GOLD BAR — I wondered why Zeke’s Drive-In is still going strong after more than 50 years.
Then I took a bite of the Honeymoon Special — the Gold Bar drive-in’s signature burger — and it all made sense. You can’t beat a tasty burger.
Zeke’s Drive-In, located just off U.S. 2, was opened in 1968 by the late Nancy and Earl “Zeke” Wells. Before long, it was a popular pit stop for skiers, hikers and anybody else venturing out to the Cascade Range.
My dad, who frequently ate at Zeke’s in the mid-1970s, called it the destination for hungry skiers (Stevens Pass is about 37 miles farther up the highway).
It’s first and foremost a burger joint, with nine options on the menu — including the new Willy Burger, which is served on grilled Texas toast.
You also can chow down on reuben sandwiches, fish and chips, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, French dips and more than two dozen flavors of milkshakes.
The Honeymoon Special hasn’t changed since Nancy and Zeke opened the place in ’68.
The folks at Zeke’s say the half-pound burger ($14 with cheese and $13.50 without) is big enough for two people to share, but I wagered I could wolf it down. I was wrong. Eating just half of the Honeymoon was enough to make it one of my top three favorite burgers of all time, alongside the likes of Dick’s Drive-In and Rossow’s U-Tote-Em (Ellensburg’s finest).
The fries were nice and crispy, but I tried to save room for at least a few bites of a deluxe cheeseburger ($6.25) and onion rings ($3.75) and sips of a 16-ounce blackberry shake ($4.25). With a ⅓-pound patty, the cheeseburger is essentially a smaller version of the Honeymoon Special. The onion rings were less crispy, but I still enjoyed them. The blackberry shake was thick and delicious.
Besides the food, Zeke’s has a fun, old-fashioned feel. Orders are taken from a walk-up booth and announced over an intercom when they’re ready. It’s a welcome change-up from the usual fast-food experience.
Then there’s the old red caboose, built in 1901 but renovated over the years, that sits next to the drive-in. Zeke purchased it for customers to eat in, but repeated acts of vandalism eventually shut its doors forever.
Zeke’s has changed hands a few times over the years, but ownership has stayed in the family. Jen Cashman Cox, the Wellses’ great-niece, took over from her parents, Mike and Dawnell Cashman, in 2014.
The 44-year-old, who graduated from Sultan High School in 1993, started working in Zeke’s kitchens when she was 12. She moved away after high school, but came back to live in Gold Bar when her parents handed her the reins.
Her kids, Kody Hadsell and Hailey Cox, are the fourth generation to work at the drive-in.
Business has stayed strong over the years. Cashman Cox says it’s due to a combination of consistency and nostalgia.
“They remember eating here when they were 10 years old,” she said. “They say the burgers are still just as good.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
Zeke’s Drive-In, 43918 U.S. 2, Gold Bar, is open are 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Call 360-793-2287 or go to zekes-drive-in.business.site for more information.