The Deluxe: Two thin burger patties, served with the works and the special sauce. Fries. Preferably fresh fries. A strawberry milkshake.
That’s my standby order at Dick’s Drive-In.
When you talk about classic restaurants in Seattle, there are a few iconic places that always come to mind. Canlis is a fine dining institution. In the International District, Maneki is one of the country’s oldest sushi restaurants, open since 1904. Like the Space Needle and the Pike Place Market, these are places where people travel far and wide — and Dick’s should always be included in any short list of Seattle icons. I mean, when rap stars want to do their videos in your locations, you know you’re doing something right.
Damn near everyone in Seattle has been to Dick’s at some point in their lives, whether it’s after a night out at the club or as a stop home after a long restaurant shift. Even among the classics, it stands out as an extremely affordable choice. It’s simple. It’s fresh. It’s clean. It’s family-run. It’s women-led.
Dick’s Drive-In opened more than 66 years ago, in January 1954, when a 29-year old named Dick Spady opened for business on N.E. 45th Street in the Wallingford District of Seattle. He and his partners had already been denied a loan from the bank, but they strapped it together. Success and expansion followed, albeit over the course of decades: The Broadway Dick’s opened in 1955, the Holman Road Dick’s in 1960, the Lake City Dick’s in 1963, and the Queen Anne Dick’s in 1974.
The cool thing about Dick’s is that all the locations are essentially based in neighborhoods. They didn’t set them up in a mall or something like that, and I’m sure they could have easily done that. But instead, they anchored themselves in real neighborhoods and established the kind of foot traffic that can drive business to nearby small businesses. That’s inspirational to me, as a fellow small business owner. I could easily be in an airport or a convention center, but I tailored my business to be part of a neighborhood, to help lift up a community.
Today, Dick’s is run by Spady’s granddaughter, Jasmine Donovan. We met several years ago, and have since been connected through various panels, local committees, and leadership boards. I admire the way she has kept Dick’s more relevant than ever, keeping up with the changing environments while still staying true to the core of the business. It’s a hard feat to accomplish, and that’s why you don’t see many local chains like Dick’s last this long.
And above all, it’s just really good.
The burgers arrive fresh and hot off that old griddle. The fries — request fresh fries if you can — are beautifully balanced, simultaneously crunchy enough and creamy enough, not greasy, perfectly salted. And there’s no better pairing for burgers and fries than a cold shake.
Dick’s feels exactly like what a burger place should be.
Dick’s Drive-In: Various locations, including 111 N.E. 45th St., Seattle. www.ddir.com
Edouardo Jordan is the award-winning chef of Junebaby, Salare, and Lucinda Grain Bar, all in Ravenna.