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

file photo
Housing and finance insiders call for subsidized housing families can own, instead of rent

Advocates say increasing homeownership will strengthen the community, build intergenerational wealth

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

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

Map of proposed landfill expansion sites (screenshot from King County website)
Waste management expert knocks county’s plan to expand landfill

The waste management advocate said the decision to expand seems pre-determined despite assessment.

file photo
State employees including first responders sue state over vaccine mandate

The lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 90 plaintiffs claims Inslee’s order is unconstitutional.

Pixabay photo
Union carpenters to go on strike, expected to impact Eastside Microsoft projects

Members authorized strike after rejecting AGC offer for the fourth time.

file photo
The state’s hospitals face “unprecedented collapse” amid COVID uptick warn healthcare unions

Union spokeperson says understaffing was a problem even before the pandemic.

Gov. Jay Inslee talks about schools reopening during a past news conference. (Screenshot courtesy of TVW)
Masks required at big outdoor events; vaccine mandates expanded

Governor’s mask order takes effect Sept. 13.

Pixabay image
King County is looking for community members to help oversee law enforcement accountability

Community Advisory Committee for Law Enforcement Oversight is in need of applicants.

Garbage at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley. FILE PHOTO
Why burning our trash may not be as bad as it sounds

Understanding waste-to-energy’s financial and environmental impact in King County.

People hold up signs in protest of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest proclamations during a Rally for Medical Freedom on Aug. 25 in Buckley. Photo by Alex Bruell/Sound Publishing
State workers get incentive to comply with vaccine mandate

An agreement between the state and their union also provides for some leeway in meeting the deadline.

This is a screenshot that shows the pursuit of a stolen vehicle Sept. 1 on Interstate 5 in King County.
VIDEO: Auburn police let suspected vehicle thief go, citing new laws

State laws passed earlier this spring require police to have probable cause to engage in a pursuit.