This has been a long time coming. Five years ago – I wrote about my first time visiting the fountain side of Big State Drug store. In the years that followed business dwindled and it went out of business earlier this year.
Amazingly, Rick & Susan Fairless (owners of all things Strokers: Ink, Dallas, Ice House, and RF custom parts) stepped up and announced they would buy the place and turn into a full-time fountain and jettison the drugstore part of it. The story made every news source in town take notice.
A few months passed and they reopened the joint to much fanfare. Irving residents and other Big State fans were energized and full-on excited that someone would do something like this. It was unique and full of heart. Rick and Susan are both life-long Irving residents and just honestly did not want to see the place disappear. Their generosity is truly awe-inspiring.
Walking into the joint I was overwhelmed with cool-factor and by the amount of work done to the place. It is bright and full of color. Tons of photos line the walls showing the Irving of years past. The soda fountain bar is easily three times the size of what I remember from my last visit.
It’s lunch time and the place is quite full even though it has been several weeks since they opened. I am thinking this is a good thing.
I walk in and am greeted by some nice ladies and grab a table and the anticipation I had building has turned into excitement. I am finally here. Back to check it out. Back to celebrate the return of something I had such fond memories of. I am thinking “They did it!! They pulled it off!!! They brought this place back from the dead!”
And then my shake arrived. Rich and smooth and complete with the metal-mixer-cup with extra shake in it. To me, $4.50 well spent. I am loving it so far. The “fountain” part of this joint is up and running.
And here comes the “grill”. I order your basic hamburger which comes with homemade kettle chips. The kettle chips are hardcore crunchy. Solid texture and are cooked perfectly. Unfortunately there is absolutely no seasoning on these chips.
I check the menu and see they also sell “Stroker’s Fries” which are fries with cajun seasoning on them. I think that seasoning on these chips would have taken them from bland to addictive in a heartbeat.
I grab the burger and take a deep breath. It looks like a well-made home-style burger. I am thinking that if this burger rocks – it’s gonna be my weekly go-t0 burger stop. I will be tempted to stand outside the building wearing a sandwich-board shouting the greatness of this place and it’s burger.
And I suppose the weeks I waited to visit has raised my expectations to an unrealistic level. The burger has everything you want – some tangy mustard, fresh vegetables, and a meat patty cooked to the proper temp. Unfortunately, like the chips, there is absolutely no seasoning to the meat. It’s pretty generic and that is heartbreaking.
With Griff’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, and Joe’s Coffee Shop all within blocks of each other the competition is pretty strong. I was hoping for a Big-State burger that would set the bar above any of their potential competitors.
I have plans to return and try other menu items. Maybe I just overlooked the best they have to offer. I have visited their Facebook page and seen some very delicious looking “Blue Plate Specials” but saw none of those dishes on the menu in person.
On my way out I noticed a “notice” sign in the door window. Like you see when a business is about to get a liquor license. Does Big State need to sell booze to survive in this day and age?
To sum up:
What I love:
The idea. The dedication. The heart this place had, has, and will continue to have. The classic glass-bottle sodas and candy counter. The fountain part. The deco. The crazy amount of classic Irving pics they have on the wall. The framed waitress uniform from back in the day. The potential.
What I don’t:
Almost everything in the “gift” area. I saw dozens of people look at the greeting cards and kitschy stuff and pass on it all. I also found it difficult to find (at first) the official Big State merchandise for sale.
What I would like to see:
A revamp of the menu. Seasoned chips. Better quality burger meat. SEASONING. The Big State merchandise up front and very visible. Displays at every table that tell you Big State merchandise is for sale. The shirts and coffee mugs they have are awesome and need to be promoted more.
to be continued….