I am not going to tell you that Dick’s serves the best hamburger in the Northwest. It’s not a great burger by any measure. But it’s a darn good one, and the experience of getting it is a rare Roadfood joy. The Wallingford location has been open since 1954 and there now are a half-dozen Dick’s in the area. All operate on the principles that made the original McDonald’s a success – limited menu, low price, clean place, quick service. Basic as it is, Dick’s is the sort of cheap-eats establishment that earns emotional loyalty among fans who respond as much to the spirit of the place as to its food.
I really do like the top-of-the-line Dick’s Deluxe. That’s two 1/8-pound patties (guaranteed $100% beef!) layered with American cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise, and chopped pickle. The patties are slider-thin, crisp-edged and glistening with red-meat grease that is the chief flavor agent. If the burgers are not all that intriguing on their own, the Deluxe mix of mayo and chopped pickle adds a sweet/tangy twist that is a just-right complement to beef and cheese. The stealth element of the package is its bun: squishy-soft and impeccably fresh. By bread-lover’s standards, it’s lame; but in the world of short-order burgers, its tender, absorbent whiteness is exactly what’s wanted.
The bun is right for any burger, a fine mitt for holding a simple, single-patty cheeseburger that automatically comes dressed with ketchup and mustard. The only other burger options are a Special, which is like a Deluxe but with only one patty, and a plain hamburger, which is dressed like the cheeseburger, with ketchup and mustard.
French fries are a must. They’re thin, more tender than crisp, packing a full measure of fresh spud flavor.
There’s ice cream and there are decent medium-thick milk shakes, and that’s pretty much the whole menu.
Service is nearly instantaneous, even when there’s a line at all the order windows. There is no seating anywhere on premises. All food comes in paper bags, to be taken elsewhere or to the car. Although it is called a drive-in, there are no car hops.
Note that business now accepts credit cards. Note also that Dick’s is open until 2am.