Tuesday, July 11, 2006

In Sight, It Must Be Right

Before we completely leave the world of "regional fast food chains," I feel obliged to type a few words about good old Steak 'n Shake. Founded in 1934 in Normal, IL, S'nS now operates more than 400 restaurants in 20 states. They are concentrated in the Midwest and Southeast. For the fiscal year ended 9/28/05, they had over $600 million in sales.

Here's the location breakdown:

Alabama (5), Arkansas (1), Florida (79), Georgia (24), Illinois (65), Indiana (67), Iowa (4), Kansas (4), Kentucky (15), Michigan (21), Mississippi (1), Missouri (56), North Carolina (8), Oklahoma (4), Ohio (61), Pennsylvania (5), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (16), and Texas (18). [Their website claims Wisconsin as well. However, they have nothing from Wisconsin set up in their locator function.]

Now, Steak 'n Shake would certainly take issue with my classification of them as "fast food." After all, they have servers to seat you, take your order, and deliver it to your table on real (breakable) plates, with drinks in glasses (not paper cups). Heck, they even give you metal knives, forks and spoons. They would call themselves "casual dining." The thing is, there's that pesky drive-thru window. And, while they are approaching Chili's, Applebee's, etc. in their pricing, their main competition is still probably McDonald's, Wendy's, and the like.

Hey, I worked there for 4 years. No matter how much we tried to emphasize the "made-to-order" aspect, people were constantly bitching about the slow service. Well, it was slow compared to McD's. But, generally, it was pretty fast compared to Applebee's. So, that told me # 1: serving people food really sucks, and # 2: the general public's perception is "presence of a drive thru = fast food". Even when the bastards came inside, sat down, had their order taken, and drinks delivered in real glasses, they still seemed to have fast food expectations. But, enough of my bitching.

The food is pretty damned good. The burgers are made from ground steak, as opposed to typical low-grade ground beef, and they are tasty. The french fries are thin & crispy little guys that are outstanding when fresh and hot. But, they lose heat quickly, so don't wait to eat 'em. They also have great chili, and tremendous hand-dipped milkshakes. Their taco salads are killer, too.

But, holy shit, have they raised prices over the last decade! Wow! They are expensive as hell, and I only go there when I have coupons. Well, except for the occasional, early morning trip to the drive-thru for a burger fix. Most locations are open 24 hours. And although breakfast is available "during breakfast hours," you can get a burger ANY time of day. Mmmmm, sounds good!

UPDATE: I stopped by a local S'nS Drive Thru for a tasty, 5:30 AM bacon cheeseburger...YUMMY!!! (To paraphrase David Spade's character in Tommy Boy, "I can actually hear my arteries clogging..."]

14 Comments:

Blogger CalabazaBlog said...

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5:49 AM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Beth said...

I love Steak and Shake. As a kid growing up in Georgia, we spent every summer vacation in Florida. And the first night, my dad would take us to the Steak and Shake. Open-air drive-in, with benches all around. Steak and Shake had yet to come to Atlanta (I think I was in college when they opened their first Atlanta store), so it was a great treat for us. I can feel that beach breeze right now and taste that shake, that burger, those fries. Thanks for the great memory, Haahnster.

6:57 AM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Marni said...

OMG- and their milkshakes are to die for! Before my pesky sugar issue I used to get their orange/vanilla combo. It was better than a Varsity frosted orange. (Which, BTW, you should come to Atlanta just for the Varsity experience). But even the plain ol' chocolate is a delight.

7:43 AM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Beth: Haahnster's Hallucinations is all about bringing back pleasant memories. ;-)

Marni: You are correct about the shakes being excellent. I'm intrigued by this "Varsity" of which you speak...

8:06 AM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Beth said...

Haahnster, you can't talk about fast food until you've heard "What'll you have?" and bite into that perfect chili steak ... a stack o' rings ... and an FO (that's better than Steak and Shake; shame on you, Marni!).

Go here: http://thevarsity.com/

10:05 AM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Keith Kennedy said...

The Varsity in Hot-Lanta is the best fast food joint in the world. But the Steak and Shake does make a mean malt and burger.

I'm hungry.

10:10 AM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Marni said...

Beth - you are too proper! It's not "What'll you have" it is "Wadda ya have! Wadda ya have!" Then you order a naked dog walkin' and an FO to go...

What a great place! And you really CAN hear your arteries clogging!

12:00 PM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Beth said...

Little cousin, you forget that I'm a copy editor. Check http://thevarsity.com/ to see how they spell it.

Haahnster, Keith is correct about the Varsity. It's almost worth a drive down here.

4:05 PM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Maybe I'll load up the whole fan-dam-ily in the Haahnster's family truckster, and we'll head for Hot-lanta in the middle of summer. Yes!

Actually, I am interested in seeing Atlanta. It's on my list. Varsity sounds like a good stop to make.

I have driven through Atlanta, on the way to Florida. But, it was 4 AM on a late-January morning and the highway was deserted. I mean, literally EMPTY!!!

4:17 PM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Dale said...

I was in St. Louis once and had the Steak n Shake experience and I LOVED IT. So much so that I made my host & hostess take me back there again before I left.

And last time I was in New York, my new favourite joint to hit became Burger Heaven.

Now I'm starving!

4:53 PM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Beth said...

C'mon down, Haahnster! We'd love to have Emily and the family down here. There's the new Georgia Aquarium ... the Carter Center and Martin Luther King Center ... all sorts of fun things.

5:07 PM, July 11, 2006  
Anonymous dayle said...

I am a person who jumped to your site from Beth's site A Cup of Coffey. . .and thanks for making me crave Steak & Shake. I live in Phoenix and never get to eat it! :-(

11:52 PM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Sincerest apologies to all for the increased hunger due to this post.

5:40 AM, July 12, 2006  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

"Steak n' Shake?" Best name ever! They need to find their way west.

2:10 PM, July 13, 2006  

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