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April 2017

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DUDE'S DRIVE-IN

Despite her reputation as a bon vivant and gourmand, Mlle. de Joie truly loves her a good drive-in. Nowadays what we have on the American scene are not so much drive-ins, but re-creations of drive-ins. You've seen them: big marquees with "DADDY-O'S HOPPIN' '50'S SPOT" next to the ripped-off ghastly rendition of the LP cover to the "American Graffiti" soundtrack. You're paying dearly for all that ersatz nostalgia.

Still, a few old-timers remain around Shasta County, spread far apart, but Mlle. de Joie has made the pilgrimage to them to see what keeps people coming back for more. Dude's Drive-in has been open for at least thirty years - as M. de Joie has said before, she is not an easy rider in Enterprise so her trips out there in her youth were limited. She does recall it being open in the 1970's and it may predate that.

It still has the yellowish lights over the carport, though carhop service is not available (if it ever was offered there). The windows are decorated with paintings of the Tasmanian Devil, Wile E. Coyote, and Road Runner, for no apparent reason. The interior is sparsely furnished with a few formica-topped tables and curved-steelbacked chairs that would look more at home in an ice cream parlor, assorted 50's-car-related posters, and a couple of video games.

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The menu is about what you'd expect. Go inside to order.

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A Big Dude (which, according to the sign, has "Two Large Meats," a description that causes all kinds of unsavory thoughts), Gems, a root beer, total = $9.83.

Mlle. de Joie took her lunch outside to eat on one of the very ancient picnic tables; while she is not a delicate flower prone to fainting, she was somewhat appalled at the griminess of the tables. However, the tables were positively sparkling compared to the lid of the garbage can where you are asked to courteously deposit your trash - that was when she discovered the dispenser of Handi-Wipes in the glove box had dried up. Yes, it's a garbage can, but the point is to put the garbage directly in the can, not rub the lid with it first.

The food: Well, they're Gems (AKA Tater Tots, AKA a thousand other names). They come frozen, made at some factory in the Midwest - you deep-fry them to order. They're hard to screw up. The Big Dude was... bland. It was, as promised, Two Large Meats (somehow, a product with that name ought to deliver a bit more), cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, sauce. The burgers themselves didn't have any indication they're been grilled - presumably they'be been cooked from a frozen stage, when too much water in the meat will cause them to steam on a grill, rather than develop a brown, crusty exterior that gives flavor and texture. The bun was likewise bland.

Mlle. de Joie has visited Dude's twice and while it isn't bad, there is nothing special about it that would induce her to drive out Hartnell again just for the culinary delights. She assumes it has stayed in business this long because it's a convenient place to grab lunch or a burger on the way home from work without entering the Cypress/Hilltop Labyrinth of Crazed Drivers. There are probably people who swear that Dude's has the best ------ in town... Mlle. de Joie, doesn't think so, but would like to hear from anyone who does.

- Femme de Joie

Dude's Drive-In, 1644 Hartnell Avenue, Redding. 530-222-3775. Cash and credit cards. Drive-through. Open daily.

Comments

I've never eaten there, and after reading this I don't feel any more inclined to. What a shame Dude's doesn't have something really special about it, you know?

But I do love me some tater tots/gems. Nothing like them.
It's kind of regrettable. You'd think a place that has lasted this long would have something really going for it. Perhaps it does, but it wasn't immediately obvious.
I've never been to Dude's either!

Dudes

I have visited Dudes, my kids dragged me there because it looked "fun". A little disturbed how filthy this place was, but decided it was part of its um...charm. This is the kind of place that should have the best malt in town or an amazing root beer float, but sadly misses the chance to be a memorable part of Redding.

Dudes Is A Dud

I have been here twice in 10 years, both times was a matter of being right on top of the place looking for something quick! Grabbing it to go was no better of an experience and the last time the food left a "lingering" memory that would forestall my return for sure!
Once again I am so appreciative of your honesty! :)
I'm totally an Enterprise girl, and even I have never eaten at Dude's. Not likely to in the immediate future, either. You might try Pop's 50s Place on South Market, if you are still in the mood for old-fashioned drive-in style food. Used to love their BBQ beef sandwich and tater-tots, back when I could eat it!
I'll add this one to the Greasy/Many Years In Business short list.

Mlle. de joie, We appreciate your "tell it as you see it" candor.


(Anonymous)

Dudes

I live blocks away and occasionally will stop for a milkshake. But the food....not so great. And overpriced in my opinion. Pop's 50's place is my pick too!