Kansas City used to have several Nu-Way drive-ins, but they've all vanished; there are still six in Wichita, including the original 1930s location at 1416 Douglas, which is supposedly the oldest restaurant in that tasteful Kansas metropolis. Closer to home, the last Mugs-Up Root Beer Drive-In — complete with carhops — is still serving loose-meat Zip burgers wrapped in waxed paper, sided by homemade root beer, at 700 East 23rd Street in Independence. Once upon a time, Kansas City boasted nine Mugs-Up Drive-Ins (the chain was started by a Raytown restaurateur named Jim Heavey in the early 1950s), but the orange-and-white venue on 23rd Street is the sole survivor and celebrates its half-century anniversary this year.
Every few weeks or so, I get a craving for a Mugs-Up Whiz burger (a Zip with melted cheese), and that requires a drive to Independence. I've also discovered a new burger thrill in Bess Truman's hometown and — gulp — it's in a chain restaurant! A few months ago, the Nashville-based Logan's Roadhouse opened its first local outpost at 19401 East 39th Street, near Independence Center. It looks like any standard-issue, low-budget steakhouse with a faux roadhouse theme, but the food and service are surprisingly good.
I'm especially excited about this restaurant's platter of Roadies — three not-so-small cheeseburgers with sweet pickles on made-from-scratch dinner rolls. They're served with homemade potato chips. They're not only inexpensive but also simply wonderful. If this warehouse-sized restaurant only served homemade root beer with the burgers (they have plenty of real beer on tap and tin buckets of free peanuts), I swear I'd even hitchhike to get there.