Edible Dives: Ike’s Korner Grill
An Edible Upcountry staffer realizes he’s the last to know about one of Spartanburg’s best cheeseburger joints.
“If you want the best cheeseburger in Spartanburg, you have to go to Ike’s. If I’m wrong, I’ll pay you back for your meal.”
This seemed like a strange offer from someone I had just met, but his passionate tone (and the fact that I had nothing to lose) convinced me it was worth a visit. I programmed the address for Ike’s Korner Grill into my iPhone, diverted ever so slightly from my planned schedule, and arrived at Ike’s to discover two things. Number One: Ike’s is closed on Mondays so I would not be eating any burgers—delicious or otherwise—on this particular day. Number Two: The place has to be good because it is not staying in the burger business based on curb appeal.
Located literally on the other side of the tracks, Ike’s looks like the kind of neighborhood bar where the clientele is a handful of Bukowski-esque alcoholics drinking their days—and lives—away because it is all they really know. Naturally I began planning my second visit immediately.
My return trip yielded the exact opposite revelation upon my arrival. Ike’s was not only open—it was packed. My lone parking option may or may not have been a legal one, but I wasn’t going to let little details like that slow me down. I squeezed through a crowd of well-dressed suburbanites loitering on the front porch and found the last seat at the bar that I was able to shoehorn myself into.
Looking around I realized immediately that this was, indeed, a place I needed in my life. My waitress seemed to materialize out of nowhere despite an utterly packed house of seemingly everyone in Spartanburg. I like to keep things simple on a first visit to a place, so I ordered the basic cheeseburger and fries which, lo and behold, just happened to be the lunch special for the day.
As I waited for my burger I looked around and took it all in. Hand-pattied burgers filled the flat top grill behind the bar. The man in charge treated them carefully and with respect, not regularly smashing them flat with the spatula to speed up the process, a sin many a burger joint is apt to commit. To his left, another grizzly kitchen veteran was dishing out the freshest of French fries. Each potato was individually placed in the slicer before a violent yank of the handle transformed its shape just moments before being dropped into the fryer. Despite an endless line of orders to fill, both of these men worked as quietly and calmly as anyone at home grilling up a few burgers on a Sunday afternoon.
When my order arrived and I took the first bite, I knew I had found it—it, of course, being the perfect dive bar burger. It was thick, juicy, cooked perfectly, and held a ton of flavor. As for the fries, they were everything you would expect from something that had just been a whole potato just a few minutes earlier: fresh, crispy, and still flaming hot out of the fryer. I realize that the lunch crowd on a Tuesday afternoon indicated this was not the best kept secret in Spartanburg, but I certainly do not feel bad about being late to the party. I was just happy to have finally received my invitation.
On future visits I will have to make some difficult decisions. Do I go back to the classic American cheeseburger which I know is everything I want out of lunch, or perhaps even life? Or, do I branch out into other Ike’s specialties like their chili cheeseburgers, thick cut bologna sandwiches, Philly cheese steaks, or anything involving their housemade pimento cheese? These are the kinds of lunch problems I like to have and look forward to solving them on my next visit to Ike’s.