A long-gestating project to re-create the fabled Red’s Giant Hamburg restaurant in Springfield, Missouri, will clear a big hurdle when its developers break ground within the next 30 days.
David Campbell, best-known for the Buckingham’s regional barbecue chain, and partner Greg Iott are leading the quest to re-create Red’s. Campbell said in a telephone interview this week the new restaurant, which he hopes will open by the winter of 2017-2018, will be a “shrine” to the famed Route 66 eatery.
Campbell said he seeks to re-create as many items from Red’s Giant Hamburg as possible, including the 1955 white Buick parked in front.
He said he acquired the Red’s Giant Hamburg trademark and rights from its longtime owners, Red and Julia Chaney, about 22 years ago. Campbell said he spent a lot of time with Julia to soak up history and stories from her about the restaurant.
Campbell said he’s been working for the past three years to prepare the site for Red’s. A sharp-eyed reader on the Route 66 yahoogroup about a week ago noticed a listing for Red’s on the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau website.
Campbell isn’t going to be devoted to being 100 percent right with his Red’s re-creation. He didn’t use the original Route 66 site on Springfield’s west side because it’s too small. Campbell said Red’s seated only 25 to 30 people and isn’t financially viable at that size.
The new site will be 2301 W. Sunshine St. (map here) on Springfield’s south side. That’s about two miles south of the nearest Route 66 alignment, College Street. Campbell said he chose that place because it contains more traffic.
Red’s Giant Hamburg opened along U.S. 66 in Springfield in 1947 at a former gas station. The cafe was supposed to be called Red’s Giant Hamburger, but Red erred on the sign’s dimensions, and it could accommodate only “Hamburg.” He went with it.
Red’s was known for using magnets to supposedly enhance the flavor of the restaurant’s burgers and homemade root beer. They used beef from their own cattle farm, and Red sometimes danced with the customers. It’s probably best-known as reputedly the site of the first drive-through window, although this never has been confirmed.
Several old photos of Red’s Giant Hamburg exist, but the best way to get a feeling of what the restaurant was like is through a 1982 music video — “Red’s” by The Morells, an acclaimed local band led by future record producer Lou Whitney.
The restaurant closed in 1984 after the Chaneys retired. Red died in 1997; Julia died in 2006. The building was torn down not long after Red’s death.
But nearly 30 years after Red’s Giant Hamburg closed for good, the city paid tribute to the restaurant’s iconic sign by erecting a replica at Route 66 Roadside Park, west of downtown on Route 66.
UPDATE 9/11/2018: KOLR-TV reports the city of Springfield voted to do sewer work at that Red’s Giant Hamburg replica site.
(Hat tip to Bob Harmon; image of the original Red’s Giant Hamburg by Cathy Hickman via 66Postcards.com)