150 Boise icons: Vintage drive-ins

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 11, 2013 

0810 scene food rev

Did you know? The popularity of drive-in restaurants, such as this Fanci-Freeze on State Street in Boise, took off in the decades after World War II. Americans were prosperous again and cars became a tangible symbol of that prosperity.

JOE JASZEWSKI — Idaho Statesman file Buy Photo

Boise, never a city to shy away from fun, especially fun related to both eating and cars, still has its share of independent drive-ins.

It seems important, though, to take a minute to note the drive-ins we've lost. Everyone had their favorite. In the mid-1970s, Chow Now on Broadway Avenue sold ice cream sandwiches with both chocolate and vanilla ice cream inside, as thick as old-school leather wallets. It took your whole walk home from school to eat one.

The College Drive-In on University Drive was the place to go for a Bronco Burger or cherry dipper bar, a cool vanilla medallion encased in vermillion shellac. The Historical Society has the drive-in's big wooden menu in storage. There are other lost greats. People still talk about the finger steaks at Red Steer.

But many drive-ins remain. Like neon signs, they represent an aspect of the city's popular, commercial culture that distinguishes it from anywhere else.

Speaking of neon, Fanci Freez's neon ice cream cone glows on State Street. A classic Boise sight worth seeking out if you never have: the neon cone with a full moon looming in the sky behind it.

Fanci Freez opened in 1947. Its most famous offering may be the Boston Shake, a combination shake and sundae. Its sister restaurant, Big Bun on Overland Road, opened in 1961.

Hawkins Pac-Out opened on Bogus Basin Road in 1954. Its signature menu item is the Herby Burger. That's Herby himself, the burger with the biceps, on the drive-in's sign. Dan McAuliffe, who works at Hawkins, pointed out Herby's sidekicks, a milkshake and a packet of fries. Both wear red lipstick.

"They've been around forever," he said.

The Westside Drive-In on State Street started out as a grocery store in 1949. It converted to a drive-in in 1957, said its owner Chef Lou Aaron. The Westside, which added a second location last year on ParkCenter Boulevard, is known for finger steaks. But Chef Lou has the trademark on another treat, the Ice Cream Potato. The chef at the now-closed Gamekeeper Restaurant made the first ice cream potatoes - balls of ice cream dusted with cocoa and covered in whipped cream - in the 1940s, said Aaron. He's been making them since 1978.

Here's a bit of Westside trivia: the drive-in sits on the original, turn-of-the-century site of the Western Idaho Fair. A historic plaque hangs at the restaurant.

The Viking Drive-In opened in the early 1960s on State Street. The Moore family has owned it since 1974. House specialty? "The Henderson." It's on the menu now, but it used to be an item you had to know to ask for.

The Henderson was named for a customer who still patronizes The Viking, said Julie Moore.

"It has double everything - meat, cheese, ham and six pieces of bacon," said Moore.

Viking philosophy from Moore: "We do everything as old-school as possible."

Know of vintage drive-ins we've missed? Let us know: awebb@idahostatesman.com

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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