Don’s Drive-In | Traverse City Michigan’s Best Burger & Malt

Review by: Michael Stern

Blast from the Past

A bright pink building with a neon sign in the shape of a tailfinned car, Don’s provides northern Michigan with a big slice of Americana. It started in the burger & malt drive-in business back in 1958. Old vinyl records, fancy hubcaps, and images of mid-century pop-culture heroes decorate the walls. Fast-food fundamentals define the menu. If you wish, you can dine in your car, served by car-hops. Those in search of a good view will find outdoor seats that provide a view of the Grand Traverse Bay. Beach attire is welcome.

All About the Burgers

The burgers come as sliders (1/8 pound), quarter-pounders, and as Big Ds, which are a couple of patties adding up to 1/2 pound. The grill cooks will make them as you request — even rare if desired. The list of possible companions inside the bun range from mustard and ketchup to four kinds of cheese, bacon, mushrooms, jalapenos, and olives. Seriously large appetites might want to consider a 3/4-pound Monster Burger — that’s one giant patty on a bun. If you’re not in the mood for a burger, consider a brace of Coney Island hot dogs. The Coneys — regular length or foot-long — comes topped with happy, not-hot chili sauce. Beyond the burger & malt signature meal and classic hot dogs, you can have a sandwich, chili in a bread bowl, chicken fingers, even a veggie burger.

Must Drink Shakes & Malts

Don’s is renowned for shakes and malts, blended to order and thick enough to require powerful suction with a straw. The menu includes vanilla and chocolate plus strawberry, cherry and raspberry that can be made with either syrup or, for about a dollar extra, with fresh fruit. In season, a cherry malt is thick with intensely flavorful pieces of sweet cherry.

Don’s motto: If you haven’t been to Don’s Drive-In, you haven’t been to Traverse City, Michigan.


What To Eat

Milk Shake



Don’s Drive-In | Traverse City Michigan’s Best Burger & Malt Recipes


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