The Original Burger King — No Whoppers Here

You can’t order a Whopper® at this Burger King. In fact, you won’t find a Whopper within 25 miles of the Mattoon, Illinois, restaurant. You see, the original Burger King is not related to the chain of the same name. So, while you won’t get that fake charcoal flavor the chain is known for, you can enjoy a tasty, diner-type burger with all the toppings.

The original Burger King in Mattoon, Illinois
The original Burger King in Mattoon, Illinois

Why the Burger King chain can’t operate near Mattoon

Originally an ice cream stand that Gene Hoots bought from his uncle, Gene renamed Frigid Queen to Burger King in 1954 when he added burgers and fries to the menu. Fortunately for him, he trademarked the name with the State of Illinois.

Around the same time, a restaurant with the same name opened in Florida. When the Florida restaurant grew into the Burger King chain, Gene sued the chain for using the trademarked name. The court sided with him, giving Gene exclusive rights to the name within a 25-mile radius around the Central Illinois restaurant.

New owner—but not new to Burger King

Over the years, building additions grew Burger King from the original small Valentine Diner ice cream trailer to an expanded kitchen and plenty of seating.

One of the Burger King dining areas

In 2017, Ernie Drummond, who was no newbie to Burger King, bought the business. Ernie had worked there for over 25 years. He started as a grill cook at age 16 and eventually became the general manager.

Ernie Drummond, Burger King owner
Ernie Drummond, Burger King Owner

Our experience and food review

Like most fast-food restaurants, we ordered at the counter and picked up our food when they called our number. We had gotten to the original Burger King just before the lunch rush, and service was quick. I noticed, though, that even during the rush, orders were coming up quickly.

We both ordered a burger and fries. The burger—touted as “the same great burgers … [served in] 1952”—is the pressed diner-type, the kind with a raggedy, somewhat crispy edge. The juicy, tasty burger hung out of the bun, and there was no scrimping on the toppings. (I ordered mine with lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, mustard, ketchup, and pickle.)

The order of fries (the coated kind) was plentiful.

We didn’t try the ice cream, but in checking the menu, they offer a few flavors of ice cream and plenty of sundae toppings, shake flavors, candy mixers, and more.

Hamburger and fries from the original Burger King
Burger and fries from the original Burger King

Ready to go?

The original Burger King is located at 1508 Charleston Avenue, Mattoon, Illinois. Check the website for operating hours and the full menu.

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6 thoughts on “The Original Burger King — No Whoppers Here

  • June 22, 2021 at 5:27 pm
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    Now, there’s one Burger King meal I would actually eat!

    Reply
    • June 22, 2021 at 8:56 pm
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      Lol! I agree, Penny.

      Reply
  • June 23, 2021 at 11:59 pm
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    I grew up in this area and went to college in Charleston, IL where a second Burger King was opened in the 1960s. I have always loved telling this story where the little guy beat the big guys and won. Great burgers, too.

    Reply
    • June 25, 2021 at 11:12 am
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      I didn’t realize there had been another Burger King in Charleston. Thanks for the info. Yes, it is nice to hear about the little guy winning.

      Reply
  • June 24, 2021 at 10:04 pm
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    This has been on “my list” for years, and I just keep missing it for some reason. Good post, Connie.

    Reply
    • June 25, 2021 at 11:13 am
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      Thanks, Marc. It’s definitely worth visiting when you’re in the area.

      Reply

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