What: Bill’s Hamburgers
Where: 310 North Main St., Amory
Hours: Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Menu: All-beef hamburgers and cheeseburgers (‘with or without’ mustard and onions), shoestring french fries, old-fashioned bottled Coca-Cola, fried pies.
Owners: Reid and Janice Wilkerson
Info: (662) 256-2085
Editor’s Note: Tasty Travels is a three-month series from the Daily Journal that highlights local food and restaurants. Today’s Tasty Travels spotlights a restaurant known for its burgers, as suggested by readers. Next up: Big Breakfasts on July 26 in Business amp& Money and July 29 in Food & Dining.
By Ginna Parsons
AMORY – To hear Billy Glasgow tell it, the success of Bill’s Hamburgers in downtown Amory rests squarely on the shoulders of one man: longtime employee Willis “Junior” Manasco.
“A lot of people would come to Bill’s Hamburgers just to see Junior,” said Glasgow, who had the restaurant from 1957 to 1990. “He was the glory of my owning Bill’s Hamburgers. Folks would come in and he’d say, ‘Come in, sir, come in, come in. Have a seat.’ Then he’d lay a napkin down in front of them and say, ‘What do you want?’”
Manasco died in 1993 after working more than 25 years at Bill’s, but his reputation lives on in the popular restaurant in downtown Amory.
And so do the burgers.
“They are not dough burgers or slug burgers,” said manager Dianna Wilkerson, sister-in-law of owner Reid Wilkerson. “They are 100 percent beef. We chip and grind our own meat every day. People know our meat is fresh, not frozen patties.”
No combos, please
Bill’s is famous for its “with or without” burgers. With means mustard and onions. Without means meat and bread only. Over the years, other condiments have been introduced, such as ketchup, mayonnaise and hot sauce, but you won’t find tomatoes, lettuce or pickles on the menu.
In fact, you won’t even find menus on the tables, but rather a menu board behind the counter where 22 red vinyl bar stools await customers. Hamburgers are $1.85, cheeseburgers go for $2.05, and double and triple burgers sell for a bit more. Shoestring french fries and bottled Cokes are sold separately for $1.35 each. There are no combos.
“We probably sell a couple of hundred or more, give or take, maybe three or four hundred burgers” during the lunch rush, Wilkerson said. “We get a lot of tourists or people just passing through. And we have a lot of regulars. We may not see them every day, but at least twice a week. We get to where we know what they want when they walk in the door.”
And some of the regulars have come to expect that.
“Older gentlemen come in and sit in the same spot and say, ‘My usual,’” said Amy Stanford, who has been at the restaurant half a dozen years. “You’d better know what that means.”
Saturdays are the restaurant’s busiest day, she said.
“A lot of families come in with their kids every Saturday like clockwork,” Stanford said. “People like to eat where their grandparents ate. We try to make it a family atmosphere. We don’t put on a show here. We’re just down to earth.”
Nicole Talley, who works at Dollar General, frequents Bill’s at least once a week and she always gets the same thing: A single with onions and mayonnaise. Now and then she’ll get the fries and a Coke.
“I come in here because the food is real good,” she said. “If I don’t come in here, I miss it. I need that fix. Girl, I’m addicted.”
More Junior stories
According to a history of Bill’s Hamburgers compiled by Glasgow, the restaurant, originally called Bob’s Hamburgers, opened in 1929 in a location across the street from the present site on North Main Street. The original owner was Robert Hill and he charged five cents for a burger. In 1955, Bill Tubb became the new owner of the restaurant and changed the name to Bill’s. In 1957, Tubb sold the restaurant to his son-in-law, Glasgow, who kept it for 33 years before selling it to Steve Smith in 1990. Reid and Janice Wilkerson bought it in 2003.
“Each owner would show each new owner how to grind the meat, how to roll them and pat them out so the burgers have always tasted the same,” said Dianna Wilkerson.
Glasgow, an accountant by trade, said he still eats at the restaurant regularly. But it’s not the same without Junior Manasco.
“Junior was a little slow, really just not well-educated,” Glasgow said. “We kind of took him in. Actually, he took us in.”
Glasgow said Junior had been eating at the restaurant for years for free. One day, Glasgow’s father, who also worked at the restaurant said, ‘How long we gonna feed Junior Manasco?’ and I said, “How long we been feeding him?’ and he said, ‘Every day, twice a day, six days a week.’”
So the Glasgows put Junior to work. Every morning, he’d take out the trash to earn his keep. And then one day, when Glasgow was busy during tax season, his father got busy at the restaurant and nobody was available to help him. So Glasgow tied an apron around Junior’s waist and had him greet people when they came in the restaurant and hand out napkins and take food orders.
“He did better than my dad or I could have done under the circumstances,” Glasgow said. “The next morning, Junior came in to take out the trash and said he’d found him a place to work: Bill’s. And he worked here for 25 years until he died. I told Daddy one day that if we ever fired Junior, we’d have to close this place up.”
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal