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RETRO SATURDAYJohn's Space Age Donuts
It's a heartwarming sight to see grown men holding school-lunchroom milk cartons and smiling at the first mouthful of apple fritter. They may have sat here as boys, on the same stools on either side of the pastry case. John's opened in 1967, and today's doughnuts aren't much more expensive than the Apollo-era treats: 70 cents (75 cents to-go). And those fritters run just 95 cents. Only have a quarter? You can still buy a doughnut hole that's out of this world.
Werner's Fine Sausages
5736 Johnson Drive, Mission
On calendars in Mission, Saturday reads Sausageday. That's when the line forms to pick up one of seven sausage varieties ($2.50 each) from a grill cart just outside Werner's Specialty Foods. The cart opens at 11 a.m. and runs until 2:30 p.m., but to make sure your favorite sausage is still on hand, get there by 1. Start with the smoked Polish, a mixture of beef and pork with the satisfying snap of natural casing.
Mugs-Up Root Beer Drive-In
700 East 23rd Street, Independence
There are so few places to find home-brewed root beer served in those heavy, thick frosty mugs that even if this iconic drive-in were expensive — which it isn't — it would still be worth a drive to Independence. Mugs-Up's root beer can be ordered by the glass or the quart, and the simple menu is a throwback to a time when little loose-meat burgers were the rage — the Zip Burger ($2.15) is plain, while the Whiz Burger ($2.45) is a Zip with cheese. There are other treats here, including corn dogs, barbecue sandwiches and fried tenderloins. And the rib-sticking chili-cheese Frito pie is a bargain at $2.55.
924 West U.S. Highway 24, Independence
The cars in the drive-through are no longer classics, but not much else has changed since HiBoy opened in 1957 — especially the tasty food. The HiBoy Burger ($3.89) is still a thin patty with a slight pepper kick, juicy enough to make the bun slightly soft. It comes stacked with crunchy lettuce, sliced tomato, a dollop of house sauce, and melty cheese that sticks first to the foil wrapping and then to your lips.
SUNDAYCook Shack Café
This little neighborhood diner is so small that there's often a wait during bad weather (on sunny days, owner Bill Crow, a former firefighter, opens the back patio for seating). It's worth the time. The food is simple, delicious and cheap, with big breakfast platters filled with the kind of home-style food — eggs and sausage, biscuits and gravy, omelets and flapjacks — that leave you comfortably sated until evening, when you're ready to eat the same meal all over again.
5921 Merriam Drive, Merriam
Just south of Johnson Drive, El Pulgarcito serves up a papusa, a masa flour pocket stuffed with meat, beans or cheese, for $1.95. It also has what may be the best free condiments in the city. The papusas are served with a red-hot sauce and a jar full of curtido, a Salvadoran slaw with pickled cabbage, onions and jalapeños. And the friendly servers make even first-time diners feel like regulars.
El Camino Real
903 North Seventh Street, Kansas City, Kansas
People don't just love this taqueria in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, because the tacos are so inexpensive ($1.50 each). They're also delicious, and the selection is terrific: beef tongue, spicy chorizo, fried fish, carne asada, pollo, poblano chiles with cheese. You can eat like a king for less than $8.