Some places have been around forever, so long that you don’t even notice them any more. They’re just part of the landscape of daily life, like the stop sign, the broken sidewalk, your Uncle Fred. That’s probably why it took M. de Joie so long to remember the very existence of Snack Shack. Back in the 1970s, Pere de Joie worked near it and occasionally stopped in for lunch instead of brown bagging it, but for whatever reason, M. de Joie never darkened its door despite driving past it not infrequently at that time. Years passed, M. de Joie’s routine changed, and the Snack Shack moved to the attic of memories.
A few months ago during a quest for authentic drive-ins, M. de Joie suddenly saw that bright turquoise building again and decided to give it a whirl. It’s been there well over 30 years and there must be a reason that it continues in business despite the nearby proliferation of Starbucks, Blimpies, and other chain restaurants.
It doesn’t look like much from the road. There’s a small outdoor seating section under cover, and two entrance doors. The one on the right takes you into a small dining room with tables and chairs; the one on the left opens up into a narrow space with a counter & stools. The kitchen runs between the two dining areas. The menu is standard drive-in fare.
M. de Joie ordered her usual, a double cheeseburger and fries, plus soft drink, $8.90. She was perusing the photos on the wall of the counter space, mainly rodeo and cowboy shots, when her order was ready to go – surprisingly fast. There was a reason for that.
The first bite was good – plenty of mayo, lettuce, and so on – but the burger seemed a bit on the skimpy side. Maybe they had made it a single burger instead? Upon pulling the bun and burgers apart, the reason was clear: THOSE WERE THE THINNEST TWO PATTIES EVER. Like the mythical ham sandwich that had ham sliced so thin it only had one side, this burger was definitely less than satisfying. It was exactly as advertised – double cheeseburger – but no promises were made about the weight and thicknesses of said burgers. Together the two patties almost made up one standard burger. This would not be a problem if other similar independent drive-ins charged about the same price and delivered the same product, but that is not the case.
M. de Joie pondered this. Snack Shack is on Eastside Road, a street mainly populated by, how to say this, male-dominated businesses – feed stores, metal shops, heavy equipment rentals. It would be hard to picture a big burly guy who spent his morning unloading culvert pipe from a big rig making a repeat lunch visit to Snack Shack if the double cheeseburger barely feeds his 3-year-old. There’s got to be more to it.
On a recent frosty morning, M. de Joie made a stop at Snack Shack for breakfast, and therein found The Secret of Their Success.
The interior of the dining room is simple, clean, and easily accessed from the kitchen. Sit down and the waitress will bring you a menu. Breakfast includes eggs, omelets, pancakes – you know the drill. On the wall is a board listing the daily specials.
Chicken-fried steak, two eggs, hash browns, toast, coffee, $10.85.
Ahhh, now that’s more like it. Breakfast was served fairly quickly, and the portions were fair for the price. The eggs were swimming in melted butter – one can feel one’s arteries harden while eating – the creamy gravy tasted faintly of Polish sausage, and the steak was very crisp on the outside, tender inside. And the coffee was pretty darn good as well; the waitress was conscientious about keeping cups refilled.
So that is what has kept Snack Shack going: not the skimpy burgers or the quick service (how long could it take to cook a burger patty not much thicker than a 78-rpm phonograph record?) – it’s the breakfasts. Go there for an early-morning repast – or lunch if you’re not hungry.
The Snack Shack, 6185 Eastside Road between Heryford and North, Redding, 530-243-4966. Open Monday-Friday 7 AM to 2:30 PM, Saturday 7 AM to 1:30 PM. Closed Sunday. No checks. Cash, cards. Parking on-site.
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint, and Hamburger Helper. Currently she resides in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more.