Speck’s burgers worth their weight

Sharing the love Debbie Maichel, owner of Speck’s Bar and Grill has carried on her father’s legacy since his passing in February, 1988. Speck’s is a Topeka original and home of the three pound burger. Only one person has been able to complete the burger challenge since its indtroduction in 1990.

Tricia Peterson

Home of the three-pound burger, Speck’s has been a part of Topeka for 54 years.

The three pounder was introduced in 1990, and is available today for free if you can finish the entire thing with a heaping plate of crispy, homemade french fries all in 45 minutes. If you aren’t feeling so adventurous bring some friends to share the 12 burger patties, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle all on their very own home-baked bun for $20.99. Patrons can add 12 slices of American cheese for $2 more.

In 1957, Franklin “Speck” Benge began running The Seabrook Tavern, but wasn’t planning on doing it for long. However, Speck made a name for himself quickly and people started calling it “Speck’s” instead of Seabrook Tavern. Speck’s daughter, Debbie Maichel bought the bar from him when Speck got sick with cancer, and he passed away in February, 1988.

Maichel decided to add a kitchen and a menu in 1990, which is also when the three pound burger was introduced to Topeka. She says many people have tried to complete the behemoth, both locals as well as people who heard about it from out of town. Only one person has been able to complete the challenge. In 2009, she changed the name from Seabrook Tavern to Speck’s.

“Really everybody called it Speck’s anyway,” said Maichel. “Even all of our ball shirts always said ‘Speck’s’.”

Speck’s is home to The Topeka Rugby Club. They come to Speck’s and Saturday after home games to eat and drink with the visiting team. The Topeka Rugby Football Club at Washburn University participates with the club as well, says Shane Kennedy, a Washburn student and president of the Topeka Rugby Football Club, he is on the team as well as in the club. If you visit Speck’s you can check out their collection of trophies and plaques from their winnings as well as view the shoes they make each other drink out of when they mess up a rugby song or spill a beer.

“Usually games are at 2 [p.m.] and the teams usually arrive at specks around 4:30-ish,” said Kennedy. “Speck’s has supported Topeka Rugby [Football Club] for a long while as I understand.”

The Topeka Golden Giants is a fairly new baseball team to Topeka, made up of college or high school age men, mostly local. Speck’s will sponsor and run the concession stands at all of their games this summer at Shawnee Lake. The first game of the season will be June 1 this year and is the second annual “Jerry Robertson Classic,” where The Washburn Alumni All-Stars play against the Golden Giants. This game is a fundraiser for the Golden Giants, in memory of Jerry Robertson, a former Major League Baseball pitcher from Kansas, who was killed in a car accident in 1996.

“We are really excited about doing the Golden Giants here,” said Maichel. “It will be different!”

Maichel has tried to keep the traditions going at Speck’s, in order to keep the spirit of her father alive. With times changing it is hard to keep most things going, like the turtle hunts they used to organize. They would all gather up, throw money into the pot, grab a cooler full of beer and go turtle hunting to see who could get the biggest one.

Afterwards, or within the next couple days they would all get together again and cook the turtles for dinner. If anybody wanted to bring in any other wild-caught game they were welcome to do so. This is one of the traditions that can’t be celebrated anymore, with food safety laws changing all the time.

Maichel says they do try to keep the tradition going in a way, sometimes they have catfish fries. She gets pounds of fish and breads it all in house, and fries them one day. To keep the tradition she also makes the fried breadsticks that were always present at when they ate the turtles from the turtle hunts. When people ask Maichel, “How do you do something like this?” She explains that it is something that a lot of people likes and that always works.

“We still try to keep traditions going, like from my dad,” says Maichel. “It’s a big thing you know.”

Although some traditions have been lost, Maichel has added new things as well, including liquor and expanded hours. With the name change, business dropped off slightly, but once people realized it was the same people, where nothing had changed, they kept coming back for more. At Speck’s, they claim everybody knows your name.

To check out more of their history, see more pictures of the owners, patrons and food, visit specksbarandgrill.com or their Facebook page where they advertise what is going on at Speck’s.