Jiffy Burger offers great taste, blast from past

Jiffy Burger offers great taste, blast from past

May 8th, 2014 by Ben Benton in Chattnow Dining

The Bonnaroo Burger is the signature item at the Jiffy Burger in Manchester, Tenn. The quarter-pound cheeseburger is topped with the standard ingredients, along with a fried egg, bacon and deep-fried onion ring. It's served here with a side of batter-dipped fries.

Photo by Ben Benton/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

Where: Jiffy Burger, 1001 Hillsboro Blvd., Manchester, Tenn. (From I-24 Exit 114, turn west onto Hillsboro Boulevard and go two miles. Jiffy Burger is at the intersection with Jackson Street.)

Phone: 931-728-4452.

Hours: 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. CT Monday-Saturday.

Prices: Range from $2.55 for a grilled cheese sandwich to $7.99 for five of 14 dinner plates on the menu.

MANCHESTER, Tenn. - Just about everything about this town's Jiffy Burger lends itself to a seasoning-filled air of authenticity.

For the tie-dyed hordes heading to the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in mid-June, this is one of the standouts among the Coffee County seat's hometown eateries and one of its longest-lived, having been owned by the same family since 1965. And it's not far from the festival site.

My son and I dropped in on a weekday while on a visit to Middle Tennessee, just ahead of the lunch crowd. We were a little early, mostly because our appetites were on Eastern time.

A few customers were there when we got there, and everyone who walked through the door afterward was greeted like an old friend, most of them by name.

The Jiffy Burger oddly has its kitchen right up front so you can actually sit in your car for curb service and watch the staff working the grill and fryers. If you do that, though, you're missing one of the highlights of a visit: the extensive display of collectibles, music memorabilia and old local photos that decorate the restaurant.

We sat at a booth beneath a large glass case hanging on the wall that was filled with Star Wars treasures from the 1970s and afterward.

THE MENU

Like the name suggests, the restaurant specializes in all forms of burgers, mostly standards with a choice of one or two handmade patties, made daily, and an assortment of toppings. Prices start at $2.85 for a hamburger and go up to $6.85 for the loaded 12-ounce OVERSET FOLLOWS:patty with cheese and bacon.

At $1.75, a corn dog is the least expensive item on the entrees menu. A chili dog goes for $3.69. Sandwiches range from $2.55 for a grilled cheese up to $4.39 for the country ham. Other sandwiches include barbecue, fish, chicken filet, charbroiled chicken and tenderloin and grilled versions of the regular hamburgers and cheeseburgers.

Plate meals - which come with a salad or slaw, regular fries and a roll - include the seafood platter ($7.99), bacon cheeseburger ($7.15), hamburger steak ($7.49), fish ($7.59), chicken filet ($7.59), and shrimp, barbecue, country ham, tenderloin (all $7.99).

Sides include french fries, batter-dipped fries, tater tots, onion rings, chicken filet strips and Frito chili pie. The six salad options range from coleslaw ($1.89) to grilled chicken ($5.95).

Anything on the menu can be added individually for an extra charge, and a children's menu has seven dishes all under $5.

THE ORDER

All the burgers are top-rate, with fresh lettuce and tomato that taste hand-picked and fresh-sliced. I haven't tried many of the other sandwiches, but a chicken filet I had a while back was plenty tasty with good, Southern-style breading.

I've had lunch there a numerous times over the last few years, but my son was a first-timer and he wanted to try one of my favorites, the "Bonnaroo burger" ($4.15). I followed suit.

The Bonnaroo burger is a creation by the namesake festival's director of community relations, Jeff Cuellar. It has a hand-formed, quarter-pound patty on a bed of shredded lettuce with mayo, tomato and thick crispy bacon slices topped with a fried egg and deep-fried onion ring.

It's a towering tasty treat.

We added some batter-dipped fries and golden sweet teas to complete our meals.

The burger was wonderfully delicious and juicy, and the egg added flavor to the crunchy bacon and onion ring. My son was impressed, and I was filled to the brim.

I like the batter-dipped fries, but I think I prefer the old-school, traditional golden versions with a little salt and pepper. My son thought the batter-dipped fries were great.

THE SERVICE

The staff appears most days to be a mix of family and long-timers, and they're quick on the draw with the ticket book and explanations of the offerings if you need it.

My son ordered his Bonnaroo burger without mayo, but when it got there, the creamy additive was on there. I feared his experience might be tainted, but the waitress took the burger back to the kitchen without a word, rebuilt it with a new onion ring, bun, egg, lettuce and tomato and returned before I had the third bite of my burger.

One note to be sure of before you visit: They take only cash or check, so plan to have legal tender or a debit card for the ATM inside.

THE SPACE

The Jiffy Burger's decor should rouse a customers' sense of nostalgia with group photos of little-league baseball teams, contest and pageant winners and newspaper clippings.

Unlike many restaurants that are decorated with antiques and artifacts from yesteryear, the Jiffy Burger is truly a display of rarefied collectibles from the family's massive collection.

There are lots of booths, but the lunch crowd is such that it's still sometimes hard to get a seat - another reason to get there a little early or a little late.

THE VERDICT

I'll be back soon. In fact, it would be a good bet that's where I eat the next time I'm in town. Every burger I've had reminds me of the homey burgers I ate as a kid when summertime seemed to last forever. There's value throughout the menu. I've paid a lot more for fare that doesn't come close.

If you're in Manchester for Bonnaroo or just passing by the exit on Interstate 24, it's close enough to stop for a bite. Your taste buds won't regret it.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.