Burgershackin' Boise

Big Bun Drive In - The Mystery of the Hot Russian Is Solved

When it comes to Boise burgershacks, Big Bun has by far the greatest number of burgers named after people. This, combined with the fact that Big Bun has been around in some form since the 50's, is a sure sign that the food is tasty. But have you ever wondered what it takes to get a hamburger named after you? I sure have.

Maybe it's a matter of quantity. If you ordered, say, fifteen hamburgers with mustard and pickle, and then you proceeded to eat them all Kobayashi style at a picnic table next to the shack, do you think the employees would come outside, cheer you on, and then name that particular burger in your honor right there on the spot? I can see that.

Maybe it's a matter of novelty. If you have such ingenious gustatory gifts that your own imagination creates a never-before-seen (yet brilliantly delicious) burgershack treat while waiting in the drive thru, I think there's a city ordinance or something that says the burgershack is compelled to commemorate the occasion in some honorable way. If that's the case, I've got some great ideas involving Nutella, chipotle mayonnaise, and pumpkin seeds.

Maybe it's a matter of luck. If you're the owner's spouse, child, or favorite lap dog, you can't help but have the inside track to burger glory. Or maybe you were in the right places at the right times and you've got yourself a stockpile of blackmail pictures involving the owner, the management, a bushel of pickles, and an athletic supporter. I bet that really helps.

Your guess is as good as mine, but I have to admit that a Boudreaux Burger sounds pretty good. One of these shacks needs to let me know how we can make that happen. It's a sure-fire winner.

Anyway, when faced with such a barrage of possible burger choices, what is a person to do? You could go with the signature "Big Bun" burger itself, which I can assure you is fabulous. But the name itself pales in comparison to such burgers as the Garret, the Tom Burger, the R&R, the Baldy Bob, and the Lopez Burger.

This first time I ever visited this fine establishment, there was no one in line in front of me to buy me some time to consider things fully as I perused their long list of offerings. Upon further review, however, that probably wouldn't have mattered anyway. Big Bun has a double drive thru (just like the Viking), and there are a series of menu/speaker stations in each lane. So even if I was behind a truckload of Kuna cowboys on a weekend furlough, I still would've felt the inevitable can-I-take-your-order pressure (or "shack fright", as I call it) from the speaker.

So I cracked. I admit it. I saw that the Baldy Bob was the R&R plus some extra stuff, so I figured I could get the benefit of two different burgers under one bun. My tragic error was that I failed to get all the way to the end of the Baldy Bob description on the menu. And that's how I ended up ordering a burger that had alfalfa sprouts on it. I'm not proud of that fact, but let's face it -- such things happen to good, hard-working Idaho carnivores sometimes. If it helps you maintain your respect for me, just think of the sprouts as really tiny lettuce leaves. That's what I did.

Imagine my surprise

After that first visit, however, there was still the matter of the Hot Russian, a burger I saw on the menu and instantly guessed was something like a Hot Karl with more horseradish. I wasn't brave enough to find out that first time, but curiosity got the better of me on my next visit. That's when I found that the Hot Russian is merely a burger with a hefty dose of horseradish mayo, some lettuce, and other goodies. After consuming this concoction, I can say that the horseradish was evident and it was a good burger, but if you're going to really impress me you've got to make it hotter. Way hotter. Next time I'm going to ask if they keep an eye-watering, sinus-clearing version of the stuff for special requests.

More burn, please

Two things stand out from my food and beverage experiences at Big Bun.

First, the burgers are messy. You'd better eat it fast or the paper burger holder dissolves and/or fuses into the bun, making paper ingestion a certainty. My ugly wife had the same experience. I'd suggest getting rid of the burger holder immediately after you unwrap the burger and conceding that your feeding session will not be pretty. Sometimes there's a bigger price to pay for juicy, savory goodness.

Second, the proprietors vowed to make some significant upgrades to the place after Bug Bun and the Fanci Freez came under the same ownership in the spring of 2010. Boy did they ever. The most significant thing they did was add a heated outdoor enclosure reminiscent of a circus tent. Not only is is warm and toasty in the winter, it is also wired for music and lights, meaning you can have your Big Bun in style now and not have to worry about getting shredded lettuce and french fries all over the inside of your vehicle. They also made some cosmetic changes to spruce up the place, including getting a new electric sign. But perhaps the best change they made was adding the Fanci Freez ice cream lineup to the menu, meaning you can now get yourself a Hot Russian and a Boston shake without driving across town in between. Bravo.

Very nice indeed

Rumor has it that the Big Bun building you see today is not the original building. Apparently the original building from the 50's was on the opposite side of the lot, and it was hauled away in the 60's to Homedale, where it still functions as a good ol' small-town burgershack on the main drag. I think I feel a road trip coming on...

Burgershack: Big Bun Drive In

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Famous for: The Big Bun
Is it cheap? You're darn tootin'
Website: None
Drive thru: Yep, two of them
Inside seating: Yep, the new circus tent is warm and toasty on a cold day, and it also keeps out the exhaust fumes from the cars in the drive thrus.
Outside seating: Yep
Order inside: Nope
Our rating: 4 pacemakers out of 5