This article was originally published in our February 2021 edition.

To say Gordon’s Stoplight Drive In is a favorite in Jefferson County would be an understatement. A landmark is more like it. The vintage-style diner that calls Crystal City its home is more than your typical greasy spoon. Since 1948, the restaurant has been known for its thin smash burgers made on an open grill and the real shakes made with hand-dipped ice cream that are served on the side. In fact, the burgers are so tasty the Travel Channel named them the best in the state.

Gordon Heddell owned the restaurant for almost fifty years before selling it to Lori and Curt Grass in 1997. Lori was Gordon’s neighbor growing up. Chris Grass, Lori and Curt’s son, is also a co-owner now. Gordon taught them everything he knew to keep the successful business up and running.

“He said, ‘Stick with what works here, and you’ll be successful,’ ” Chris says. “We added a chicken sandwich and bacon to the menu. That’s all we’ve done in twenty-three years. If we change anything around here, people will freak out.”

The restaurant has plenty of meals on the menu, but the Jumbo Burger with house-made slaw, chopped onions, and barbecue sauce on a toasted bun is a favorite among patrons. “We sell between twenty-five and fifty Jumbos a day,” Chris says. If you want something even more filling, you can stack your burgers four patties high to create the massive Quadzilla. The flavorful chili is made fresh every day and tastes great on the Coney Island dog. Breakfast is served until 10:30 AM Mondays through Saturdays.

Inside Gordon's Stoplight Cafe - Great dining in missouri
Gordon’s Stoplight Drive In, located south of St. Louis, boasts a simple but delicious menu featuring thin burgers, crispy fries, homemade chili, hand-dipped shakes, and more classic diner food. Photo by Angie Olive.

The classic counter with swivel stools seats up to twenty people, and you can find a couple of pop-up picnic tables outside during the summer. Most people don’t mind waiting for a spot at the counter. After all, a lot of people make the trip solely to enjoy one of those crispy burgers. Crystal City, a town of less than five thousand people, is about forty-five minutes south of St. Louis.

“We’ve got customers from all over the country,” Chris says. “We have people who regularly drive from St. Louis, St. Charles, and Cape [Girardeau].”

The Grass family opened another restaurant within walking distance of Stoplight. Gordon’s Cheese Steaks was established in 2017 and brings Philadelphia delicacies to the Show-Me State. “We’re trying to give our regulars more options,” Chris says. While there has been an outpouring of support for the new eatery, Stoplight still remains a local favorite thanks to the classic menu and sought-after meals.

Gordon’s Stoplight Drive In is open Mondays–Saturdays 9 AM–9 PM, and Sundays 10:30 AMPM 500 Bailey Road, Crystal City • 636-937-9678 •