We stepped back in time to an eighty year-old burger joint, and then the illusion was completed when a classic car show pulled into the downtown area.
I certainly don’t like to kick an old region when it’s down, but the small city of Cleveland, which my son and I first visited in early July when we checked out Dari-Kreme, is clearly not the economic center that it was before 1970. Once upon a time, US-11 was the main connector between Chattanooga and Knoxville, and when the interstate was built, Cleveland was one of the cities that suffered most from the loss of traffic. On the south side of town, where we were on that trip, you can see almost a dozen old motels collecting more dust than travelers. Just in the last six months, two businesses that dated back to the 1950s shut down: the Rebel Drive-In and the old dirt track Cleveland Speedway.
In Cleveland’s historic downtown, an old greasy spoon has somehow made it for almost eighty years. Most of its neighboring businesses still struggle, but the Spot is still bringing in guests who want a burger, chili, and terrific milkshakes. It originally opened in 1937 and almost hit the half-century before shuttering. In 1986, the Spot closed for several months – I haven’t been able to determine how long it was dark – before new owners bought it and freshened it up. It closed again for a few months in 2013, but happily it’s still around and serving good burgers.
The four of us arrived in the late morning and parked about a block away. Our daughter wasn’t feeling the need for meat, so she just had a milkshake. Marie and I each had burgers and our son, not at all surprisingly, had a hot dog. The service was very good. It’s not fast food, and since the place was about three-quarters full – and about to get busier – we did have a short wait, but not long enough to get restless.
Guests will find some random “fifties” ephemera along the walls. I spotted a familiar record propped up above our booth, a sealed Pickwick edition of Elvis Sings Hits from His Movies, Volume 1. I had that when I was a kid!
As we ate, dozens of fabulous old cars pulled into the downtown area for a classic car show. Our daughter complained that it was too hot to walk around – this really has been a long, hot summer, hasn’t it? – but she dealt with it as we spent a few minutes walking around the blocks and seeing all the beautiful old Corvettes and Cadillacs. It seemed like the show brought out a pretty good crowd. It was a great capper to a pretty good lunch, and I hope that Bradley County and Cleveland find more success with events like this to keep their businesses up and thriving in what’s been a tough year for the older ones.
45 N Ocoee St
Cleveland, TN 37311
You can see all the restaurants that we have visited for our blog on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s a terrific resource for anybody planning a road trip through the southeast!