These two drive-ins are worth the drive!

Cree-Mee Drive-In
Since 1952 — yes, almost 70 years — the Cree-Mee Drive-In has been the go-to place for a classic diner meal, particularly to order a foot-long chili cheese dog and fries. Even on a recent Monday afternoon Cree-Mee was doing brisk business.
One woman said she loves ice cream, but can’t buy it by the half-gallon and take it home because she’d eat it all too often. She stops by Cree-Mee and orders a “baby” cone — a soft-serve twist in vanilla and chocolate that was still at least 6 inches above the top edge of a sugar cone. She said this satisfies her love for ice cream until the next time temptation overtakes her.
A young couple — 20-somethings, most likely — stood waiting for a large chocolate shake. He said he’s a Cree-Mee shake fan because of the size as well as the flavor. The styrofoam take-out cup is a little bit wider, a little bit taller, and a little bit less expensive, in his opinion. He’s been eating and sipping at Cree-Mee since he was a kid so he’s an experienced consumer.
Another couple, of retirement age, lives near Jefferson City. They used to stop at Cree-Mee when they rode motorcycles, but on this day they drove by car just to taste the flavors from decades gone by. They ordered the advertised and popular chili cheese dog with a side of fries, then washed it down with a cone. They smiled, satisfied, and said, “Just the same.”
Three different customers carried out bags of chili cheese dogs for their own tables or for a breakroom meeting at work. They declared the burgers are just as good, but that foot-long dog appears to be a best-seller and an Eldon favorite.
The Marshmallow Pepsi is made with marshmallow cream and soda pop. It foams and fizzes, is served over ice, and it’s neither too sweet nor too creamy. It’s a smooth blend, and is the one recommended when asking, “What’s Cree-Mee’s best-selling drink?”
The old-fashioned banana split is just as tempting, however. It’s three tall mounds of soft-serve with the customer’s choice in toppings, including raspberry or strawberry, chocolate or hot fudge, and pineapple or butter pecan.
Lonnie Albertson bought Cree-Mee in 1977, and since then, the restaurant has been a family business. Jodi Gregoire, Lonnie’s daughter, was born the same year, and today, she still works the window and kitchen. Jodi’s sister works in the back of the house; she keeps the books.
Through the years, Lonnie’s parents, siblings, and grandchildren have all learned to work and support the family business at Cree-Mee. Jodi is quick to add that employees not related by blood or marriage are still family. In fact, people refer to Jodi’s extended family as her “Cree-Mee grandbabies.” She attends showers, weddings, and farewells. She’s there for all of them as they are for her. Perhaps that’s why customers sing praises for Cree-Mee’s customer service.

Cree-Mee Drive-In
801 S. Aurora St., Eldon
Open Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. -7 p.m.


Eldon Drive-In
Just 413 feet from Cree-Mee is the Eldon Drive-In. Its sign declares it was first to tempt Eldon with “the original marshmallow Pepsi.” Cree-Mee, on the other hand, leads with its “World Famous” Chili Dog.
Both drive-ins list a chili-cheese foot-long dog and marshmallow Pepsi on their menus, and both  satisfy loyal customers with them. Still there are differences.
The biggest difference may be seating options. Cree-Mee has a drive-up window, but only outdoor seating. At Eldon Drive-In, customers can choose between the drive-through lane or indoor, air-conditioned booths. Nearby are games and in one corner hangs a television tuned to the Game Show Network. Tabletops gleam with lacquered advertising.
Another difference is quantity. While a foot-long chili cheese dog is — well, a foot long at both drive-ins, the baskets of fries differ. Cree-Mee’s fries are crinkle-cut and thus stockier than the thinner fries served at Eldon Drive-In. That stocky fry may explain the apparent difference in quantity. Eldon Drive-In appears to serve more fries per basket than Cree-Mee, but no one should let that dissuade him. Both servings of fries are more than two people can enjoy without overeating and suffering.
Eldon Drive-In’s banana split is also larger. It’s a dessert that four or more could share. Each of three soft-serve ice cream mounds towers above a clear plastic bowl lined with banana halves and set inside a larger cardboard tray thoughtfully provided to catch drips, slides, and melts. On top of the ice cream are Mount-Everest sized swirls of whipped cream, perfect pillows for a smattering of chopped nuts, pastel sprinkles, and three maraschino cherries, one for each topping flavor below. The list of toppings at Cree-Mee and the Eldon Drive-In is about the same length and includes raspberry, hot fudge, and butter pecan.
The hot fudge was warm enough to flow like lava, but not so warm as to melt the ice cream beyond enjoyment. The butter pecan had complete pecan halves stirred into a buttery caramel, and the raspberry tasted of fresh fruit. All in all, it was a delight — just as delicious as an identical one sampled at Cree-Mee, but just slightly more delicious because of whipped cream, a rich addition.
Customers at Eldon Drive-In are fans because of owners Dwayne and his son Brian Bashan. Those eating inside on a hot summer day mentioned the family as one reason they order their burgers, chili dogs, fries, and ice cream at the Eldon Drive-In. Customer service is the other reason everyone mentioned.
Tom Helms has been the manager at the Eldon Drive-In for 15 years, a fact that speaks volumes about him and his employers. Helms likes working there, and he counts himself lucky to be included when the drive-in closes for six weeks each winter so that the Bashans and he can soak up some Florida sun. The rest of the year, they serve drive-in food seven days a week.

Eldon Drive-In
607 S. Aurora St., Eldon
Open Monday-Sunday 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
(Except for approximately 6 weeks in winter)