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.

Talk to us

More in Life

Washington’s most beloved state park turns 100

Deception Pass State Park, which draws as many visitors as the best-known national parks in the U.S., celebrates a century of recreation and conservation

Hydrangea and rose
July checklist for Snohomish County gardeners

After a slow start to summer, things should take off this month. So keep planting and nurturing.

Kid 'n Play members Christopher "Kid" Reid, left, and Christopher "Play" Martin perform on NBC's "Today" show during the "I Love The 90's" morning concert at Rockefeller Plaza on Friday, April 29, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Relive the music of the 1990s with Kid N Play and other stars of the era at the Tulalip Casino Amphitheater.

Contestant chef Brian Madayag (left) of Edmonds and West Coast team captain Brooke Williamson on “Beachside Brawl.” (Food Network) 20220616
Edmonds chef reps Pacific Northwest on new Food Network show

Barkada owner Brian Madayaga will compete on a new Food Network series that premiers Sunday.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Kosteri’ (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Kosteri’

This Hinoki cypress is graceful and beautiful, and is very drought-tolerant once established.

Photo Caption: Butter prints like this one pressed a design into freshly made butter as a decoration or for marketing. Today, collectors search for antique butter prints and consider them folk art.
19th century farm families’ butter prints are coveted folk art

One example with a flower-and-heart design recently sold at auction for more than $5,000.

After two years of wellness, Covid finally hit this family, but thanks to vaccinations, the symptoms were mild. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Jennifer Bardsley’s fighting COVID-19 with vaccines and TLC

But even with vaccinations, the disease is scary for people like her with less than robust immune systems.

Turkey vultures’ pervious nostrils are among the features that help them feed on carrion. (The Columbian files)
In praise of turkey vultures, nature’s cleaning service

These raptors should be revered, not reviled, for their disposal of stinky, disease-laden animal matter.

close-up of gardener's hands planting a tomato seedling in the vegetable garden
This summer, it’s smart to go big or go home at the nursery

When buying annuals, vegetables or perennials, go for the 1-gallon pots. And don’t skimp on the soil amendments and plant food.

Most Read