Kwik Way’s Gary Rizzo on a Few Faves
At a time when so many drive-ins that once sang the praises of America’s forward-drive, jet-age optimism — so evident in the curvaceous, soaring lines of their fun, flirtatious Googie architecture — seem to have been summarily run off the superhighway to the future, it comes as sweet relief to see Lake Merritt’s legendary Kwik Way lovingly spiffed up and gently ushered into the 21st century.
Owner Gary Rizzo, who reopened the neon lightning–strafed, glass and metal ode to burgers and milkshakes in 2011, understands. He had supported local vendors at the Grand Lake Farmers Market since opening Somerset Restaurant in 2006, and, he offers, “I watched Kwik Way close and stay abandoned for those years. It has been an Oakland architectural landmark, and so many people in this area have memories of coming here with their families, after-school, after Little League. As I stood in front and watched how many people walked by, I believed it would be worthwhile for many reasons to reopen it.”
That belief in a future for America’s grassroots fast-food past shows in the revamped menu. Imagine the classic diner grub souped-up for a new millennium in which comfort food symbolizes the grounding pleasures of tradition and an emphasis on fresh, homemade items like potato chips and lemonade. Such a menu speaks to an appreciation for care and craftsmanship in an increasingly screen-centric, digitized era.
“I believe that today’s customers want good quality food,” continues Rizzo. “We grind the chuck meat daily and make homemade garlic mayonnaise, homemade focaccia-sesame buns. The desserts are made in-house, and the milkshakes are 95 percent ice cream. We have had a tremendous response to the quality and flavor of the food.”
Of late, Rizzo has added heartier offerings such as chili and rotisserie chicken dinners while also fully embracing the diner’s car-culture past: at press time he was planning monthly classic car shows for the second Saturday of every month. So what else drives him in Oakland? These local pleasure spots:
Los Cantaros Taqueria
For its authentic Mexican flavors.
4115 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville. (510) 601-8545,
The Heart and Dagger Saloon
For a friendly atmosphere and good selection.
504 Lake Park Ave., (510) 444-7300,
Montclair Egg Shop
For breakfast and good coffee.
6126 Medau Place, (510) 339-9554
Kwik Way Drive-In
500 Lake Park Ave., (510) 832-1300,