T-Rays Burger Station
202 South 8th St.
Fernandina Beach, FL
Beer selection: A few standard domestics if you really need one.
Food: Five Star burgers!
Life isn’t all T-bones and microbrews for me, although that’s something I sure do like writing about.
But why would I bore you with my 2 am trip to the corner Texaco in search of something to eat?
After all, no matter how much you paid for your airline ticket, it doesn’t include food. Even in first class.
So by the time you land in Savannah, wait for your rental car and drive to Woodbine, the only place open in town is the 24 hour service station.
And trust me, those dried out hot dogs and packets of onion slush start looking pretty good when you haven’t eaten anything in 16 hours.
Oh, yes, I’ve partaken in many a gas station meal. Sometimes several times a week.
So eating gas station food doesn’t faze me in the least.
But the shocker is, T-Rays here on the Florida-Georgia line is some darn good gas station food!
Literally hiding inside an Exxon station, T-Rays is the place to go in Fernandina for biscuits and gravy, fried shrimp, delicious burgers and small town gossip.
One of my many theories about finding a good place to chow down is that quality and advertising are inversely proportional. If you’re that good, then everybody already knows where to find you.
Under that theory, T-Rays is 5-star fine dining.
T-Rays not only does not advertise, it darn near camouflages itself. Not even a sign out front.
It’s just an old beat up Exxon station. There is no indication that anything special is going on—except for all the cars and pick-ups parked out front.
But walk inside and your nose will instantly tell you something better than oil changes is happening here.
Owner Big Ray Mullis had sold gas here for nearly five decades while his son T-Ray flipped burgers on the grill next to the beer coolers.
But then a few years ago, the federal EPA bureaucrats essentially shut Big Ray down by demanding he spend a quarter million dollars replacing his perfectly good fiberglass gas tanks (probably part of a trillion dollar “job-creating” stimulus plan).
Thanks to T-Ray’s world renowned skills behind the grill, Big Ray’s decision to shut the pumps off for good made sense—most of their little company’s profit came from burgers and onion rings, not gasoline.
So Big Ray now works the lunchtime crowd inside, slapping backs and cracking jokes with his loyal contingent of regulars.
This is the kind of place – and the kind of town – where everybody knows everybody.
And the appearance of a stranger prompts alot of stares.
The cramped little “dining room” with mismatched tables and chairs is cluttered with knickknacks celebrating the true passion that unites this part of America – SEC football.
Like the rest of this border town, the décor tilts decidedly toward the Georgia Bulldogs. But Gators, Seminoles – and even, God-forbid, Gamecocks – are all well represented in the posters, coffee mugs, bobble heads, and even serving plates at T-Rays.
Needless to say, the décor is not the main attraction here—it’s T-Ray’s burgers.
And even though I’ve had quite a bit of practice describing extraordinary food, I find it hard to pin-point exactly what makes T-Ray’s burgers so good.
They’re not the biggest. Not the juiciest. But they just might be the best.
Perfectly constructed on a sesame seed bun, these nicely seasoned, ideally cooked burgers come with crisp lettuce, fresh tomato, and sautéed onions.
The french fries and “corn nuggets” – a local delicacy – fresh out of the deep fryer are the perfect side.
Corn nuggets are best described as little lumps of creamed corn breaded and deep fried.
Crunchy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside, corn nuggets are an addictive Southern side.
But nothing says “Welcome South” like good ‘ole fried green tomatoes, which just happened to be the appetizer special of the day.
Already knowing what T-Ray can do with his vat of bubbling grease, I was anxious to see how this ultimate Southern delicacy would turn out.
Let me just say, I wasn’t disappointed.
These beauties were perfectly breaded and fried with an excellent horseradish dipping sauce that cleared my sinuses.
In conclusion, it’s unlikely that gas station cuisine will ever get its own Zagat’s fine dining category.
But as somewhat of a gas station food connoisseur myself, I can boldly claim that T-Rays serves the best meal to be found in any gas station in America.
Rating: Bought the Shirt!