Zeke’s Drive-In has cooked its signature burger, the Honeymoon Special, since opening in 1968. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

Zeke’s Drive-In has cooked its signature burger, the Honeymoon Special, since opening in 1968. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

For 50 years, Zeke’s off US 2 has served delicious burgers

It’s been a popular pit stop in Gold Bar for skiers and hikers, and the same family still runs it.

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 Burger is a half-pound patty topped with mayonnaise, relish, onions, tomatoes and lettuce, and comes with large fries on the side. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

The Honeymoon Burger is a half-pound patty topped with mayonnaise, relish, onions, tomatoes and lettuce, and comes with large fries on the side. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

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.

An old caboose sits next to Zeke’s Drive-In. The original owner, Earl “Zeke” Wells, bought it for customers to eat in. Today, it’s doors are shut. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

An old caboose sits next to Zeke’s Drive-In. The original owner, Earl “Zeke” Wells, bought it for customers to eat in. Today, it’s doors are shut. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

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, ethompson@heraldnet.com. 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.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

The drive-in has outdoor and indoor seating, as well as a few vintage mementos like these way signs. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

The drive-in has outdoor and indoor seating, as well as a few vintage mementos like these way signs. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

Earl “Zeke” Wells stands next to the original drive-in building in 1978. A grease fire in 1977 led to the construction of the current establishment. (Family photo)

Earl “Zeke” Wells stands next to the original drive-in building in 1978. A grease fire in 1977 led to the construction of the current establishment. (Family photo)

More in News & Comment

Screenshot from fredhutch.org
Fred Hutch seeks volunteers of color for COVID-19 study

Research company recently released a Spanish-language version of the website for accessibility, inclusivity.

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

High speed rail and hub cities explored in Cascadia Corridor study

A new paper outlines a potential plan for the region.

Should state cover school bus costs if there are no riders?

With funding tied to getting students to school, districts are uncertain how much money they’ll receive.

File photo
Man shot in chest found in Federal Way parking lot

Police are investigating the shooting which occurred near the Redondo Heights Park and Ride around 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 20

A view of the Palmer Fire, located seven miles southwest of Oroville in north central Washington. Source: InciWeb
Antifa isn’t starting Washington wildfires

Online conspiracy theories are spreading as the West Coast burns.

A plane drops fire retardant on the Palmer Mountain Fire last week. The fire is listed as 84 percent contained, and fully lined. Laura Knowlton/Sound Publishing staff photo
Threat multiplier: How climate change, coronavirus and weather are scorching WA

Dry summer conspired with the pandemic and a wind storm.

Seven decades later, the search for two missing Navy pilots continues

The pilots are thought to have disappeared near Black Lake, northeast of North Bend.

The truck of the Renton family as it was found Tuesday. While fleeing the Cold Springs Fire two adults were severely burned and one toddler died. Courtesy photo/Okanogan Sheriff’s Office
Toddler killed as Renton family flees Cold Springs Fire

The parents were severely burned and are being treated at Harborview Medical Center

Screenshot from the state Employment Security Department’s website at esd.wa.gov.
Workers may qualify for an extra $1,500 in unemployment back pay

A federal program will give some of the state’s unemployed a $300 weekly bump for the past five weeks.

King County moves to Stage 2 burn ban

Outdoor fires, even barbecues or in fire pits, are now prohibited.

Screenshot of the air quality monitor at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 8. Courtesy Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
King County faces unhealthy air quality due to wildfire smoke

Weather monitors recommend people limit time outdoors, especially children, seniors and those with heart or lung disease.