Burgers and Breakfast
When we left the arcade on day one of the expedition it was time to travel from Douglasville, GA to Lithia Springs, GA where we would be at our first location that we could actually interact with. (Yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition …I didn’t want to seem to uppity.) It was here we would sit down and break bread together. It was here we would actually touch items used by the actors of Stranger things. Here our imaginations would be fired, our bellies would be filled, and we would begin to discover Steve Bennett’s insatiable desire to get the shot just right. (It would be a few hours before I would be told “Let’s review,” but we’ll get there.) The “here” in question is Tiffany’s a little country restaurant on the side of the highway and the location used for our first introduction to Eleven. “Here” was Benny’s Burgers.
You know the scene, a little girl with a shorn head walks out of the woods. Her feet are bare and dirty. She is wearing only a hospital gown. She is as much a mystery to the viewer as the creature who took young Will, and if you’re like me the first time you saw her you thought “Is this that boy that just got taken by that monster?” To be fair I wasn’t alone in thinking at first she was a little boy, the guy that Hopper talked to after Benny’s murder thought she was a boy too….so…yeah…I have that going for me.
The woods that Eleven walk out of are located behind a restaurant. In the show the restaurant is a little grease trap called Benny’s. In the real world, they’re located behind a little country chic place called Tiffany’s Kitchen. This was our next stop on our expedition, and I couldn’t have been happier. We were going to sit down and eat lunch. (The idea of getting to eat making me happy will be a running theme throughout. Just as the fact that I don’t like to walk long distances will become equally apparent.)
Just as I was struck by the fact that the building that doubled as the Hawkins Police Department sat directly on a street rather than being set back in a parking lot, I was struck by the work that went into making this restaurant look like a sparse little greasy joint run by someone I imagine to be a bachelor with no real connections except the guys that frequent the place. In reality Tiffany’s is a cornucopia for the eyes with all types of classic hollywood memorabilia from reprints of classic posters to pictures of Marilyn Monroe and others.
It’s your standard country cuisine restaurant with daily specials and breakfast all day long. In fact, Shaz thinks that the breakfast all day is to reference Breakfast At Tiffany’s. I disagreed with him on the day, but after checking out their facebook page, I’m thinking Shaz may have been onto something. The sign pictured is the sign that greeted us on the day we showed up looking like a bunch of geeks in search of Stranger Things filming locations. I’m happy to say that Lithia Springs is only about 45 minutes away from me and the burger I had that day is worth going back for if the mood strikes me. I don’t remember what the other guys had, but I was really tempted to try the country fried steak fingers, but food like that can be hit or miss. After the meal it was apparent that Tiffany’s Kitchen probably didn’t do anything like that using a frozen piece of meat from a plastic bag, but you can never be sure when dealing with Country Fried Steak at an eating establishment. I make really good Country Fried Steak by the way…if you’re ever in town.
One of the first things we noticed was the wall color. Rather than the bleak gray of Benny’s walls, Tiffany’s walls are painted a shade of brown giving the place a bit more homey feel than what Benny’s seemed to have. However, Steve Bennett was quick to point out the curtains were the same hanging in Benny’s restaurant, and we could see right into the kitchen through pickup window that Benny looks through to see Eleven scarfing down french fries. By the end of our time there we would realize that there was a very good possibility that we were sitting at the same table where Benny talks to Eleven, and there’s a stronger chance that at least one of us was sitting in an actual chair used in the scene. The walls of Tiffany’s are covered with posters, pictures, and different decorations, and we were told by the staff that they had to replace all those things when filming was finished as well as repaint the walls to restore the homey brown color that we were looking at the day we were there.
Oh…yeah…we ended up talking to the employees. They were nice people and willing to tell us a little bit about their experience, but none of them were really there. Tiffany, the lady who runs the place, wasn’t there at the time, but
she apparently has all the answers. Given our newfound friendship we got bold about asking to take pictures around the place. The staff was so nice they were willing to let us move tables around to make the pictures we were taking as close to the screenshots as possible. While Steve Bennett probably loved this idea, my personal laziness and unwillingness to be a complete nuisance won out and we settled for sitting at the wrong table but taking the right shot. Please note that while I’m not looking at the camera I am still using my trademark thumbs up and smile. Also, if you look closely you’ll notice the table Steve and I are at is a different table than the one that Benny and Eleven are sitting at and talking. The table they were sitting out was on the other side of a partition in the middle of the restaurant. After closely inspecting the screenshot and the other tables in the place, Shaz and Steve Bennett became convinced that we were in fact sitting at that table. Then, upon examining the chairs in the dining area, we all realized and agreed that we were sitting in the only chairs that match the ones in the screenshot. Which may not seem like a big deal. But after taking pictures of a building and through windows, this was pretty neat. We were actually interacting with screen used items from Stranger Things.
After lunch we went outside to check things out and get a few more shots. Behind Tiffany’s was everything that we saw on screen. The back of the restaurant wasn’t really any different than what we see in the show. Now while that previous sentence may be read in a “no big deal” tone, nothing could be further from the truth. Again, this was a moment where we were actually there. Standing on the edge of the woods looking down on that back area was kind of surreal. The closest I’ve come to being at a shooting location is downtown Savannah, GA where the scenes of Forrest sitting on a bench waiting for a bus were filmed for Forrest Gump. The bench isn’t even there anymore and I never really looked for and found the exact spot where the bench once was. Also, if I’m being honest, I love Forrest Gump, but it isn’t a touchstone movie in my life, and it never really fired me up like Stranger Things did. In fact, Forrest Gump kind of depresses me. But that’s a story for another time.
The angle is a bit different as you can see, but the picture on top is the one we took on the day we visited Tiffany’s. On the bottom is a screen capture from Stranger Things. The lighting is different as it’s a different time of day, but there we were on the set of Stranger Things. At this point in our expedition we’d already had many laughs, we’d mistaken a snow cone place for a potential shooting location for some other show, and we’d had a great lunch, but in this moment, out behind a little country restaurant off of a state road in Lithia Springs, GA my imagination found the fuel it needed to really wrap my head around what it was we were doing. We were walking in the Stranger Things steps. There was a part of me that was a kid again. I could imagine wanting to always come to this place and pretend to be part of the gang and their adventures. I imagine that kid Steve would have had every adventure start at this location and go from there.
And though I didn’t mention it to the fellas then and there, this was the place that this whole expedition became super real for me. Or maybe that was just a good burger talking. Whatever it was, this was the third stop and the adventure was just beginning. On this first day alone we would still avoid interrupting a funeral, kind of trespass, consider blatantly trespassing, creep through a neighborhood, wander around a cemetery, have one of the coolest Stranger Things moments of the expedition and ruin said moment by walking thirty miles. AND THAT’S JUST DAY ONE!