Farewell, Junior’s

 

Junior's Grill in the snow, January 2010

Earlier today, word was leaked that Junior’s Grill, a Georgia Tech tradition and institution, will be closing tomorrow afternoon for the last time with the retirement of owner Tommy Klemis. Klemis’ decision to close the restaurant rather than sell it upon retirement seems to stem from a decline in business over the past couple of years, coinciding with an expansion of on-campus dining options and a decline in interest from underclassmen, many of whom appear to believe, rather incorrectly, that Junior’s long history with the school implies that it’s no better than the dining halls. “Business has changed a lot in recent years, and that aspect of Junior’s has not been as strong as it has in the past. Because that part of it is diminishing I think it’s time to yield to new directions for the school,” Klemis said in a statement to the Technique.

Junior’s opened 63 years ago on the corner of Techwood Drive and North Avenue and was known as “Pilgrim’s” until it was bought by Jimmy Klemis and John Chaknis, who renamed it “Junior’s Grill” in 1958. Junior’s was displaced twice in its history, once in 1966, when it was moved to a location across from Smith Dormitory, and again in 1994 to make way for the construction of the 1996 Olympic Village. The 1994 relocation placed Junior’s in its current home in the Bradley Building in Georgia Tech’s historical district.

For many students and alumni who know the truth about the unadulterated bliss that is a Junior’s chicken tenders basket or the way that a burger basket acts as a salve for the most recent wounds inflicted by a physics test, today is a sad day, indeed. Had I known that the last time I ate at Junior’s before I graduated would be the final time I’d eat there, I would have made a greater effort to get back there at least once more. I’m certainly no stranger to going out of my way or changing my travel plans just to be able to eat some of my favorite foods, and neither are many Tech alumni who have very strong food memories associated with their time at school. When Kool Korner Sandwiches moved to Birmingham from its long-time location at the corner of State and 14th, many students and alumni made the 3-hour trip from Atlanta, just for one of Ildefonso’s Cuban sandwiches. Andrew and I take a detour to the Birmingham suburbs nearly every time we drive between Atlanta and Fort Worth. I’m heading into Atlanta next month for my brother’s high school graduation, and I actually booked an earlier flight than I would have otherwise so I could make it from the airport to Junior’s before it closed for the day. Alas, I will now be a month too late.

Perhaps there is some hope that Junior’s will reopen at some point. It is well-loved by faculty, students and alumni, and maybe that will encourage someone to pick up the spatula and continue the tradition. But in case no one does, could someone at Tech please have a chicken finger covered in that glorious honey mustard in my stead?

 

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