Krystal

When you grow up in the Southeast, Krystal is just a part of your life. It just is. The Upper South has a handful of Krystals (Virginia has one or two, SC has one or two, Kentucky has a few: NC has none), but the rest of them are in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida, with a sprinkling of Krystals on the other side of The River: a few in Arkansas (mostly just outside Memphis, TN), some in Texas, and some in Southeast Louisiana.

Now that we live on the other side of The River, whenever we go back to visit family, we always stop at one. Usually we hit Brandon, MS around lunchtime on our trips, and there is a Krystal in Brandon which is conveniently close to the interstate. (Even though I’m not eating not-good-for-me food anymore, I did make an exception the other day and eat two Krystals for lunch.)

Krystal is the second-oldest fast food establishment in the U.S., founded in Chattanooga in 1933. Only White Castle is older (to which Krystals are quite similar). Originally, Krystal featured counter service, serving their tiny square burgers and other menu items on white china plates. Later they added carhop service. Alas, those days are long gone, but the signature Krystal remains. Actually, Krystal has recently revamped one of their locations in Chattanooga to feature an expanded menu, table service, and carhop service, like the old days. Oh, and here’s a picture from those old days. This is the Krystal that was on 20th St. in Birmingham. Notice the sign on the front says “The Krystal”, so when your grandmother asks you to go to the Krystal for her, do not make fun of her.

(B’ham people: notice the billboard for Golden Flake fried pork skins in the background?)

Anyone share these Krystal memories?

  • Back when Krystal served breakfast on real plates, they had eggs, grits, bacon, pancakes, etc. A full homestyle breakfast, only better than home. And they served the coffee in real coffee cups, not styrofoam. I remember they had warm syrup for the pancakes! Remember the photo of the egg-and-bacon breakfast on the menu board that looked like a smiley face? (Two fried eggs for eyes, strips of bacon for a mouth, grits in the middle.) Now they have the Sunriser (not recommended) and the Scrambler (a lot of people like it, but I can’t get past the way it looks.) I miss the full breakfast.
  • Remember Krystal’s fried chicken? They added chicken to the menu long before Jack’s added spicy fried chicken to theirs, which in turn was before Hardee’s tried their hand at fried chicken. Krystal had a separate counter for ordering the chicken.
  • How about the Krystal Critters mascots? No, they did not spell it Krystal Kritters. I have searched in vain for pictures of them.
  • I cannot remember when a Krystal was only 5 cents. I cannot remember when McDonald’s hamburgers were 15 cents, but I do remember Jack’s hamburgers being fifteen cents, and I definitely remember the “A Krystal for a Quarter” ad campaign. It had an old man and a little girl who were clogging. Even as a child I found it highly annoying. A Krystal is now 65 cents.
  • Remember the squeeze bottles of ketchup on the tables? They don’t have those anymore. I may be partially responsible. It seems there was a group of Samford students who used to like to eat at the Green Springs Krystal. They would take the pickles off their Krystals, cover one side of the pickle slice with the ketchup from the squeeze bottles, and flip said pickles onto the venetian blinds. The object of the game (or so I understand) was to see whose pickle would cling to the venetian blinds the longest before falling to the floor. I can neither confirm nor deny having taken part in this.
  • I remember seeing Brian Skinner balance a chair on his chin at that same Krystal. I’ll bet Morris has witnessed this too.
  • The “new” Krystal B.A. Burger (B.A. stands for Black Angus, not Bad Attitude), the full-sized burger on the menu, isn’t so new. They tried it in the ’70s too, only they called it the “Krystal King” back then. It didn’t last long. People go to Krystal to get Krystals. If they want full-sized burgers, they’ll go elsewhere.
  • Remember the fries Krystal test-marketed in the ’80s that still had the skins on them? They were really good.
  • When did Krystal take the Kids’ Meals off the menu? They served them with that other Chattanooga classic, the Moon Pie, only it was a special miniature version of the Moon Pie to match the miniature nature of the Krystal itself. My children miss it. (Lest we forget, Tennessee has also gifted the South with yet more junk food classics: the Goo Goo Cluster and Little Debbie snack cakes.)

OK, Krystal fans, let’s hear from you!

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About revjatb

I am a father of six who is trying to do his best! My interests are varied. I have one blog, KnowTea, that is primarily focused on liturgy and worship and another one, Bengtsson's Baking, that is about, well, baking! I hope you enjoy both of them, and if you have any questions, please contact me!
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34 Responses to Krystal

  1. PaulB says:

    You know, though I’ve eaten many a Krystal I’ve always associated them with sloooooooow service. I haven’t been to one in quite some time.

    What I miss is Milo’s. That’s another blog post waiting to happen.

  2. cancerman says:

    My parents used to send me and my brother to the Krystal on Vineville with a dollar apiece to buy ourselves dinner. We even got the chocolate covered donut and had five cents left over.

    I can’t stomach Krystals anymore.

    Square buns! Why are they square?

  3. Gay Jones says:

    Andy has to have a Milo’s anytime he is near Birmingham. When they lived in Jackson, he stopped at the one in T-town on the way home. It was the first one you came too.

  4. RevJATB says:

    Yeah, Krystal is notoriously slow. But actually they’ve gotten a lot better about that in recent years. And on the last few visits I’ve made there, they have been very friendly. At least the one in Brandon is.

    They have milkshakes and slushies now too! And free WiFi.

  5. RevJATB says:

    And yes, Milo’s is great. I should devote a post to them soon.

  6. RevJATB says:

    And I didn’t know there was a Milo’s in Tuscaloosa! Good to know. Of course Tuscaloosa has its own fast food claim to fame: Taco Casa!

  7. kristen says:

    I have never eaten a Krystal, even though I have lived less than 3 miles from a Krystal location for almost 2 years. They need to entice me in…

  8. cancerman says:

    What’s more enticing than square steamy buns?

    Wait, that sounds bad.

  9. Those dehydrated onions mess me up!

  10. ashley says:

    It is funny how nostalgia can swallow up nastiness. I can have beautiful memories of things that objectively shouldn’t be remembered or adored. Unfortunately, Krystal burgers (if you can call them burgers) fall in that category. Breakfast at Krystal, however, pleased me beyond belief on the streets of NO.

  11. GuessWho says:

    I remember the clogging girl ad, as well as another with a pudgy woman saying, “I ate 40 of these (hamburgers) once!”

    I didn’t know about the SU pickle flip game. Was this when Krystal had the PLASTIC shrubbery landscaping outside?

  12. Paul's Friend says:

    Krystal was the one place that stayed open all night during my college days at Auburn. That, of course, meant that it was a magnet for drunk people…and architecture students like me. A trip to the Krystal from the architecture building was signified by the announcement “Gut Bomb Run!”.

  13. RevJATB says:

    That is akin to our midnight Krispy Kreme runs at SU, which usually were to the most dangerous KK location of all: Five Points West. After eating too many KK doughnuts, we’d then have to go get a Big Mac “to clear the palate.” How are we still ALIVE????

  14. RevJATB says:

    David: egads. Can you imagine eating 40 Krystals at one sitting? I wonder if she ate fries with that too.

    Yes, I believe the plastic landscaping was in place during that time. Lovely. Of course RED venetian blinds are always quite fetching.

  15. Morris says:

    1. I don’t remember seeing Skinner balance anything at Krystal, but he did balance more things on his face than I did … and his Snuffalupagus was beyond compare. I still balance stuff on my face … I wonder if he does.

    2. I don’t remember the number in the commercials being 40. I remember one fluffier-than-the-norm young woman in a commercial saying, “I ate 12 Krystals once.” But I could be wrong.

    3. I don’t remember going to the Krystal when I was a student at Auburn (’80 to ’82), nor did I go the the one in B’ham while I was at Samford. Man, I must have led one B-O-R-I-N-G life in college. Oh, yeah …. I did. I think I still have mud stains from where I was a stick in it.

  16. Morris says:

    Oh, and the square burger. When I lived in Columbus, OH I knew some people who worked at the Battelle Memorial Institute. I was told by one of them (when I asked what Battelle was all about), that one of the Battelle claims to fame was the development of the White Castle square burger. Square was best because it maximized the use of the heated cooking surface. The meat patty had 5 holes in it (I don’t think Krystal does the holes) to allow the steam and flavor to escape to the upper bun which was placed on top of the meat as it cooked.

    … full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.

  17. RevJATB says:

    After freshman year, Morris, I ate far fewer hamburgers in general and actually ate in the cafe more. On-campus people couldn’t understand why a commuter would be eating in the cafe! Short answer: more choices. Vegetables and such. (And no, I never opted for the wet dog sandwiches.)

    You see, eating hamburgers for lunch almost every day freshman year gave me a terrible case of GOUT. Never, never again.

    Thanks for the science behind the square burgers. I figured that the reason had something to do with being able to fit more on the grill that way. That’s probably why Wendy’s does the same thing. The big difference of course is that White Castle and Krystal use frozen patties while Wendy’s meat is not frozen.

  18. vrouw_jonker says:

    Hello, here without any particularly edifying comments about Krystal, except to be somewhat envious of all the exclusively Abalaman memories… and to use the “did she eat fries with that” question to segue into this philosophical joke:
    So, Descartes walks into [Krystal] and says, “I’ll have [dozen burgers]. And the person behind the counter says, “Do you want fries with that?” And Descartes says, “I think not!”
    And disappears.

  19. RevJATB says:

    Vrouw, well done!

  20. eussWhoD says:

    Morris, I guess eating 12 Krystals is more doable than 40! Bleeeeeh, nevertheless!

    John et al, the KK discussion reminds me, remember when some group sold boxes of KK doughnuts for an annual fundraiser in the music school at SU. By noon, everybody would be staggering around with a box of half-eaten doughnuts that they couldn’t get rid of. One year, I remember a slightly green looking Dr. Witold T. shoving a box of doughnuts into my chest and saying, “Take this box of doughnuts to Mrs. Ousley!”

  21. cancerman says:

    Thanks to your inspiration I took the kids to the Krystal close to where I grew up. The youngest, who is an accomplished chef, refused to try a krystal burger. True to Krystal form, even though the three of us were the only customers in the restaraunt, it took five minutes to get 2 krystals, fries and drinks.

  22. David says:

    I remember Krystal Kritters.
    I have a set of KK fridge magnets and a stuffed walrus.
    Missed bid on a hippo on ebay a couple of years ago.

  23. John says:

    I think there is a pic on ebay.

  24. Ron says:

    I have a couple of pics of me dressed up as the monkey critter when I worked there in the late 70s. They aren’t as cute from the inside.

  25. Randy R. Mueller says:

    I was a Krystal Kritter, Wally the Walrus, it was my first job in Warner Robins, Ga. We had a great time, I met Michael Jackson in that costume back in the late 70’s. Girls also loved WHOEVER was in one of those costumes, I was 16 and life was good. Anyone remember Krystal fried chicken?? It was very, very good.

  26. UncleJed says:

    I was a krystal kritter and played the monkey!

  27. UncleJed says:

    Check out richard clary sr on facebook and look at uploaded pics, im the monkey in the middle! Lol

  28. Regina says:

    Where can I find the “A Krystal for a Quarter” ad campaign video with the old man and little girl clogging? I am unable to locate it.

  29. DD says:

    I have a couple pictures of the hippo and walrus. My mom was a manager in Knox. got some pictures from a party they had. Pretty cool because none of my friends remember them or the dotted K.

  30. MrWidglet says:

    Do you remember Cowboy Sid and Sheila the Wonder Horse?

    Does anyone have any video of them?

    I worked at a Krystal in Auburn. Our manager was really into Cowboy Sid.

  31. Bewitched says:

    Know Tea said: Krystal is the second-oldest fast food establishment in the U.S., founded in Chattanooga in 1933. Correction they were founded in 1932 next year will be their 80th anniversary. I have worked in the homeoffice in Chattanooga for 33 years.

  32. Jerry from Augusta says:

    I have a picture of me ,with the Krystal Critter ,on Walton Way in Augusta,Ga.

  33. Rob Cox says:

    I remember Krystal Chicken, as I was the “Chicken Cook” at Krystal #11 from 1977 – 1982. Best chicken in town. We took a lot of pride back in the day. Our location in East Ridge, Tennessee, was the Krystal of the Year, were we received a plaque, a bonus (nice when you are 17 years old), and a dinner out on the company. Good times!

  34. Aaron says:

    I recently bought a Krystal Fried Chicken bucket at a yard sale. Does anyone know anything about it or what it may be worth. I cannot find one anywhere on the internet which leads me to believe that there may be just a few in existence. Thanks

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