It's An Institution

Friday, January 22, 2010

C.F. Penn Hamburgers, Decatur AL

There's an article in the Decatur Daily that C.F. Penn Hamburgers might close at the end of this month. This place is one of the restaurants that still serves breadburgers / slugburgers (hamburger meat plus a filling to make the ingredients go further). An institution.

Here's a bit from the article:

In 1927, C.F. Penn began frying hamburgers, with a secret ingredient, in Morgan County.

Eighty-two years later, C.F. Penn Hamburgers is still frying hamburgers with a secret ingredient at its 121 E. Moulton St. location in Decatur, but it may not make it to year 83.

Co-owner Franklin Penn told his employees he would make a final decision Jan. 31.


Penn’s is barely changed from its days in the 1920s, when hamburgers sold for 10 cents each or three for 25 cents.

In its early Decatur days an “all-the-way” burger included mustard and onions. That’s still the case for today’s $1.30 burger, but Franklin Penn dwells on the grudging inclusion of optional catsup as a milestone in the restaurant’s history.


C.F. Penn, who ran the restaurant until his death in 1958, did it on a cash basis. He paid for hamburger and other supplies daily.

He paid wages daily, before the employees left.

“He always said, ‘If I have to go out of business tonight, I don’t owe anybody anything,’ ” Franklin Penn recalled. “I wish I could say that.”


The nation’s obsession with healthy food, suspects Franklin Penn, has been unfair to his restaurant.

Unlike the early days when C.F. Penn fried the burgers in lard, the restaurant has for years used high-grade vegetable oil. Customers know this, because they watch longtime employees submerge a spatula into four inches of oil, fishing up the elusive patties. Franklin Penn’s theory is the vegetable oil makes them healthier than other hamburgers.

“Nobody would believe it, though,” he lamented. “People still refer to our high-priced cooking oil as grease.”

And while the family will not divulge the secret ingredient that seems to absorb so much grease, Franklin Penn insists it increases the healthy qualities of the burger by decreasing the meat content.

“Adding something to it makes it more healthy, not less healthy. If you analyzed it,” Franklin Penn posits, “it would have less fat content than McDonald’s or Burger King or anyplace else.”

C.F. Penn Hamburgers, Decatur AL

This was one of the comments left at the paper's site. *Love* this:

On 1/17/10 at 08:34 AM, mythbuster from wrote:
i was in there thursday, the place was packed, i saw libs, pubs, independents, locals, yankees, church people, no church people, people that had color, people that were blanks, people that were layed off, people that were "laid up", people with jobs. there was even a couple of those lying lawyers. there was a suv full of people from atlanta, who grew up in decatur and just had to come back for one last burger. the "girls" had not had a break since monday, and they were loving it. if business stays like this they will be here for another fifty years. i for one am glad, i love those things.

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