May 17, 2012

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What do you think of when you hear “sauceburger”? If you’re under the age of 35, the word sauceburger probably just sounds like some drunken EpicMealTime escapade. But if you remember the legend that was The Burger House in East Ridge, the sauceburger is synonymous with a beautifully simple, but simply delicious hamburger in a plain white wrapper.  

For a pre-teen boy in the early 1970s, a trip to The Burger House was like a visit to Willy Wonka’s burger factory. Shiny metal machines with slow-moving conveyor belts periodically pumped out wondrous delights. Steam rose from vats of bubbling brews and wondrous smells teased my cravings like Augustus Gloop at the Chocolate River. A man in a white paper hat would drop burgers onto one conveyor belt of the Insta-Broiler machine and the buns onto another. Time would stand still while I waited for the burgers to emerge from the other side and take a ride down their own little super slide into a pan of that legendary secret sauce. The sauce-covered patties were then slipped between the toasted buns and tucked into their own individual white sacks before being slid across the top of the broiler and bagged up to go. Once inside my parent’s wood-paneled Caprice station wagon, I would ceremoniously slide the burger out of its wrapper and take in the moment like I had just unhooked my first bra. The memories of those trips to The Burger House are special for me, my family and countless others who visited this legendary burger joint over the decades.

The Burger House was one of the original Burger King franchises opened in the late 1950s on Ringgold Road that changed its name to The Burger House in the early ’70s due to a split with the growing fast food giant. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, the restaurant went through a few ownership changes before closing its doors for the final time. The building is still there, but it’s now a Dominos Pizza outlet. The french-fry eating squirrels that patrolled the parking lot are gone, as are the hair-netted ladies, both giving way to ambivalent teenagers making cheap pizza. But the saga of the sauceburger’s long, strange trip is definitely not over. This is clearly evident when you look at the “Bring Back the Burger House” Facebook group, where more than 1,200 Burger House sauce-freaks are still jonesing for the sauceburger monkey still on their tongues.  

Their consistent, clarion call to bring back the sauceburger has been answered, but in a most unexpected way. David Spivey, the somewhat eccentric son of original Burger House owner Jack Spivey, teamed up with Matt Kerley to serve up sauceburgers for a mere $1 each at SkyZoo bar. If you‘re unfamiliar with SkyZoo, it’s the nightclub/tramp-stamp magnet on Brainerd Road in the old Red Lobster restaurant, an unholy marriage of the one-time king of middle-class dining and biker bar. It’s not the first place you would expect to find a classic like the sauceburger, but if you like your sauceburger with a shot of Jaeger and a game of pool, the kitchen is clean and the sauceburgers are pretty close to what I remember.

But when any beloved classic attempts a comeback, there are detractors. Some have said that the SkyZoo sauceburgers aren’t the same as the originals, and unfortunately I would have to agree; they are not exactly the same. But they are really close and they are really good and I will eat them every chance I get. The sauce itself had a familiar yet unique taste. A balanced hybrid of ketchup and barbecue sauce, it was tangy and sweet with a hint of smokiness that played well off the charbroiled burgers. Think sloppy joe sauce with an added kick.


May 17, 2012

Comments (5)

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Burger House

I know what you mean about how memories of the Burger House are about being young and full of wonder. This was where my Grandaddy and I often ate lunches and suppers on hot summer afternoons. The burger is all tied up in those memories of childhood and summertime. Riding a bicycle around their neighborhood, tossing a softball or baseball back and forth with Grandaddy, and trying to keep the sauce off my clothes. You can never recapture your first taste of love, but I would still like to have another Sauceburger, and eat it in memory of my Grandaddy.

William K. 293 days ago

Sauce Burgers

My son in Nashville just sent this to me. I will be at Sky Zoo tomorrow!
I, like so many others, have fond memories of Sauce Burgers.

Karen Chelton more than 1 years ago

Sauce Burger

Would love a sauce burger right now but afraid I can't go to the Sky Zoo to get one. There are lots of closed resturants in East Ridge to open up a Burger House. What about the old Kentucky Fried Chicken place?

Katy Howe more than 1 years ago


Just a FYI but in the tri-cities area there is a restaurant called Pal's that still makes a mean sauceburger. Kinda far away but if you are ever in the area, it's well worth it.

Jerry Perry more than 1 years ago

sauce burgers

There was nothing better than to walk over to the Burger House from the pool and have lunch. We did it all summer long. Loved those burgers.

karen massengale more than 1 years ago

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