XXX Root Beer Drive-In

Written by on May 4, 2014 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(triplexrootbeer.com) – Issaquah, Washington

XXX Root Beer

How I heard of this place: My parents’ neighbors often rave about various foodie spots, especially those which they know will get a review on my blog! After months of trying to make it happen, we finally found a day when all of us were free to indulge in Issaquah’s XXX!

XXX Root Beer Patio Seating

Type of cuisine: The restaurant serves up 1950’s style hamburgers and dairy concoctions in large serving sizes, and is proud to host frequent gatherings of vintage automobile and motorcycle enthusiasts.

XXX Root Beer Vintage Travel Trailers Meet

Who wouldn’t want to try one of the XXX “…jaw-stretching monster burgers, icy mugs of root beer, and straw-bending shakes“?

XXX Root Beer Warning Sign

Ambiance: The first drive-in restaurant in the Pacific Northwest was established in 1930 in Renton by A.H. Rutherford. The combination of Triple XXX Root Beer and food turned out to be a great idea which spread nationwide. Of all the XXXs that ever graced our country’s landscape, Issaquah’s is the only one left which sports the traditional barrel. Another Triple XXX still thrives in Lafayette, Indiana.

XXX Root Beer Restaurant Space

Issaquah’s original XXX Restaurant was located on Sunset Way near the location of Flintoft’s Funeral Home. That restaurant, which was known by locals as “The Barrel”, operated until the 1950’s when the location was needed for a car dealer’s parking lot. Today’s XXX Root Beer Drive-In opened in 1968 at its current location…

XXX Root Beer Large Gumball Machine & Walk-Up Ordering

Now a family-owned business, the restaurant was purchased in March 1999 by Jose Enciso and his wife. Originally from Mexico, Jose has worked in restaurants since he was a young teenager.  He takes special pride in owning and improving such a visible Issaquah landmark and says, XXX may not be the oldest historic building in Issaquah, but it’s probably the one which is most visited and enjoyed.

XXX Root Beer Dining Area Left

Many Drive-In aficionados are familiar with the Triple XXX on Gilman Boulevard near the intersection with Front Street. They know about its jaw-stretching monster burgers, icy mugs of root beer, and straw-bending shakes. They know about its 1950s and 60s pop music provided by table-side mini-jukeboxes and its cherry-red and creamy white booths. They have witnessed the army of gleaming classic cars and trucks parked outside on weekend Summer nights.

XXX Root Beer Jukebox & Tricycle

But do they know that:

  • The Issaquah Triple XXX is one of only two Triple XXX drive-ins still operating anywhere (the other is in West Lafayette, Indiana)?
  • The barrel sign above the Triple XXX is the largest lighted Plexiglas sign in the West? Even more important, do they know that the history of the Triple XXX Root Beer began well over a century ago?

XXX Root Beer Wood Burning Stove

In 1930 a local Archie Rutherford opened the first Triple XXX Root Beer restaurant in nearby Renton.  Along with his sons Joel and Jerry, Archie traded on his initial success by opening a chain of restaurants throughout the Pacific Northwest during the late 1930’s and early 40’s.  During this period, Dave Morgan opened Issaquah’s first Triple XXX on East Mill Street (now Sunset Way). The Triple XXX was closed during World War II, but reopened in 1945. During the late 1950s business declined and Ted Stonebridge, owner of Stonebridge Chevrolet, bought the Triple XXX and demolished it to build a car lot.

XXX Root Beer Dining Area

Fast forward to 1968, when today’s Gilman Boulevard was still Highway 10, the primary route from Seattle to eastern Washington over Snoqualmie Pass. In that year, Jay Noel built the present Triple XXX on that route for its first owners, Dick Gilbert and John Wirtz.

XXX Root Beer Dining Area Back Right
In 1983 Norm Lipkin bought the Triple XXX from Dick Kadyk, the second owner. In 1996 he added a soda fountain counter and brought back the old menu of the Triple XXX chain. To make ends meet, he abolished the outside stalls where customers could drive up and order from carhops, and converted the space into an office building. Norm had already begun the practice of inviting vintage car owners to show the results of their restoration skills in the Triple XXX lot.

XXX Root Beer Walk-Up Order Counter
The restaurant hasn’t changed much since then, save for the addition of a lot of ’50s and ’60s memorabilia such as old radios, soft-drink bottles, license plates, posters of rock-‘n-rollers and movie stars by Jose Enciso, who began leasing the Triple XXX from Norm in 1999. Jose and family members, along with other employees, deliver a friendly and informal hospitality reminiscent of the drive-in days at their peak in the 1950s.

XXX Root Beer Gigantic Gum ball Machine
Today Jose gets his Triple XXX syrup from the Coca-Cola Company. Sadly, most Triple XXX restaurants eventually gave way to the onslaught of fast-food outlets.

XXX Root Beer Kitchen
There you have it  a brief tour of the history behind Issaquah’s own Triple XXX restaurant  long recognized as a community landmark. All that’s left to make your trip back in time complete is to drive over to 98 N.E. Gilman Boulevard, say hello to Jose, and indulge yourself in old style root beer, golden oldies and memories of days gone by.

XXX Root Beer A View In

What I ordered: Wanting to try each of the two things that stood out at my husband and I, and knowing that the Root Beer Floats are one of the things that continues to bring people back time and again, we placed our orders: The Famous Incredible XXX Burger ($13.75), an old fashioned juicy burger on a fresh-baked XXX bun, piled high with beef and three cheeses! “This burger is made for you tough guys out there!” It comes with grilled onions, fresh lettuce, tomatoes and pickles and is served with a touch of mayo and the XXX homemade dressing, atop of a pile of signature fries.

XXX Root Beer Incredible Burger

Knowing I would get a good quarter of the four-burger extreme that my husband was getting, I went with the XXX Buttery, Creamy Garlic Fries ($5.75) and a 22-ounce,

XXX Root Beer Buttery Garlic Fries

Regular Root Beer Float ($6.35) served in a frosty mug.

XXX Root Beer Regular Float

Each of our dining companions also ordered the small Root Beer Float, and added the 58 Impala ($10.25), a juicy 1/2 pound burger piled high with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions, a slice of cheese, mayo and XXX dressing,

XXX Root Beer 58 Impala

and the 56 F-100 Cheese Burger ($5.95), a juicy beef patty with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, mayo and XXX dressing.

What I loved: The Famous Incredible XXX Burger served over fries that were immediately drenched in burger sauces and lettuce and pickles upon taking the first bite. Yum!

XXX Root Beer Incredible Inside

Why I loved it: The festive, fun nature of the space made the food taste better. Knowing that the establishment has been around since the late-60s, and has stayed the same also adds entertainment value.

XXX Root Beer Vintage Travel Trailers Meet Favorite

Cost: Average to high ($5.95 – $13.75 per burger)

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