Living in Southern California, the veritable epicenter of car culture, one might suspect that drive-in restaurants are the de facto method of food service. In facto, though the concept seems so simple, so charming, and so suited to California's climate, drive-ins are an extremely rare sight. I don't know why I think drive-ins are so cool; going to a drive-in restaurant is really just a belabored, protracted drive-thru experience with none of the convenience of eating at a proper table and none of the cinematic atmosphere promised by American Graffiti. Nevertheless, I am always searching for old drive-ins, hoping to capture the nostalgia of warm summer nights, roller skates, and good, old-fashioned junk food.
My overly-romantic notion of drive-ins is no doubt influenced by the opening scene in Moon Over Miami. It's no wonder then that I'm always slightly deflated when the server at a real life drive-in isn't Betty Grable and she isn't singing the menu to me. I guess it would be too much to ask that she be clad in 1940's western wear.
"What Can I Do for You?" - Betty Grable &
Carole Landis from Moon Over Miami
When my sister explained that there was an authentic drive-in restaurant very near her new home, I was equally excited and disappointed - excited because it sounded perfect, disappointed because in all of the research I had done in preparation for my trip to West Virginia I had seen absolutely no reference to King Tut Drive-In in Beckley, WV.
The look of King Tut is rather, er,...strange. Long, weathered pickets create a fence-like facade while blue steel beams support a carport structure with a corrugated roof. It looked more like a tree house than a longstanding eatery. Learning that it has been in operation for the last 70 years (under current ownership for nearly 60), I wondered if the rusticity of King Tut's current facade didn't hide some really outstanding Egyptian theming.
|It definitely speaks more to "King Creole" than King Tut.|
Fortunately, I was able to find an historic photo of King Tut (not sure when they ditched the "'s.")
Isn't it dreamy? It is obviously the same structure but it has clearly undergone an extreme make-under.
Even in the early days, however, there was absolutely no trace of the Sphinx, the pyramids, or the desert sands.
If King Tut Drive-In isn't known for its stunning curb appeal, it is known for its down-home food. Hand-formed hamburger patties, real ice cream milkshakes, fresh homemade pies, and full dinners are among the most highly-favored menu items.
|Intrigued by the variety of side orders, we decided to order|
the "Loaf of Homemade Bread" to take home for the week.
|We were hoping it would be the best thing since un-sliced bread!|
|I heard it was pretty good....|
I think my brother-in-law was able to eat it in two bites.
|The only way to overcome the temptation of homemade|
pie is to learn that they are all sold out!
There is so much to like about King Tut but our best recommendation is to get there early. Since everything is freshly made on site, there is a limited supply and popular items do sell out. We went through a few rounds of ordering before settling on what they had in rich supply. If there is another recommendation to be made, it is to NOT pull up wearing heavily kohl-rimmed eyes, presenting your Alexandria Library card; this ain't ancient Egypt!!! And whatever you do, don't "ankh" your horn, the protocol at the drive-in is to flash your lights for service.
If you're in West Virginia, then get on over to King Tut Drive-In; it's food fit for a pharaoh...as long as that pharaoh is not insulin dependent.
King Tut Drive-In
301 N Eisenhower Dr
*Closed every Wednesday*