Honk your horn and they will come out to serve you. That’s the kind of service you’ll get at this new restaurant called “Island Drive In,” located in Whiskey Creek adjacent to the Co-op Gas Station and ice cream shop along the Alberni Highway.
The restaurant has been open less than a month but it has already drawn a lot of customers. People have an option to either dine inside your vehicle or eat inside the restaurant or at the patio. It’s also a dog-friendly establishment.
The two long-time friends Kevin Williamson and Brad Whiteside, who have known each other since high school in Alberta, have been wanting to open a carhop restaurant for a long time.
“We were looking at a place in south Nanaimo nine years ago but it just didn’t work out,” said Williamson, who used to be a part-time owner of a restaurant in Ucluelet. “Then earlier this year, Brad called me while I was up in the ski hill with my younger brother about this place being up for sale. And perhaps maybe this was the time. The timing was good. I just sold my restaurant. So we looked at it in spring and we then made an offer for it. We got the key to the place on May 1 and a month later, we opened.”
The building was the old Cruisers Grill restaurant that closed down.
Williamson said they made some renovations to the place and did all the work themselves. Because Whiteside builds homes professionally, making the renovation was less challenging for them, said Williamson. And that included cleaning up the yard beside the restaurant to create a patio.
“We didn’t do a big change on the inside,” said Williamson. “We repainted it and knocked down a wall. We just wanted to give it a clean, fresh look, with a West Coast appearance from the outside. Nice and tidy and efficient.”
Williamson, who has been in the restaurant business for more than 20 years, said Whiteside was really keen on a drive-in restaurant, one that is able to accommodate vehicles towing a large boat, a semi or RVs.
“It’s more like a necessity,” said Williamson. “Brad had the idea. The drive-in was around when we were kids. Today there’s just nowhere to go with a boat, RV or camper. It’s tough to stop anywhere when you’ve got a full load. So the concept is to have a drive-in where you can do the old carhop. It’s kind of an old-school concept.”
Menu boards are posted around the exterior of the restaurant. They ssignature burgers such as the Classic, Shroomer, Kona, Veggie, Dub C, Diablo, Big Blue, and Plain Jane. There are also shakes and kids meals.
“You can order by giving us a honk and we’ll come out to take your order just like the old days,” said Williamson.
If you want to make good time on the road, Williamson said, you can order your food ahead by calling 752-Food (3663).
However, while the novelty of the drive-in service is welcomed by many, Williamson said, there are those who expect the food to be served faster.
“They have an impression we are fast-food,” said Williamson. “We’re not like McDonalds. We make it fresh to order. So it may take 10 to 15 minutes to make your food. That’s where the call-in becomes handy. We are starting to get more people everyday calling ahead.”
On August 12, Williamson and Whitehead are holding an official opening of the place. They’re calling it “Dirty 30 celebration” representing the 30 days since they opened. To mark the occasion, they are inviting people to drive in with their dirty cars and they will give them a good washing for a good cause.
“All donations and partial proceeds that day will be going to the Parksville-Qualicum Salvation Army Food Bank,” said Williamson. “So come on down. We will have three or four spots in front and we’re going to wash your car. It’s a great way for us to say hello to the community and vice-versa. It’s going to be a great day.”
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
“We want to be a fair-priced, quality food restaurant that is consistent,” said Williamson. “You can just always count on us. We will be here. “