If you have a favorite local establishment - one that you'd hate to see go away - whatever it may be - make sure you toss them your business. Sometimes, the loss of a favorite haunt is unavoidable, but in this case, I'm not so sure.

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Thursday March 30, 2006 - 06:39pm (EST)  Permanent Link   Comments

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