Oliver's Ozarks: Louie's Drive-In

By David Oliver | doliver@kolr10.com

Published 07/16 2014 07:25PM

Updated 07/16 2014 10:24PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- When was the last time you ate a good, greasy cheeseburger?

Years ago, that was a popular palate pleaser at drive-in restaurants across the country.

You don't see many of these mom-and-pop places anymore, unless you stop along W. Division St. in Springfield.

“It was shut down on and off for several years, went through several different owners,” says Lisa Evans.

Evans reopened Louie’s Drive In five years ago, but it's history dates back to 1949. It's the second oldest drive inn in Springfield. It's been Bill's Dairy Barn, Tappin's Drive Inn, and Vaughn’s as many long-time locals will recall.

98-year-old Vaughn Booth still stops by and remembers his years of frying burgers in the kitchen.

“We sold eight for a dollar,” says former owner Booth. “You can't even buy one for a dollar now.”

Prices may be a bit higher now, but Evans says the food tastes the same as it did when Booth was behind the counter.

“When I bought it I wanted to bring all his original food back,” she says. “And his original recipes he passed down to me. Just wanted to bring something back to the community and bring back the old drive inn.”

And customers are glad its back.

“The first day we opened, it was a line out to Division St.,” says Evans. “We were slammed. I still get people come everyday and thank us for reopening. And they really enjoy that I brought Vaughn’s original menu back.”

That menu includes old-fashioned hand pressed burgers, chili dogs and hand cut fries.

It's also not uncommon to see old-fashioned cars and hotrods in the drive way out front.

“We’ve had people from England come in,” says Evans. “We had some guys from Australia over the weekend.”

Evans says neighbors have embraced the old eatery and, when recalling his memories of the drive-inn, Booth says what makes it great now is also what made it great years ago.

“The people mostly,” says Booth. “We had some great people out in this part of town.”

“This was a local landmark,” says Evans. “This side of Springfield was really built up at one time. A lot of businesses, the railroad. And this was just a thriving little place. And it was always good and it was always cheap.”

Louie's also has a cruise-in with old cars on the third Saturday of each month and they donate a portion of the profits on those days to local charities.

In case you're curious about the name, Evans is from St. Louis and Louie is her nickname.

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