The Burger King in Mattoon, Illinois is not what you’d expect from a Burger King. You won’t find a creepy looking life-size puppet king or a subservient chicken or a 5,000 calorie omelet sandwich or a cardboard crown that you’d pretend you are taking for your little sister but really just want to wear yourself. Not that I would ever do that.
The Burger King in Mattoon, Illinois is not that kind of Burger King at all. In fact, you won’t find that kind of Burger King anywhere within a 20 mile radius of Mattoon.
Back in 1952 Gene and Betty Hoots bought the Frigid Queen ice cream shop and, after years of expanding, changed the name to “Burger King” to reflect the extended menu options they added through the years. In 1959 Hoots registered the moniker as a state trademark in Illinois.
Around that time another Burger King, the one so famously known today, started opening its doors around the country and between 1961 and 1967 started serving up fast food in 50 locations throughout the state.
The Hootses believed that they had sole rights to the name “Burger King” in Illinois while the Florida company behind “Burger King” believed it’s federal trademark trumped the states. Burger King of Florida, Inc. v. Hoots in 1968 became an important case on interpreting trademarks.
In the end, the Florida Burger King’s trademark stood and they were found to have to right to open anywhere in Illinois…except in the Mattoon area where the prior use of the name was valid. So the Hoots family can continue to use the name in Mattoon and only in Mattoon and “Burger King” can use its name anywhere but there.
So driving down Charleston Ave in Mattoon you may see the familiar name on the unfamiliar sign. You might stop in and get a chocolate Coke (yummy), an order of fries (yummier), and a Hooter Burger (yummiest). The burgers come standard with pickles, onions, and mustard. A slice of melting cheese never hurt. It was a delicious specimen of hamburger and a far cry from what you would get if you stopped at the chain.
I stopped in in 2007 on a road trip around Illinois. It’s a stretch down the road from the World’s Tallest Abraham Lincoln and a great spot for lunch that not only serves tasty food but also provides a piece of history and a piece of attraction all in one. (not to mention the juke box that plays local artists AND a sit down Ms. Pacman machine!)
While it is always tempting and convenient to stop at a McDonald’s or a Wendy’s when on a road trip, the little extra effort it takes to eat at local establishments is totally worth it. You’ll not only get to experience a taste that you couldn’t get every other day but you’ll also be supporting a local business. The Burger King in Mattoon is definitely a stop not to be missed.
Site: The Burger King that is not a chain Burger King
Location: 1808 Charleston Ave., Mattoon, IL
Hours: Call for hours, (217) 234-8122
Date: July 14, 2007