Restaurant review

Bend's Dandy's Drive-In has burgers full of old-fashioned flavor

Published Jul 30, 2010 at 05:00AM

It was just like old times. With the radio blasting out the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” I cruised into the covered stall at the drive-in restaurant, flashed my lights, and waited as a server on roller skates glided up to my car window and took my order for a cheeseburger and a milkshake.

Things haven’t changed a lot over the years at Dandy’s Drive-In. Opened in 1968, this dining institution — on northeast Third Street in Bend — hasn’t had much more of a facelift than a couple of coats of fresh paint since Bill DeGree bought the cement-block building in 1981.

“We’ve kept it pretty much exactly like Paul Keller, the original owner, had it,” said DeGree.

The only menu is posted on boards above the 18-stall car park. There are burgers galore: a Dandy Burger, a Dandy Deluxe, a Dandy Cheeseburger, a Grand Dandy and a Double Dandy. There are also chicken, fish and ham sandwiches, as well as fries and onion rings, soft drinks and milkshakes. But don’t ask for a soup or a salad, because that’s not what Dandy’s is about.

A sign asks patrons to “Please stay in cars.” There’s no counter service and there are no public restrooms. Everything, it seems, is in the hands of the smiling young women on old-fashioned skates, rolling down the concrete trail that connects the kitchen with the vehicles.

Although it typically takes about 15 minutes from order to delivery, few patrons seem to mind. That’s enough time to kick back and listen to a half-dozen tunes on an oldies radio station. The few impatient diners often have the foresight to call ahead to place an order that may be waiting for them upon their arrival, but DeGree confessed, “Sometimes we get so busy, I have to take the phone off the hook.”

Two thumbs up

There’s a reason why Dandy’s consistently appears at or near the top of “Bend’s best burger” surveys. The meat is freshly ground chuck, never frozen patties, and each hamburger is cooked when the order is placed.

I enjoyed the burgers on my recent visits. And I loved Dandy’s onion rings and a fresh banana shake. But I was less than impressed by some other menu items, including fish and chicken sandwiches.

The best of the burgers, in my estimation, is the Grand Dandy ($5.25), which has two good-sized beef patties layered with thick slices of bacon and melted cheddar cheese. The juicy contents are dressed with chopped lettuce and slices of tomato and pickle, and served in a hearty bun (spread with a house-made sauce) that doesn’t fall apart when gripped with both hands.

I recommend the onion rings over the french fries at Dandy’s. There’s nothing wrong with the fries, but they seem very run-of-the-mill compared to the excellent onions. These are thickly battered and deep-fried in fresh oil, then well drained of grease before serving. Both sides are served with house-made fry sauce.

One thumb down

It’s almost impossible to tell the “fishwich” from the “chick’n wich” without biting into each. They’re served on the same bun and dressed identically, with lettuce and a spread. Unlike the burgers, neither is grilled; both are breaded and deep-fried. And although the fish is advertised as “3 ounces bluewater cod” and the chicken as “4 ounces all breast,” I would not have known which was which had not their bags been labeled.

Of course, I could taste the difference. The fish flaked. The poultry was pressed and did not flake. But they were no challenge to the burgers for flavor.

I actually preferred the Ham Dandy (with lettuce and tomato slices) to both the chicken and fish. It was grilled, not deep-fried, and the ham was clearly of the porcine variety.

A true treat was my fresh banana shake. Chunks of banana in the milk-and-ice cream blend made it clear that this was not just a syrup-added beverage. If the other shakes, malts and sundaes are half as good, they are worth the trip.

SMALL BITES

Two Newport Avenue restaurants and a mobile kitchen are teaming to present a block party Sunday. Kanpai Sushi&Sake Bar, Kebaba Modern Middle Eastern Foods and Spork will present music and dancing along with food and drink on Northwest 10th Street between Newport and Ogden avenues from noon to 8 p.m. 541-390-0946, www.sporkbend.com.

Mike Dupras has been named the food and beverage manager for the Restaurant at Awbrey Glen . A stalwart in the Bend dining scene, Dupras previously worked at Pastini Pastaria, Merenda, Anthony’s and the Broken Top Club. His new restaurant, located at the Awbrey Glen Golf Club, specializes in Northwest regional cuisine and is open to the public. Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. 2500 N.W. Awbrey Glen Drive, Bend; 541-317-2885, www.awbreyglen.com.

RECENT REVIEWS

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