North By Northwest: What a Burger, What a Family – Feltner Brothers of Fayetteville
Photography by Beth Hall
Robert Feltner opened Feltner’s Whatta-Burger in Russellville in 1967. Around the same time there was an establishment on College Avenue in Fayetteville that was the quintessential burger dive, Vic-Mon Drive Thru. Forty-five years later, Feltner’s grandchildren have brought the past into the present through family tradition and reviving the history of the Vic-Mon building with Feltner Brothers.
“For a lot of folks who have lived in Arkansas a long time, the last name Feltner is synonymous with hamburgers,” said Travis Feltner, one of the three brothers/co-owners. “We have people come in all the time who say that they didn’t even know what we were, but they saw Feltner Brothers on the sign and wanted to come through the door.”
The College Avenue location is the Feltners’ second in Fayetteville; it opened last August. The 1,600 square-foot building nearly doubled the seating capacity of the Dickson Street location and has a bigger patio, which the brothers hope to have open year-round.
While the atmosphere of the original location is more of a bar hangout for college kids, this location is more family friendly with an open layout, comfortable, informal seating and TVs around the perimeter. But the biggest way they’re now catering to families? Milkshakes.
Feltner knows it’s often the kids who choose where the family eats, so he wants them to remember Feltner Brothers, and milkshakes always bring them back, as does customer service.
“We want people to come in and feel the atmosphere. That’s part of the whole experience,” he said. “You come in, and we take care of you; we pick up your trays, we talk to your kids. People see we actually enjoy what we’re doing.”
Though the restaurant business wasn’t any of the brothers’ original career paths — none of them ever worked in the family-owned Whatta-Burger growing up — they saw a need in Fayetteville and they wanted to be the ones to fill it.
“There were no quick-eat burger joints,” Travis said. “It was only fast food or you had to go to a restaurant, tip 20 percent and be there 45 minutes to an hour. We thought we could start something on Dickson and in Fayetteville, something that’s a family-run, locally-owned, old-fashioned burger joint. That’s where it all started.”
A little less than two years, and they’ve already successfully expanded. Feltner attributes the success not only to the family history, but the ability to keep the choices on the menu simple. Customers walk into the restaurant and start with two options: hamburger or hot dog. From there they can customize their selection from the variety of toppings available and include fries or onion rings.
While the double cheeseburger with everything (mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion) is Feltner’s favorite — and was admittedly perfect parts greasy, delicious and fresh — it was the Chicago dog that was the biggest surprise and delight. Though not a hot dog eater myself, a Chicago dog shouldn’t even be placed in the same category. With all the varied toppings eaten together, it creates a unique hot dog taste, and Feltner Brothers does it just right.
“We use the K.I.S.S. method: ‘keep it simple stupid.’ When you keep it simple, find the things you do really well and stick to them, you can control everything so much easier,” Feltner said. “People know when they come to Feltner Brothers, they’re coming for a really good hamburger or hot dog.”
Evident in their optimistic attitude and demeanor, the brothers genuinely care about their customers and the community of northwest Arkansas. Thus, another important part of their business is giving back. Each year they donate to the Chili Pepper Cross Country Festival and hold a hot dog-eating contest on their anniversary in October, raising money for the Boys and Girls Club to buy Halloween costumes for kids.
“We started this restaurant to give back in some way, shape or form,” Feltner said. “That’s one of the driving forces. We three love kids and want to be able to do what we can to give back to the community that we’ve been so blessed in.
509 W. Spring St. • Ste. 210
2768 N. College Ave.