Cheeburger staff members Anthony Jenner, owner John Lim, Fredy Flores, Samantha Labonak and Brian Mathew take a seat at the counter on the 1950s-style barstools. (Photo by Alexandra Yearly.)

It wasn’t the 1950s-style neon lights, the soda fountain or the old-fashioned stools and chairs that attracted John Lim to Cheeburger Cheeburger—it was a “fring” basket and a burger he enjoyed on a family vacation in Florida.

“When we found the place, it was dark, it was dingy — but the food was awesome,” said John Lim, the owner of two Cheeburger Cheeburgers. “I loved the food, so when we woke up the next day, I said, ‘We have to go back!’”

Two years after he took a franchise information packet on his Florida vacation, Lim opened his own Cheeburger Cheeburger in Lawrence. He opened a second location in December 2010 in the Shoppes at Hamilton center.

The restaurant features four core items: burgers, French fries, onion rings and shakes, all of which are fresh, not frozen, Lim said. The “fring” basket is a combination of French fries and onion rings that is fried in peanut oil. The burgers are made of 100 percent certified black Angus.

When Lim, who is of Chinese descent, announced he was opening up a burger place, no one was more shocked than his then-17-year-old daughter, who immediately said, “But why aren’t you opening a Chinese restaurant?”

But Lim was set on the Cheeburger burgers.

“This town doesn’t need another Chinese place. It needs a burger place,” Lim said. “That was my vision, and it paid off.”

You can usually find the owner at either restaurant location — and sometimes, hard at work back in the kitchen.

The ‘50s and ‘60s music and the bright colors make it a fun family atmosphere, Lim said. Kids often stop there after school, and on a packed Saturday night, the majority of the customers are young parents with kids.

“I treat everybody as if they’re walking into my home,” Lim said. “When they walk into my restaurant, they’re my guests.”

Lim, 57, had always wanted to get involved in the food industry.

“I’ve always liked to dabble in the kitchen,” Lim said about his love of cooking at home. “I always tell my wife, it’s not her kitchen. It’s my kitchen.”

A West Windsor resident, Lim wanted to keep his business in Mercer County, and hopes to eventually open a restaurant in a third location.

“We want to serve everybody,” Lim said. “We want people to know that we’re here, and we’re hometown, down to earth…it’s what burgers used to be.”

And as for the “fring” basket — the restaurant still has the snack that first caught its owner’s attention. But you’ll find it listed on the menu as a BOB: the “best of both.”

Cheeburger Cheeburger is located at 3349-70 Brunswick Pike in Lawrence and 549 U.S. 130 N in Hamilton. The phone number for the Lawrence location is (609) 799-2222 and for the Hamilton location is (609) 585-8899. On the web: cheeburger.com.