By Tucker Davis
Just outside the city limits of Radford, you will find a cluster of fast food eateries strung along the tiny portion of Route 11. But in the middle of an unpaved gravel lot, across from the now vacant homes of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King, stands Hank’s Drive-In. Hank’s doesn’t have a double drive-threw window or a flashy LED sign—they don’t even accept credit cards.
Despite the lack of flare and modern-day innovations like the big chain fast food rivals that surround them, Hank’s Drive-In has stood the test of time by serving up what they call the best burger in town.
“I just got tired of climbing power lines,” said Hanford “Hank” Kesterson, a 75-year-old retired utility worker and owner of the 42-year-old eatery. “I was gone for weeks at a time away from my family. I just decided it was time for a change,” Kesterson said while slinging a slab of ground beef on to the grill.
With no prior experience in the food service industry, the Kesterson’s took the leap of faith and started the drive-in in 1970. With Hank on the grill, his wife Alice on the cash register and daughter Brenda as the server, Kesterson was finally together with his family; making up for the countless hours he spent away from them. “It’s worked out for us. We’re not wealthy, but we got a roof over our head, cloths on our back and we’re all together—What more could a man ask for?”
With the obvious lack of variety and detail on the menu, it resembles that of a 1950s tax form, but Kesterson believes his life of simplicity and minimalism reflects his approach to business. “You don’t need to have much to be happy,” he said. “You just need a lot of a few things and for me, it’s family and food.”
For loyal patron John Dalton, it’s a fresh breath of nostalgia that finds him coming back to Hank’s on a mild Thursday afternoon. “This was the hangout when I was in high school,” said Dalton as he dug inside the brown paper bag for a fry. “We’d sit on the hoods of our cars, eat a burger, drink a Coke and flirt with girls. Now, that was the life.”
Hank’s is no longer the hangout for area teenagers. But every evening after rush hour, long-time regulars still find joy in coming back to a place that reminds them of a time when life was simple. As they drive past the dollar menus and the double drive-threw windows, they pull into a gravel lot to visit an old friend and have the best burger in town.