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!
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I wish I could have been there. It looks like you all had a great time and you’re definitely making a difference. Thanks for all you’re doing.
We missed you! But I suspect there will be many more gatherings !!! Seth is an amazing guy—so passionate and so willing to go the extra mile. It is encouraging to see how folks are backing him. Thanks for stopping by—it was great to see you yesterday!
Looks like fun and I bet they make a good malt! Love the pictures! The chicken looks pretty tasty and there is just something special about crinkle cut fries. I remember them from sitting at the counter at the dime store! Hope the place gets renovated and all goes well! With the North Iowa Bloggers pulling for The Barrel it will probably live on! Those chicken feet on Cooper are too much.. 😀
Thanks, Pix. We had a blast, as usual, getting together. Let me tell you–there is never a lull in the conversation even when we were eating!!! I think Seth is doing an amazing job and if you read the back story which I did not focus on he has offers to be bought out by a large chain but not to preserve the restaurant—to use the land. He hated to see that happen and that is when this whole awareness and Save the Barrel campaign started. Sara Broers has become quite a player in helping him with the social media aspect and is volunteering her time and expertise as well as many others in the community who are making it happen for him. It is going to be fun to watch it unfold!
I think me and you need to hang out with Robert Irvine.
Let’s put that on the bucket list. And I am not talking about ice buckets!
This sounds like it would be a special place to eat good food and which has a special connection with the people in the area. I hope it will be there for many years.
OK, Clear Lake has just been added to places to visit in Iowa.
Kudos to Seth for all he’s done and is doing.
He is quite a young man. I am very excited to see how this all evolves over the next couple of years.
Now, you’ve gone and made me hungry! That twisted ice cream is the best of both worlds, chocolate and vanilla. I generally watch “Restaurant: Impossible,” so I’ll be looking for this one to be featured.
We need more places like the drive-in’s eateries and movies, people were a lot more pleasant back in the day. Sort of reminds me of Arnold’s on Happy Days.
I agree—this is a fabulous piece of history. And the chicken is awesome.
It sure looked good. Hmm, hmm, hmm.
Better than finger licking!!!
I’m not a big fan of KFC anyway, but I do love real fried chicken..
It’s great that you’re doing this. I think it’s so important to save local landmarks.
Thanks, Lois! We have a great group of local bloggers who are passionate about being a part of the community so we are doing our little part!
I’m so bummed I wasn’t able to go along with all of you on Wednesday! It looks like you had a lot of fun and I’d love to learn more about the history of the place. We just go there from time to time to bring home some of their broasted chicken.
I bet you could talk most of us into going again. And again. And again. We missed you!!!!! Hope you are well!
Here’s hoping that it’s saved, you can feel the history in it just looking at the pics. 🙂
I hope so, too!
I’m so glad I got to be a part of this with you all! It’s such a great place!! I can’t wait to watch it’s journey back to greatness!
I know! The next couple of years are going to be amazing!
We have lived in our community for 14 years and just discovered a wonderful place called the Riverhouse Restaurant which apparently has been here forever. I too wonder how I miss these things.I love the big chicken!
I hope Seth is able to make his dream come true. I like the prices on that old menu!
The prices were very nice, weren’t they? I agree!!!
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