CRESTVIEW — The community's most famous griddle might have one last chance before it's consigned to the realms of local history.
For more than two years, Baker School CHOICE welding instructor Bill Nester and his students pondered how to repair the grilling surface that Coney Island owner Julia Phillips credits for her burgers' special taste.
The secret behind those famous burgers, Phillips said, is the “seasoning” in the grill they’re cooked on.
Since the establishment’s second owners, Mabel and Phillip Edge, installed the grill in 1970, the Vulkan-Hart slab of cast iron has hosted countless sizzling burgers.
Somewhere along the way, cracks developed in the surface. They were repaired, but not too tidily. In January 2012, the cracks grew worse, leaving Phillips, who bought Coney Island from the Edges in 1989, in a quandary.
A temporary stainless steel griddle has been grilling Coney Island's burgers ever since, but stainless steel just doesn't season like cast iron.
Now, local welder Jeremy Atkinson has offered to have a look at the griddle. But all the metal workers who've examined it unanimously say that welding cast iron is trickier than welding steel.
Some previous repairs to the griddle, which Phillip Edge bought used more than four decades ago in Mobile, weren't carefully done, and may have made the equipment "unfixable," Nester has said.
Just in case Atkinson hasn't any luck either, Phillips is asking the restaurant's fans for their suggestions.
"Everybody wants me to do something with it to preserve it," she said. "Some say hang it on the wall or engrave it."
Other suggestions include donating it to the Baker Block Museum's collection of regional artifacts, or cutting a piece the size of a Main Street pavement brick and imbedding it outside the restaurant, Phillips said.
Replacing the griddle is out of the question, she said. Vulkan-Hart stopped making cast iron griddles decades ago.