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Hob-Nob Drive-In is a destination in itself

June 11th, 2012 11:39 am by Cindy Harmon

Hob-Nob Drive-In is a destination in itself

Back in the day, the road the landmark sits on was the only way north to Kentucky. Now, the Hob-Nob is more of a destination.

The Hob-Nob Drive-In has been a Gate City tradition since Bent and Elgie Strong built it in 1954.

"As my Pawpaw told me, the stone masons who were building the lower half of the building said, when the drive-in was complete, they thought they’d have a hob nob of a time out here, and the name just stuck. Whether that story is true or not, I don’t know. He might have made it up," Ross Jenkins, grandson and proprietor, said with a laugh. "The sign was added in the early 60s when he had enough money to have it built. A local preacher, Howard Todd built it, painted it and took care of it until he passed away."

Back in the day, the road the landmark sits on was the only way north to Kentucky. Now, the Hob-Nob is more of a destination.

"We’re still a 50s drive-in burger joint. That’s what we are and that’s what people have come to expect," Ross said.

Honestly, the Hob-Nob’s not your typical burger joint - what they serve up is quality, quantity and selection. The baked potato resembles more of a football than a spud, and when they tried to remove the ostrich burger from the menu, folks got up in arms. But the fresh hand-made cheeseburgers and fries, alongside real fruit milkshakes and ice cream are what really have people coming from miles around.

"Why drive out here to get something you can get anywhere?" Ross asked.

The Emory & Henry College graduate never dreamt he’d be running the family restaurant. After graduation Ross worked in the retail business, but it wasn’t a good fit. His grandfather worked out a deal with the couple that was leasing the Hob-Nob and Ross worked for them for two years.

"I learned what to do and what not to do," Ross said with a chuckle. He took over the day-to-day operations in 1986.

"I’m fortunate to have some great people that work here, including a girl that’s been here for 20 years. They know that taking care of the customers is the top priority," he said.

Ross remembers when the Hob-Nob was just a counter with six stools and three booths. He can recall when his Pawpaw put in the first soda fountain machine. Besides some modernization in the kitchen and additional dining space, not a lot has changed. They still come out to your car, take your order and bring your food back out, just like they did 58 years ago.

"We have customers that had their first date here. Maybe they’ve moved to Kingsport or Gray, but they started dating here. They’d come to the drive-in and hang out, they got married and now they bring their kids and grandkids back. It means that much to them," said Ross.

The Hob-Nob Drive-in is located at 2256 Daniel Boone Road, five miles west of Gate City on Old Highway 23. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. You can place an order at 276-452-4538, but it's way more fun to visit the Hob-Nob.

Do yourself and your family a favor and make the short drive. Not only will you enjoy the meal, you’ll create some memories all your own.

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