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April 2017

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GENE'S DRIVE-IN

Femme de Joie has found people tend to either love Gene's with a passion or despise it with the hatred usually reserved for memories of high-school-cafeteria tuna-on-a-shingle. She recalls one person who described the onion rings as "made from turnips." Personally, M. de Joie enjoys a burger from Gene's now and again and has yet to find a turnip on the menu.

Gene's Drive-in has been in the same spot for about 6,873 years. If you are of a certain age and grew up here, you remember the 19 cent hamburger sign that rose above it long after the burgers ceased to cost 19 cents. (Whatever happened to that sign? Shouldn't it be in the Smithsonian?) Nowadays Gene's capitalizes on nostalgia for that long-ago era, and Thursday nights you can stop by and chat with folks who drive up in their restored vintage cars to mingle with other '50's aficionados/car buffs. (Be advised: these people carry Baby Books detailing every step of the restoration and are willing to share the entire story behind their jitney.) So while you're leaning on a fender of a cherry-red convertible, or maybe that orange number with Elvis detailed on the side, you might want to grab a burger. Just don't drip any fry sauce on the upholstery.

When you go up to the window, you mark your order with a teeny golf pencil on a pre-printed pad, hand it through the window, and take your number. They'll call you when it's ready. No "super-size that?" is asked, nothing is sitting under a heat lamp waiting to be picked up. It's all cooked to order.

Gene's has a fairly extensive menu with assorted sizes and combinations of burgers. Mlle. de Joie finds the smaller, plainer offerings a bit on the dry and bland side, so when she's cruisin' on South Market Street in her poodle skirt and bobbysox, she likes to get a double Micah: plenty of condiments and heft for the money.
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Double Micah Burger with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mayonnaise, Potato Gems, with fry sauce and medium Pepsi, $10.03.

Like all good Malt Shoppes from the 1950's, Gene's really shines when it comes to gooey ice cream concontions and drinks, with 30 flavors of shakes. There are the normal drive-in items - fish sandwich, taco, hot dogs - but really, people come here for the burgers and the company. Outdoor tables are utilitarian and reasonably clean. There isn't a lot of seating so be prepared to eat in your car or take your order away.

Places like Gene's - authentic drive-ins, not glitzed-up re-creations - hold on despite the fact that they are hardly efficient business models. No one can dispute that you can get a cheaper burger-fries-drink at McMegaKing Burger. But at Gene's you are supporting a local business that serves local people instead of travelers driving up Interstate 5 as fast as they can. And, to Mlle. de Joie's mind, you are getting a far better tasting meal than those other places.

- Femme de Joie


Gene's Drive-In, 2515 South Market Street, Redding, CA. 530-241-4381. Open 10 AM to 9 PM Monday-Saturday, 11 AM - 7 PM on Sunday. No checks. Cash, Visa, Mastercard. Outdoor seating. On-site parking. Thursday is '50's night.

Comments

And their gems and the sauce are awesome.

(Anonymous)

Gene Burgers

In the late 1950's I was a DJ at KRDG, located on Locust Street, about 5 or 6 blocks from Gene's. I did the "Saturday Night R & R party", and every Saturday nite, someone would walk (no one was old enough to drive) and get 8 or 10 Geneburgers for the crew. WE WERE IN HEAVEN! A couple of years ago, I visited my cousin in Redding. We went to Gene's and bought two Geneburgers. I was right back in HEAVEN! They are the BEST BURGERS ANYWHERE ON THE PLANET! Thanks for the great food and the fabulous memories.

Re: Gene Burgers

Thanks to you for your kind words. Femme de Joie didn't start listening to KRDG until about 1967 so that show was gone by then - but she still loves that music. And Geneburgers.