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As you approach the Beacon in Spartanburg, S.C., you see the lighthouse, which is the only light thing you're going to encounter for the next half-hour or so. (NPR)

Sandwich Monday: Chili Cheeseburger A-Plenty

by Ian Chillag
Aug 5, 2013

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As far as I can tell, 100 percent of presidents who acknowledge the Beacon get two terms. Please order from the real J.C., not the wooden cutout. You'll get your food much faster that way. The Chili Cheeseburger A-Plenty.

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There are, for eaters of sandwiches, pilgrimages that must be made. In fact, the pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower were on a pilgrimage to try the first day-after-Thanksgiving leftover turkey sandwich. After that, the next most important pilgrimage may be to the Beacon Drive-In Restaurant in Spartanburg, S.C.

The Beacon has been around since 1946, and it makes the really-not-hard-to-believe claim that it's the biggest single seller of iced tea in the country. The place is huge. As soon as I walked in, I was in awe. Conveniently, the fact that my mouth was agape would save me a step once we got our food.

The most amazing part of the Beacon experience is ordering. You stand at one end of a long counter, and this man standing there — his name's J.C. Strobel — says "caaaaalllllll it!" That means order. You say what you want and he yells it back to the cooks. Then he tells you to "move on down," and somewhere down the line somebody hands you your food.

I didn't record the experience, but this person did:

Everything at the Beacon can be ordered regular or "a-plenty," which means it's buried under a pile of french fries and onion rings. When it's time for my funeral, I hope to be buried the same way. Digging for your sandwich is fun —like being an archaeologist, except this time you don't get in trouble for eating the priceless artifact.

I got the Chili Cheeseburger A-Plenty. Now, some might say, "Isn't a burger topped with chili just a burger topped with more burger?" while others might not say anything because their mouth is full of a delicious Chili Cheeseburger A-Plenty instead of silly questions.

The Beacon is worth a detour if you're anywhere near Spartanburg, S.C. The memories will last a lifetime, even if the digestion lasts only six to eight weeks.

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