Saturday, November 3, 2007

Zip's Drive-In

Zips Drive In
715 E. Sherman Ave., Cd’A

It occurred to me recently that the old-time Coeur d’Alene
tradition of wild teenagers cruising Sherman Avenue is officially a thing of the past. What happened? Maybe the kids found better ways to entertain themselves, or maybe the friendly policemen finally cracked down, but for many years the only thing to do in this town if you were seventeen and drunk on Hamms was to drive your hot car up and down the main drag, over and over again, all night. I’m not sure when this tradition died out exactly, but when I was in high school nearly twenty years ago, it was still going strong. Back then all the cool kids - a group I wasn’t actually part of - would pull their bitchin’ Camaros into the Zips Drive-In parking lot to turn around for yet another cruise down toward City Park. I was part of the even cooler kids group, sitting inside killing hours getting amped on Dr. Pepper and watching all the big hair go by.

It seems like it’s always been there, its splashy yellow and red paintjob brightening the corner of 8th and Sherman. In reality, it’s only been around since approximately the Reagan era, one of many locations that were part of Zips’ manifest destiny at the time. As their cups and to-go sacks proudly announce, the first Zips was opened in 1953 in Kennewick, Washington by one Mr. Zip Zuber. Yes, there really was a man named Zip, and his initial idea was to feed the scien
tists and other folks relocating to the Tri-Cities to work in the blossoming nuclear power industry. Zuber opened his next drive-in near Gonzaga in Spokane and eventually franchises began spreading like mustard all over Eastern Washington and North Idaho and today there are over two dozen of them scattered about.

I can’t imagine that the basic menu has changed very much since old Zippy served his first burger to the radioactive Hanford drones. Certainly the offerings at the Sherman Avenue location remain exactly the same as ever, and thank goodness for that little bit of consistency in our topsy-turvy world. The jewel in the Zips crown is their trademark burger, the Papa Joe. Its perfection is in it’s simplicity – beef patty, thin slice of ham, melty cheese,lettuce and “special sauce”. There is an unexpectedly nice textural synergy that occurs between the sauce and the lettuce shreds that makes the lettuce all hot, wilted and sort of gloppy. We’re not supposed to like our lettuce like this, but somehow we do. Kill yourself to death with an enormous Big Zipper and die happy. Or just punish yourself a little with a stacked Bacon Double Cheeseburger. If you’re extra lucky they’ll be running one of their non-menu specials and you’ll get to taste such experimental fare as the Hawaiian Burger with teriyaki, pineapple, and Swiss cheese or the Western Burger with BBQ sauce and a deep-fried onion ring.

In a masterstroke of polyunsaturated inspiration, Zips offers three separate potato options: crinkly fries, criss-cuts, and tater gems. Order a tub of any of these depraved creations, dip them in copious amounts of pearly pink fry sauce or some of that “world-famous” tartar sauce, and you’ll be ready for a nice, relaxing angioplasty in no time. If you’re going for the full-on cardiovascular demise, you’ll want to try the onion rings, which literally drip with decadent hot grease. They’re huge, too – I can’t figure out where they’re getting onions the size of a bowling ball. Also swimming in the hot oil spa are the best Halibut pieces and Chicken Strips in town.

They really know how to rock a mean deep fryer here, although it was an act of mercy when they discontinued the fried mushrooms - how many tongues were scorched with the hot mushroom water that would squirt out violently when you bit down on those cruel little bombs? If you still have a pulse after consuming your meal and you actually have room left in there, you might want to indulge in an old fashioned soft-serve chocolate/vanilla swirl cone or a homemade huckleberry shake. Look out waistline, here comes trouble.

Let’s get back to the tartar sauce for a minute. What is it about Zips’ tartar sauce that is so much more than mere mayo, relish, and onions? What is the secret special ingredient that makes ordinarily sane people go totally gaga and dip anything and everything they can grab into it? Folks, it’s the love. Like everything else here, it’s made fresh from scratch on a regular basis with thoughtfulness and elbow grease, which is more than you can say about the impersonal action at national fast food dumps.

I think this sense of down home pride shows in the service as well. These kids certainly aren’t making bank working here, and there’s no reason for them to display anything but disdain, but I can’t recall ever having a bad experience at the Sherman Avenue Zips counter. They actually smile and make eye contact, and the food never has a chance to sit and grow cold. I’ve seen some of the same faces working there for years, so they couldn’t be too unhappy, and it seems like they enjoy spreading the good vibes to their customers. Either that or they’re all brainwashed.

Post-Zips Disorder is that drug-like feeling of satisfaction and semi-uncomfortable bloat that overcomes you after a meal here. A few years ago, I came down with severe food poisoning from a Zips corn dog and spent three days between the bed and the bathroom, only able to eat blue popsicles. I got so sick I was actually hallucinating my own death. Did I hold it against Zips? Of course not, how could I? That would be like disowning Grandma because she accidentally made her best cookies with ex-lax instead of semi-sweet morsels. Zips is like a dear old friend, supporting me in countless times of need when I was too lazy to cook dinner or was just craving some greasy gut bomb debauchery. I’m very faithful to old pals, and it takes more than a near-death experience to make me stop coming around to visit.


OrangeTV said...

From Huckleberries Inline Link to this Review:

Question: Do you have any fond memories of cruising when you were a high school kid?
Posted by DFO | 5 Nov 5:25 PM

There are 16 comments on this post. (XML Subscribe to comments on this post)

Cruising the Mall and the street that went in front of it was the thing to do when I was in HS. Fancy "mini-trucks", known as compact pickups, were all the rage.

WE cruised in my buddy's '68 GMC Camper Special Pickup, with the 390 truck engine (375 HP STOCK!), very loud glass packs, a Holly 850 "dual-pumper" carb, and an FU preppies attitude.
Posted by green libertarian | 5 Nov 6:50 PM

I fondly remember cruisin' Sherman. I drove a 1970 Ford Maverick (voted one of the 10 worst cars of all time), and played 8-track tapes as me & my buddies zipped up and down the avenue. We'd turn around in the Co-op Supply parking lot (roughly where the North Idaho Museum is now), and at the other end, we'd usually turn around in the IGA parking lot. Fun times.
Posted by IdAhO EsCaPeE | 5 Nov 6:57 PM

I remember cruising Sherman when I was in high school ... as a valley boy me and my friends would only go there when nothing was happening with valley girls and we always knew that the CDA girls, despite (or because of) their hideous looks, were so incredibly easy we could always find pick up dates.

But being with a CDA girl was much like riding a moped.

It could be fun but you didn't want anybody to see you doing it.
Posted by Bob | 5 Nov 7:01 PM

Didn't bother cruising. My dad's 1941 Hudson sedan turned off the chicks. Surely it was the care, not me?
Posted by Don Sausser | 5 Nov 7:16 PM

care + car
Posted by Don Sausser | 5 Nov 7:18 PM

In Kellogg you "drove the loop" You drove up Hill St. hill , headed uptown, made the U-turn across from City Hall then back down to the Pool Parking Lot. That was the place everyone parked and hung out. It didn't matter if you had a "grandma station wagon" , a apple green Pinto, or an old hippie van. If reception was good that night we even played KJRB! Those were the days!
Posted by inlandempiregirl | 5 Nov 8:26 PM

Cruisin in Sandpoint started and ended at the beach. Spring skinny dipping and the full fall plunge were what we did win the buzz was upon us. The type of car was never the big deal at least for me. My husband's camaro (sp?) was a big deal to him and his buddies.

Our night would begin with a football game or movie followed by cruisin unless you were invited to a party. I spent more times at parties than cruisin but I did brave a spring swim now and then.
Posted by Sparky | 5 Nov 8:37 PM

In Kellogg we didn't skinny dip in the Lead Creek.
Posted by raymond pert | 5 Nov 8:44 PM

One night two of my girlfriends and I were cruising Broadway (in Newport, R.I.) and we got bored... so we stopped, couple guys we knew, jumped in with us, we cruised two more times, took them to the local cemetery... started telling scary stories, scaring the bejeeves out of the guys, had to take them back to their car.. true story.. those were the 50's... the best of times.
Posted by Cis | 5 Nov 10:17 PM

Heh, yeah I remember cruisin'. Heh. A twelve-pack of Schlitz Malt Liquor, a bag of maryjane scored off some band member at halftime, my friend's bong, Boston playing from the car stereo. Heh, good times, especially if some hot chicks dared to join us in the van o'love.
Posted by Eightball | 5 Nov 11:25 PM

In the early 80's Sherman was four lanes,you could cruise from the resort all the way to IGA. Everything was pretty innocent back then, if you were caught with beer and not falling all over yourself the police would make you pour it out and send you on your way.
Posted by Phil Thompson | 6 Nov 7:40 AM

In the 60's we used to cruise the Miracle Mile in San Rafael, California, made famous in the movie American Graffiti. It was a very exciting time and the cruising was always a thrill.
Posted by The Stickman | 6 Nov 8:12 AM

Stickman, Wow, that brings back some memories. I can remember sitting with my family at a downtown San Rafael cafe watching all the teenagers cruise by. I lived in Terra Linda from 60-64.
Posted by TSquared | 6 Nov 8:35 AM

RP: "In Kellogg we didn't skinny dip in the Lead Creek."

So right. You'd come out looking like the Tin Man. Needing a big oil can to fix your more important parts.

Further downstream at Enaville there occurred the strangest dichomomy, however, where Lead Creek joined the pristine waters of the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene. Just upstream from this oddity was the Black Bridge, from which as a rite of manhood young men were made to jump from its highest span. No problem, as long as you surfaced before you reached the Lead Creek confluence.
Posted by John Austin | 6 Nov 12:42 PM

dichomomy = dichotomy (duh)
Posted by John Austin | 6 Nov 12:44 PM

Question: Do you have any fond memories of cruising when you were a high school kid?

Yeah.. I do. But I quite cruising after a guy in an adjacent car pulled a gun on me.
Posted by toadman | 6 Nov 12:44 PM

Unknown said...

I think that it is ridiculous that Zips charges 25cents for ranch… particularly for a kid’s meal. A little customer service goes a long way.
Check out this video about extra pickles

bn196 said...

This place is all about grease. My tummy can't handle grease like it used to.