Learn the beginnings of what’s been called the best cheeseburger in the Carolinas. Have a look behind the lunch counter at Johnson’s Burgers for why folks drive hours out of their way to get a taste of beefy heaven and a chance to sit a spell at this family-owned Siler City tradition since 1946.
We open the door Saturday and within five seconds, every seat’s so full in here, they’re lined up all down the hall, sometimes out the door. It makes you feel good. You know you’re doing something right.
They come from miles around to Highway 64 in Siler City to partake in a Chatham County delicacy that spans almost seven decades.
You walk into Johnson’s, and it’s like stepping back in time. It’s already a full house, full counter, full booths, and it’s just a little past 10 in the morning.
Seems a little early for burgers, is it not?
“This is a healthy breakfast,” says owner Claxton Johnson, only half-joking.
But it’s not breakfast they come for. It’s the sizzle of the beef and this hunk of Velveeta love, the beginnings of what has been named the best cheeseburger in the Carolinas, the nation, and, others will testify, the world.
“We’re pretty well known all over the whole country everywhere,” says Johnson. “We’ve been here for so long. I mean, I guess we’re probably one of the oldest original places there is in the country, you know, with the original people, you know, all the way through.”
Claxton Johnson says the secret is the freshness of the beef, which he prepares himself every day. But the crowds come just as much to see Claxton, whose own father, Clyde, opened Johnson’s drive-in after the war back in 1946.
“It was all curb service back then. That’s back when Charlie “Choo-Choo” Justice and Art Weiner was playing football for Carolina, and on Saturday the road would be bumper to bumper coming through town going to the games, and we’d be here a lot of times till 3 or 4 PM. The war was over. Everybody was celebrating,” remembers Johnson.
But there’s more going on here than just a cheeseburger paradise. Johnson’s is a community centerpiece in Siler City. Over the years, people have come for friends, for celebrations, plus, in the case of long-time customer Lacy Presnell, even for love.
“My wife and I came here on our very first date on July 13, 1947,” says Presnell. “I’ve been coming here ever since, when Claxton’s daddy fixed them, and Claxton now fixes them, and they’re the best in the world, and we have been back here within a week of our anniversary to celebrate our anniversary.”
For Claxton Johnson, his burger is a truly delicious labor of love.