By: M.T. Decker
Photos By: Josh Triggs
Sitting at the Corner of North Queen and East Burke Streets in Martinsburg, WV., the Blue White Grill has been a fixture in the city for over 60 years.
In 1941, owner William “Bill” Brown and two partners ran a chain of restaurants called the “Snow White Grill” specializing in fast food for people on the go. The Blue White was one of nine original Snow White Grills and still serves what is now called “The Original”: a mini burger served with fried onions and a pickle.
The chain did rather well, but in 1954, the partnership dissolved. Bill renamed his restaurant the Blue White Grill, in honor of its blue and white color scheme. It would be another four years before he incorporated the restaurant on May 9th 1958, making it the official birthday of the Blue White Grill.
The blue and white facade is gone, replaced by brick; there have been other changes over the years, but at its heart, the Blue White Grill remains a family run restaurant, in the heart of Martinsburg. When you consider the fact that most restaurants close after one to five years, a restaurant with over 60 years in business must be doing something right.
When you step inside the Blue White, it is like a trip back in time. While other restaurants may offer a “50’s Theme”, the Blue White is a diner that has been there since the 50’s. From the lunchroom counter that seats 8, to the booths that line the walls, you see a treasure that could easily be featured in ‘Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives’ on the Food Network.
The current decor includes 50’s memorabilia, which was added after the diner celebrated its 50th birthday.
“We’d bought some 50’s themed decorations for the party,” William’s son Bill, explained. “People liked it so much, when it came time to redecorate, we decided to feature 50’s memorabilia.”
While much of the memorabilia is on display, there is one treasure that Bill keeps in his office – an early menu from the Blue White. It’s hard to tell which delights him more, having the menu itself or the story behind the menu.
It seems one of his customers found the menu in an antiques shop in Phoenix, Arizona and bought it, gifting it to Bill on their return.
It speaks volumes that a customer would think enough of the Blue White (and its history) to buy an old center-fold paper menu, and bring it back to Martinsburg, and that the customer is one of many regulars at the Blue White. People have been coming to the restaurant for generations, and many of them are considered family.
“Originally, the Blue White was just the area around the counter,” Bill said, explaining the physical changes the restaurant has undergone. The Lunch counter itself is small, seating only 8.
“The Snow White Grills were for people on the go,” he adds. Like White Castle and other restaurants of the era, it wasn’t designed to be a sit down diner.
Over the years, the restaurant has expanded, taking over the space next door when the neighboring florist closed their shop. This allowed the Blue White to add booth seating, turning the Blue White from fast food for people on the go, to a restaurant with fast & friendly service that could seat up to 58.
There are other changes that have been made over the years: the menu has grown and changed with the times, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, while leaving the “Original Burger” on the menu for the die-hard fan.
Behind the counter, there is a traditional display cooler filled with fresh homemade pies and cakes of every sort, from Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie to New York Cheese Cake. Trust me, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie is worth saving room for, after dinner. The pie is a smooth blending of flavors and the crust is fresh and flaky. The combination is the perfect complement to any meal.
The food runs the gamut from their “Original Burger” to steaks and crab cakes. From its original fast food origin, the Blue White Grill has grown and aged with dignity but no matter how much it changes, it will remain dedicated to serving good food with fast and friendly service. William’s son Bill now runs the restaurant but, as he put it, “mom is still the boss and we all answer to her.”
They’ve worked hard to maintain their motto: “Fast Friendly Service, Quality Food, Popular Prices.”
When I first came to the Blue White Grill, it was on the recommendation of a friend. I had heard many good things about the food and wanted to try it all. The first thing I tried was the Black and Blue Burger and after doing so, I was hooked. Sadly, I liked to so much I’ve never tried anything else.
Bill assured me that that is not at all that unusual.
“We get a lot of people who like the first thing they try and it’s like… it can’t get any better than this…” If that’s the case, then I’m in good company. The Black and Blue Burger is a burger that is seasoned with blackening spices, cooked to your specification and served with a blue cheese sauce and onion straws. I have had similar burgers in other restaurants, but the added onion straws are the perfect finishing touch. As I’ve said, I keep coming back for the Black and Blue Burger.
But there is so much more than just the Black and Blue Burger and the Original Burger. Bill highly recommends their Crab Cakes and their Steaks as well as their Maryland Crab Soup. I really want to try them, but the Black and Blue burger keeps pulling me back and I find myself ordering it again and again.
The Blue White Grill is open from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM Sunday- Thursday and from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM Fridays and Saturdays. The next time you find yourself in Downtown Martinsburg, WV, check out the Blue White Grill at 101 North Queen Street and find your new favorite.