Opened in 1973 and still going strong, Buster’s Place is as much a part of Murfreesboro as the Stones River or Middle Tennessee State University.
While original owner Buster Pugh sold the place in 1997, current owners Steve and Susan Crockarell didn’t give a second thought to changing the restaurant’s name.
“It wasn’t broke so there wasn’t no point in fixing it,” says Steve, referring to the name.
Upon entering Buster’s, customers are greeted by a host of humming neon signs, a few Miller but mostly Budweiser. There’s actually so much light emitted by the neon signs that the fluorescent lights don’t ever need to be turned on. From the neon signs to the models of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses hanging from the ceiling to Steve’s Budweiser stein collection (valued at around $5,000), Buster’s is a regular Budweiser shrine.
Hanging in the back corner is a replica of the Mona Lisa that was given to Buster back in the 1970s. Even when the Crockarells bought the place, they decided to keep the painting where it was.
“It’s the only thing here that gives us class,” jokes Steve.
What Buster’s might lack in class, however, it makes up for in character. Every table and booth is adorned with a roll of paper towels and salt and pepper shakers, which all sit in a wooden stand with the words “Buster’s Place” inscribed into it. There is a single menu inside, hanging concession stand-style above the grill, which is a heavy-duty, nickel-plated piece of burger-cooking machinery. It took a dozen men to install, and can hold up to forty quarter-pound burgers at a time, and still have room to toast all the buns.
Patrons can choose between a handful of selections, all of which have a homemade feel to them. Choices include grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, chili (only made when it’s cold outside), but most people that come into Buster’s are there for one thing . . . a delicious hand-patted, made-to-order burger. A couple of signs inside boast that Buster’s has the “Best Hamburgers in the State,” and few that have had one would dispute this claim.
Christy Williams, one of the holdovers from Buster’s days, reckons that 90 percent of the people that order food get a cheeseburger. This burger loyalty is due to the fresh ingredients that go into making them all. Every morning, except Sunday when they’re closed, Steve goes to Jr’s Foodland to pick up the beef that is used for the burgers; and anyone who shops at Jr’s will tell you that they have the best beef in town, hands down. All the vegetables: lettuce, tomatoes and onions, are cut up each morning.
“Everything’s fresh, everyday,” says Susan Crockarell.
These fresh ingredients, along with the outstanding prices, $3.25 for a hamburger or cheeseburger, have won over quite a few loyal customers. The lunch crowd is a nice mix of students, lawyers and construction workers, many of whom come in numerous times a week.
“You can never eat too many Buster burgers,” says David Moody, a local dentist who comes in about every other day for lunch.
Although there are about 20 regulars who come in every day, many of whom can walk behind the bar and grab their own drinks, there is one particular example that Steve and Susan are both particularly proud of when it comes to Buster burger loyalty.
“There was a girl having a baby in the hospital,” says Susan, “and her grandfather called down here and said she was craving a Buster Burger.” Steve grilled up a magnificent quarter-pounder and delivered it himself to the hospital, and not a moment to soon. Barely an hour later the baby was born to another satisfied customer.
Buster’s not only has the best burger in town, it also boasts one of the ’Boro’s best drink specials. Monday through Friday nights from 5 – 9 p.m., all draft beers are a mere $1. But it doesn’t stop there, those reasonably priced drafts are served in frosted mugs.
Even then, the place never gets too busy at night. Many who come to partake in the generous drink special are regular customers who stop by for a couple of drinks on their way home from work.
“It’s just a place to come and see people that you know . . . have a drink or a laugh,” says Susan.
Buster’s is just that, a place to feel at home. Whether it’s from sharing a drink or a burger with people you know or simply enjoying some great home cooking, Buster’s is a place to come feel at home, wherever you may be from.