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.

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

Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is among supporters of statewide “just cause” legislation to protect tenants in Washington. However, some landlords say removing the ability to quickly remove tenants limits their ability to get rid of problem renters. (Courtesy image)
Tenant advocates prepare for another push in Olympia

Following wins in Burien and Federal Way, just cause evictions are on the 2020 Legislative agenda.

Business alliance serves women of African diaspora in King County

Nourah Yonous launched the African Women Business Alliance in 2017 to find ways to lift women up.

Fire along Twisp River Road in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest in 2018. Courtesy photo
Wildfire response: State unveils funding legislation proposal

Last year, Department of Natural Resources responded to record number of wildfires.

A new report, complete with recommendations to the Legislature, has been released by a statewide task force that was formed to address a lack of child care in Washington. File photo
Report outlines lack of child care in Washington

In King County, supply doesn’t meet demand for child care.

You’ve been hacked! Data breaches in Washington on the rise

But fewer people had personal information compromised from cyberattacks in 2019 compared to 2018.

Demonstrators from La Resistencia protest Amazon’s involvement with ICE. Photo courtesy of La Resistencia
How will the U.S. respond to climate refugees?

Business as usual has been harder borders, are there other ways to address climate migration?

Safe drug consumption sites have been recommended by the King County Heroin and Opioid Task Force. Pictured is a safe consumption site in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Photo supplied by ARCHES in Lethbridge
What’s been happening with safe injection sites?

There hasn’t been much coverage this year compared to the last couple years.

File photo of a pothole
King County approves roads, bridges funding

The capital projects funding is significantly less than previous years.

Turkeys Nonni, Noelle, November and Nora at Rooster Haus Rescue in Fall City. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
Turkey’s not on the Thanksgiving menu with this group

Rooster Haus Rescue provides a home for turkeys, chickens, roosters, cats, dogs, ducks and peacocks.

Most Read