Hamburger America: Dick's Drive-In in Seattle, Washington

Editor's note: Burgermeisters! Here's another excerpt from George Motz's book Hamburger America. George and his publisher were kind enough to allow us to run them here, along with George's beautiful photos. Dick's Drive-In just turned 55 years old, so visit them if you can to celebrate!


Dick’s is a drive-in. There are 5 locations around town and only one has indoor seating. It’s the sort of drive-in where you park your car and walk up to the window to order and pay. General manager Ken Frazier told me, “Dick's has always been a walk up. Originally there were three separate lines, one for shakes and ice cream, one for burgers and soft drinks, and one for fries.” In the 60's Dick’s streamlined the system selling all products at all windows. At the 45th Street location there’s no seating anywhere and Maria, longtime manager, told me, “In the summertime people bring picnic tables and chairs and set up in the parking lot. It’s really cute.”

The efficiency of Dick’s is mind-boggling. Over twenty-four employees, all wearing crisp paper caps and clean aprons, are set to repetitive tasks such as weighing the fresh ice cream that goes into the shakes or prepping the buns with their secret sauce.

The menu is simple—hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, shakes, and soda. The thin patties of fresh steer beef are delivered to all locations in the chain every morning. The burgers, cooked on a flattop griddle, can be ordered plain, or as the preferred Dick’s Deluxe. The Deluxe comes with two quarter pound patties, cheese, lettuce, mayo and their special chopped pickle and mustard sauce. The sauce, a tangy, sweet, and creamy proprietary blend, should not be missed. All burgers are served on the perfect white squishy bun wrapped in wax paper.

The people of Seattle love Dick’s. I was hard pressed to find a carnivore that didn’t frequent the place. Bill Gates visits frequently. Maria told me, “Last week he had a Deluxe, fries, and a shake."

Dick’s Drive-In

111 N.E. 45th Street, Seattle WA 98105 (at 1st Ave NE; map) 206-632-5125 Multiple locations around Seattle Open daily, 10:30 a.m. - 2 a.m.

Hamburger America is available at Amazon and comes with a DVD of George's movie of the same title.