Recipe in place to keep Gene's Drive-In burgers, sign together
Gene's Drive-In began cooking up burgers in Redding in 1954, a year after the Redding Dragstrip was sanctioned for racing. Thanks to efforts of a young car enthusiast, and the generosity of several others in the classic car community, the two will be cooking side by side together again some time this spring.
"Caleb Hurst, he races out at our track and goes to high school with my son, and he just put on Facebook, 'Wow, wouldn't that be cool to have Gene's Drive-In sign go out to the Redding Dragstrip where the car people can still enjoy it?'," said Shirlene Bramson, president of the Redding Dragstrip. "And my son replied, yeah, that would be really neat. And that's where it started."
Hurst was one of several car enthusiasts dismayed when Gene's Drive-In, the site of classic car meetups every Thursday in Redding for years, was demolished earlier this month. It had gone out of business a year earlier, but the car nuts still showed up in the parking lot as they had done for decades.
"There's just a lot of history and we're all into cars and we all loved to hang out at Gene's, especially during Kool April Nites, we would go down there on Thursday night's and hang out," Bramson said.
Hurst's idea to keep the sign alive started fans of the restaurant, and the drag strip, down a road to keep the neon sign burning, so to speak.
"(The Gene's Drive-In sign) was going to go to the historical society, and we're a non-profit, 501-c-3, so we talked with the owners, and they said yeah, that would be great," Bramson said of the decision to let Redding Dragstrip become home to the sign. "McHale's Sign has stepped up, and said they will pick the sign up, restore it and bring it out to the drag strip so we can get it back to its old luster."
With plans for the sign to go up at the track, the next step became clear. Why not keep the burgers cooking, too? So Bramson met with Mike, son of the original owner Gene Nash.
"Mike gave me the recipe for the original Gene's burger, and we're pretty excited about trying to make that happen," Bramson said. "We'll see if we can duplicate that, we're gonna let him try it out and see if it's up to his standards."
"We've always served burgers and dogs out there at the drag strip and this is just something we're gonna be adding to the menu to see if we can keep that history alive."
Bramson's goal is to have the burgers cooking and the sign renovated and relocated in time for Kool April Nites, the Northstate's traditional spring car culture event. For now, the track will host it's first regular racing date of the year, Saturday, February 24.