You want to talk guilty pleasures? Let’s talk Mark’s.
Quad Cheese Burgers. Milkshakes so thick they need some time to melt. Orders taken at the walk up, waits handled by buzzer. Every time I’m through Livingston, it’s a must stop. When they close for the winter, it’s local tragedy. When they reopen in the spring, rejoicing.
The RB Drive in opened around 1945 as the Root Beer stand. For some great historical photos of it, please see: http://www.helenahistory.org/rb_drive_in.htm. Originally the foam of the pouring root beer was trimmed in horizontal bands of neon and sat on much higher poles. It appears the building is the same one, but has seen many minor changes over the years which have entirely changed the look.
Every drive in I’ve been to out here has had a different set up for ordering and getting your food delivered. Mark’s in Livingston is a walk up to order, walk up pick up and then you eat in your car. Ford’s in Great Falls had car hop ordering and delivery. Scotty’s you order inside a building and eat outside. You get the idea. The RB still has those classic push to talk menu boards at each parking place. A large picnic pavilion has been built at the far end of the parking lot, but we ate in the car.
RB Drive In
932 Helena Ave, Helena, MT 59601
Children’s Cheesenurger. Also interesting that they offer a wide variety of Phosphates. Not something you see much these days.
Scotty’s has a nice space age look to the sign, and to the curvature of the supports for the canopy. Things get a bit visually cluttered with the retro tin signs and back-to-the-fifties theme on the inside, but on the whole it plays it pretty close to the original concept. They make a nice drive-in burger with just the right crust to the flat-top grilled meat.
Ford’s Drive In opened in 1954. The radial design, with its central pylon and cable supported overhang of this one reminds me of late ’30s designs like Wayne McAllister’s Herbert’s or Simon’s, but the straight car awning and parking pattern negates that design. Maybe it was added later. Cheeseburger. Fries. Milkshake. I appreciated that the milkshake at this one was a proper consistency. I like a thick milkshake as much as the next guy, but I’ve been on a streak where I’ve been getting what seems like straight soft serve with a straw.