Taste of Childhood

Steak 'n Shake Sign

My sister Judy and I relive a taste of childhood with each visit to Steak ‘n Shake. We eagerly anticipate our first meal after landing in south Florida. There’s no need for a menu, I know I’ll order a double Steakburger™ with cheese and fries. The only question is whether or not I’ll opt for the platter and add a cup of chili topped with  cheese and onion. Judy’s sure to order the patty melt with fries and garden salad. We regrettably forgo the pleasures of a thick milkshake.

Steak 'n Shake burgerGrowing up in Central Illinois a visit to Steak ‘n Shake was our idea of dining out. In Champaign the iconic 1950s drive-in was on Green Street a few blocks west of the U of I campus. A flash of the headlights signaled your need for service, a carhop would rush out to the car to take your order returning with a tray piled high withsandwiches, fries and shakes. the tray clipped to the outside of your window. When all was finished, with another headlight flash she’d come  to retrieved the tray.

Once I had a driver’s license, Friday nights were always high school ball games or school activities. Afterwards, I’d load up the Nash Rambler with girlfriends and head to Steak ‘n Shake. We always had Cokes and fries – one order for the front seat and one for the back. I don’t remember how much it cost but I do recall that each of us would leave a dime tip on the tray.

Later on there was an older boy from church I considered pretty special. Sometimes on Sunday nights we’d go to the newer Steak ‘n Shake on University, park in the back row, talk and watch who came and went. We always saw someone we knew.

When I married and moved too far west (Colorado) part of going home was always a Steak ‘n Shake visit. Seeing  the familiar black and white striped awning and red sign could be cause for an unplanned Interstate exit.

Steak 'n Shake 75th SignOn our latest stop we learn the company is proudly celebrating its 75th anniversary. The original opened in Normal, Illinois, just 50 miles from our hometown, in February 1934. A reputation was built on freshly ground steaks for the burgers and creamy, hand-dipped milk shakes. I fondly remember how much my father loved his strawberry milkshake and mother her orange freeze.

As part of the celebration Steak ‘n Shake currently offers four meals under $4. A single Steakburger™ with bacon, cheese and fries, a triple with fries, chicken fingers and fries and my favorite – double with cheese and fries. This is not fast food; meals are cooked as ordered and served on real plates with silverware. Fries are thin and crisp – a standard I judge all fries against.

We adamently deny being customers for all 75 years but, because our closest Steak ‘n Shake is 500 miles away and we can’t have one on a whim, excitement builds whenever we near a taste of childhood.

When You Go: More than 475 franchises in 22 states stand ready to serve customers. Check the website for locations, hours and menu specials.

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