As a child in the late 1950’s one of my fondest memories hands down has got to be pulling into a drive-in, Dad placing an order, then the three of us kids barely able to keep our anticipation under wraps waiting for the carhop to bring our order on the tray that hung on Dad’s driver’s door window.
In my childhood, the food always tasted better at a drive-in. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it was the novelty of ordering and not leaving the car in order to enjoy a family meal, maybe it was the closeness my brother, sister and I shared in the backseat of my Dad’s 1956 Buick Roadmaster, maybe it was the happy music that poured out of the speakers hanging from the ceiling of the drive-in canopy, or maybe it was just that the food was truly better at the drive-in. At the tender age of 5 all I knew was it was terribly fun to eat in the car with your dinner delivered on a tray to hang on Dad’s driver’s side window.
This week while in the Kalamazoo area I went to a drive-in on Portage Road called West Lake Drive-In. This quaint reminder of my past is a one-sided drive-in that looks westward out over West Lake with carhops that cheerfully bring your food to you on a tray that hangs on the bottom of their menu board not your window but, best of all – a killer view of West Lake.
The view over the lake gives you the chance to daydream of what it would be like to have a lake house, or just sit back and watch water skiers, water fowl, fishermen and pontoon boats.
I’ve been frequenting this particular drive-in for many, many years and always order the same thing….Olive Burger Deluxe with Onion Rings or Deep Fried Mushrooms and a soft drink or a shake. The burger is perfectly cooked on their flattop grill, then loaded onto a toasted bun with lettuce and tomato and then the best part; the olive spread. It’s made of mayonnaise with sliced Spanish olives and something they keep secret. This secret olive spread is why I keep coming back over and over again. The saltiness of the olives and the smooth taste of the mayonnaise blends with the grilled burger and it is burger nirvana for me. I tell myself that one day I will order something else like their newest offering; Bluegill Sandwich or Bluegill Dinner Basket. Sounds so yummy but that olive burger deluxe is calling my name as soon as I pull into the parking lot. Since I only get to this drive in a few times a year I must order my favorite. I must!
The tranquility of the view out over the lake gave us a peaceful energy while we enjoyed our meal and made the meal all that much more appreciated. I will be back to West Lake Drive-In before the winter weather sets in and they close up for the season.
Maybe the next time, I’ll order something other than my Olive Burger Deluxe…….Nah! Its tradition! I must order the Olive Burger Deluxe or the experience would change and I don’t know if I can live with that.
If you’d like more information about West Lake Drive-In you can check out their Facebook page.