Before Big Macs, Big Three ruled Asheville burger scene

“Asheville’s first drive-in was Buck’s Restaurant, founded by John ‘Buck’ Buchanan in 1946….

“The next drive-in to come to Tunnel Road was Wink’s, which had a radio tower and disk jockey perched on the roof during peak cruising hours. The DJ, writes [Rick McDaniel, author of  Asheville Food: A History of High Country Cuisine], ‘would lower a peach basket on a rope down to would-be Romeos, who would send up their requests for songs to be dedicated over the air to their sweeties below’….

“On the other side of the Tunnel was the third drive-in, Babe Malloy’s. ‘The Big Three’ created somewhat of a ‘cruising circuit,’ said McDaniel. ‘All the kids made a loop around the three to see who was at which one.

” ‘The Big Three lasted from the 1950s to about 1975. Back then, you didn’t have a McDonald’s every 5 feet…. Eventually all of the fast food places started popping up, and it drove the traditional drive-ins out of business because of advertising — kids wanted to eat what they saw on TV.”

— From “The history of the Asheville burger” by Mackensy Lunsford in the Asheville Citizen-Times (Aug. 7)


16 thoughts on “Before Big Macs, Big Three ruled Asheville burger scene”

  1. Lew, you really called my number with this post. I was partial to Buck’s, but that peach basket at Wink’s was hard to resist.

  2. Thanks David….Every town ought to have its burger history recorded while people still remember a time before McDonald’s….

    1. I found your post here when I was trying to remember what they called the ham sandwich at Babe Malloy’s in Asheville. That was one of my all-time favorite sandwiches – I try to replicate it at home but that’ll never happen. Those were the good all days!

      1. Nancy,
        Use a hamburger bun and add relish sandwich spread on both sides of the bun (a little extra relish is good) add to suit your taste. I was taken to Babe Malloy’s on my 8th birthday & they bought me Babe Malloy’s slim-jim sandwich 🥪 fries 🍟 & a coke.

        1. It was called the Chipped Ham sandwich. It was made from “chipped ham” (my mother always bought it in the grocery store, in a small jar) and a mixture of mustard and pickle relish… and a bun, of course!

  3. They discontinued the peach basket at Wink’s, allegedly, because someone put a cherry bomb in the basket.

  4. Oh my. Today I was thinking about the “drag”. I’d drive around and around, up Tunnel Rd and down in my ford convertible. I think gas was 30 cents a gal. Those were the days! I’ll never forget those chipped beef sandwiches at Babe Maloys, I’ve tried to make them but not the same. I remember Winks lowered down a rusty tin can in the earlier days. What memories!

    1. That recipe is so simple! It is chipped ham, not beef. Add pickle relish mixed with mustard… that’s the secret, then put it on a bun!

  5. I remember Those great days.. Winks, Bucks & Babe Malloy’s-Songs of the 50’s & 60’s from Winks, Tunnel Rd was the place-now that area is road rage alley. Yesterday’s gone, hard to say good bye, but yesterday’s fun filled “memories, forever ours”

    1. There was a Babe Malloy’s in Knoxville, TN that was our favorite place. It had chipped ham sandwiches and banana milkshakes that could still qualify as one of the joys f my childhood. It was just far enough away from our house to qualify as an outing but close enough that we went there quite often I have found other banana shakes since then but never have I found a chipped ham sandwich to replace those.

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