A meal from a drive-through usually consists of burgers and fries, though sometimes a shake or onion rings might factor into the dining. Diners make their choices off a large board, ordering into a speaker that more often than not crackles and fizzes, making it difficult for parties on either side to hear very well. Food is handed through a window, and the transaction is complete. Most of us have participated in this exact process, whether at places that serve billions of burgers or at a local “mom-and-pop” joint.
It is a testament to our car culture that we order our food and eat it inches away from a steering wheel. Time is speeding up. We just don’t seem to have enough time to sit down for our meals. But just because you’re going to eat behind the wheel doesn’t mean you have to succumb to a diet of burgers and fries.
I’ve seen the sign on State Street many times, advertising prime rib at the Famous Westside Drive-In. Chef Lou, proud owner of Westside, is kind of an anomaly in Boise. Drive-ins don’t normally have someone with the title of chef at the grill flipping burgers. But for as long as I’ve lived in Boise, Chef Lou has been trying to change the stereotype of car-culture dining. While I’ve picked up one of their many varieties of burgers, a cornucopia of shakes, even ice cream, I’ve never gone for the upscale items. It seemed peculiar to me to order something from the driver’s seat of my truck that would normally be brought to me by a well-groomed waiter and eaten with a knife and fork made of silver. But, what the hell, I decided to give it a go.
I pulled up on a Saturday evening into one of the two drive-up lanes for ordering. The extensive menu listed prime rib as that night’s special. I was surprised to be asked how I would like it cooked and replied “medium rare.” Because I was bringing home food for the chicks in the nest, I also ordered some fare that I thought they would enjoy, including a half-rack of Pepsi ribs (I assumed Chef Lou uses Pepsi Cola as a marinade or flavoring agent) and the fried fish dinner. Three entrees, three large lemonades and about 30 bucks later, I was cruising home, the smell of dinner wafting around the front of my truck.
At home, in front of the television, the spawn and I opened our containers. The prime rib was perfect. It melted in my mouth and was accompanied, to my surprise, by a baked potato and two sides, easily making it a meal for two. The Pepsi ribs were tender, sweet and covered with grilled onions. (We couldn’t finish them that night, but the next night, I removed the bones and used the onions and rib meat on top of a salad.) The fish dinner was two big pieces of batter-fried fish and was absolutely wonderful. I’d gotten tater tots to go with the fish for the kids–you’ve got to stick to tradition in some way when you go through a drive-through.
It is not often that I come away from a review with a newfound appreciation for a restaurant I’m already familiar with. I had already loved the Westside Drive-In but now I think I’m in love.
–Bingo Barnes dreams of a horn o’ plenty filled with cuts of meat.