It’s a lot easier
to find local restaurants that serve their own house-brewed
beers and ales these days than home-made root beer.
But the foamy brew that Bill and Ann Kendall serve at Mugs Up
Root Beer Drive-In in Independence (700 E. 23rd St.) is made
from the same recipe that this distinctive white-and-orange
burger joint has sold for 51 years.
The Kendalls have owned the Independence operation for nearly
30 years and it’s the last one left in the metro.
Back in the 1960s, during the heyday of drive-ins, there were
nine Mugs Up locations in town, created by Raytown’s Jim
In addition to the house-made root beer and fruity “Orangeroo,”
the Mugs Up drive-ins served those crumbly loose-meat sandwiches
that were all the rage at the time -- one popular national chain
was Maid-Rite (there’s still at least one operating in St.
Joseph, I believe) and another was Nu-Way, which had several
Kansas City locations.
I’ve eaten at the Nu-Way in Leavenworth (it shares a building
with a hair salon there) and the burgers are excellent. But as
far as loose-meat sandwiches go, the best I’ve tasted yet are
at Mugs Up, which serves the seasoned beef on a soft bun. If you
order the Zip Burger, it comes with mustard, pickles and onion.
A Whiz Burger is a Zip Burger with cheese. There’s also a
Chili Burger, a Chili Whiz Burger and a Super Burger.
On a hot day, there’s nothing like a frosty mug of root beer
from this iconic drive-in. Add a scoop of ice cream and you have
the best Black Cow in town. Carhops still take orders and serve
the food, wearing those groovy stainless steel coin dispensers
around their waists.