April 21, 2023 | OPINION | By Sam Treat
Believe it or not, the American Dream, an oft-slandered concept, is still alive and well here in Colorado Springs. Situated by Garden of the Gods Rd off I-25, Drifter’s Hamburgers embodies the best of American capitalism (as low of a bar as that is).
Family-owned, Drifter’s was founded in 2008. Capitalizing on the height of the Great Recession, Drifter’s founders turned a shuttered Taco John’s into a no-frills burger restaurant, with admittedly (according to their website) a minimal investment into decor, infrastructure, or the building itself. Instead, Drifter’s has invested in a commitment to delivering hormone-, antibiotic-, and GMO-free burgers.
That no-frills business model is evident in that the only way to procure a Drifter’s hamburger is via drive-thru. With no dining room, counter service, or call-in to-go orders, employees are left to focus on efficiency and customer service in only one setting. With seemingly only two visible employees, they delivered.
The prices at Drifter’s reflected the lack of money spent on the establishment, keeping the prices extremely reasonable (even cheap, dare I say!). For just $12 I was able to purchase a double cheeseburger, fries, and a boysenberry milkshake. A single burger will run you $4.09, while their specialty burger, the Big Island Burger is just $8.19. For about $4.50 more you can make it a combo with fries and a drink. The Big Island Burger is an impressive creation; with four patties (totaling 2/3lb) and four slices of cheese, this burger offers Drifter’s best bang for the buck (and your stomach).
To properly analyze a burger, I believe it is best to start from the outside and work in. With the smell alone emanating from its old-school butcher paper wrapping, I couldn’t contain my excitement. The bun was solid and golden-brown, voluptuous, and grippable. I got my burger prepared wild style (because I have wild style): covered in extra sauce, tomato, lettuce, pickles, grilled onions, and “catsup.” Grilled onions, in my opinion, are the ultimate burger topping (besides more meat).
The medley of flavors was only emphasized by the well-melted cheese and thoroughly cooked patties that created the foundation of the burger. The meat, true to the promises of the Drifter’s website, was lean, locally sourced ground beef. The difference between these patties and those frozen and reheated at fast food restaurants was clear.
That’s not to say that Drifter’s wasn’t fast. For the same wait one might experience at the numerous chains down the road (and even the same price), the Drifter’s burger delivered. However, the burger eating experience is never defined by the burger itself.
The sides section of the menu was lacking. Only fries, fruit, or salad were available. Obviously, the only correct choice to order in a drive-thru of any sort is fries (I know I frequently slander veggies, but seriously, ordering a drive-thru salad is beyond comprehension). While the fries were golden and crisped, they lacked the salt I was looking for.
Fortunately, the provided ketchup packets were surprisingly delicious. Finally, a restaurant that offers higher quality “catsup” than Heinz or Hunts. As for the milkshake, the unique flavor of boysenberry was satiating and refreshing all at once. Interestingly enough, boysenberry is one of only four flavor options (chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla being the others). I recommend breaking out of the Neapolitan box and ordering boysenberry; remarkably similar to the huckleberry milkshakes of Montana (and bordering states), it is the perfect treat for a warm day.
Other menu items of interest include the $3 grilled cheese, the breakfast burritos, and the sandwich options. While I did not foray into the menu as much as I would have liked, the multitude of options serves well to help make Drifter’s a spot with suitable options for all.
Next time you are craving a juicy, well-constructed burger, turn to Drifter’s. With fast-food level speed and pricing, they deliver higher quality, locally sourced meals than one cannot find practically anywhere else. Plus, Cath Edds says it’s her favorite restaurant, so you know its legit.