I'm an Alabama fan, so I usually swear under my breath upon hearing "Big Orange," but that's a whole 'nother rant for a whole 'nother blog. (Besides that, I work with too many Tennessee fans who know where I live.) So last week when I stumbled upon Tanner's Big Orange in Greenville, South Carolina, I was immediately taken in by the iconic sign poised like an exclamation point over South Pleasantburg Drive. The giant hot dog did not escape my notice either since I have never been one to turn down nitrates in any form.
Unfortunately, I was running late to a business meeting that morning, yet as luck would have it, Big Orange ended up being a couple doors down from where I landed at the offices of our new travel partners, 10Best.com. (Note: We are very excited about the new partnership and look forward to showing you great new things in the months to come.)
Upon my arrival, I inquired with several of my colleagues about the restaurant whose history in Greenville stretches back 64 years. The unanimous consensus around the office was that Big Orange is good - darn good - and is beloved for various reasons:
- The fruity, indulgently-sweet drinks (non-alcoholic, but I bet you could mix them with just about anything and make it taste good) with flavors such as orange, grape, fruit punch, and pineapple
- Hot dogs
- The chili-dog sauce; Tanner's is known to be fiercely protective of its secret recipe
- Country-style breakfasts
Next morning I wheeled into Tanner's drive-thru and ordered a country-ham-egg-and-cheese sandwich on toasted wheat with a large Gold drink (orange and pineapple mixed together). Service was painfully slow, but well worth the wait as it was one of the best egg sandwiches I've ever had, sweetly accentuated by the Gold chaser. (A word of warning for anytime I mention something is 'the best I've ever had.' My wife says that I proclaim this so much so that it lacks the resonance it once had, but I love to eat, so maybe I should say that was the best egg sandwich I've eaten up to this point.)
Taking One for the Road
On my way out of Greenville my last morning, I began reviewing roadside breakfast options and quickly decided any fast-food options were puny compared with the Big Orange. When I went back I opted for a sit-down meal. I ordered the Country Breakfast - two eggs over medium, country ham, grits, and a biscuit. I take use of the words 'country breakfast' very seriously because I grew up eating one just about every Saturday with my dad at Eunice's Kitchen in Huntsville, Alabama. 'Aunt Eunice' made the real deal, so much so, that her shortening-rich, cathead-sized biscuits were oftentimes praised by my favorite columnist (and fellow country-breakfast connoisseur), Lewis Grizzard.
As I slurped down the last of the liquid Gold, I noticed other customers buying drinks by the gallon. I grabbed one for the road thinking that my wife and 19-month-old daughter might enjoy it too. By the time I reached Birmingham, I'd put a dent in the gallon, and by the following day, the jug was empty. My wife had little more than a six-ounce glass while my daughter had slurped down a couple of sippy-cup fulls. I took down the entire gallon is less than 12 waking hours and my wife was incredulous.
"You're like a diabetic hummingbird," she said.
"But this stuff is the nectar of the gods," I said as I greedily glugged down the last of it.
"No, it's really more like the nectar of oranges and pineapples," she said, then adding, "I'm just glad there's not a Big Orange in Birmingham."
I wonder if Tanner's Big Orange was on Lewis Grizzard's radar, though I doubt he would have shared my thirsty zeal for the sugary drinks - he was a coffee man, but I know he would be in awe of my heroic consumption.