Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer Drive-Ins: Mugs Up and a Whiz Burger

Posted By on Wed, Jun 4, 2008 at 11:45 AM

By CHARLES FERRUZZA

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It’s a lot easier to find local restaurants that serve their own house-brewed beers and ales these days than home-made root beer. But the foamy brew that Bill and Ann Kendall serve at Mugs Up Root Beer Drive-In in Independence (700 E. 23rd St.) is made from the same recipe that this distinctive white-and-orange burger joint has sold for 51 years.

The Kendalls have owned the Independence operation for nearly 30 years and it’s the last one left in the metro. Back in the 1960s, during the heyday of drive-ins, there were nine Mugs Up locations in town, created by Raytown’s Jim Heavey. In addition to the house-made root beer and fruity “Orangeroo,” the Mugs Up drive-ins served those crumbly loose-meat sandwiches that were all the rage at the time -- one popular national chain was Maid-Rite (there’s still at least one operating in St. Joseph, I believe) and another was Nu-Way, which had several Kansas City locations. I’ve eaten at the Nu-Way in Leavenworth (it shares a building with a hair salon there) and the burgers are excellent.

But as far as loose-meat sandwiches go, the best I’ve tasted yet are at Mugs Up, which serves the seasoned beef on a soft bun. If you order the Zip Burger, it comes with mustard, pickles and onion. A Whiz Burger is a Zip Burger with cheese. There’s also a Cili Burger, a Chili Whiz Burger and a Super Burger.

On a hot day, there’s nothing like a frosty mug of root beer from this iconic drive-in. Add a scoop of ice cream and you have the best Black Cow in town. Carhops still take orders and serve the food, wearing those groovy stainless steel coin dispensers around their waists.

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