Food & Drink: Classic American burgers in a classic setting

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Rachel Pinsky

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Don & Jo’s, 21903 N.E. 10th Ave., Ridgefield. Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturdays. 360-887-8111 or www.donandjosdrivein.com

K&M Drive-In, 3414 N.E. Third Ave., Camas. Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday. 360-210-5803 or kmdrivein.com

Top Burger Drive In, 1436 N.E. Everett St., Camas. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday. 360-834-3867.

In the early 2000s, chefs decided to “improve” the classic American burger by using meat from massaged Japanese cows or by topping or stuffing it with stinky cheeses. I am glad this burger madness is coming to an end. Trendy chains such as Shake Shack have reclaimed the traditional American burger — a flat, charred beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles (and maybe cheese) on a sesame seed bun. Many places in Clark County continue to offer the classic American burger in the traditional American setting — the drive-in.

Don & Jo’s: Husband and wife, Don & Joanne (Jo) Zumstein, opened Don & Jo’s Drive-In in Duluth (on the way to Battle Ground) in 1968. In 1982, their son, Mike and his wife, Connie, bought the business. It is located just east of Exit 11 off Interstate 5. The sign for Don & Jo’s is large and clearly says Drive-In in uppercase bright red letters. I ordered the quarter-pound cheeseburger and fries. The patty had a nice char and was topped with ketchup, mayo, lettuce, pickle, onion and tomato and served on a sesame seed bun. The fries on the side were crinkle-cut, crisp and perfectly salted.

K&M Drive-In: Husband-and-wife team Kevin and Melinda Bruzzone opened K&M Drive-In in Camas on Feb. 11, 2013. Everything is made to order. The burgers are made from fresh, never frozen, locally sourced ground beef. Toppings are freshly sliced on site every day. Various types of cheese are offered (I chose American). The burger has a nice char to it and is topped with fresh onions, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and sauce (tastes like Thousand Island dressing). The soft buns have specks of cornmeal. The fries are hand-cut, made from Kennebec potatoes, and have just a bit of skin on them. They are extraordinary. The sodas are not your typical drive-in variety — K&M offers RC Cola, Jones Soda (in flavors such as green apple and berry lemonade), and Bridge City soda.

• Top Burger: You can dine inside or outside at Top Burger, which is also in Camas, or just drive through. You order at the counter and if you sit outside, the cashier will loudly announce your name through a pickup window when it is ready. There isn’t much to see outside, but if the sun is out who can resist sitting outside and soaking in some vitamin D? The burger is classic American. It doesn’t have the char of K&M’s burger, but it has a nice meaty flavor. It is topped with onion (choice of raw or cooked), tomato, lettuce, pickles, and special sauce (tastes like mayo and ketchup) served on a sesame seed bun. The fries are long and thin (a bit thicker than shoestring) and seasoned with red flakes that had the paprika-y taste of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Your kids may be bothered by the presence of red stuff on their fries. I suggest you warn them ahead of time or order tots.


Rachel Pinsky can be emailed at couveeats@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @couveeats