COVINGTON - There may soon be a whole lot more folks trying to squeeze into the Squeeze Inn.
The unique grill known for its odd-looking hamburgers is about to make news - next week, it will be featured on WGCL's CBS 46 News Atlanta in the weekly Restaurant Report Card segment. Consumer Investigative Reporter Adam Murphy and his cameraman filmed the spot Thursday afternoon.
"This place is cool. It's got great character," Murphy said.
The restaurant's signature burger looks a bit like a flying saucer, owner Larry Spradley acknowledged. Called the Squeeze With Cheese, it features a heaping helping of shredded cheddar cheese on top of a 1/3-pound fresh ground chuck patty, capped with a puffy sesame seed bun, giving it a distinctive UFO shape.
When cooked, the cheese melts out onto the grill and forms a halo, or "skirt," around the hamburger, which presents a bit of a challenge for hungry customers.
"That's a real cheeseburger, and I can't wait to try it," Murphy said.
The verdict once he did?
"All I can say is, it was worth the trip out I-20, and I would do it again. It was a great cheeseburger," he said.
The restaurant, located on U.S. Highway 278, across the street from the old Wal-Mart, first opened in December and Spradley took over in June.
So far, Covington can boast the only Squeeze Inn on the East Coast - the original is located in Sacramento, Calif., and there's another in Reno, Nev.
"As residents, we know what a great establishment this is with its uniqueness and its owner," said Lisa Powell, programs director for the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce. "To have this exposure to the community that brings tourists into the community to raise tourism dollars is always a help."
It's those extra customers that could result from being featured on the afternoon news that gives Spradley mixed emotions.
"I'm excited, but I'm also scared at the same time," he said.
After all, Squeeze Inn got its name because it's a little tight inside.
"I just want to make sure we can take care of our customers when they start coming in," he said.
Spradley nearly didn't have to worry - his segment almost got scrapped, he said, because of a conflict with a planned feature on Justin's Restaurant and Bar in Atlanta, an upscale locale owned by rapper Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. But it turns out Diddy won't be in town until later this month.
"I never thought I would be competing with a rapper," Spradley said.
But, in fact, it's the lack of pretentiousness at Squeeze Inn that appealed to Murphy, whose weekly segment profiles a restaurant with a poor health inspection rating and rewards one with a good score.
He found out about Squeeze Inn through an online poll that asked viewers to submit nominations for the best burger place they'd ever visited. Though the popular franchise Five Guys Burgers and Fries won, Murphy was already sold on the Squeeze, which scored a 96 on its last inspection.
"In Atlanta, there are a lot of high-class, fancy restaurants, which are great, but you've got to have down-home restaurants that are fun like this, where you've got that hometown feel that comes with character. There's nothing fancy about it ... Places like this don't need to be fancy. They've got the food," Murphy said.
Customer Sam Keiffer, who dines there about once or twice a month, agreed.
"It's good if you want good, greasy food. It's different, too," he said. Plus, after eating a monster burger there, "(I'm) good for the rest of the week."
Squeeze Inn will get it's moment in the spotlight when Restaurant Report Card airs on the 4 p.m. news broadcast Thursday. The segment is expected to air at 4:30 p.m. and will be played again during the noon news on Friday.
Squeeze Inn is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Managing Editor Colin Stewart contributed to this story.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.