By Eryn Woofter
When the Kansas State Wildcats play at home, fans pack the Vista Drive In from sunup to sundown. Some have been coming since the place opened in 1964. Others are newcomers.
“It’s like walking into the basement of my parent’s old house,” describes Rachel Kimminau, a student at Kansas State University and frequent visitor of the Drive In. She admires the orange booths, ‘70s music, and pictures on the walls.
Brad Streeter, current owner of Vista Drive In, says that his family must give credit to the Icee Machine for their success over the years.
Charles Streeter, father of Brad, began selling Icee Machines in 1958 which his uncle, Omar Kneldlek, invented. He traveled selling these machines, eating at different burger joints along the way.
From the experience of selling these machines, he not only learned what hard work was all about, but also what burger joints were all about.
In 1964, Charles and Martha Streeter opened up their own mom and pop restaurant, a burger joint. Martha Streeter coined the restaurant’s name, Vista Drive In. Vista, meaning scenic overlook, was chosen as the restaurant’s name because it overlooked wheat fields to the east. Industry long ago replaced the fields.
Hard work is what defines the Streeter name. Once Brad Streeter was old enough to work in the business, he did. He was dedicated and determined to be an asset in this family restaurant, which he has proven to be as the current owner today.
Much like the beginning with Charles and Martha Streeter working side by side, Brad Streeter, his wife, Karen, and their children continue to do so today.
Karen Streeter is responsible for most of the paper work within the business while Andy, their oldest child, is the current General Manager. Brad and Karen Streeter’s other two children, Matt and Dan, do a lot of work behind the scenes for Vista Drive In, including repairs and computer work.
The hot fudge brownie is one of the most popular dessert items on the menu. Kimminau, a diehard chocolate lover, explains this dessert as “the ultimate mountain of ice cream and brownie covered in streams of gooey fudge, which is simply irresistible.”
Beginning with a homemade brownie and topped with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge, this recipe has gone unchanged for 46 years. Martha Streeter, a home economics teacher at Wamego High School at the time, used the homemade brownie recipe while teaching not only her students, but also her three sons. The recipe won many purple ribbons at the state fair.
The chili is another favorite that the “usuals” enjoy. Vista continues to use the same recipe that Charles and Martha Streeter first made on their honeymoon in 1941. Brad Streeter says there is no reason to make changes to the chili when it’s what the customers come back for.
Water balloon icees, killer dillers, long lines, learning to use the drive thru, and meeting up with all your friends is what the Manhattan class of 1967 recalls as their fondest times at Vista Drive In, as described in the memory book located at Vista.
Eluding to the quote, “practice makes perfect,” Brad Streeter is known for saying, “perfect practice makes perfect.” Streeter, his family, and his employees go above and beyond what the guest’s expect in order to serve the “best burgers in town,” as several anonymous guests have described in the memory book.