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Don's Drive-In

2030 US-31 North, Traverse City, MI - (231) 938-1860
Posted By Michael Stern on 7/8/2008 6:19:00 PM
A bright pink building with a neon sign in the shape of a tailfinned car, Don’s is a big slice of Americana – a burger-and-malt drive-in that dates back to 1958. It is decorated in old vinyl records, fancy hubcaps and images of mid-century pop-culture icons; and its menu is a roster of fast-food fundamentals.

There are sandwiches (BLT, ham & cheese), and a soup of the day, but the big decision to make at Don’s is whether to get a hamburger or a brace of Coney Island hot dogs. The Coney is topped with chili sauce, available regular or foot-long.The burgers are huge. Normal size is a quarter-pound. The Big D is double that: two mighty clods of beef cooked to juicy perfection (the way you want: rare, medium or well) and stuffed into a bun with your choice of toppings that range from mustard and ketchup to cheese, bacon, mushrooms, and olives.

Don’s is renowned for its shakes and malts, blended to order and thick enough to require powerful suction with a straw. The menu includes vanilla and chocolate plus strawberry, cherry and raspberry that can be made with fresh fruit (for 95 cents extra). Our cherry malt was thick with intensely flavorful pieces of sweet cherry.

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
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The Big D is a half-pound of juicy beef in a bun. This one is a Spartan version, garnished only with onions.
"The Big D is a half-pound of juicy beef in a bun. This one is a Spartan version, garnished only with onions."
Michael Stern





A cherry shake at Don's has so many pieces of fruit in it that they inevitably get caught in the straw and clog it.
"A cherry shake at Don's has so many pieces of fruit in it that they inevitably get caught in the straw and clog it."
Michael Stern


The kid's meal is offered in this cute little car!
"The kid's meal is offered in this cute little car!"
Jill Gross-LaFaye


Don's Drive-In still uses the window trays!  They have great service and great food.
"Don's Drive-In still uses the window trays! They have great service and great food."
Jill Gross-LaFaye


That's the take-out counter directly in the foreground and the dining room in back. There are picnic tables outside, and of course in-car dining is a popular option.
"That's the take-out counter directly in the foreground and the dining room in back. There are picnic tables outside, and of course in-car dining is a popular option."
Michael Stern


The cover of the menu at Don's Drive-In.
"The cover of the menu at Don's Drive-In."
josh


In the entryway to Don's is this coin-operated fortune-telling booth -- a peek at the future from many yesterdays ago.
"In the entryway to Don's is this coin-operated fortune-telling booth -- a peek at the future from many yesterdays ago."
Michael Stern


Don's is a few hundred miles from Detroit, but car culture is alive and well at this mid-century drive-in.
"Don's is a few hundred miles from Detroit, but car culture is alive and well at this mid-century drive-in."
Michael Stern



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