Walk Up, Throw Back and Cool Down at Budges Drive-In

With summer now in full swing, it’s the season for savory meats, sweet treats … and maybe just a little bit of experimentation. Pineapple shake? Banana root beer? Bubblegum Sprite?

OK, you probably have some line drawn for eating or drinking adventurously. But if flight-of-fancy flavor combinations are your thing — or even just the simple summertime pleasure of walk-up service — Budges Drive-In is a place to check out this season.

Billed as “Lafayette’s best-kept secret since 1942,” Budges has been in business for nearly 80 years near the Franciscan Health Lafayette Central campus. And although you can bring your car — a good shady spot to eat while the picnic-table area remains closed — Budges offers service only at its walk-up window.

Flying solo for this visit with no one to roll me home, there was only so much I could reasonably sample. With a menu boast like “This is what you came for,” the cheeseburger was a must. Seasoned and then topped to specifications, it’s a 1/3-pound patty on a toasted, buttery bun. The burger’s crispy charred edges sealed neatly around the bottom bun, creating a delicious textural clash with the flavorful center.

It’s also tough to pass up a Nathan’s hot dog — served split as the perfect vehicle for Coney or chili sauce that Budges makes fresh each morning (but which I had to forgo on this trip). Even unadorned, the hot dog carried a perfectly smoky taste, again complemented by a toasted bun that made this option feel like a hardy entrée rather than an also-ran to a cheeseburger.

The thick-cut French fries were served crisp and piping-hot, and I’m a sucker for a strawberry shake done right. You know the kind, where you have to occasionally dislodge real fruit pieces from the straw. Budges’ shake fit that bill perfectly, thick, creamy and ice-cold in a way that hit the spot. (As a take-home, I got a Diet Coke mixed with Budges’ homemade cherry syrup — a perfect sugary zip to last for the afternoon … and certainly enough food to get through at least a very late dinner.)

Whether starting your day with sweets, dropping in for a post-dinner treat or indulging in a little something to walk off during warm weather, make your way to Budges Drive-In this summer

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  • 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday
  • 2 to 9 p.m., Sunday
  • Grill close at 8 p.m.
Rob Ford

Rob Ford

Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015. Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.

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