Knoxville's Diner Burgers

Maybe it's the bustle, the shiny grill, or the smell of fry oil and grilled onions drifting in the air, but every now and then nothing but a '50s-style burger plate will do. Here are three places happy to oblige, where short orders and hot fries served on ceramic plates will never go out of style:

Long's Drugstore

(4604 Kingston Pike)

The setting is a bustling glass-front old-timey drugstore with tables and a counter, even comic books, greeting cards, and boxed bon-bons. Expect a wait some Saturdays; the Sequoyah Hills crowd found this unpretentious burger joint decades ago. They've got purely delicious burgers down to an unpretentious art: grilled hamburger served on a Colonial Cookout white bread bun, with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and a slice of All-American cheese. Those are frozen crinkle-cut fries on the side, or Tater Tots, or seasoned fries, and you can get some onions, grilled or raw, if you take the notion.

Creamery Park Grille

(114 Hotel Road)

Cozy, artsy, an upscale fountain complete with marble counter and chalkboard menu—that's what these folks have made of a historic Fountain City storefront. It's the perfect atmosphere to indulge in a charbroiled Angus burger on a honey wheat bun, tomato and lettuce and such on top, served with natural thick cut "crispy potato chips" (or just regular old fries—they have those, too.) For the more adventurous, there are rotating burger specials, like the Yin and Yang, featuring sriracha, Cajun seasoning, cucumber wasabi, havarti, and daikon sprouts. It's the perfect place for a group—or a couple—that includes hardline burger traditionalists and trend-seekers in one party.

Pete's Coffee Shop

(540 Union Ave.)

The downtown eatery slings fresh, hot plates of 100-percent lean ground chuck served on a toasted whole-grain bun with mayo, lettuce, and tomato—you can watch them slap it on the grill behind a cool, clean counter, if you like. The best side may be the old-style French fries, or try a meat-and-three side like mac 'n' cheese or fried okra. Did you want bacon on that? That's a yep.