The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 10, 2010

Mike Pound: Best cheeseburgers are direct and to the point

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — It was the sign that did it.

I was driving through Carl Junction, and the sign in front of Randy’s Drive-In pretty much made the decision for me.

The message on the sign was direct and to the point: “Double cheeseburger and fries. $4.59.”

My car almost drove itself into Randy’s parking lot. You know those horses that have to ride the same route day after day? The horses that ride the same route so long that the rider doesn’t even have to steer? That’s the way my car is when it comes to cheeseburgers.

Sometimes, the best advertising tactic is to be direct and to the point. If you have a good product, you shouldn’t have to hype it too much. That’s why Randy’s message — “Double cheeseburger and fries. $4.59” — works.

One time, many years ago, my wife and I were walking along Duval Street in Key West, Fla. It was about 8 p.m., and I think we were heading to the late, great Captain Tony’s Saloon. Along the way, we passed a place where young women remove their clothing. As we passed the place, there was a guy on the sidewalk trying to interest people in entering the clothing-removal business.

“Cold beer and naked ladies,” is what the guy said.

That’s direct and to the point.

Randy’s Drive-In is sort of like the Eiffel Tower without all the French people. Folks who are from Paris tend to take the Eiffel Tower for granted. Sure, they like the Eiffel Tower ... well, as much as the French can like anything. But since the Eiffel Tower is always around, it’s easy for the French to take it for granted.

Randy’s Drive-In has been around about as long as I have lived in the area, and over the years I’ve had a few cheeseburgers there. But I don’t stop there often enough. Sometimes, like the French who drive by the Eiffel Tower without even glancing at it, I drive through Carl Junction without even glancing at Randy’s Drive-In.

How dumb is that?

So on Thursday, when my car drove itself into the lot at Randy’s Drive-In, I was glad. I walked into the restaurant and found Randy standing by the cash register. I ordered a double cheeseburger, fries and a glass of tea, and parked myself on one of the stools at the counter.

Randy and I chatted while the nice women were fixing my burger and fries. Occasionally, Randy would have to stop chatting and take an order at the drive-through or at the cash register. Just about everyone Randy saw, he knew by name. He also knew where they worked, who they were married to — or used to be married to — who their parents were, or who their kids were.

A college-age kid came into the restaurant and ordered lunch.

“Your brother still selling condos in Colorado?” Randy asked.

“Nope, he’s in construction now,” the young kid said.

Later, one of the nice women in the kitchen came out to talk to the kid. Apparently her son knew the kid.

Randy’s is sort of the hub of Carl Junction. The city just opened its new community center. It’s a neat place and likely will also be a hub of sorts for the town. But Randy’s, I think, will always be THE hub.

Randy and I talked for a while about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Randy told me he had to cancel vacation plans he made for Destin, Fla. We agreed that the whole thing is one giant mess. After a few minutes, one of the nice women placed my burger and fries in front of me, and I forgot about the mess on the Gulf Coast for a while.

My burger was fantastic. Instead of springing for the super double cheeseburger, I went with the plain double cheeseburger so it didn’t overwhelm me. Sometimes, in spite of my best judgment, I order the biggest burger on the menu and then live to regret it. But I had a lot yet to do at the paper Thursday afternoon (no, really, I did!), and I knew a super double cheeseburger might do me in.

There wasn’t anything special about my double cheeseburger, which is why it was so good. What they serve at Randy’s is exactly what people want: fresh, hot and very good. Like the message on the sign, my burger and fries were direct and to the point.

So the next time you’re anywhere near Carl Junction and feel like a good meal, head Randy’s way.

Just steer in the general direction of Randy’s. Your car will do the rest.

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