By Jennifer Audette
The corner lot with the dilapidated gas pumps serves the best burgers ever?
Don’t ask questions. Just park and get to the door, as the line is getting ready to snake outside.
That’s the way afternoons go at T-Ray’s Burger Station in Fernandina Beach.
The former Exxon station packs in diners of all ages wherever it can, at bar stools, indoor tables and outdoor picnic tables.
They’re all here for the unique ambience and amazing, fresh food, particularly the burgers and shrimp.
The specials of the day read like a higher-end restaurant rather than a burger joint: fried fish, chicken dumplings, fried shrimp, fried chicken and meatloaf. While T-Rays Fernandina Beach’s offers a few beers, you can also order wine, a mimosa or Bloody Mary. Aside from the burgers, guests rave about the large shrimp, which make an appearance in a gorgeous salad, alongside homemade corn nuggets.
Though some of the menu items get fancy, the burgers stay simple. There aren’t 15 gourmet varieties here. It’s either a quarter pound or half a pound. The Big T Burgers, made of a half-pound of fresh ground chuck and a spice mixture — “People want to know my secret, but I’ll never tell them,” owner T-Ray Mullis said — are handmade and grilled to order and served on toasted buns with fresh veggie toppings.
“That’s one of the things that makes a good burger — a vine-ripe tomato,” Mullis said.
One lady told us she comes here every Saturday, “just like going to church,” to get her burger fix.
“We’re not your typical restaurant,” Mullis said. “Everything nowadays is so cookie-cutter. We do things the old-fashioned way.”
Knowing that, no one seems to mind waiting 15 to 20 minutes for their order to be carried to the table.
The restaurant has a huge local following and has gained the attention of visitors as well, even garnering a spot as one of USA Today’s 51 Great Burger Joints in the country.
“The most savvy tourists ask local people, ‘Where would you eat?’” Mullis said. “Word of mouth is the best advertisement.”
He should know. The restaurant had very humble beginnings.
Ray Mullis had owned the gas station for decades when his son, T-Ray Mullis, then an employee, begged to serve sandwiches out of there. He even came up with a catchy slogan, “Eat Here and Get Gas!” The sandwiches turned into a takeout restaurant and eventually a sit-down restaurant in the early 2000s. The gas station officially closed in 2009.
The restaurant is still a family affair, with T-Ray Mullis’ wife, Laura Mullis, and children working at the restaurant. T-Ray works in kitchen, making breakfast and lunch for locals and tourists like.
Football dominates the decor, with a range of University of Florida Gators from Gainesville, Florida State University Seminoles, and University of Georgia Bulldogs paraphernalia and newspaper clippings dotting the walls. The well-worn, mismatched football and beachy plates that hold your hot dogs and hamburgers remind of you home.
Sheldon Millett, a Fernandina Beach resident who brought his wife and two children, described the restaurant as having a casual farm-and-country atmosphere.
“I like the everyday conversation,” said Millett, who often stops by the restaurant with his kids before school. “They’ve been coming here since they were babies. It’s a classic Americana type restaurant.”
When you go…
T-Ray’s Burger Station.
202 S. Eighth St., Fernandina Beach
www.traysburgerstation.com or 904-261-6310.
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