Wendi Mayberry saw the potential 10 years ago, when she was working at the spot called Little Benny's, but she couldn't afford to take over the diminutive restaurant and expansive grassy surroundings when it went up for sale back then. It went through some different iterations in the intervening years — Grandma's Kitchen, Chattee's — but a year ago Mayberry was able to step in make it the drive-in "burger joint" she wanted.
Entering Wendi's Hot Rod Cafe is a step back in time. On a recent afternoon, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard supplied the music in the dining room decorated with James Dean posters and models of classic cars. Outside, picnic tables sit in a small adjacent park under trees ringing ample parking for visiting car clubs.
"You've got to go old school if you're going to have a park," Mayberry says of the vibe of her space. "We have the baskets, the shakes with the tin on the side. Kind of old-school service, real food. You get your money's worth, and we take you back a minute."
Burgers are a specialty, made with fresh toppings and larger than the minuscule meat wafers served up by the chains. You can get a cheeseburger, fries and drink for $6.99, but consider splurging on the blue cheese and bacon burger, or the popular Barn Burner — two burger patties topped with ham, bacon and cheese.
Mayberry says pork chop sandwiches and buffalo burgers are among the most popular items so far, along with towering milkshakes that come in myriad flavors, from the traditional to unusual like peanut butter or apple pie, and include the "extra" milkshake tin for refills.
"We're just a burger joint where you can get your fish and chips and chicken, too, but we also have salads and sandwiches because you have to break it up a bit," Mayberry says. "We're going to start doing breakfast five or six days a week starting Nov. 1."
Ham and eggs with a little Elvis on the side? Sounds good. ♦
Wendi's Hot Rod Cafe • 11923 E. Trent, Spokane Valley • Tues-Fri, 6 am-3 pm, Sat 8 am-3 pm • Facebook: Wendi's Hotrod Cafe • 879-7981