The Wal-Mart closed sometime around the late 80s/early 90s when a bigger, newer store was constructed at Covington Pike and Austin Peay, followed a few years later by another store on Stage Road in the Wolfchase area. Losing the Wal-Mart was a devastating blow to the shopping center until years later when Bass Pro Shops moved into the space, bringing back a large portion of the lost traffic with it. The arrival of Bass Pro Shops had to provide a boost in business for the Macon Road Tops, since there is an obvious demographic crossover between guys who shop at Bass Pro Shops and guys who appreciate a perfect double cheeseburger.
There is an old-fashioned hardware store next door to Bass Pro Shops, so a man can easily work up quite a hunger before he gets to the end of his shopping list.
I was already at Bass Pro Shops on Friday, since I needed to replace the worn-out boat seat that I use with the desk in my work vehicle (I realize this statement makes absolutely no sense to anyone who is unfamiliar with my job). So I stopped for a Tops double cheeseburger on my way out of the parking lot.
You can see half of a Wendy's sign behind the top right corner of the Tops building in this picture. Some people don't know any better and buy their burgers from the fast food place.
The Tops building on Macon was obviously a little diner before it became a barbecue joint. A barbecue pit was added to the back of the building during the conversion, but it still has the diner-style open kitchen where you can see how the burgers are put together on the big stainless griddle.
On top of using freshly ground beef from Charlie's Meat Market on Summer Avenue, one of the big secrets to the Tops burger taste is the way the buns are toasted on the griddle, after the salt and pepper-seasoned beef patty is added to one half and the veggie toppings are added to the other. This melds all the flavors together and soaks one of the bun halves with delicious grease before the whole glorious concoction is joined together and secured into a wax paper sleeve with a toothpick holding it together.
If you are a Tops burger fan, just seeing this wrapper is enough to make you hungry.
To me, part of the Tops charm comes from the Tops ladies. These women are all business and they expect you to know what you want to order when you step to the register. They may be white, they may be black. They may look 20, they may look 70. They aren't there to be your friend. They are there to get consistently good, cheap food out to customers as fast as possible in a place with "no tipping" signs on the walls. The service at Macon was actually pretty friendly, but I've had people, my wife included, get a little freaked out by the intensity of the staff at times.
Customers are generally safe, but the real fun can come from watching the ladies interact with each other. There have been a couple occasions at the Jackson Avenue location near my house where I thought someone was about to get hit. I just consider it a part of the experience, and as long as you don't waste their time or make their life needlessly difficult, you can safely do the same. You will also see a male worker or two from time to time, but holding up to the intensity of a Tops Bar-B-Q kitchen generally requires the inherent toughness of a rough-around-the-edges Southern woman to last very long.
The Tops ladies don't need your love. They are making you a burger like this, fresh cooked to order, for just over five bucks. Don't trifle with them.