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Nov 6, 2007 12:23 PM

a visit to the beacon drive-in

Well, I did it...after years of saying "I oughta go there", I went an hour or so out of the way of this past weekend's roadtrip and went to Spartanburg to eat at the Beacon. Well, now I can say I've been there.

Very disappointed. I got the chili-cheese with bacon a-plenty and tea, having heard that's the "thing" to get. Burger was so-so, chili wasn't so good, fries and onions had no special qualities, and the tea had too much lemon for my personal tastes. On the upside, there was TONS of bacon on it, and it was really good. If I'm ever there again, I'll get a BLT.

Atmosphere was what I thought it would be, but it was a bit more rundown that I had expected. Apparently not too much has been reinvested in the building lately. The blind guy "JC" was there taking orders, and it was an experience to sit and eat and watch him work...until I saw some college-age kids doing the same thing, except they were obviously making fun of him...and I wondered if I was, too, on some level.

I love the varsity, and I love nu-way, and I love a greasy spoon diner. It's not that it was greasy, it just wasn't as good as I expected it to be. Maybe I had hyped it too much to myself, I don't know. I really wanted to like this place; I got the feeling I should have gone there 20 years ago.

anyone w/ similar experiences?

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  1. yeah, it's not about the food, it's about the experience. i first went there 20 years ago, and i still drop in periodically, although the last visit was a few years back. no, i can't say that the food has changed much, nor that it was any better before. and, yes, it's gotten shabbier over time, although i don't ever recall it being too spiffy. still, from a food culture perspective, it's a worthwhile place to go. the biggest change is me; i no longer order a "(fill-in-the-blank)-a-plenty" all for myself, now my wife and i split one. i generally get a cheeseburger, sometimes with bacon, as i don't care for the chili either.

    1. Yeah, it's not about the food. My Mom would take me there for a treat as a child, and we cruised the Beacon as teenagers. Personally, get the hash, the chili cheese always looked gross to me, but that's splitting hairs, I'm sure. I liked the onion rings...they are real onion rings, the way they would turn out if you made them yourself. Not pre-breaded rings like everywhere else I've ever had an onion ring. Perhaps I've been deprived in that respect.

      I also like the extremely artificial taste of the powdered, super-lemon, tea-mix, iced tea. Obviously, it's one of those programed-in-childhood things. I'm sure I'd hate it if it weren't already engrained as a good early memory.

      All that said, I had not been in years when we made a pilgrimage a few years ago. I'll just say I learned that a person who eats a low fat diet most of the time may need to "train" for awhile before they go to the Beacon.

      BTW, I didn't like the Varsity. It's all about history, not food.

      1 Reply
      1. re: danna

        I'll third the opinion that the Beacon really isn't about the food. Although I do remember the onion rings being pretty good.

        Was the Beacon ever anything but shabby? I don't recall it being much different way back when I was in high school from how it is today.

      2. Yes, from a health standpoint, you probably can't eat there very often, but it's one of those Chowhoundy places (like the Varsity) that you have to scope out at least once. And they used to have the distinction of being the largest server of iced tea of any restaurant in the U.S.
        First time I ever visited there I called ahead and spoke to Mr. White--he said to look him up when I came in--I did (he was working the register)--gave me a Beacon T-shirt and hat just for going out of my way.

        1. After reading this I am glad we did not go out of our way to hit the Beacon on our recent 4200-mile excursion. Missed The Varsity and Melear's BBQ too, and those were both bummers.

          1. Next go get a shake from Dairy Dream. My fave is the peanut butter. Have cash and lots of it. I think I posted about the $7 shake. . Oh wait, that was the black cherry .But I can't help myslef.