Thursday, May 8, 2008
A Beacon Light for the Masses
Many Greenvillians may eschew a trip to the nether world that most of us here in the Upcountry of South Carolina call Sparkle City. Yes, our sister city of Spartanburg has been ignored almost as often as a red-headed stepchild is beaten. I say no longer - there is a reason to make the pilgrimage up 85, as long as you previously get your doctor's permission.
Maybe you have heard its name whispered in the night and seen the fear grip your cardiologist like a cold steel claw as he senses the stealthy approach of his nemesis. I speak, of course, of the Beacon Drive-Thru, a place that must be experienced in the flesh at least once before death - which may well be the result of your visit. It will, however, be the most joyous heart attack of your life, kind of a grand closing celebration for your arteries .
According to their webpage, the Beacon is the second largest drive-thru in the United States. The eatery is time-tested, having been in operation for over sixty years.
Furthermore, the Beacon is so valued by Spartanburg that the boulevard running past the restaurant is named after the long-time owner, John B. White, Sr. Although nominally a drive-thru, to get a true feel for the place one has to go inside and get the full dining experience.
Upon entrance, you are immediately confronted by an array of boiling pots and sizzling grills, combined with the raucous shouts of the employees inside the open kitchen. The queue moves quickly towards the counter and suddenly you are addressed by a thin African-American man of average height. One thing makes this man immediately stand out in your mind. He is clearly blind. This supposed deficiency does not slow him down from doing his job - getting you to order, and doing so quickly and efficiently. You step towards him and he knows you are there.
He greets you and quickly asks for your order. Panic and indecision grip you in a death lock. What should you have? Too late, he has ordered for you and the masses behind shove your confused carcass farther down the assembly line.
Seriously, don't get to the counter without knowing your order or you will be moved on and processed like a heifer to the slaughterhouse doors. Speaking of future hamburgers, what exactly does the Beacon have on its menu?
- A-plenty -
The Beacon Drive-Thru menu mainly consists of hamburgers, hot dogs, and the necessary fried accoutrements.
The open kitchen at the Beacon allows you to witness the assembly line that produces your food at work. Lard and chili boils away in huge pots as the kitchen staff scurry to and fro preparing the hundreds and sometimes thousands of meals the restaurant serves every day.
In an attempt to separate themselves from your regular fast food joint the food at the Beacon is served in a manner which the owners have labeled a-plenty. If you truly want to have the complete experience, your food must be ordered in this fashion. Upon receiving your a-plenty platter you will notice that the chili cheese burger you ordered is not immediately visible. Don't worry! Just dig a little bit through the several inch thick congealed mass of fries and onion rings deep into the heart of darkness and you will find your main course buried inside, a kind of cracker jack box culinary treasure for you to enjoy right in time for the new installment of the Indiana Jones films.
You must at all costs eat the fries and rings first - they have a half-life shorter than the majority of known radioactive elements. Hot and greasy = deliciousness. Cold and soggy = barftacularity. Then eat the hamburger if you still have room. I will bet you cannot. I always feel safe making this wager - according to my completely made up statistics (according to Steven Wright 47.4% of statistics are made up on the spot) 87% of people who finish an a-plenty either die or become too obese and sickly to collect their winnings. Honestly, people under 6 feet tall are unable to see over the top of an a plenty platter without assistance.
Oh wait - there's more! Large parties will also receive a strawberry shortcake that they have absolutely no sane reason to eat.
Of course, you need a tasty beverage with which to wash down this cholesterol-laden cardiac nightmare. The only way to make your meal complete is to have a glass of the Beacon's famous sweet tea.
The restaurant sells more tea than any other in the entire United States. That is because it is no ordinary tea, but rather a sugar-filled explosion bound to send anyone with diabetes into shock if they merely dare to approach a cup of the stuff. Alarm bells ring urging the tooth fairy into action whenever a glass of the tea is raised. The state of Hawaii credits The Beacon with its impressive sugar production and sales. Hawaii governor Illiiawuaka Onomonopoeia, when asked about the Beacon, exclaimed, "I hate haoles (Hawaiian term for whitey)with a passion, but those folks in Spartanburg are welcome to visit any time."
I mentioned earlier that a blind man works the counter at The Beacon Drive-Thru. How can I be so sure he will be there for your visit? The Beacon is well-known for the loyalty of its employees, many of whom have worked there for twenty, thirty, and even forty years. If you come in by the front door, there is a plaque to the left listing some of the longest serving workers. A couple of individuals even slung burgers or car-hopped until the day they died.
I have been to the restaurant several times over a fifteen year period and Blind Willie (probably not his real name) is always there, screaming out orders in machine gun staccato blasts that would make an auctioneer proud.
That ends our tour of the Beacon-Drive Thru. Next time you are so hungry that you feel a complete disregard for your future health, head on down to Spartanburg and try it for yourself. The Beacon is much more than a meal, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So siphon some gas from your roommate's car and shoot on down I-85 to visit. If you can avoid cardiac arrest, you will be glad you did.