Burgershackin' Boise

Westside Drive In - Even Guy Fieri Can't Bring This Place Down

At first glance, the Westside Drive In has burgershack written all over it. There's neon signage, a double drive thru, and outside seating. On the other hand, if you're eating on site, this place serves its food on real plates. They also have prime rib on the menu and have been known to advertise on TV. Anyone who's been around here awhile knows about Chef Lou Aaron and those "Yum, Yum" ads.

This contrast puts one in a quandary. Is the Westside Drive In still a burgershack? Or has Chef Lou transformed it into something else entirely -- a sort of hybrid American restaurant that pays homage to the roadside burger joint of the past and yet at the same time offers a little something for those whose tastes are a tad more "refined" than burger and fries?

You'll have to make your own judgement, but it still counts as a burgershack to me, despite the fact that you can buy Chef Lou's frozen dinners there or a rack of his Pepsi-Cola ribs. Call me generous, but I'm willing to overlook a lot of those restaurant-type traits just like I overlook the fact that my ugly wife snores when she sleeps on her left side. If the expanded menu bothers you, don't look at it; when the wife snores, just roll her out of bed. Problem solved and everyone's happy.

Yes, you can actually taste the pork product.

There has been a lot of speculation recently on the future of the Westside, primarily due to what I've started to call the Guy Fieri Curse. As you might recall, Fieri came to Boise in March of 2009 to film segments for his TV show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Of the three restaurants that made the show, two of them -- Donnie Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine and Don's Hilltop Cafe and Kodiak Grill -- recently went out of business. The third restaurant in the show was, you guessed it, the Westside Drive In. Will this curse take down the venerable Westside as well? Probably not, seeing that the Westside has been around since 1957 and it probably has enough momentum and loyal customers to see it through the Fieri Curse. Of course, it also helps to have an award-winning chef prowling around.

The benefit of having an actual chef behind the scenes is that, in theory, the tastiness factor of the burgers and other treats should be vastly improved over your average greasy spoon. I'm happy to say that this is definitely the case here. The BBQ bacon burger caught my eye when I looked over the menu, and the burger turned out to be as good as a burger can possibly be. I'd even call it gourmet. If you've read any of the other articles in my Burgershackin' series, you know the problems I've had with bacon in the past. This time, however, my expectations were finally met by thick-cut bacon I could actually taste. The presentation was glorious, although I'm still wondering what the chopstick in the center is supposed to represent. It's probably over my head.

The wife and I decided we'd split a chili-cheese Super Spud, which they advertise as "Biggest in the valley - a full pound". Naturally we expected a spud the size of a football, and we were not disappointed. Honestly, chili is almost as good as bacon when it comes to making other food a lot better. Throw in a good amount of shredded cheese and green onions and you've got yourself a killer spud.

All Idahoans can be proud.

Another advantage to having a chef behind the menu is that you'll often see unexpected items on the Specials menu. Take, for instance, the fish cakes I found on my most recent trip to the Westside. Being a connoisseur of crab cakes, I simply had to give these babies a shot, even if the prevailing wisdom might be that you never venture near such a curious offering at a burgershack. I was not disappointed. They were fresh, full of flavor, and as good as any of the crab cakes I've had in my days. I don't really know what kind of fish was in them, but to tell you the truth, it could've been carp and I wouldn't have cared. That Chef Lou can work wonders with just about anything.

Fish cakes at a burgershack? You bet.

In the case of the Westside Drive In, you get what you pay for. The food is great, but it ain't cheap. It's never a dirt-cheap foray into the food world, but I really didn't mind. This place's greatest drawback, at least when dining at one of the on-site tables, is the fact that you are surrounded by both drive thru lanes, so it can be a bit noisy at times. And if there's a diesel pickup in each lane, you could easily keel over from the fumes. But at least you had a great last meal.

Burgershack: Westside Drive In

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Famous for: Chef Lou's Pepsi-Cola Ribs
Is it cheap? Not at all
Website: Westside Drive In on Facebook
Drive thru: Yep, two of them
Inside seating: Nope
Outside seating: Yep
Order inside: Nope
Our rating: 4 pacemakers out of 5