K, I’m officially hooked. I traveled to Lumberton to taste what many have said are the best hamburgers in our area, and we weren’t disappointed. But the thing that won me over was Leah Sligar’s famous homemade “butt rolls” at Dippity’s. Now, before you begin to think something unsavory, let me assure you that the rolls are old fashioned, yeast rolls like your grandmother used to make, but Leah, daughter of owners Perry and Leslie Sligar, has always called them “butt rolls.”
“Look here,” she said pointing to the hot roll she was buttering for me to taste. “Doesn’t that look just like butt cheeks?” she asked.The pretty young Lumberton High School graduate was right. The roll did meet in the middle, so to speak, but who cares when you taste that first tempting bite?
Perry and Leslie Sligar came to the Lumberton area in 1986 after beginning their careers in the oilfield business. Leslie hails from El Paso, and Perry was born in Pampas and spent his youth in Odessa. The young family located near Perry’s father in Hemphill and opened a fresh baked donut shop, later moving it to Pineland. “There were just not enough people to make it feasible,” said Leslie, “so we decided to check out the Lumberton area. We moved the donut baking business here and did well for a time.”
The savvy business owner said that they decided they needed to supplement the donut baking business by adding hamburgers and a few other things, and in 1987, opened Dippity’s. Leslie remembers clearly the first six hamburgers they made on a 2-foot grill. “We served them to the postal workers. We gave them away free.”
Perry is credited for coming up with the name of the business and Leslie says he was thinking, “fast, zippy, and folks having to eat in a bit of a hurry.” They settled on Dippity’s and operated in the old building across the street from where they are now for more than 18 years, gaining a huge following of faithful diners. “The place was simply too small for the crowds we were having,” said Leslie, “and on Memorial Day of 2005, we moved the operation across the street to 900 S. Main St. here in Lumberton, and we’ve been here ever since.”
Leslie gets quiet and says reflectively, “You know, that was a good move. We moved in late May and Rita hit shortly after that. The old building was completely destroyed. All that is there now is the paved parking lot. Here, in this building, we had one little puddle of water. God was looking after us, and we are grateful.”
Back to those rolls I mentioned earlier. While we were conducting the interview for this article, two young ladies were in the kitchen literally making hamburger buns and rolls from scratch. “Oh, it’s quite a process,” said Leslie. “We mix the dough and cut it into 36 even batches, store it for a while, and then by hand shape each roll and bun we serve.” The buns and rolls are left to rise in the proofer for about an hour and a half, then baked, cooled and bagged each day. The ladies tell us that they make and serve about 120 hamburgers a day, but on some busy days, they have to make a second batch of buns and rolls. Saturdays are the busiest day of the week.
“You won’t find no store bought buns in this house,” said Leslie proudly. “We believe a lot of people eat here because of the bread alone.”Along with those delicious buns, customers will find pure ground beef with the patties also hand shaped and cook fresh for each order. Added treats are the onion rings, jalapeno peppers, french fries, and fried sweet potatoes. The onion rings and peppers are soaked in a mixture and battered again by hand and fried fresh with each order. For me, the onion rings came in a close second to the rolls.
Samantha Young, a 2011 Lumberton graduate, served up an order of battered steak fingers, mashed potatoes (and yes, they are real, too), gravy and rolls to Anson Neel, a driver for South Hampton Resources Inc., a local refinery. Neel was eating lunch with a friend, David Granato, who just happened to be Young’s former soccer coach. “We come here to eat as often as we can,” said Neel, “because the food is always good. Anything you order will be wonderful.” Granato was eating a cheeseburger with all the trimmings.
The menu is written in chalk on the board above the counter, and the daily special awaits customers on a dry erase board in the front. Looking around the restaurant, one spots nine – count them – nine Reader’s Choice awards for first place hamburgers in Hardin County, numerous awards and proclamations from all over the area, as well as one from Texas Highways Magazine naming Dippity’s as one of the Top Ten Hamburgers in all of Texas. Houston area food critics and locals alike are recorded in newspaper articles proclaiming Dippity’s as their favorite hamburger chain, but I wonder if they have tasted the rolls?
One other customer-pleasing note should be made. Recent restaurant inspection reports are hanging on the wall and at the bottom of each is a solid 100. “We are very proud of those inspections,” said Leslie.
The restaurant is open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. six days a week, Monday through Saturday. “We do close on Sunday. That is our family day,” said Leslie. Leah says she is just as comfortable at Dippity’s as she is at home. “I was pretty much reared in here,” said the hard worker. “I can run the place if I need to for my folks.”
When asked what makes the small operation so successful, Leslie thought for a moment and said, “I think it is because there is nothing else quite like it anywhere around.” I agree.
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.