Bil Browning

31 Days: Scene from a Workaurant

Filed By Bil Browning | August 22, 2011 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: fast food, Indiana restaurant, Steak n Shake

This photo's story is after the jump.


I'm doing a series of posts for 31 days that will feature a photo from my personal collections and the backstory behind the picture. I'm trying to stick with shots that have not appeared on the site before. I'm using the stories as a writing exercise to help me prepare for writing a book. You can find the rest of the series posts here:

Back in Indiana, there's a chain of restaurants that's half diner and half fast food joint. You get food that's a notch above the regular burger chain at a price that's also higher.

Steak n Shake is based in Indianapolis and we've had some good times together. Open 24 hours, it was the place to go after the bar closed when you were drunk and hungry, but if you went on a Sunday or Wednesday evening you'd see the evangelicals stuffing their faces with spaghetti smothered in chili and onions.

While they've got over 500 locations around the nation, they're ubiquitous back home. For years they also ruled the commercial airwaves with their "Workaurant" series produced by Young & Laramore Advertising. Even now we'll catch ourselves saying the catchphrase when we're picking up after ourselves at a fast food place. We've had to explain the joke to several friends here since they don't have Steak n Shakes in DC.

These places are usually bustling and it's rare to find it almost empty. When we ate in this east side Steak n Shake shortly before we moved to DC, I tried to capture the deserted diner and how dark it made the place feel when you take away the usual throng of customers animated against a vibrant red, black and white decor.

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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | August 22, 2011 6:14 PM

Ah, a life-long Indianapolis resident, I remember them well and still visit one occasionally.

And then there are also the White Castle places, which sometimes get confused with Steak 'n Shake. They feature very small mini-burgers with more than their share of onions.....something that has long earned them the nickname "Gut Bombs". I'm sure the White Castle PR folks don't exactly relish that.

(I didn't start out to make a pun.....honest I didn't!)

Growing up in Lawrence, on the out skirts of Indy, I fondly remember Steak n' Shake. It was our high school's hang out. I cant tell you the amount of fries and chocolate shakes I ate there. Not really 100% sure, but I dont think I ever had a hamburger there....only fries and milk shakes. Oh and White Castle sliders! Omg! Did i love me some tiny burgers!