Monday, July 28, 2008
The Charcoaler Restaurant- El Paso, TX
The Charcoaler in El Paso, Texas, looks like it fell out of time capsule from the 1950s. That is a good thing. A beautiful glass fronted open building sits back from busy Mesa Drive with an expansive lawn stretching to the seriously retro sign out front. This is truly a classic drive through restaurant.
You pull your 1955 Chevy up to one of four speaker signs depicting a chef holding a big sign with the menu on it. A helpful voice crackles on the speaker asking you for your order. You reply Cheeseburger ($1.95), French fries ($1.00), Onion Rings ($1.55) and a chocolate shake ($1.20). “Sorry, we only have vanilla shakes today.” The voice crackles back. You answer that is fine. “That will be $6.19. Please pull around to the window.”
You oblige and pull up behind three other hamburger hopefuls in the queue. When you get to the window, a neatly dressed young man takes your money and hands you three identical white paper sacks, with the Charcoaler logo on them and a small red cup with your vanilla shake. You thank the man and pull the car under one of two 100-foot long awnings, that will shield you form the Texas sun while you feast.
In bag number 1, you see your hamburger, wrapped in white paper. It is a thing of classic burger beauty. Maybe 2 or 3 ounces of a thin beef patty sitting on a pillowy white bun with sesame seeds. The diameter of the bun and hamburger patty are identical. You take a bite and savor the combination of meat, bun, onion pieces, pickle chips, and American cheese. But what’s this? The ketchup is spicy - an unexpected pleasure for your taste buds.
The onion rings are something completely unexpected. Huge slices of sweet onion, lightly battered in tempura-like crust. Perfect if they only had ranch dressing in which to dunk, but spectacular none-the-less with ketchup. The fries disappoint in relation to the rest of the experience. They are hot, thick and a little too greasy, but not bad.
You get ready to pop the clutch in your muscle car and hit the streets, when you remember you are driving a Chevy Tahoe burning $4 gas every 12 miles or so.
Burger 4 spatulas out of 5
Fries 3 spatulas
Onion Rings 5 spatulas
Vanilla Shake 4 spatulas
The Charcoaler Drive-In Restaurant
5837 N. Mesa Drive
El Paso, TX