In Mount Airy, the “must-go-to” restaurant is Snappy Lunch, thanks to it actually being mentioned in an early episode of The Andy Griffith Show. It is fun to try other restaurant options, especially less crowded ones, during Mayberry Days. Speedy Chef was a local spot my friend Rob and I visited for lunch on Saturday during Mayberry Days in 2015.
If you looking for a fancy meal, Speedy Chef will disappoint. But the restaurant has its charms. They are one of the many spots in town that serve a local menu item called by the non-descriptive term “ground-steak sandwiches.” These sandwiches are a remnant of a period when hard economic times led to meat being “stretched” by the addition of a filler. In essence, “ground-steak” is ground beef that has been boiled instead of fried. After it is cooked and drained, flour and water are added to thicken the meat. The sandwiches are traditionally served on a toasted bun and topped with coleslaw, tomato, chopped onion, and mayo. There are other examples in the U.S. of using fillers to make meat go further, such as what are called “slug burgers” in some parts of the country and foods similar to sausage like scrapple in many rural areas along the coast in the South. Cincinnati has a similar delicacy called goetta.
The meat in a ground-steak sandwich is looser, almost like a sloppy joe without any tomato sauce or ketchup yet with a bit more consistency than a sloppy joe. I have since had the ground steak sandwiches in a couple of different restaurants in Mount Airy. Speedy Chef’s version was fine though I had one at another restaurant in town to which I would give the edge. I will add that a number of reviews I have read about Speedy Chef complain about the service, but we did not have a negative experience at all. The kids who worked there were certainly friendly enough.
Speedy Chef is located on Main Street but not in the downtown area. The building may be a bit run down but one does not see this type of restaurant often anymore. It definitely has a 1950s vibe about it. It is fun to support such businesses and I certainly don’t regret having my first ground steak sandwich there.