Fond food memories are a real thing, and they're brought to life at Cy's Drive-In in Colorado Springs.
Nostalgia pervades every aspect of this small, west-side burger joint. It's more than the Elvis posters and the carhop service; it's the juicy hamburgers and creamy milkshakes. Add a warm early summer evening and it's difficult to think of anything that's missing.
Cy's has had several owners since opening in 1953, but little else has changed in the painted cinder-block building with room for only eight tables. In addition to the Elvis décor, other references such as 45 records adorn the interior. Three outside tables are available for those who don't opt for carhop or to-go service.
Hamburgers in various compositions and an array of fountain treats dominate the menu. Starting with plain, cheese, junior, double - each with its own size and accoutrements - the burger possibilities extend to several specialties. These include the Alaskan ($8.75), which has nothing to do with its size but was introduced in 1959 commemorating Alaska's statehood. Burgers with Swiss cheese and mushrooms, blue cheese with bacon, guacamole, chili, bacon and green chili can be had, with prices from $4.95 to $8.75 depending on size.
The green chili is made in house, so I veered from my usual cheeseburger choice. I was surprised to see it was a beef patty in a superfluous bun floating in a pool of pork green chili. The spice level was just right, and not because my strawberry shake kept my throat cool.
The show-stopper milkshakes ($2.15 to $8.85, depending on size) are made with soft-serve ice cream, milk and fresh fruits. They're also topped with a generous amount of whipped cream, making them rich and velvety. In addition to the trifecta of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate, Cy's has mocha, blueberry and peanut butter flavors, among others.
The fountain goodies include malts, sundaes, floats, parfait and banana splits. The friendly staff whips up the treats between taking orders, delivering food to tables or cars and answering questions. Cy's was busy the evening of our visit, but the two young employees seemed to thrive the busier they became.
We succumbed to the Philly steak sandwich ($8.95). Grilled onions and green peppers with melted cheese covered thin slices of steak served in a hoagie bun. The single complaint was the greasiness. The paper lining the plastic basket in which most food is served quickly became an oil slick. Remarkably, neither the french fries nor the onion rings suffered the same affliction. In fact, the latter were so perfectly fried that the onion inside the fried battered-coating were cooked but still crunchy and not greasy.
Sandwich choices include BLTs, grilled cheese, pork tenderloin and four types of hot dogs (chili, kraut, plain and corn). My friend, a grown adult with otherwise good taste, ordered a corn dog and was quite happy with it. She also had the iced tea, which we were told is made fresh daily. This isn't always the case, but based on the taste, it appeared to be true.
It wouldn't, and shouldn't, be a trip to Cy's without ordering a basic burger and fries ($7.70, includes fountain drink). Lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, ketchup and mustard are standard. The fries are nothing special but pair well with the two-fisted juicy burger.
Cy's does have a few healthy options in the form of salads. Yet the drive-in lends itself to succumbing to the grill and fountain specialties.