Dick’s Hamburgers in Spokane is the “McDowell’s” of Washington State
Two Iconic WA Burger Brands Battle Over Name for 60 Years
I always thought these two iconic Washington State burger restaurants were the same company, but I was wrong. One is really the Washington State real-life version of McDowell's from the movie Coming to America!
Mcdonald's Versus McDowell's in Famous 1988 Comedy
Remember the 1988 movie 'Coming to America' starring Eddie Murphy where a restaurant named McDowell's basically copies McDonald's?
His character needs to find a job, so he goes to a local fast-food restaurant in Queens called McDowell's. The restaurant is blatantly copying everything Mcdonald's does all the way to the Golden Arches. At McDowell's, they are called the "Golden Arcs", and the Big Mac is called the "Big Mick".
Would you believe me if I told you we have had the same thing happening here in Washington State for the last 60 years?
Dick's Drive-In, Seattle Washington
Easily the most famous fast-food restaurant in Washington State is Dick's Drive-In, founded in Seattle back in 1954 by Dick Spady. He saw a need for fresh but fast food because in most restaurants you had to sit down. Dick's Drive-In allowed customers to be served quickly from their cars with high-quality fast food. Dick once said in an interview their goal "was simply to serve fresh, high-quality food at low prices with instant service."
Dick's Drive-In has grown over the years to 8 locations, all near the Seattle area. They are known for their hand-cut french fries and individually made milkshakes. Their classic cheeseburger is still only $3.05 and includes a single 1/8 pound grilled patty, melted cheese with ketchup, and mild mustard. Their menu has a smaller list of options with a hamburger, cheeseburger, special burger, deluxe burger, fries, soda, ice cream, and 3 types of milkshakes. Most items are reasonably priced between $2 and $5.
Dick's Hamburgers, Spokane Washington
Dick's Hamburgers has been a staple of Spokane fast-food since it was first opened in 1964 by co-founder Abe Miller according to the Spokesman-Review. The restaurant was named after one of his two sons named Dick. He had first opened a smaller stand named Kirk's in 1954, but 10 years later he opens Dick's Hamburgers in downtown Spokane.
The founder of Dick's Hamburgers, Abe Miller, was known for being very generous, and that was part of his business strategy. He would prefer to earn a few cents off thousands of hamburgers sold instead of a dollar from a few. Dick's Hamburgers was famous for buying hamburgers "by the bagful" and still has one of the cheapest menus that I have ever seen.
The Difference Between Spokane and Seattle Dick's Burgers
When you drive up to either Dick's franchise either in Spokane or Seattle, both have a very similar system, look, and taste. Both have large glass windows with similar ways to order and similar menus. One main difference is that the Dick's Hamburgers location in Spokane has drastically cheaper food options between the two franchises.
The Spokane Dick's Hamburgers also has many more options on the menu with fried chicken, fish, corndogs, pizza, chicken strips, ice cream cones, and everything is very cheap. A 12-inch pepperoni pizza is only $3.98, hamburgers are only $1.77 and cheeseburgers are only $1.74. Their most popular burger is the "Whammy" with 2 meat patties, 2 pieces of cheese, and it is only $3.04. Milkshakes are only $2.49 and ice cream cones are only $1.36.
Did Spokane Dick's Hamburgers Copy Seattle Dick's Drive-In?
I grew up eating Dick's Hamburgers in Spokane and love almost everything on the menu. However, I still think the original Dick's Drive-In has better food. Most people I know think the restaurants are related or even the same brand. Just visit either location and you will see all the similarities and understand the confusion.
Did the Spokane location copy the original Dick's Drive-In in Seattle? I would say it is very likely Abe at least heard about what Dick's Drive-In was doing and used it for inspiration. Maybe the generous nature of the owner, or maybe the fact that Dick's Drive-In never planned to expand to Spokane, allowed them to co-exist for so long.
Both franchises have been around for over 60 years and both have managed to thrive even with many fast-food changes in their prospective cities over the years. Personally, I don't care if one originally copied the other. Both have lasted the test of time and are worth your dollar for a quick fast meal whether you're in Seattle or in Spokane.