It’s National Drive-Thru Day. When you hear the term “Drive-Thru” what comes to mind? For most of us, it’s the convenience of ordering burgers, fries and something to drink without ever leaving the comfort of our cars. Yet many businesses offer us that drive-thru experience, from banks to pharmacies and dry-cleaners. When I was a little girl, we got our milk from a drive-thru dairy.
The drive-thru experience is such an ingrained part of everyday life for most Americans, yet we never stop to ask which came first, the Drive-Thru or the Drive-In? Strictly speaking, it was the Drive-Thru concept. But it wasn’t a restaurant. It was a bank in Syracuse, New York. Way, way back in 1928, the City Central Bank recognized the added convenience to their customers if they could simply “drive-thru” the bank rather than come inside. When it comes to the most common of all “drive-thru” businesses, restaurants began with the Drive-In concept before branching out to a true Drive-Thru. The Drive-In experience was first introduced to America at the Pig Stand in Texas in 1921. This fact is not open for debate. Who knows, maybe a bank executive from New York enjoyed the drive-in experience in Texas and ran with it.
When it comes to the Drive-Thru concept, there is some argument as to who has the legitimate claim to drive-thru experience. Some say it was Red’s Giant Hamburgs on Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri. (And no, that’s not a mistake – the sign at the original Red’s misspelled Hamburgers – and the name stuck). Sheldon “Red” Chaney operated a gas station and hotel along the famed route. Tired of pumping gas and realizing that there was more to be made by selling burgers to motorists along the highway, Red transformed the gas station into a hamburger joint in 1947. Travelers could take a seat inside or take their burgers to-go via a window. It’s not really clear if people needed to park and walk up or if Red actually came up with the first drive-thru service window as part of an actual restaurant. In-and-Out Burgers also claims to the first drive-thru, opening their California location in 1948. It’s a fine line. Red’s was a service offered from a sit-down restaurant. In-n-Out was strictly a drive-thru, with windows on either side of the kitchen and no seating offered.
What is not up for debate is that Americans have fostered a deep obsession with the hamburger. And as wonderfully convenient the fast food, drive-thru concept is, nothing is better than a home-cooked burger. Home cooking is all about quality-control. Good ground chuck, fresh tomatoes, lettuce and onions from the local farmer’s market or our own gardens are key.
The Classic Worcestershire Burger
2 lb Ground Chuck
4 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
2 teaspoons cracked Black Pepper
4 Hamburger Buns, split
4 Green Leaf Lettuce Leaves
1 large Tomato, sliced
1/2 Red Onion, sliced
Mustard as desired
Mayonnaise as desired
Ketchup as desired
Heat gas or charcoal grill. Place meat in large bowl; add Worcestershire sauce over beef, gently mix with hands. Divide meat into 4 very loose balls, then gently shape into patties 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick and about 1/2 inch in diameter larger than than the hamburger buns. Slightly press center of each patty.
Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper on 1 side of each patty. Place patties, seasoned side down, on grill over medium heat. Sprinkle top of each patty with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover grill; cook 10 to 12 minutes, turning once, until burgers reach desired doneness.
While the burgers are grilling, break off lettuce leaves from a head of green leaf lettuce. Rinse and pat dry. Slice a large tomato into 4 thick slices, set aside. Cut onion in half through the middle, then cut two rings from either half. Break apart and set aside.Serve burgers on buns with lettuce, tomato, and onion. Top with desired condiments such as mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup.