FoodView – Scenic Drive In

By Chris Murphy

George Lucas Ate Here

If you have been down Scenic Drive in the last 10 years, you have seen some nice new construction and beautiful commercial buildings. But back in 1962, there were a row of auto shops and other light industrial, including Gustafson’s Foreign Car Service. This is where the racers would hang out, working on their Porches, Ferraris, Lotus and Fiats. One Fiat owner in particular, a young George Lucas, would be there on a regular basis, tuning it up, making it faster and turning it into a rally race car, with this fellow E Curie AWOL teammates.

Across the street was a drive in with the most amazing burgers, fries and shakes where these hot rod mechanics and racers would hang out, including a high-school age Lucas. Owned and operated by Jim and Juanita Fee, the Scenic Drive In became s staple for the local hot rodders, racers and cruisers and many others. Now in 2022, the Scenic Drive in is still the go-to place for burgers, in particular the famous “Knock Out” burger. Created in the late ‘50s as the Jack Dempsey Knock Out, it became a classic around the region and today, it still sets the standard for top flight burgers. Jim’s son Ray remembers that they took the Dempsey name off of the Knock Out burger “as he was still alive and may want a cut”.

The Knock Out is one of Modesto classic burgers that you really have to taste to understand. It is loaded with a giant beef patty, avocado, cheese, lettuce mayo, bacon and loads of diced jalapenos. It is a burger you will love and remember.

Just like when it opened in 1956, you can drive right up to the window and park, place your order that’s still written on a paper bag, and then you wait on the covered patio or on the hood of your car for your goodness to be ready. Of course some amazing fries, and one of their fresh ice cream milkshakes (I like the fresh banana) to cool you down as you eat the Knock Out. Of course, they have a lot more than the Knock Out Burger. They have dogs, Knock out burritos, chicken sandwiches, Turkey burgers, 22 different shake flavors and so much more.

In 2006, the Fees sold the Scenic Drive in to Matthew and Ramacena Gregorian. They have kept Scenic Drive In true to the roots, and as Ray Fee would say, the burger you get today tastes as good as it did back then. Thanks to the Gregorians, the Scenic Drive In has survived fires, a global pandemic and they are right there, making the neon lights come on.

One of the constants at Scenic Drive In is Carrie Grajera. She has been making the Knock Out and other specialties since 2000. “We are excited for Graffiti Summer and it gets really busy” she explains. ”Sometimes we stay open past 7 when it is busy”, she continues as she lines up a few more beef patties. I was there on 3 pm on a weekday afternoon and there was a steady stream of people being handled with friendliness with co-worker Valerie Roberts. “This is not FAST food” one sign reads. This is part of the fun, you order, you wait (not too long) and then you enjoy. If you are really in a hurry, call your order in and you can get on your way.

As always, there are specials for Veterans and there is much time for memories as you can grab lunch, and walk through the adjacent cemetery. Our family does this while we go visit grandparents. It’s a truly peaceful way to enjoy your burgers, and pay respects.

Scenic Drive In is legit legit and its in the same space, same size its always been, right there on the curve on Scenic. Next time, don’t just drive by, DRIVE IN, and enjoy a Knockout. You will thank me later.

Levels of the Knock Out
Diced Jalapenos


Scenic Drive In
1151 Scenic Dr. Modesto 95350
Hours M-F 11 – 7 pm, Sat until 6 Sunday closed.

History of the Scenic Drive In

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.