Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 60° Partly Cloudy
News >  Voices

Whammy city

It’s 11:15 on a weekday morning and the Whammy burgers already are flying out like Frisbees. “Two Whammies, large fries and a chocolate shake,” one of the 30 customers says to the middle-aged woman behind the protective Plexiglass divider.

Fifteen minutes later, the lines have swelled to more than 50 people, who patiently wait outdoors underneath rows of fluorescent lights that are covered in sickly-colored yellow shields designed to repel bugs.

The scene could only be that at Dicks Hamburgers, Spokane’s fast-food icon that has been around since the Johnson administration.

Forty years since Abe Miller opened his business at 10 E. Third Ave., (naming it after his son), business remains as steady as a surgeon’s hand. Atkins, South Beach and Weight Watchers diets companies have nothing on Dick’s when it comes to customer loyalty.

Manager Jackie Nelson tells the story of the time the docs and nurses from nearby Deaconess and Sacred Heart medical centers ordered 75 Whammies and pails of fries for a luncheon.

“We get them from all walks of life,” said Nelson, who has worked at Dick’s since graduating from Mead High School in 1972, only taking time out to be a full-time mom when her children were small. “At breakfast you get the graveyard shifts, at lunch everything from suits and ties to guys crawling out of the bushes are here. For dinner, there’s the families, Little Leagues and buses of church youth groups.”

The windows open at 8 a.m. and close at midnight every day but Friday and Saturday when the place stays open until 1 a.m. There is no menu, just a well-used sign posted behind the women and men working the counter, who memorize the orders.

“We train them (how to memorize),” said 32-year employee Jan Martin-Mikelson. “Sometimes it takes three to four days, sometimes a week and sometimes they don’t get it.”

Breakfast food is the same as that served for late-night munchies. Longtime owners Lynda Peterson and Kevin Miller gave traditional breakfast food a go one summer, but it didn’t take long before they realized their customers come for the signature two-cheese, two meat Whammy for $1.35, or a pollock fishwich for $1.55. A small bag of French fries costs 73 cents.

Most days, short-order cooks will grill anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 Whammies. Anywhere from 15 to 20 50-pound sacks of potatoes will be peeled and sliced for a day’s serving. Customers also come for the tartar sauce, where tubs and tubs are mixed at Dicks and poured into plastic dipping containers. Spokanites, Nelson claims, put the stuff on everything.

“We can almost make tartar milkshakes,” she says proudly.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.