"Well, that was an experience," we said in unison after walking about 20 steps from the Blue Circle in Bristol, TN.
At one time there were over 30 Blue Circle restaurants scattered the Southeast. Now only the restaurant in Bristol continues in operation. Cars were parked under the canopy from which people could place their orders, although I'm not sure if the phones were still operating.
In its 44th year and still groing strong, the Circle was packed after we took our seats on the two counter stools next to the register. "Packed" means that the 9 stools and 14 table settings were now full. From that vantage point we had a clear view of the diner's operation.
That's when I noticed the counter next to the grill.
There neatly arranged in eight rows of three each were the square burgers for which they are famous. We knew about the burgers, over 30,000 per month are devoured, but we didn't realize how many of those sales came at breakfast.
I don't know why I was so fixated on these rows of burgers, but I watched as the process of preparing these burgers continued. With the speed gained from preparing thousands of burgers, the cook's daughter lifted the top of each burger and dealth each burger a green pickle slice. Later, the cook repeated the lid-lift to add a squirt of mustard.
I took a break to order three pancakes for $1.85, hash browns, and bacon; Kate ordered the sausage gravy and biscuit for $1.25, hash browns, and grits.
Before our order arrived, my eyes were back on the grill. Another 24 of the 2-1/2 inch square patties were on the grill. Then onions are placed on each patty. Then the patties were flipped, onion side down, the top half of the bun placed on the patty, and the lower half of the bun was placed on the top half.
Shortly thereafter, each patty is lifted off the grill, the bottom half placed on the counter, and the burger and top half of the bun are placed on the lower half. The precision of the process resulted in another two dozen burgers ready for the pickle and mustard.
The final step involved picking up three burgers in each hand and placing the six burgers in a row in the aluminum pan on the counter.
Soon after our order arrived, the fellow on the stool next to Kate, said, "You like grits. We can't get them up north."
"Where are you from?" asked Kate.
"Kentucky," he answered and then returned to his steak and eggs.
Meanwhile back at the grill, orders for the burgers were coming in. Before an order of five or six burgers was sent to its owner, the burgers were moved from the aluminum pan for a short "freshening up" in a steamer.
I was caught up in the process; Kate was drawn to the burger. She ordered one. Now considering that four high school kids are well-known for eating a total of 180, an order of "one" brought a few chuckles.
An interesting experience.