For many lifelong residents of Clinton, they were the best burgers ever.
Red’s isn’t back, but the menu is. It’s a long story.
Red’s Burgermasters, right smack in the middle of the Clinton Mill village at 508 N. Sloan St., opened as Clinton Drug Sundries in 1945 when Eugene Brabham (Red) Pinson Jr. came home from World War II. Pinson had been a member of Clinton High School’s first state championship team in 1939. His son Gene played on the second, in 1972. Another, Johnny, played on the fourth.
Red’s was a popular hangout, informal capital of the mill village and a place where people from all around gathered for hamburgers and hot dogs that were as legendary as the Red Devils. During the golden age of Clinton football, an informal booster club gathered on Thursday nights to sup oyster stew and talk football.
A few years after Red Pinson’s death, Gene and Ronny Page reopened it as Red’s Burgermasters until they sold it in 1990. The old place was open, on and off, for several more years, under different owners. Gene died in 2010. Now Brandon Page, Ronny’s son, has acquired Steamers, a popular cafe on the Square since 2003, and his first priority was to bring back the Burgermasters menu. It debuted on Monday.
Most of the parking around the Square was full on Monday at lunchtime. Ronny, watching his son’s place debut from a booth, wondered if the young folks’ taste in burgers had changed. The most popular burgers of the ’80s may not be ready for prime time – by football season, plans are for Steamers to be open at night – now that fast-food joints have established a familiar standard.
At the hands of the masters – burger masters – a thick, hand-made patty has a slab of cheddar cheese, diced onions, chili made from a secret recipe, lettuce and tomato, and mustard. It is tasty enough to change the standard.
Steamers has an interesting back story, too. It began as a hot-dog stand in a convenience store. It’s a popular breakfast spot, which Red’s never was. Its menu hasn’t changed; it’s just been expanded.
The burgers range from $4.59 to $4.99, plates $6.59 to $6.99. Hot dogs are $1.99 or two for $3. Hot dog plates are $4.99 and $5.99 for two dogs.
Then there’s the Rathole. It’s hamburger steak covered in cheese, chili and onions. A plate goes for $9.99.
Ronny recalled how Red’s delivered burgers to the nearby mill gate. The gate’s still there, but the mill is only a memory. He also remembered the time a woman delivered a dozen dogs to a former Clinton resident. She had them wrapped in tinfoil and bagged, drove to Greenville-Spartanburg and flew with them to California.
All the way, so to speak.