I often wonder why I am the last one to find out about some things. I try to keep up with the news and the goings on in the world but at times I am basically clueless about the things that are practically in my own back yard. How did I not know about The Barrel Drive In in Clear Lake—a mere 5 miles from my house?
Thanks to a recent social media blitz and with the company of good friends I am now much more educated. And that, my friends, is a very good thing. Especially when it comes to all things food.
A little background first might help you to understand the history of The Barrel Drive In in Clear Lake, Iowa. I met Seth Thackery, owner of this historic place, for the first time at our Social Media Breakfast this week and let me just say—I was super impressed.
Seth started out as a car hop at the tender young age of 14 at The Barrel and in short time moved to line cook to assistant manager to manager. In 2007 he purchased the iconic landmark with the goal of maintaining the history of the place that he loved.
He has worked hard to keep this historic place open and running for awhile but despite his best efforts things have been tough. The structure that was built in 1958 is dated and has significant work that needs to be done to bring the iconic restaurant up to snuff. Add to that that the fact that food preferences are changing and not everyone is clamoring for the famous (and delicious) broasted chicken that The Barrel is famous for. So changes need to happen.
That takes a lot of money and manpower—two things that Seth does not have an abundance of at this point. But the good news is that it appears that the community is stepping up. The word is out and folks are committed to keeping this place going. A lot of behind the scenes “stuff” is going on including a bid to be on the popular television show “Restaurant Impossible” which would be fabulous.
If the show does not pick up on the opportunity to help Seth and The Barrel out I think they have missed a fabulous way to make a difference but at the same time I am pretty sure that the community is not going to let Seth fail. If today’s lunch at The Barrel Drive In with some of the North Iowa Bloggers is any indication—this place will stay. Not only will it stay but it will be super-sized. Bigger and better than the original while keeping much of the original ambiance of the place intact.
Just look at some of the great decor.
As Seth shared with us I got a sense for his passion for restoring the place inside and out to bring it back not only to its former glory but also improving on it. His plans to make it a “destination restaurant” are admirable. He dreams of bringing back the DJ radio booth on top (YES!) and making it THE place to hang out in Clear Lake. His dream is to make it simply a safe place to hang out. He wants customers to walk in and say “WOW”. What a great goal.
You may wonder how a mere person like “you” can help. Even if you are not a local North Iowa person there is always a way to help a cause that is worthy with a donation of cold, hard cash. In-kind donations and donations of time by tradesmen are also strongly encouraged. A new website has been established with more info on what has led Seth to this point and how you can donate and be a part of the transformation. Just click on Save The Barrel Drive In to go to that site in a separate window.
Of course I tried the chicken. It is delightful. It is the perfect mix of crispy crunchy outside with moist and juicy meat lurking below all of that crispy goodness. There are many options on the menu and perhaps just as good as the chicken is the home made root beer. Where can you get home made root beer anymore? I am a fan. A huge fan.
How could Chris and I spend 7 years living 5 miles from this place and not stop in once? It is a mystery to me but thank goodness those days are over. Barrel Drive In—here I come! Now AND when you are super-sized!