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!