We celebrated the first day of summer with frosty mugs of root beer at Mugs-Up, a classic drive-in at 700 E. 23rd St. in Independence.
Since 1956, Mugs-Up has been famous for its Black Cows — vanilla ice cream floats with house-made root beer — and loose-meat Zip Burgers.
On Wednesday, we visited Mugs-Up for a taste of nostalgia and to shoot an episode of Chow Town Live, our weekly Facebook Live food show. During the full-length show, longtime carhop Janis Allen told us what she loves about her job and owner Ann Hinojosa showed us how her cooks make Whiz Burgers (Zip Burgers topped with Velveeta cheese) and tater tots.
Hinojosa said she bought the business back in 1978.
“I could own my own Mugs-Up,” she remembers thinking to herself, “and drink all the root beer I want.”
She also owns the Mugs Up Diner at 10921 E. Winner Road, which has been in business for about five years.
Over the years, Hinojosa has added several items to the menu, including pork tenderloins and deep-fried burritos. Mugs-Up also serves chili dogs, onion rings and Dreamsicle-like floats called Orangaroos.
After I wrote about my first visit to Mugs-Up, several readers reached out to share stories about the drive-in, including a woman who worked there as a teenager in the early ’60s (for 25 cents an hour!) and a man who remembers buying root beer there for 5 cents a cup.
Here’s the sweetest story: Hinojosa told me that recently a couple who have been married for 55 years stopped by Mugs-Up for a meal. They told her their first date was at the drive-in.
There must be something in that root beer.
Hungry for more nostalgia? Here are five more stories about classic Kansas City-area drive-ins, taco shops and barbecue joints.