Just 50 miles or so from Tuscaloosa is a piece of burger tradition, at least it is for people who live in Bessemer/McCalla. If you ask people from the area what the best burger is, you’re likely – sooner or later – to hear about the ramshackle gas station at the corner of Dickey Springs Road and Pocahontas Road — J&J Grocery and Deli.
You might call it a sight for sore eyes; or as some people I know also called it, “an eyesore.” But J & J has enjoyed moments in the burger lamplight of fame… My friends at Yelp give it four and half stars. Like its university cousin to the west, it’s been honored and recognized … and possibly endorsed in some ranking by people as dead as Ears Whitworth.
Some people love J&J. It’s a place that impresses … someone. It’s just that I was more taken in by the place than the food. It’s kind of like Alabama … or Cirque de Soleil or REM. It’s transacted on hype and tradition so long you never know truth from the unreasonable exuberance.
So, in the spirit of doing a review, I thought that this review should be a review … like a yearly review.
So J&J, is it okay if I call you that? Thanks. We’re here for your yearly review. Clearly, you’ve done some awesome work over the last year and the folks upstairs are really pleased with what you’ve done, and so am I.
Well, thanks boss. You know, I’ve been doing this for 15+ years now.
I know, and that’s one of the amazing things. You’ve gotten quite a following over that time.
So, I’m getting a raise …
Well … we have a couple of opportunities – growth areas — we need to discuss.
Opportunities? Growth areas? What do you mean?
Well, it’s actually … it’s the food.
Everyone loves my food! I’m ranked as one of the best. The people who work at my place are nice. They are fun. The place is just down-home, redneck goodness.
Yes. Yes, if we can stick to our agenda, everyone loves the people. Everyone loves the homey-ness. But we’re here to talk about the food … there are some very good qualities to your food. The meat is fresh (80/20). The bacon, nice and crispy. But …
You better watch the next words coming out of your mouth … You say anything about Allison …
We’re not being personal here today, J&J. We’re talking about your performance. Your food. I gotta be honest. Maybe a few years ago it was top notch, but it’s just good … ish. The bun. The fixings with it. And the fries. They may be unique and the may be thick. But I’d never come just for the fries.
Now, you’re cutting me. You’re just being mean. I’ve worked for this company … I mean, I’ve been slingin burgers there for …
Now let me finish … I really like the vibe there. You’ve got something. And while it’s junky inside, it’s cool at the same time. It’s a gas station and cracker barrel-lite. I get it. I like it. And I’ve noted that on the review. Extra cool points for locale.
But you hated the burger.
I didn’t say hate. I said, in not these words, that it wasn’t exceptional. I could see all the stuff you use to make it in the freezer in front on me. While transparent, it doesn’t obscure that mountain of fake cheese staring at me. Or the gallons of mayo. And then there was the bun … grilled but with grilly goo on it.
That’s my signature move. People eat that up.
Well, they kind of are forced to, since that’s what you do to them all.
Come on, man. I’m an award-winner. I’m bona fide. I even got my menu done up on a white board with different colored markers.
A nice corporate touch. The HR folks loved it. Screams of irony. Just like the actually active and used cigarette ash trays lying around.
But people think that’s cool, counterculture. Giving it to the man.
Give it to the man, then. Just don’t give it to me.
I bet you didn’t like the fries, either.
Let’s try and keep the rest of this discussion productive. Okay. As I said, I think you have some opportunities this coming year.
I’ll show you opportunities!
You’re still getting your normal raise.
No more free ketchup packets for you. And no more taking my forks, either!
And you’re still authorized to charge $7-$9 for a burger, just like places that have an equal or better burger. We still think you’re an important part of this team and we want to help you.
I still get to be country-cool? I still get to dedicate 14 percent of the gas station to odds and ends and the rest to being a grill?
If you want. You’re still an important part of the team. You’re still a winner … just like the all those NASCAR glasses on top of the air duct. Thanks again for your service and remember that what we discuss here is strictly confidential.
Unless you put it in a blog …
Overall – I see why people really like it; I just didn’t love it that much. Nice people. Friendly. Fun neighborly place. Definitely good, but not the best. But if you’re in the neighborhood, give it a whirl.