Storm's Drive-In in Lampasas looks about the same as it did in 1958 when Elvis Presley drove his Cadillac under the awning and ordered a strawberry shake over the crackling speaker.
Robbis Storm was a 12-year-old carhop when the King of Rock and Roll pulled into his family's restaurant. "I was real intimidated by him and he was real quiet," Storm says with a chuckle of the times he waited on Presley.
Stationed at nearby Fort Hood, Presley visited Storm's at least half a dozen times during his year of basic training. Storm doesn't remember the soon-to-be-legend attracting much attention at the small town drive-in. He didn't even find out that his mother was a huge Elvis fan until years later.
"Elvis liked our drinks a lot, but didn't eat much," Storm says. It was probably because the King preferred bacon to all-beef burgers, and it's a shame because he missed one juicy, tasty treat.
"It's the best beef we can get," Storm says. "I won't say anything bad about anybody else, but we use the best hamburger we can get. Always have." The Storms used to raise their own beef cattle on a ranch north of town until they were unable to keep up with the demand for their sandwiches. They still process all of their own meat.
Tasty hamburgers, soft serve ice cream, and hand-cut french fries are the backbone of the American drive-in restaurant. There is a joke around the deep fat fryers that you can always tell a Storm's employee by the size of their chopping arm. After cutting 400 to 500 pounds of potatoes a day for french fries, a Storm's employee will have one arm bigger than the other.
Over the years, the Storm's menu has evolved from simply hamburgers, hand-breaded onion rings, and red cream soda. "We let the customers tell us what they want," Storm says.
Chicken, catfish, and chili have been added to the lineup. One of the most unusual and delicious concoctions is the cordon bleu burger with bacon and cheese. The restaurant also makes a pretty good chicken cordon bleu sandwich. "We came up with that about 25 years ago and without any kind of promotion other than being on the menu it has become one of our biggest sellers," he says.
Folks have been going to Storm's in Lampasas since 1950 when Robbis' parents, Jim and IraDell, moved the family from San Antonio and called the new eatery the Dairy Cue. Before that, the Storms ran the diner in Kiddie Land on Broadway in the Alamo City. Back in 1873, Robbis' great grandfather, William "Wash" Storm opened an inn called Stormville east of Dallas between Mineola and Sulphur Springs. Someday he's going back to the family's hometown in Germany to see if they were restaurateurs, too, he said.
Storm will probably make the pilgrimage someday. Besides running the family business since 1971, he has traveled around the world. For the last seven years he has also written a weekly column for the Lampasas Dispatch Record that is thought-provoking and entertaining. After spending all of his life in the diner business, Storm still loves a good hamburger and enjoys meeting his customers.
The Lampasas location was a meeting place even before the drive-in was built. A big oak tree that stood in front of the flat-topped building might have been the local hanging tree and had more than a couple of bullets in it when they had to cut it down.
The tree was replaced with a covered outdoor picnic pavilion that lets patrons get out of their cars. The area was landscaped with the largest known Llanite boulders. Llanite is a rare granite with blue quartz flecks that can be found nowhere in the world except the Hill Country around Llano.
Robbis changed the name from Dairy Cue in 1974. He opened a second Storm's in Burnet in 1984, followed by another in Hamilton, and the newest one in Kingsland. All except the Lampasas location have inside dining and the one in Kingsland on Lake Buchanan also has a boat dock. These aren't cookie cutter diners, each one is a little bit different except for the dedication to customer service and quality. "We're the opposite of McDonald's," Storm says.
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