Thursday, October 3, 2013

Love at First Bite at Vicki's Lunch Van

[ed. Note: 6/18/2014: Congratulations to Vickie's for winning best burger in Alabama this week.]

This post could go several ways.  We could make fun of the portable Biff Burger building, the handmade "Pardon the flies" sign, the TV that does not work, the paper towels on the tables or the lack of a sign visible from the road. We could research the health rating.  We could try to weave the latest government crisis into the story and blame the House Republicans.  We could be smart and sassy. Or we could--shocker--really write about the food.

The 8 oz. combo--drink included
As I sat in a booth pondering which direction to take, my number was called and soon there was before me, in all its steamy splendor, an 8 oz. double cheeseburger dressed all the way lying temptingly in a basket beside some real fresh French fries.  After the first bite, all was forgiven and my decision was made. As I enjoyed my combo for a out the door price of $8.89, the old building and wacky signs (or lack thereof) faded away.  Although not really a food truck and best described as a "dive," the straight poop is that Vicki's Lunch Van restaurant just off Coliseum Boulevard in the old Biff Burger building serves one of the best burgers in town at a very reasonable price.  I do not throw around such accolades lightly.  If you close your eyes as you take a bite, you will imagine you are at Hamburger King or Joe's Again without the claustrophobia.  You realize there is merit in keeping the overhead low and putting the money into the meat.  So, if you love a good cheeseburger, you will not be disappointed at Vicki's Lunch Van.  If you do not believe me, watch the WAKA-TV "taste of the town" segment or read the Montgomery Advertiser review. To their credit, they found Vicki's before most of the LITG gang.

Wide open spaces compared to the competition.

Now that recommendation is out of the way, there is some nostalgia and knowledge to impart.  No one reading this blog should leave this page dumber.

Inflation= Hamburgers go from 15 cents to $6 over 40 years.

Actually, calling itself a lunch van is more appropriate than maybe even the owners think. Those of you who grew up in the Gump remember the Biff Burger which opened on the Lee side of town in the 1960s.  Know what Biff stands for?  It stands for "Best In Fast Food." In fact, the Biff-Burger in Montgomery was one of 160 of the most successful franchises of that era.  The Biff-Burger had two innovations that set it apart.  First, the founder invented a dual grill machine that charbroiled the hamburgers on one metal conveyor while the buns traveled below and absorbed the flame-kissed drippings.  Second, the founder also invented a modular and portable building equipped with the unique broiler that could be installed in a week such that once the land could be cleared the store could be up and running in ten days.  The Biff-Burger in Montgomery--and now Vicki's Lunch Van--were housed in a portable building that has remained in use for over 40 years. 

The chain was founded in St. Petersburg, Florida, where one of the only two remaining Biff-Burgers still serve "Biff Burgers" to hundreds of bikers who flock to the throw-back buildings.  Perhaps one can even learn from the fall of this great chain that apparently gave Burger King its idea for a burger broiler.  After the founder sold out to a conglomerate, the purchaser decided to diversify into gambling operations that ruined the company.  Think of it, a casino operation that loses money.  You would almost have to try to lose money to fail at raking in chips from games tilted in your favor.  Regardless of the improbability of it, that is the reason we do not have Biff-Burgers all over the country.
The re-purposed portable BIFF

Their 20th century loss was our 21st century gain. When Vicki had to shut down her actual lunch van near Gunter, the portable Biff-Burger building--which had housed God only knows how many other businesses--was there for the taking.  Today, in that portable building without a sign to alert the passing public a restaurant is inside, Vicki and her cohorts are serving up burgers that put the Biff-Burgers--and just about any fast food hamburger--to shame.  For in the nondescript hovel, made to order hand-pattied mixtures of freshly ground steak are cooked on a griddle, smushed one at a time with a spatula, adorned with a bun to soak up the steamy grease rising from the heat and then served juicy and hot along with thick-cut real french-fries.  Even Harry Reid might agree to allow such a burger to pass mustard.

Darn. I am making myself hungry. What flies?

 Vicki's Lunch Van on Urbanspoon


  1. Vicki's is not in a Biff-Burger building.
    It is in a Burger Chef building, one of at least two in Montgomery.
    Look at the slanted front posts at Vicki's. Then look at the vertical posts at Biff-Burger in your picture. They are not the same building. Biff-Burger had a slanted roof, but not slanted posts.
    The other Burger Chef was on Atlanta Highway, and is now, with expansions, a veterinarian's office.
    The (only?) Biff-Burger in Montgomery was next to the fire station at the corner of Norman Bridge Road and Southern Boulevard. That building still stands.
    Everything else you said about Biff-Burger is true. They were good burgers.

  2. You are right. I remember going to it when it was a Burger Chef and getting the equivalent of a Happy Meal, long before McDonalds offered one.

  3. Uh, Shadow Pup… looks like George just popped you on the butt with a rolled-up Advertiser. It is thinly-researched history like the above that makes people believe Bear Bryant was born in a log cabin in Arkansas when the truth is, he was born in a manger somewhere in the Middle East.

  4. I regret sounding like a smarty-pants.
    I'm a Boomer. I ate at both burger Chefs, and at Biff-Burger.